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The sexual revolution

Bosch Hieronymus
Triptych of Garden of Earthly Delights (central panel)
c. 1500
Art historian Wilhelm Fraenger speculates that Bosch was a sympathiser
or member of the free-love sect known as the Brethren of the Free Spirit.



In Focus:

The sexual revolution



Sexual revolution

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Industrial Revolution
Free love

see also:

Body art
Erotica in Art
Fine Art Photography
Nude in Art of the 20th century
Pin-Up Art
"Rubenesque" proportions
Superstar Stormy Daniels


Spencer Tunick

Explicit sex on screen

Swedish filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman and Vilgot Sjöman contributed to sexual liberation with sexually themed films that challenged conservative international standards. The 1951 film Hon dansade en sommar (She Danced a Summer AKA One Summer of Happiness) starring Ulla Jacobsson and Folke Sundquist depicted scenes that were at the time considered too sexual, but by today's standards would be fairly mild.

This film, as well as Bergman's Sommaren med Monika (The Summer with Monika), caused an international uproar, not least in the US where the films were charged with violating standards of decency. Vilgot Sjöman's film I Am Curious (Yellow), also created an international uproar, but it was very popular in the United States. Another of his films, 491, highlighted homosexuality among other things. Kärlekens språk (The Language of Love) was an informative documentary about sex and sexual techniques that featured the first real act of sex in a mainstream film, and inevitably it caused intense debate around the world, including in the US.

From these films the concept of "the Swedish sin" (licentiousness) developed, even though Swedish society was at the time still fairly conservative regarding sex, and the international concept of Swedish sexuality was and is largely exaggerated. The films caused debate there as well. The films eventually helped the publics attitudes toward sex progress, especially in Sweden and other northern European countries, which today tend to be more sexually liberal than others.

Explicit sex on screen and frontal nudity of men and women on stage became acceptable in many American and European countries, as the twentieth century ended. Special places of entertainment offering striptease and lap dancing proliferated. The famous Playboy Bunnies set a trend. Men came to be entertained by topless women at night-clubs which also hosted "peep shows."



Nude people on a beach

Nudity is the state of wearing no clothing. It is related to the concept of modesty and is sometimes used to refer to wearing significantly less clothing than expected by the conventions of a particular culture and situation, and in particular exposing the bare skin or intimate parts.

There are many terms used to describe various states of nudity. These terms may vary between (or within) different cultures and contexts, and may change over time. Sometimes such terms are used as euphemisms, sometimes as poetic terms, or humorously.

Full nudity is used to describe a state of complete nudity, with no clothing (or covering) whatsoever
Full frontal nudity refers to wearing no clothing and facing the observer showing the whole front side of the body, including the pubic area
Partial frontal nudity, i.e. showing only bare breasts
Non-frontal nudity such as showing the buttocks, the whole back side of the body, or the body as viewed from any other direction
The term partial nudity refers to a state of less than complete nudity, and is sometimes used to refer to exposure of skin beyond what the person using the expression considers to be within the limits of modesty. If the exposure is within the standards of modesty of a given culture and setting (e.g. wearing a bikini at a nude beach), terms such as nudity, partial or otherwise, are not normally used. If however, the degree of exposure exceeds the cultural norms of the setting, or if the activity or setting includes nudity as an understood part of its function, such as a nude beach, terminology relating to nudity and degrees thereof are typically used.

Revealing bare skin or even removing clothes in front of others, even when there is another layer of clothing underneath, are at times regarded by some to be erotic or offensive, or as immodest under some people's standards of modesty.

Clothing which follows the contours of the body, or clothing using transparent materials, or clothing which sticks to the skin or become transparent when wet (as in wet t-shirt contests), is regarded by some to be erotic, immodest and simulating nudity.

However, there are occasions when standards of modesty are waived, as in the case of medical examinations.

Public nudity

Nude woman hands out flyers at the Love Parade in Berlin.

Society's response to public nudity varies on the culture, time, location and context of the activities. There are many exceptions and particular circumstances in which nudity is tolerated, accepted or even encouraged in public spaces. Such examples would include nude beaches, within some intentional communities (such as naturist resorts or clubs) and at special events.

In general and across cultures, more restrictions are found for exposure of those parts of the human body that display evidence of sexual arousal. Sex organs and often women's breasts are covered, even when other parts of the body may be freely uncovered. Yet the nudity taboo may have meanings deeper than the immediate possibility of sexual arousal, for example, in the cumulative weight of tradition and habit. Clothing also expresses and symbolizes authority, and more general norms and values besides those of a sexual nature.

Another common distinction is that gratuitous nudity is perceived as more offensive than the same degree of physical exposure in a functional context, where the action could not conveniently be performed dressed, either in reality or in a fictitious scene in art. The intent can also be invoked: whether the nudity is meant to affect observers; e.g. streaking can be considered unacceptably provocative, nude sun tanning viewed mildly as rather inoffensive.

At Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, some nudity is a part of a festive atmosphere.

Public nudity or nude in public (NIP) refers to nudity not in an entirely private context. It refers to a person appearing nude in a public place or to be seen from a public place. Nudity in the privacy of a person's home or private grounds or facilities is not public nudity, nor is nudity at fitness facilities, swimming pools, saunas, or gymnasia, nudist or naturist clubs or resorts, since they take place on private grounds. Naturism promotes social nudity, but mostly on private properties or officially sanctioned public areas.

In some cases, public nudity may be legal. For example, there are many countries which have designated public areas as nude beaches, or where nude bathing is unofficially tolerated. In those places a person would not face legal prosecution merely for being nude.

Outside of those areas, community and legal acceptance of public nudity varies considerably. To avoid offending the public in general, public authorities maintain what are sometimes called "standards of decency". What falls outside these standards are usually termed "indecent exposure", or similar terminology. These standards, however, vary with time and place. Most people object to public nudity in a sexualised context, or when children are involved. People regard those who appear nude in public as trying to draw attention to themselves. If the intent is to draw attention to oneself, it may be referred to as exhibitionism, otherwise it may be to draw attention to a cause. There are also some people who disrobe in public to attract publicity to themselves, as a career move, such as some streakers at sporting events. There are also others who spontaneously disrobe in public, as an expression of their freedom and the shedding of inhibitions; an example being skinny dipping.

There are some people who object to any public exposure of a naked human body, on moral, religious or decency grounds, and regard the exposure of a naked body as inherently sexual. The degree to which a person can be exposed to be considered "indecent" varies with cultural standards. At one extreme is the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan which considered the exposure of any part of a woman's body in public as indecent, and required all women to wear a burqa in public. Less extreme is the requirement for women who enter a church to wear "modest" clothing and to cover their heads. This is not entirely analogous, because this sort of requirement is not made in respect of a public place.

There are some people who consider nudity in art as public nudity, and by analogy nudity in the media and on the internet; to which others[who?] retort that one can always "turn off the switch" or not enter a cinema or art gallery. However, the same cannot be said for some advertising which contains images of naked or semi-naked people on public highways (or which can be seen from a public road) such as billboards, or displayed in shop windows, or magazines of naked people on the cover displayed on news-stands.


Naked Berlin - Group of nude men among hundreds of tourists at Berlin’s
Brandenburg Gate; photographed by Team Henning von Berg/Marco.

Non-sexual public nudity

Some people enjoy public nudity in a non-sexual context. Common variants of the clothes free movement are nudism and naturism, and are often practiced in reserved places that used to be called "nudist camps" but are now more commonly called naturist resorts, nude beaches, or clubs. Such facilities may be designated topfree, clothing-optional, or fully nude-only. Public nude recreation is most common in rural areas and outdoors, although it is limited to warm weather. Even in countries with inclement weather much of the year and where public nudity is not restricted, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark, public nude recreation indoors remains rare. One example is Starkers Nightclub in London, a monthly nude-only disco party.

Others practice public nudity more casually. Topfree sunbathing is considered acceptable by many on the beaches of France, Spain and most of the rest of Europe (and even in some outdoor swimming pools); however, exposure of the genitals is restricted to nudist areas in most regions. In the United States, topfree sunbathing and wearing thongs are not common in many areas, but are limited to nude beaches in various locations.

Where the social acceptability of nudity in certain places may be well understood, the legal position is often less clear cut. In England, for example, the law does not actually prohibit simple public nudity, but does forbid indecent exposure. In practice, this means that successful prosecution hangs on whether there is a demonstrable intention to shock others, rather than simply a desire to be naked in a public place. Specifically, using nudity to "harass, alarm or distress" others is an offence against the Public Order Act of 1986. Occasional attempts to prove this point by walking naked around the country therefore often result in periods of arrest, followed by release without charge, and inconsistencies in the approach between different police jurisdictions. Differences in the law between England and Scotland appear to make the position harder for naked ramblers once they reach Scotland.

Even where the general public is fairly tolerant of public nudity, it is still notorious enough to be used as a deliberate, often successful means to attract publicity, either by naturists promoting their way of life or by others for various purposes, such as commercial nudity in advertising or staging nude events as a forum for usually unrelated messages, such as various nude biker tours demonstrating for different causes or celebrities revealing their natural state by removing a fur coat to support a campaign against fur sales.

2006 Solstice Cyclists in Seattle

Nude photography

Model posing nude in a Budapest street

Nudity has been used in photography since the invention of photography itself. Nudity in photography does not necessarily claim any artistic merit, while nude photography typically does. Unlike nudity in photography generally, nude photography is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. As an art form, nude photography is a stylised depiction of the nude body with the line and form of the human figure as the primary objective.

Many photographers consider an art nude photograph to be a one that studies the human body, rather than the person. A photograph of a person that is meant to be recognized is called a portrait, and nude photographs often do not show a face at all. Photographers sometimes use extremes of light and shadow, oiled skin, and shadows falling across the body to show texture and structure of the body.

Early photographers often depicted the nudity of women like those by Félix-Jacques Moulin. Many, like Edward Weston, Ruth Bernhard and Jerry Avenaim, preferred to depict the lines of a body as a piece of art.

Erotic photography and pornography are typically stylized photography using nude or semi-nude models.

Photography of installations of massed nude people in public places, as made repeatedly around the world by Spencer Tunick, claim artistic merit.

Nude Calendars
Nude Calendars have proliferated and some have become greatly-anticipated annual traditions. The calendars can be:

female nude calendars (mostly targetting straight males)
male nude calendars (mostly targetting females and gay males).
Nude charity calendars have also proliferated in recent two decades. Successful charity nude calendars include Dieux du Stade (France) and Gods of Football, League of Their Own (calendar) and Naked Rugby League Australian sports calendars.

Gender segregation
Nudity in front of strangers of the same gender is often more accepted than in front of those of the other or both genders. Gender-specific public facilities (such as toilets, changing rooms etc) are used to meet community standards of acceptable nudity. In some cultures, nudity, even before people of the same gender, is considered inappropriate and embarrassing.

Nude people on a beach

Western culture

Functional nudity for a short time, such as when changing clothes on a beach, is sometimes acceptable, while staying nude on the beach is not. However, even this is often avoided or minimized by a towel.[citation needed] On nude beaches (clothing-optional) it is acceptable to be nude.

In some locations, most particularly within western societies, a woman breastfeeding in public can generate controversy. In June 2007, Brooke Ryan was dining in a booth at the rear of an Applebees restaurant when she found it necessary to breastfeed her 7-month-old son. While she said she attempted to be discreet, another patron complained to the manager about indecent exposure. Both a waitress and the manager asked her to cover up. She handed him a copy of the Kentucky law that permitted public breastfeeding, but he would not relent. She ended up feeding her son in her car and later organized "nurse-out" protests in front of the restaurant and other public locations.[20] Most U.S. states (40 as of January 2009) have laws clarifying a woman's right to breastfeed in public.

In many western countries and in appropriate settings, such as while suntanning, the exposure of women's breasts is not, of itself, normally regarded as indecent exposure. In the United States of America however, exposure of female nipples is a criminal offense in many states and not usually allowed in public (see Public indecency), while in the United Kingdom, nudity may not be used to "harass, alarm or distress" according to the Public Order Act of 1986.

Prosecutions of cases has given raise to a movement advocating "topfree equality," promoting equal rights for women to have no clothing above the waist, on the same basis that would apply to men in the same circumstances. The term "topfree" rather than "topless" is advocated to avoid the latter term's perceived sexual connotations.

Model posing nude in a Budapest street

Naturism and nudism
Naturism (or nudism) is a cultural and political movement practising, advocating and defending nudity in private and in public. It is also a lifestyle based on personal, family and/or social nudity.

Naturists reject contemporary standards of modesty which discourage personal, family and social nudity, and seek to create a social environment where people feel comfortable in the company of nude people, and being seen nude, either just by other nudists, or also by the general public.

The trend in some European countries (for instance Germany, Finland and the Netherlands) is to allow both genders to bathe together naked. Most German spas allow mixed nude bathing. For example the Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden has designated times when mixed nude bathing is permitted. There may be some older German bathhouses, such as Bad Burg, which remain segregated by gender, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Most German (not to mention French, Spanish and Greek) beaches and swimming pools offer FKK (clothing optional) areas. In general continental Europeans have a more relaxed attitude about nudity than is seen in the Anglo-Saxon world. Some have attributed this difference to the influence of Queen Victoria's husband Albert, who was raised in a very restricting religious sect.

The Finns have the custom of the Finnish sauna, in which nudity is routinely accepted, and sometimes even required. This is true even when a swimsuit must be worn in the swimming pool area of the same complex[26] (Saunas are quite common in modern Finland, where there is one sauna for every three people).

Nudity in front of a sexual partner is widely accepted, but not in all cases. For example, some partners insist on nudity only at the time and place of sex, or with subdued lighting; during bathing with the partner or afterward; covered by a sheet or blanket, or while sleeping.

A topfree woman

Non-Western attitudes

Attitudes in Western cultures are not all the same as explained above, and likewise attitudes in non-western cultures are many and variant. In almost all cultures, acceptability of nudity depends on the situation.

Cultural and/or religious traditions usually dictate what is proper and what is not socially acceptable. Many non-western cultures allow women to breastfeed in public, while some have very strict laws about showing any bare skin.


A woman wearing traditional clothing in Southern Ethiopia, where toplessness among women is normal.

Different traditions exist among, for example, sub-Saharan Africans, partly persisting in the post-colonial era. Whereas it is the norm among some ethnic and family groups including some Togolose and Nilo-Saharan (e.g. Surma people) on particular occasions not to wear any clothes or without any covering below the waist - for example, at massively attended stick fighting tournaments well-exposed young men use the occasion to catch the eye of a prospective bride.

Amongst Bantu peoples, on the other hand, there is often a complete aversion to public nudity. Thus, in Botswana when a newspaper printed a photograph of a thief suffering lashes on the bared buttocks imposed by a traditional chief's court, there was national consternation, not about the flogging but about the 'peeping tom'.

The Ugandan Kavirondo tribes, a mix of Bantu and Nilotic immigrants, traditionally went practically naked, but the men eventually adopted western dress.

In modern Liberia, soldiers under "General Butt Naked" Joshua Blahyi fought naked in order to terrorize their opponents.

Nude except for lace-up leather shoes and a gun, the general led his fierce Butt Naked Battalion into battle on behalf of the warlord Roosevelt Johnson, who hired the unclothed warriors for their fearlessness and fighting skills.

Drunk and drugged teenagers and boys composed much of the warlords' fighting forces, and in their intoxicated states they would move into battle wearing flowing dresses, colorful wigs and carrying dainty purses looted from civilians.

As the war wound down, so too did Blahyi's commitment to kill. Today, he is an evangelical preacher leading his End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries on a crusade against war and warlords.

In Asian cultures such as Japan the public bath is very common. Bathing nude with family members or friends of the same and opposite gender in public bath houses, saunas, or even natural hot springs is popular. In Korea, public baths (Jjimjilbang) are also widespread and communal nude bathing is normal, although nudity is not permitted in unisex areas.

Spencer Tunick

Historical overview

Anthropologists logically presume that humans originally lived naked, without clothing, as their natural state. They postulate the adaptation of animal skins and vegetation into coverings to protect the wearer from cold, heat and rain, especially as humans migrated to new climates; alternatively, covering may have been invented first for other purposes, such as magic, decoration, cult, or prestige, and later found to be practical as well. For men and women, public nudity was at least permissible in ancient Sparta, and customary at festivals.

In some hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates, near-complete nudity has been, until the introduction of Western culture, or still is, standard practice for both men and women. In some African and Melanesian cultures, men going completely naked except for a string tied about the waist are considered properly dressed for hunting and other traditional group activities. In a number of tribes in the South Pacific island of New Guinea, the men use hard gourdlike pods as penis sheaths. While obscuring and covering the actual penis, these at a longer distance give the impression of a large, erect penis. Yet a man without this "covering" could be considered to be in an embarrassing state of nakedness. Among the Chumash Native Americans of southern California, men were usually naked, and women were often topless. Native Americans of the Amazon Basin usually went nude or nearly nude; in many native tribes, the only clothing worn was some device worn by men to clamp the foreskin shut. However, other similar cultures have had different standards. For example, other native North Americans avoided total nudity, and the Native Americans of the mountains and west of South America, such as the Quechua, kept quite covered.

For many centuries in some Jainist traditions, some participants have taken up extreme asceticism that includes full nudity. For example, in Digambara, a sect of Jainism, senior Digambar monks (Acharya Vidyasagar is a notable example) wear no clothes, considering themselves to be clothed with the environment that surrounds them. Digambaras believe that this practice represents a refusal to give in to the demands of the body for comfort and private property. Ancient Greeks who wrote of nude ascetics in India called them Gymnosophists, meaning "naked philosophers".


The Catholic Church has always held that nudity, in and of itself, is not sinful, but that it is contrary to the virtue of modesty. One may note the comments of Pope John Paul II in this matter: "The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."

In Islam, the area of the body not meant to be exposed in public is called the awrah, and while referred to in the Qur'an, is addressed in more detail in hadith.

For men, the awrah is from the navel to knees, which means that in public, Muslim men have to cover themselves at least from the navel down to the knees.
Some Muslim women wear the hijab, which covers most of her head and body, with specific body parts, her awrah, to be covered depending upon varying interpretations of Islamic thought. In one interpretation, a Muslim women's awrah is from the elbow up to her shoulders, her entire midsection and back, and her legs down to her ankles.
Sharia law in some Islamic countries requires women to observe purdah, covering their entire bodies, including the face (see niqab and burqa), However, the degrees of covering vary according to local custom and/or interpretation of Sharia Law.
A dead body's awrah shall remain covered and not seen.


Naga mystics

Traditionally, the digambara (sky-clad) monks of the Jain religion of India practice complete nudity as an ascetic discipline and a rejection of materialism.

In some parts of Judaism and in some Jewish communities, men and women (separately) use ritual baths called mikvot for a variety of reasons, mostly religious in the present day. Immersion in a mikvah requires that water cover the entire body (including the entire head). To make sure that water literally touches every part of the body, all clothing, jewelry and even bandages must be removed.

At the same time, Orthodox Jews are very protective about their naked body. Under the laws of Tzniut (modesty), both men and women may not reveal any body part usually covered in that society. In addition, women must cover everything between the elbows and the knees (including collarbones), and married women must cover their hair. When answering the call of nature one must uncover as little as possible, and changing before and after sleep is often done under the covers. Although full nudity is permitted, and according to many, encouraged, during sexual intercourse, it must be done in the dark, at night, and in private.

Conservative and Reform Judaism generally do not follow the Shulchan Aruch and do not share the same attitudes about nudity in private.


Pre-marital sex
Once heavily stigmatised, pre-marital sex became more widespread during the sexual revolution. The increased availability of birth control (and the quasi-legalisation of abortion in some places) helped reduce the chance that pre-marital sex would result in unwanted children. By the mid 1970s the majority of newly married American couples had experienced sex before marriage.

Politics of sex
Politics in the USA has become intertwined with sexually related issues, called the "politics of sex". A woman's desire for an abortion pitted traditionalist Pro-Life activists against Pro-Choice activists permitting abortions. Sex between people of the same gender, the homosexuality that was strictly taboo in times when the Christian Church still exercised much influence in society, is still stigmatized by some groups to this day.

Women and men who lived with each other without marriage sought "palimony" equal to the alimony. Teenagers assumed their right to a sexual life with whomever they pleased, and bathers fought to be topless or nude at beaches.

Normalization of pornography
The fact that pornography was no longer stigmatised by the end of the 1980s, and more mainstream movies depicted sexual intercourse as entertainment, was indicative of how normalised sexual revolution had become in society. Magazines depicting nudity, such as the popular Playboy and Penthouse magazine, won some acceptance as mainstream journals, in which public figures felt safe expressing their fantasies.

Feminists have had mixed responses to pornography. Some figures in the feminist movement, such as Andrea Dworkin, challenged the depiction of women as objects in these pornographic magazines.

The gay porn industry also became much more widespread throughout the western world, even permeating areas better known for the repression of non-normative sexualities, such as Eastern Europe

Keeping in mind that throughout the 1950s and 1960s, pornography depicting homosexual acts was rare and illegal in some US states, we can see the big change that has taken place.

Criticism of the sexual revolution concept
Counter forces such as Fraenkel (1992) say that the "sexual revolution", that the West supposedly experienced in the late 60s, is indeed a misconception and that sex is not actually enjoyed freely, it is just observed in all the fields of culture; that's a kind of taboo behaviour technically called "repressive desublimation".

In his writing Marcuse explores the concept that Establishment sanctioned forms of sensual release, what he calls "repressive desublimation", complete our enslavement on the instinctual level. In order to move from that to an actual sexual liberation, it is necessary a change in our mental structures and our moral inhibitions; instead the Judeo-Christian morals still basically hold, and the small social changes are exaggerated because they are seen in that light. Even most of the self-claimed atheists, have just secularised and internalised the same old morals.

In the Americas, considered by many a part of the 'West', the indigenous peoples of the Americas were seen by the first European explorers such as Columbus with amazement: "although the slaves were 'naked as the day they were born,' they showed 'no more embarrassment than animals.'"  In the present, even though it is not acceptable to be publicly naked for many Roman Catholic people (a religion that was imported from Europe during colonial times) in countries of Latin America, some Western tourists go topless in public.

The End Of The Revolution?
Some people argue that the elections of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 in the United Kingdom, as well as events such as Disco Demolition Night in Chicago in 1979, the election of US President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the rise of televangelism marked the beginning of the end of the “liberal wave” that had gradually engulfed the Anglosphere, the developed world and subsequently the Western world since the late 1950s.

And with the outbreak of the AIDS epidemy in early 1980s — culminating with the publicly-known death of Rock Hudson in 1985 — marked the return of conservative values into society and the juridical and political questioning of the achievements of Sexual Revolution.

This situation would prevail until the mid-to-late-1990s when the discovery of more effective ways to control AIDS infections, the election of Bill Clinton to the United States Presidency in 1992 (and his re-election in 1996), cultural phenomena like internet pornography, the introduction of viagra, higher visibility of gays and lesbians in the media, The overturning of US sodomy laws with the Lawrence v. Texas Court ruling, the legalisation of same sex marriage in countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada (and a few states in the USA), and popular sex oriented shows like Sex And The City made the moral-cultural tide slowly turn again.[citation needed]

Ironically, teenage sexual activity (as measured by age at first intercourse and current sexually active status) actually increased significantly from about 1984-1991, especially among females, but this was often overlooked since such changes were erroneously assumed to have already happened a decade before, and that the revolution was presumably over. Teen pregnancy also increased as a result. This was followed by a fairly steady decline in teen sexual activity (and teen pregnancy) from about 1991 to the present day, at a time when many presumed the opposite was occurring.

Spencer Tunick



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