Every summer brings high temperatures and new lows of indecency to our streets as fashion trends plummet more and more into nudity. This summer, especially, there is a bizarre vibe of “letting loose” as a result of coming out of lockdown, celebrating restored freedoms with freedom from clothing. It is strange and disconcerting. But strangest and most disconcerting of all is the argument for such displays, or retorts against objections, which run along the lines of, “What’s wrong with my body? This is natural. This is normal.” Is it normal?
There is, unfortunately, a nakedness that is normal for a culture that has utterly lost its innocence. It is profoundly ironic that that which was once the sign of human innocence is now the sign of its corruption. Without a doubt, pornographic nudity must be considered “normal” nowadays—that is, the erotic depiction of human nakedness that arouses sexual desire by providing artificial access to what is morally inaccessible for the sake of self-gratification.
But now, the desensitized attitude that accepts pornography as “normal” is bleeding into the public square with people wearing less and less as the weather and culture allows. And though few would admit that this is a participation in pornography, largely because of the intentions behind these instances of nudity, there is a strong connection.
When nudity is engaged casually in pornography or summer wear, it causes an equally sensationally skewed experience of beauty, sex, and the sacred—as opposed to those works of art that ennoble through a nudity freed from eroticism, hearkening back to the original, sacred beauty and dignity of the human condition and the human body. The perversion of pornography is the norm, however, when it comes to nudity, and the encounter of such nudity is also tragically normal.
To suppose that people, especially young people, even from solid families, are not exposed to and harmed by the effects of pornographic nudity in one form or another is naïve. The presence of nudity is a given, as it is widespread, strategic, and insidious. Pornography is inescapable because it is immediately accessible, and that accessibility and acceptance is now finding increasing voice in the way people dress (or fail to dress).
That is the reality that must be faced before it can be fought—that pornography and its effects on young psyches is informing these fashion trends, and both are united in corroding a sense of traditional, moral decency. And it is a battle that must be fought, even if only to reclaim and preserve what vestige of innocence we can yet claim.
Though there is an ongoing discussion of pornography as a public health threat, pornography is perhaps the threat to the innocence proper to certain years of every person’s life. Before Adam and Eve lost their innocence through sin, naked was normal in a very different sense, for it was not even noticed. It was normal because it was natural. When they gained the knowledge of good and evil by knowing evil in the biblical sense, they also immediately knew intellectually, with the clarity of that distinction, that they were naked. They were exposed by sin both spiritually and physically. And they were ashamed and afraid.
This engendering of shame and fear, this loss of blissful innocence, is experienced in every one of their children throughout the ages as reason dawns and the recognition between good and evil is grasped through experience. Though man is fallen and no longer able to retain the unadulterated innocence of his childhood, it does not require that he be guilty.
Men and women can yet preserve an innocence that is befitting a holy people of God—an innocence that guards against the occasions of shame, an innocence that rejects the tendencies of fallen nature and strives to struggle with its effects toward perfection. The preservation of that vestige of innocence is the mark of virtue, and it is not a relic to be dismissed or taken lightly.
The perversion of nakedness both symbolizes and embodies the diametric opposite of this essential struggle. It marks a certain fulfillment of the serpent’s promise at the tree, of the eye being opened and all things being laid bare—the tree that was “fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold.”
Pornography and its offshoots involve the absolute embrasure of fallen nature with an abandon that is so shameless it has even learned to excuse and eradicate shame. The serpent did not wholly lie—the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened. But what they saw was sin and disgrace. In these days, an eerie reversal has taken place.
The eyes of men and women are still open by the inheritance of fallen nature, yet they have lost the vision of shame through a mind-bending, conscience-crushing hedonism that has effectively rendered the distinction of good and evil indistinct in a confusion of sin as opposed to the clarity of innocence.
It is in this state of affairs that regular folks say with a shrug that naked is normal, and they surrender to the sensualist, hell-bent spate, playing to the principle of a relativistic subculture that holds that nudity and the hyper-sexualization of the female body need not be shameful.
The core of the parody called pornography is the blatant blasphemy of love. The desecration and profanation of love and its most sacred act is the deepest sign of an innocence that has been trampled underfoot. Unless people awaken their hearts through discipline and dominion to the truth again, they will never know anything that can truly fulfill either in this world or the next.
The first step to being a good steward, though, is to have a healthy respect for the things of the earth and Heaven, and respect forbids exploitation for pleasure’s sake or for comfort’s sake. For those who truly love the realities that God made, pleasure and peace are derived by virtue of the reality loved, even in the state of broken innocence. The loss of innocence does not necessitate ignorance. Men and women did not become like gods as the serpent seduced, but they remained children of God, able to find the voice of the Father in their hearts.
With the rise in scrutiny and criticism on the effects of pornography and public nudity, there is a rising defense as well. Censorship supports a rejected idea that pornography is detrimental for men and debasing to women. The cry for uncensored celebration rings loud. Let women put themselves on display if they choose and make a buck through their bodies at the same time. It’s all in good mutuality. It’s natural. It’s normal.
Naked is normal for those who have fallen from that nakedness which is normal no more. Now, and every summertime especially, nudity robs people of their innocence through the elimination of the mysteries of the heart, severely impairing their ability to be awed or find joy in the beautiful—which is the greatest impediment to any kind of culture.
Fantasy and blasphemy result in a loss of desire. Appetites surfeit and sicken. People wallow from debauchery to depravity. The nudity of our day and age and on our streets and places of congregation (including our churches, God forgive us) is the lie of the serpent—it is a barrier to the reality all are commanded to know as inheritors of Adam and Eve’s stewardship and our Maker’s Image and Likeness.
[Image: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Wenzel Peter]