While trying to avoid homework, I was scrolling through a news website and ended up watching an interview with an actress who was being asked about displaying nudity in movies and shows, and her words were quite striking: “It’s kind of cool right now to show stuff. Because a lot of big time celebrities are doing it. I’m not afraid of showing my body, but it’s really something you have to think about.”
I was struck by the familiarity of these words. I have heard women speak before about how we shouldn’t be afraid of our bodies, and that instead of fearfully hiding them, we should flaunt them publicly in either revealing clothes or some amount of nakedness. Our bodies are beautiful, and not something to be feared—but does this mean we should exhibit our nakedness for all to see? Does this mean we should get comfortable with being naked on screen or in public?
The fact that we are men and women, made for self-giving, sacrificial love, is apparent through our bodies. Unfortunately, we are imperfect people, and we can fall prey to lust. By using others or ourselves as objects, we fall short of the self-giving love that we desire and deserve. But this doesn’t mean that we should fear our bodies. The solution to being ashamed of our bodies isn’t to become shameless. Instead, we should foster a healthy understanding of shame. We need to understand that, as Pope St. John Paul II discusses in his Theology of the Body audiences, shame is twofold: it is both the desire to not be objectified and the desire for affirmation of one’s subjectivity(being a personal subject, higher than the animals, having self-determination and self-awareness).
I’m guessing many people don’t want to be objectified, and that’s good—but we can’t stop there. In our behavior, words, and hearts, we should want to be recognized as the amazing, self-giving men and women that we were created to be!
When a person is naked, he or she is offering a chance for another person to respond in self-gift. As Pope St. John Paul II states, “The human body—the naked human body in all the truth of its masculinity and femininity—has the meaning of a gift of the person to the person.” Nakedness is a source of interpersonal unity. When a woman is naked before a man, she—through her body—is inviting the man to join with her in communion. This takes complete and total trust, so that the naked woman isn’t afraid of being objectified, and so that she knows that her dignity will be affirmed. Such trust, communion, and love are only found in marriage, where the total gift of the body corresponds with a total gift of the person.
Nakedness is special, and a big deal—but the world is losing sight of that. As the actress stated in her recent interview, “It is your comfort level that matters” when showing nudity. But if we, as a culture and society, perpetuate this idea that we need to get comfortable with public nakedness, the gift of a person’s nakedness will be robbed of its deep value. When so many celebrities display nakedness in movies and on television, and when our peers post partially nude pictures on Facebook, it can be really easy to lose sight of the specialness of nakedness. After all, to the culture, nakedness isn’t a big deal. We need to make it a big deal. Let’s keep it in marriage, where we can fully join in self-gift and communion with another. Let’s bring back the specialness of nakedness.
AnneMarie Miller studies Theology and English at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has a passion for the Catholic Faith, chastity, St. Francis of Assisi, and frolicking around barefoot. In August 2013, she was blessed to marry her incredible husband, and the two of them enjoy the epic adventures of married college life. When she’s not doing homework, housework, cooking, or playing chess, AnneMarie reflects on life’s beauty and random observations on her blog, Sacrifice of Love (http://marianninja.blogspot.com).