Why does nudity scare us?

Recently I took a life drawing class with some friends. It was meant to be a birthday experience, a bit of fun. What I found interesting though, was the response it elicited. From nervous giggling to outright horror, most people (including my children) seemed to find the idea of us drawing a nude male model as quite scandalous.

I must admit that I was a bit nervous too. This wasn’t just to do with the fact that I would have to look at a strange man’s naked body, but also to do with my own inhibitions. Growing up in the ultra conservative Indian society of the 70’s and the 80’s, where a kiss between a hero and heroine on screen was portrayed by two flowers being roughly pushed together, the fact that I would have to not just look at, but also draw a man’s private parts made me acutely aware of my traditional sensibilities.

Why are we so afraid of nudity? What does it signify to us? A male or a female form sans clothing is a beautiful thing. After all, we don’t arrive in this world, bundled up in Gucci. So, why, as we grow, do we lose that infantile innocence and joy of relishing ourselves in the purest form? Why does nudity get mixed up with sexuality? They are two very different concepts altogether.

As it turned out, my inhibitions took themselves for a walk, as I sketched, what was first a man, then a form, and eventually, light and shadows. I learnt to convey through my sketch, the beauty of what stood in front of me. From my initial embarrassment, and reluctance to look at his private parts, I grew bold and drew them. And honestly, at that point, it could have been a chair, or an apple, or a vase with flowers that stood there. For I was learning about creating something out of nothing. A bit of charcoal, a few lines, a lot of smudging and blending, and voila! suddenly there appeared a man on my paper.

I felt myself loosen up a bit. Not enough to go running on a nudist beach, but just enough to appreciate the beauty that lies in the naked form.

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