From: by way of Sasha Chislenko (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 13:49:45 MST

[ I am redirecting this message as the list address was incorrect]

Sasha Chislenko says:
> At 09:21 PM 00/01/22 , Damien Broderick wrote:
> >At 06:44 PM 22/01/00 -0600, Sasha wrote:
> >
> > >(I like reminding people that out of millions of animal
> > >species, humans are the only one who have any problem seeing
> > >each other naked - and this is entirely the consequence of
> > >warped social norms.)
> >
> >Well, yes, but out of millions of animal species, humans are the only one
> >who have any problem with kids copying each other's term papers, or
> > driving fast through red lights in busy traffic ...
> I don't think this is an equivalent issue. Extended and emergent forms
> of social organization require corresponding extensions of control
> mechanisms. Matching the shift in system structures, the regulatory

> What I was talking about, was normal relations between individuals
> that didn't have any problems in animal species, and have problems
> in the society now only because of the warped dynamics of processes
> in the human memetic pswamp ...

Some taboos seem to be almost a universal aspect of the species. For
example, almost all humans have some form of nudity taboo.
Apparently, anthropologists have discovered that bands of people who
wear very little by the standards of, say, what won't get you arrested
walking through Boston Commons in the middle of summer still feel
shame about removing that little and wearing nothing at all. Nudity
taboos are an interesting, primal, and apparently nearly universal
part of human psychological makeup. Explanations for primal nudity
taboos show up in ancient religious scriptures, for example the
explanation in Genesis. I've heard of religions where the explanation
is that humans are special animals that feel most comfortable wearing
the skins of other animals. Clearly that's an interesting comment on
our use of simple technologies to protect our bodies. Still, it
doesn't fully explain nudity taboos.

Taboos seems evidence that something about the way we've evolved has
altered even our normative relation to our bodies by contrast with
other animals.

Now, I would agree that it's a healthy thing for these taboos to be
understood as mere social conventions, and not to punish people for
violating them. I applaud people who try to drive back state and
social control mechanisms that enshrine nudity taboos and make a duty
of citizenship out of obedience to them. I've been very happy to
observe progress in this arena throughout my life. For example, in
New York asymmetrical gender-based decency laws have been stricken
down by court order. If women have to cover their breasts, so do men.
At a lot of public parades women go topless to assert their right to
do so. I've also observed that at festivals and concerts and so on
increasingly one finds that there are clothing-optional zones.
(Burning Man, etc.) There's a photographer in New York who stages
large public nude assemblages, though he lately has had trouble with
the cops, alas. But in general, I think puritanical social control in
this area is abating.

But I think you'd be hard-pressed to prove that human nudity taboos
are completely "unnatural".

All the best,

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