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Naked People on TV -- A Breast is a Breast

Updated on October 11, 2011

Are all humans created equal? Most modern Westerners would say yes, we are all equal and have certain rights as humans. We have the right to our own bodies and to survive without impinging upon others. We have the right to belief and to safety.

In the United States, we have careful censorship to prevent unwitting people (especially children) from seeing/hearing certain things to which we believe they should not be subjected. Nudity on television is not acceptable... or is it?

"Educational" Nudity

The amazing series Living with the Mek takes journalist Oliver Steeds and survival expert Mark Anstice to West Papua to live with the remote Mek tribe. The Mek wear almost no clothing (see the photo on the right) on a daily basis. After all, it is hot in West Papua, and without societal norms requiring them to cover themselves, why do so?

For years, the National Geographic magazine has depicted "indigenous nudity" somewhat controversially. After all, this is how these people live. Why should we subject them to our own cultural standards? This, we believe, takes away from the validity of the photos, and for many, it makes the breasts of indigenous women valid subjects for educational photographs. Look, children! This is how people on the other side of the world live.

At the beginning of the Adventures with Mark and Olly shows (later they live with the Machigenga in the Amazon), a disclaimer points out that "the following program depicts indigenous nudity" and should be viewed with discretion. Breasts, testicles, and other body parts of the Mek considered by the Western world to be "private" are not blurred.

And yet the Discovery Channel had a documentary on nudism in North America that censored the "sensitive" areas of all the people in the show. For the white nudists, being naked was as integral to their society as it is to the Mek. Why only censor one of them?

Implied Racism

Presumably the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel (both distributed by Discovery Networks) are not choosing to censor or not censor their shows; this is dictated by the FCC's laws regarding "decency" on television.

What makes a naked white female less appropriate for television than a naked Mek female? They have the same anatomy, and in the case of nudists, the same types of reasons for being naked (in that they are not being naked for the sake of obscenity but are also not doing it for artistic reasons).

The implications of this are disgusting. It seems to imply that the Mek are somehow less human, their privacy less necessary, that they are something to be studied and observed. Their bodies are not seen as equal to those of white Westerners in the eyes of the law.

This directly conflicts with the "all men created equal" ideal that so many of us hold dear, and yet to many of us it makes sense: foreign people in "tribal" cultures who we will never meet are free to be naked on television, but nudity of nudists who may as well be our next-door neighbors frightens and disturbs us when displayed on television or in other public venues.

It seems the only way to reconcile this is to make a unanimous decision. Nudity on television for all (excluding obscene or sexual nudity, which has drastically different connotations) or for none, but certainly not for just some.


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    • profile image

      Chames Pond 7 years ago

      I wrote to NG so many times regarding this. I think NG has different standards for whites and ROW.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Australia

      Interesting hub. Nudity is always a subject guaranteed to raise discussion. Personally, I think the temptation is to over-simplify the subject. Observed in isolation, nudity is, as seems to be the consensus here, a perfectly natural and fine thing; there is nothing "ugly" or perverse about the body that merits it being hidden. Even the bible depicts nudity as the original state of man and woman. However, in a perfect world things are simple. Most would agree we no longer live in a perfect world. Whatever the racial undertones of TV presentations & accepted societal mores, I think there are more relevant differences than skin colour when addressing nudity. I feel the inspiration for a hub coming on :)

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

      @Misty, I watch that show too and love it. The people are very interesting in that they have the same ideals as us even though we are from differentl cultures. Protecting the children and family at the top priority there as in ours.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      For what it is worth I don't think the issue is whether breasts or the human body etc are 'beautiful' or 'ugly'. Personally I think the body is just that, 'the body', and therefore nudity should not be a huge issue. The more we make an issue of it, the more we perpetuate the problem of seeing nudity as improper, and therefore it becomes 'naughty' and 'taboo' to our children and gives the youth of today a reason to nudge each other and giggle about it, to see it as a 'guilty pleasure' etc. We create problems that simply don't exist in other cultures by our own warped beliefs in what is apparently acceptable or not.

      PS. I watched that Mark and Olly documentary series and found it excellent viewing, as well as being very educational.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

      This is great. I voted it up, awesome, beautifyl and useful. I also shared it and will tweet it and post it to my facebook. What Westerners are taught about the body is just rediculous. Who started this crazy crase that the body is ugly??

    • profile image

      KAYANI 7 years ago


    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Breasts are beautiful - why cover them up? I agree with you that the implied racism is disgusting. In South Africa for many years we had strict censorship hoping to uphold a narrow Calvinist idea of morality. Magazines and books with pictures of nude white women always had stars printed over the nipples and other "ensitive" parts. But black women could be shown without such coverings. The implication was, I think, that black women could not be sexually attractive to white males and so were not likely to lead to "impure" thoughts. But then we had the infamous Immorality Act which defined immorality as sex between people of different races and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, so I don't kow where their heads (?) were at. I think it's not nudity that's disgusting, but censorship which is disgusting, because it makes something evil of the human body. Which I have always found strange - do the Christians not say we are made in the image of God?

      Great Hub, thanks.

      Love and peace


    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 7 years ago from Manhattan

      Ha, I'm with you, gentile!

    • profile image

      gentile 8 years ago

      I remember NG showed a white womans breast in the magazine once. She was from an eastern European country sitting on the beach. They got a lot of mail stating how inappropriate that was. Really get a life people. Breasts get used to them.

    • profile image

      2na2o 8 years ago

      this is what civilization taught us.

    • solarcaptain profile image

      mike king 8 years ago from california

      Our society has a history of repression of anything that is nude or sexual. Socidty confuses the two; nudity is sex, sex is nudity. Of course this is hogwash. At University an assignment was to visit a nudit club (human sexuality was the class). We figured go out there soak up some rays in our bathing suits.....well, there were some mighty inqujisitive people wanting to know why we were in bathing suits and what did we have to hide so off they went and in about two minutes the nudity was forgotton, there were no thoughts of sex, and when we left never felt freer.

      Ya I learned about nudity from National Geo. I got the message it's ok to be nude ir you are brown or black. So before entering college I went and got a tan.

      Great hub. Thanks

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

      I'm right there with you, James!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      I say nudity for all!

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for the comment, Ralph. I'm not sure where to buy one of those things, but if you happen to find out, please let me know! Perhaps I can add it to my Amazon capsule. ;)

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Very good point. I've wondered about that many times. BTW, any idea where I could buy one of those things the man is wearing? :-)