Public nudity  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Public nudity or nude in public (NIP) refers to nudity not in an entirely private context. It refers to a person appearing nude in a public place or to be seen from a public place. Nudity in the privacy of a person's home or private grounds or facilities is not public nudity, nor is nudity at fitness facilities, swimming pools, saunas, or gymnasia, nudist or naturist clubs or resorts, since they take place on private grounds. Naturism promotes social nudity, but mostly on private properties or officially sanctioned public areas.

In some cases, public nudity may be legal. For example, there are many countries which have designated public areas as nude beaches, or where nude bathing is unofficially tolerated. In those places, a person would not face legal prosecution merely for being nude.

Outside of those areas, community and legal acceptance of public nudity varies considerably. To avoid offending the public in general, public authorities maintain what are sometimes called "standards of decency". What falls outside these standards are usually termed "indecent exposure", or similar terminology. These standards, however, vary with time and place. If the intent is to draw attention to oneself, it may be referred to as exhibitionism, otherwise it may be to draw attention to a cause (see nudity and protest). There are also some people who disrobe in public to attract publicity to themselves, as a career move, such as some streakers at sporting events. There are also others who spontaneously disrobe in public, as an expression of their freedom and the shedding of inhibitions; an example being skinny dipping.

There are some people who object to any public exposure of a naked human body, on moral, religious or decency grounds, and regard the exposure of a naked body as inherently sexual. (See also gymnophobia.) The degree to which a person can be exposed to be considered "indecent" varies with cultural standards. At one extreme is the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan which considered the exposure of any part of a woman's body in public as indecent, and required all women to wear a burqa in public. Less extreme is the requirement for women who enter a church to wear "modest" clothing and to cover their heads. This is not entirely analogous, because this sort of requirement is not made in respect of a public place. (See also modesty.)

There are some people who consider nudity in art as public nudity, and by analogy nudity in the media and on the internet; to which others retort that one can always "turn off the switch" or not enter a cinema or art gallery. However, the same cannot be said for some advertising which contains images of naked or semi-naked people on public highways (or which can be seen from a public road) such as billboards, or displayed in shop windows, or magazines of naked people on the cover displayed on news-stands.

As an artistic expression

Public nudity as an artistic expression is a trend in contemporary photography.

  • Fashion line Imitation of Christ by Tara Subkoff incorporated toplessness in its public fashion show, which brought comparisons to Vanessa Beecroft's art.
  • Small and big events where naked people appear with body painting.
  • While nude modeling is usually done in closed artistic company, the photography of Spencer Tunick is generally shot publicly, outdoors. Tunick is best-known for installations that feature large numbers of nude people (up to 18 thousand) posed in artistic formations. In these formal images the nude form becomes abstract due to the sheer number so closely placed together. For Tunick, the individual naked body is not important; it is the big group which becomes a "living sculpture" in the landscape.
  • San Francisco Bay area photographer Jack Gescheidt is staging his events as part of an ongoing series, called "The Tree Spirit Project".
  • The photography of Paul Harvey whose book The Spirit of Lady Godiva depicts nude models in urban environments. According to one tradition, Lady Godiva made her famous ride, naked on horseback, through the streets of Coventry, England on July 10 in 1040 in order to gain a remission of the oppressive toll imposed by her husband on his tenants.
  • The films of Charles MacFarland are featuring naked people in social settings. Locations include international naturist resorts and beaches.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Public nudity" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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