[Paleopsych] Meme 055: The Origins of the Nudity Taboo

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Meme 055: The Origins of the Nudity Taboo
sent 5.12.31

It is a familiar story:

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep
to fall upon Adam, and
he slept: and he took one of his ribs,
and closed up the flesh
instead thereof;

22 And the rib, which the Lord God had
taken from man, made he
a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my
bones, and flesh of
my flesh: she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of

24 Therefore shall a man leave his
father and his mother, and
shall cleave unto his wife: and they
shall be one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and
his wife, and were
not ashamed.


1 Now the serpent was more subtil than
any beast of the field
which the Lord God had made. And he said
unto the woman, Yea, hath
God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree
of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent,
We may eat of the fruit
of the trees of the garden:

3 But of the fruit of the tree which is
in the midst of the
garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
of it, neither shall ye
touch it, lest ye die.

4 And the serpent said unto the woman,
Ye shall not surely

5 For God doth know that in the day ye
eat thereof, then your
eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as
gods, knowing good and

6 And when the woman saw that the tree
was good for food, and
that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a
tree to be desired to make
one wise, she took of the fruit thereof,
and did eat, and gave also
unto her husband with her; and he did

7 And the eyes of them both were opened,
and they knew that
they were naked; and they sewed fig
leaves together, and made
themselves aprons.

8 And they heard the voice of the Lord
God walking in the
garden in the cool of the day: and Adam
and his wife hid themselves
from the presence of the Lord God
amongst the trees of the garden.

9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and
said unto him, Where
art thou?

10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the
garden, and I was
afraid, because I was naked; and I hid

11 And he said, Who told thee that thou
wast naked? Hast thou
eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded
thee that thou shouldest not

12 And the man said, The woman whom thou
gavest to be with me,
she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13 And the Lord God said unto the woman,
What is this that
thou hast done? And the woman said, The
serpent beguiled me, and I
did eat.

14 And the Lord God said unto the
serpent, Because thou hast
done this, thou art cursed above all
cattle, and above every beast
of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou
go, and dust shalt thou eat
all the days of thy life:

15 And I will put enmity between thee
and the woman, and
between thy seed and her seed; it shall
bruise thy head, and thou
shalt bruise his heel.

16 Unto the woman he said, I will
greatly multiply thy sorrow
and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt
bring forth children; and
thy desire shall be to thy husband, and
he shall rule over thee.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou
hast hearkened unto the
voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the
tree, of which I commanded
thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it:
cursed is the ground for
thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it
all the days of thy life;

18 Thorns also and thistles shall it
bring forth to thee; and
thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou
eat bread, till thou
return unto the ground; for out of it
wast thou taken: for dust
thou art, and unto dust shalt thou

20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve;
because she was the
mother of all living.

21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did
the Lord God make coats
of skins, and clothed them.

22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the
man is become as one of
us, to know good and evil: and now, lest
he put forth his hand, and
take also of the tree of life, and eat,
and live for ever:

23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth
from the garden of
Eden, to till the ground from whence he
was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he
placed at the east of the
garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming
sword which turned every
way, to keep the way of the tree of

So amongst the knowledge of good and evil that came from eating the 
forbidden fruit is that nudity is shameful. (How much knowledge came is 
not stated in the text, but the Lord God felt it necessary to reveal other 
knowledge later, the most famous being the Ten Commandments, indeed up to 
626 Mitzvot by the end of the Old Testament and a few more in the New, 
repealing several of the ones from the Old Testament as no longer being 
pertinent under the New Covenant. Gary North takes the unusual position, 
which I call "eastern," that what was not repealed remains in effect, why 
most Christians take the "western" position that everything not explicitly 
continued in the New Testament was repealed.

What has puzzled me for a good while is that I can think of no 
sociobiological explanation for the nudity taboo. Humans did not wear 
clothes in the EEA! Nevertheless, my children started objecting to seeing 
their parents naked around the time they hit puberty. It was not part of 
their upbringing, and our nudity was entirely casual. When Hillary was 
touting health care reform, I suggested (without anyone contradicting me) 
that a better way to improve health would be to require that we go naked 
when it is hot. We'd start paying far more attention to our appearance.

If no explanation is forthcoming, perhaps it was divine intervention after 
all that instilled this particular bit of knowledge of good and evil. The 
Bayesian "priors" of nonbelievers would have to be drastically readjusted. 
And the Lord God would have instilled this shame of being naked into all 
humans, not just those who lived in the Near East.

In the article below, you'll find a not at all untypical anti-Christian 
rant. I am in no position to counter what it says about Japanese families 
jumping into a hot tub together, and it is definitely the case that Greek 
athletes (male, not female, if there were any) performed in the raw.

But the general argument is bogus. In all societies (are there any full 
exceptions?), completely casual nudity does not exist. Otherwise, I'd go 
naked at the office when it got too hot, as would some of my co-workers. 
Outside, I'd wear running shoes and a jock strap. But only in a society in 
which casual nudity is the norm. I have no intention of making a big issue 
of this or joining a nudist colony.

It is also the case that nowhere is homosexuality allowed free reign. It 
takes the efforts of scholars to decipher the "code words" for homosexual 
activities in the writings of the Greeks, which did allow for certain 
homosexual behavior under tightly controlled circumstances. But homosexual 
activity was never just casual. That's why "code words" got used.

One notion in theology is that God reveals rules of conduct to men who 
cannot figure these rules out for themselves, given the state of knowledge 
at the time. A theist holds that men in fact announced these rules and 
attributed them to a god or gods, in every religion except his own 
religion. An atheist, one who believes in one less god than a monotheist, 
thinks all the commands were man-made.

The world's religions have a huge overlap in their rules, as has been 
observed many times, but also rules that are unique to each religion. St. 
Paul's letters spend a great deal of time discussion Jewish-Gentile 
relations and what Jewish and Gentile converts must do differently. The 
latter did not have to obey all the Jewish laws, but Paul became exercised 
over whether newly converted pagans could go ahead and eat meat that had 
been ritually sacrificed by those who were still pagan. He offered 
arguments against it, though not quoting the arguably Jewish specific 
Second Commandment ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me") itself, but 
he was not adamant.

Paul was adamant, though, about homosexuality, and explicitly carried over 
the Old Testament injunctions. Not surprisingly, theological liberals 
interpret this out of existence. (I got Jacques Berlinerbrau, _The Secular 
Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously_ (Cambridge UP, 2005) 
for Christmas, but I have not read it yet.)

Well, here goes the rant against Christianity. What remains is the puzzle 
of why Adam and Eve were ashamed.

http://www.agnostic.org/BIBLEI.htm [from a group called The Agnostic 

But Just Whose Family Values? (Continued)

A. Side Effects Of Change

The key values identified for change, if actually altered by mankind, will 
naturally result in a number of changes to other values which Western 
Civilization generally holds. This Section is intended to discuss some of 
those values which will also change.

1. No Nudity Taboo

Christianity is so obsessed with the thought that enjoyment of sex is bad 
that many of the so-called "Family Values" of the Christian "Right" are 
actually designed to suppress any thoughts of sex as an enjoyable 
activity.1 One of those values which should naturally be discarded is the 
nudity taboo.

It is almost comical to watch modern parents raise their children within 
the bounds of the current system of taboos. It is OK for a very small 
child to go to the bathroom with a parent of the opposite sex, but once 
the child is old enough to be potty trained, the child must go to the 
proper bathroom by itself. It is OK for prepubescent children of the 
opposite sex to sleep in the same bed, but if puberty approaches for 
either one, it is taboo. This taboo even manifests itself in our building 
codes, which specify a maximum age by which opposite sex children can 
sleep in the same bedroom.

The essential thought of the Christian "Right" is that if we keep our 
children from viewing any nudity and sex, or finding out about such 
subjects in any way, we will quite naturally prevent our children from 
having sex before marriage. This creates an essential tension between 
knowledge and freedom. The freedoms of all people, including adults, must 
be restricted in order to prevent any young person from coming into 
contact with any depictions of nudity or sexual activity. Presently, our 
laws draw certain artificial lines at various ages, currently 13, 17, 
and/or 18,2 allowing increased freedom for them to view movies depicting 
nudity and/or sexual activity once they achieve those ages. Of course this 
is silly because social statistics show that roughly 85% of eighteen year 
old children are not virgins, meaning that most eighteen year olds have 
had sex.

Other cultures have not created such a widespread nudity taboo. For 
example, it is considered normal in Japan for an entire family to jump 
into a hot tub together, in the nude, and there is a similar lack of 
nudity taboos in such things as public baths. To me, things like this 
clearly show that nudity taboos are totally artificial. If the values of 
our culture allow, and even strongly encourage, children as young as age 
seven to pair up as couples and get married to one another, long before 
puberty is even an issue, then there is no longer any reason to maintain a 
nudity taboo. Accordingly, the nudity taboo should, quite naturally, be 
assigned to the trash as part of the altered system of values proposed in 
this book.

This does not mean that I am advocating the so-called "nudist life style." 
There are good and valid reasons why we should not expose our skin to the 
sun any more than is absolutely necessary. The nudists essentially accept 
the trade off of increasingly bad skin as they get older in return for 
their pleasure in thumbing their noses at the system by going around in 
the nude. The only reason I will mention the nudists is that it is usually 
accepted that they are a valid alternative life style, and thus they are 
proof that there is not a direct correlation between nudity and sexual 

2 . Unisex Bathrooms

Our present system of bathroom facilities is strongly based on the nudity 
taboo. If the nudity taboo is discarded, then there is no longer any real 
reason to continue to build separate bathroom facilities for each sex.

This concept is already partially implemented in our society. For 
instance, it is less common to see portable toilets labeled for one sex or 
the other. Many gas stations have converted to unisex rest room 
facilities, simply putting the international logos for both sexes on the 
same door. I have not observed any really strong reaction against these 
trends, so I believe it is time to simply state that it will be better for 
all of us to recognize this concept and agree to share and share alike.3

In the long run, construction costs will be lower for buildings, 
convenience will be improved, and some level of aggravation will be 
removed from our lives if we simply agree that any public rest room are 
unisex, no matter what label happens to be on the door. This change is 
simply a natural consequence of abolishing the nudity taboo, and as I have 
pointed out, it is already widely accepted in our society.

3 . No Pleasure Taboos

An important side effect of all of this will be to remove most, if not 
all, of the many proscriptions of pleasurable activity which now exist in 
our system of laws. There will no longer be any need to prohibit sexual 
activity according to age, because our society will ensure that most 
people are part of a stable marriage long before they are physically 
mature enough to have sex. Similarly, we should remove the age limits on 
the drinking of alcoholic beverages so that our young people can get their 
training on what their own personal limits for the consumption of alcohol 
are long before they would be in any significant physical danger from 

Part of the culture of Western Civilization is that alcoholic beverages 
are heavily taxed because drinking is a "sin" and, to the extent which our 
society has elected to tolerate such "sin," taxing it heavily acts as a 
disincentive to "sin." Thus, the easiest way for any politician to propose 
raising revenue for the government is to propose a "sin tax" of some sort, 
and alcohol is usually right at the top of the list.

These things all derive from the basic Christian concept that pleasure is 
sinful, and thus indulgence in pleasure must be discouraged for the good 
of your eternal soul. One of the side effects of adopting a Dionysian 
component into our culture will be the fact that pleasure is now not only 
acceptable, it is encouraged as a natural part of being human. In other 
words, it is no longer possible for you to be considered as being totally 
human unless you regularly experience pleasure.

Abolishing all of the taboos against pleasure, and discarding all of the 
guilt which Christianity has traditionally associated with pleasure, will 
constitute a truly fundamental change in our moral philosophy. But there 
is no doubt in my mind that this change is long overdue.

1 Christianity has been attempting to prevent sexual contact from
the earliest days of the church. See, for example, some of the
letters of Paul in the New Testament which even advise against
marriage under the false assumption that Jesus will return any day

2 These ages are derived from the current movie rating system of G,
PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17.

3 The disparate nature of public rest room facilities at sports
venues has been a recurring topic in the media, particularly with
respect to concerts, where the sexual division of the audience is
at least much more equal, if not skewed in favor of a female

[I am sending forth these memes, not because I agree wholeheartedly with 
all of them, but to impregnate females of both sexes. Ponder them and
spread them.]

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