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Nudity is found in many paintings

Nudity is the state of wearing no clothing. It 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 of intimate parts and has analogous uses.



Although "nude", "naked", "bare", "stripped", and other terms have the same objective meaning (i.e., not covered by clothing), they have differing subjective connotations, which partly match their differing etymologies. "Nude" originally had a meaning of "plain, bare, unadorned" in a broader sense when introduced into English from Latin nudus, originally only as a legal term meaning "unsupported by proof", since 1531; later used an artistic euphemism for physical nakedness in 1631. Meanwhile "bare" and "naked" derive from the common Old English words, with many cognates, for "uncovered". Some consider one term more appropriate than the other. The book Nude, Naked, Stripped suggests that these three terms define a continuum ranging from artistic or tasteful absence of clothing by choice, at one end, to a forced or mandatory condition of being without clothes (e.g., a strip search), at the other. In general, a "nude" person is unclad by choice and is generally shameless; a "naked" person is involuntarily caught undressed and is generally embarrassed.

Various synonyms refer specifically — often as a negative — to the absence or rather removal of clothing, such as denuded, divested, peeled, stripped, unclad, unclothed, uncovered, undressed and dis- or un-robed.

Another euphemism for the embarrassing state of nakedness is "exposed", to glances no less than to the elements; not only the expression "to show skin" refers to nudity in terms of the dermis, in Manx Gaelic jiarg-rooisht and Scottish Gaelic dearg rùisgte, translated as "stark naked", is literally 'red' naked, as such exposure may make one 'blush'.


The act of revealing skin or even removing clothes, even when only to show another covering layer, is often regarded as at least as erotic or offensive as the actual sight of bare skin. Thus one often feels the need to use a dressing-box etc. or at least retreats into a locker room with restricted access in order to change, even if one is already wearing underneath one's clothes the swimwear that will be shown without jeans after emerging, so not an inch of embarrassing exposure was involved in the disrobing. This very suggestive power of divesting is the basis of striptease, the very word rather referring to such a 'tease' by partial stripping off, rather than the 'full monty'. Such phobias are far more common in North America than in Europe or much of the rest of the world (e.g. Japan). In many European nations such fear of undressing would be classed as a form of mental illness.

Similarly attitudes quite like those concerning nudity are often displayed towards clothing which covers the skin, but suggestively follows the contours of a sensitive body part, such as the male genitals in tights. Wet clothing which sticks to the skin, e.g. the buttocks or a female breast (as in a wet t-shirt contest), can thus also be regarded as if it had become truly transparent.

The taboo by association can go even further: garments which prevent any exposure of strategic skin zones can themselves be given a subjective status rather fitting a revealing one, especially underwear - thus a man whose open trouser flies reveal nothing more than the colour of the underwear, no skin, is nevertheless considered embarrassingly exposed. Thus euphemisms are used for undergarments, notably those in touch with the intimate parts, or even, as in the case of the word unmentionables, the trousers worn above these. The word dishabille (from the French déshabillé 'undressed', which still refers to a negligee) uses a common euphemism for nudity to refer to being partially or very casually dressed, a matter of comparison with the fashion-sensitive 'proper' dress, not to an actual revealing characteristic of the 'lesser' garments worn. In certain erotic fetishisms, a second skin — which in fact covers up the real skin — is called this because it is perceived as providing a more intense stimulus than the normal response associated with real naked hide.

Finally the 'image' of nudity and the notion of vulnerability are used for various absences of clothing and other symbolical objects where no body visibility is required — thus people say they 'feel naked without...' about uniform, a badge of office, even a weapon.

Nudity is often used to eroticise everyday tasks and behavior. Human "Sushi Bars" are quite common place in Japan, and are becoming quite "fashionable" in the US. Topless bars can be found in almost every major city in the US.


Asymmetrical nudity can often be used to symbolize or reinforce power differentials (see Clothed male, naked female‎, Clothed female, naked male, etc.).

See also

This page uses content from SM-201; the original article can be viewed here.
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