My friend, Hadassah, has elbows. I’ve always assumed this but only a short time ago did I see her elbows for the first time to prove that she does have them. It’s funny that we’ve known each other for 14 years yet it was only recently that I saw her elbows. Why did this happen? Hadassah is of the Orthodox Jewish faith, which dictates that her whole body, including elbows and knees, must be covered. I guess she joined a more moderate branch of Judaism recently, as her elbows can now be seen. This is a huge change for her- and for me, as I look at her elbows for the first time.
For Hadassah, exposing her elbows was a breach of modesty, as seen by her faith. Her religious beliefs had more emphasis on which body parts are acceptable to see and show, perhaps, than most people’s beliefs, but how different are they from modern culture, really? While most people in the USA would agree that having people see your elbows is fine (and you may get some funny faces if you suggest otherwise!), how many people have that same good part/ bad part response when talking about… a woman’s pubic mound/ labia majora? Or a penis? Or a woman’s breast?
These body parts are the parts that are so sacred/ private/ obscene/ bad that they have many, many names. A penis could be a dick and may have a name, the labia majora may be called a crotch, and a woman’s breast might be called a boob. Even the grouping of the parts has a name: our private parts or, as some kids say, our privates. Of course, we all know numerous other names for all these parts and many parents teach their children to call them some off-the-wall names. And don’t even get me started on what we call the urine or feces that come out of these parts!
All of this begs the question of why certain body parts have numerous names and are “forbidden” while other parts only have one name and get no attention. Think of the poor elbow: it only has one name and certainly no pet names. All children call is simply “elbow” and everyone knows the name of this body part. Not so with the genitals: they have numerous names, none of which are to be said in polite conversation. I double-dog-dare you to bring up the status of your penis next time you’re at your family reunion- I’m thinking this won’t go well. Compare this with a discussion of your elbow and you’ll see that there is a huge difference in how discussion of body parts is received.
What I find even more interesting is that men’s genitalia are typically correctly labeled- penis, scrotum, and testicles- while women’s genitalia are confused, even by adults. We talk about the vagina as the part that is seen when the clothes come off, but, unless you’re the woman’s gynecologist or are very intimate with her, you’re really not seeing her vagina. This is a common misconception. Let me give you a little anatomy lesson, in case you didn’t know: the vagina is the canal inside of the woman that leads to the cervix. (You’ll put your Diva Cup in the vagina, for those of you who have followed Felicity’s Blog about the Diva Cup.) If you are at a nudist event, you most likely are seeing the woman’s labia majora, otherwise known as the pubic mound. You may also see the labia minora, the inner lips inside of the labia majora, if the woman has “protruding labia.” What’s sad to me is that so many people don’t know this basic anatomy- and I’m not just talking about children here!
All of the silly labels for genitalia and the incorrect use of the terms of the woman’s genitals are simply a result of the stigma that is attached to these parts. So why are these parts “bad”??? In this day and age we can understand this a bit because these are the parts that have been wrong for us to talk about and wrong for us to see or show since childhood. We can understand that and, as nudists, we can take away the penis and labia majora stigma by not hiding these parts either with clothing or in our conversation. This is something that we need to help our society to overcome, though! This may start with first educating people on what their parts are, as so many people don’t have any idea of what’s what. After that, we need to normalize these parts and take their stigma away by treating them with the same respect as our elbow, which has no stigma. But surely there’s more…. What more can we do? How do you help others to stop seeing their and your genitalia as bad parts that can be neither seen nor heard about?
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About the Author (Author Profile)36 year old nudist from Catskill, NY. Love life, hiking, climbing trees, writing, and helping people. Been a nudist since the age of 28 and found it to be a life changing way of living.
This has some major inferences when talking about the corporate medical enterprise. Even though they have the use of cyber-technology, to produce images for us doctors to compare to, they are STILL using a model that they consider to be 'AVERAGE' according to the corporate gene pool standards. Really gets bizarre if considering doing some sort of a therapy, analyzing an x-ray, or especially when prescribing some drug. So there's a REAL VALUE to the health community for a better perspective on the human form. But the politics STILL seem to overwhelm the benefits.
IMO, dictating what is "good" and "bad" is just another way for those in religious power trying to control the masses. In the later 1800's a "proper" woman couldn't show a bare ankle. Then flapper women in the 1920's dared to show bare calves. men could not go shirtless on beaches until they protested in the 1930's. And as late as the 1960's if a man took off his shirt to sunbathe in Central Park NY, he would be arrested. The way to stop this nonsense is to always point if out just like Melissa did. Thanks for the great article.
Remember when there was such a fuss coming from the Right when Michelle Obama 'exposed' her shoulders with that 'daring' dress? Our society, or at least a big part of it, really hasn't progressed all that far!