»Sense of shame denominates the fearful consciousness of having violated a valid norm or the expectations of others in such a manner, that one loses their respect, it would be publicly known.« defines wikipedia.
And continuing: »A typical example of a sense of shame is the perceived nakedness, that is, the lowering of a minimum limit of physical covering.«
Whether nakedness is perceived as such, is certainly dependent on the situation in which one is situated, as well as the question of when a "minimum limit of body coverage" is undercut. In a topless bikini, one is still dressed properly at the beach, during the stroll through feudal shops or at the church service1) one will probbly undercut the minimum limit. In the sauna or under the shower, it is self-evident in Germany that you are nude. Adherers of the naturism feel just as self-evident that for bathing, sunbathing, sports and playing on the beach any clothes are unsuitable.
Reason for a sense of shame?
At least unconventional is a nude purchase of a baguette at the baker's.
It remains to be realised, that our nude body is in itself no reason for a sense of shame. How could that be! It is a gift of nature, or, according to a different representation, the creation of God or Allah according to His own image, and it would be ungrateful and blasphemous to value the divine creation so lowly that shame is developed!
Worthy of note in this context are the words of Pope John Paul II on nakedness: »Because of being created by God, the human body can remain naked and uncovered, yet, untouched, still preserves its splendour and beauty.« and continuing: »Nakedness as such must not be equated with physical shamelessness.«
One needs to be ashamed of ones own nakedness, if the nakedness takes place in a situation, which is not suitable for the nakedness. This is certainly the case in many everyday situations in the public – so far, a general agreement seems to exist.
But is there really such a great, general agreement? In reality, the sense of shame is a very individual matter. A matter, for which one is ashamed, while for another it is a matter of course and therefore any sense of shame completely inappropriate. The reason for this is, that a sense of shame is always instilled and there is no universally valid rule, of what one should be ashamed and of what not.
By the way: Sometimes on own invitation of the respective house owners, sometimes on request with the consent of the respective house owners, sometimes in cooperation with administrative bodies, or as a matter of spontaneous action for joie de vivre, several nude activities like nude dinners in restaurants (Hamburg since 2011, Jena 2016, Altenberge 2016 and 2017), and also a nude visit to a theater (Düsseldorf 2016) already took place. So, it is possible and, indeed, without any sense of shame, while the public showed interest and sometimes also applauded.2)
The questions, which situations are suitable for being nude and which are not, surely diverge widely:
- If I like to be nude at home – is it appropriate, to go nude to the door, when it rings?
- Is it appropriate, when I mow the lawn or clean the windows in the nude? Or sweep the sideway or twitch the weeds?
- Is it appropriate, to sunbathe in the nude on the terrace or the balcony or in the garden, even if the outside space is easily visible?
- Is it appropriate, to lay nude on the lawn in the city park and to sunbathe?
- Is it appropriate, to jump nude into a river to cool down?
- Is it appropriate to hike, jog or do other sports nude in nature?
All these are activities, that many naturists rate as "suitable for nudity" (e.g., in the city park in Hamburg, in the English Garden and on the islands and the at the river Isar and in other city parks in Munich). Others will not understand and say: "You should be ashamed!". However, few of them know what Pope John Paul II. has said about nudity3).
Reason to be ashamed? participants in the WNBR in Barcelona are bathing in a fountain. Quelle: Usenet
It is only proven that there is no »natural sense of shame«. A sense of shame is always instilled, i.e. the situations, in which one (according to social conventions) shall be ashamed, are only learned. What is innate to every human being, is merely the ability, to be ashamed at all. The motive to feel be ashamed at all, must be even instilled to her / him.
The sociologist Hans Peter Duerr4) holds the view that a low threshold of shame presupposes a very high civilisation. He therefore sees at present a loss of meaning of shame.
The German magazine GEO reports in 2009: »Even adherers of the naturism look primarily at each other's eyes. Talking about sex is taboo in most naturists' camps.« Naturists, of course, look in the face, because the expressiveness of facial expression outweights by far all other physical expressions. Whoever gives attention to her / his counterpart, of course looks in her / his face.
But, of course, sex is also a subject among naturists, just like among other people, too. During many naturists' activities, this topic has been discussed on various occasions. The difference between discussions between naturists and everyday talks about the topic of sex, however, is base on, indeed, Duerr's insight: »A low threshold of shame presupposes a very high level of civilisation.« Discussions among naturists take place on a deliberately distant level of the subject, which reflects the topic of being marginal, in particular with regard to our respective situation of a nude hiking community. To declare the topic of sex to a taboo does not help, but to leave it deliberately in the distant view, creates the necessary, reliable basis in a nude community.
By reverse conclusion, Duerr's theorem ultimately means, that those, who perceive or preach a sense of shame, lack civilisation (or intellectual competence).
1) For example, it is by no means as absurd, as it seems at first sight, to imagine the participation even in a religious celebration in the nude. Nudity was often a part of religious ceremonies in history. This is documented amongst others from Egypt, Greece, Rome, India and numerous indigenous peoples. Even the soldiers of Alexander the Great stripped themselves as a sign of respect for the foreign Gods, when they were teached about the religious customs of the conquered peoples on their campaign.
2) Some examples:
- Vienna 2005 (in German, just click on "weiter" beneath the photo to browse through the photo series)
- Europe since 2008 (nude performances by Thomas Zollinger, Switzerland)
- New York City, Amsterdam, and a lot lot more of cities since years (bodypainting by Andy Golub, New York City)
- Nude museum visit: On 5 May »Nackt und bloß« in the Landesmuseum Hannover [en: Hanover State Museum] [5 May 2017]
- German newspapers Westfälische Nachrichten and Münstersche Volkszeitung report on a nude performance on the waterway [29 August 2017]
If you like, you may find out some more examples among the reports and the links to art.
3) Pope John Paul II, who taught at two universities on Catholic Social Ethics during his time as Archbishop and Cardinal, has attributed the attitude of the Catholic Church to nackedness in his fundamental work on Catholic social ethics "Love and responsibility" as follows:
Being created by God, the human body can remain naked and uncovered
and, untouched, still retains its splendour and beauty.
and later on
Nakedness as such can not be equated with physical shamelessness.
Immodesty is only given, when nudity plays a negative role
in relation to the value of a person.
4) Hans Peter Duerr (wikipedia.org): The natury website refers to some of his books (in German).