The Body Politic

It’s an ancient and common allegory used by the apostle Paul among many others: the body politic. The various sectors or classes of a society are likened to the organs and systems of the human body. Just as we need all the body parts to function in harmony–from the heart and liver and fingers all the way down to tear ducts and lymph nodes and red blood cells–we need men and women, toddlers and grandparents, traders and teachers and truckers and all the rest to work together in cohesion.

Medieval depiction of the body politic

Usually the allegory goes in that direction: projecting the idea of the body onto the politic or populace. But the other direction works too, and when you look at it that way–projecting the politic onto the body–, surprising and unsettling associations arise, especially regarding the legal and political understanding of discrimination.

We live in an imperfect society, even though great strides have been made in many parts of the world toward a truly universal recognition of human rights for all members of the body politic, regardless of ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, or physical disability. People everywhere are finding or reaffirming the right to assert many more, if still not all, aspects of their identities.

But the reverse is not true. Society at large in the US and many parts of the world continues to discriminate, wrongly and wrongheadedly, against certain parts, systems, and functions of our bodies. I’m no psychologist, but when I read here (next-to-last paragraph) the glaring ridicule–the outright hostility–toward certain delicate but noble areas of our body that the wise among us treat with much more respect, I am moved to the conclusion that not only will ignorance always mistake segregation for security, but that it will do so with deliberate repression. The text I have linked to is but one cheap thrill in an “amusement” park of chuckling intolerance, a run-down sideshow that broadcasts in a flashing neon sign this willful but misled need for clinging to mechanically and artificially closed categories that is so often the hallmark of ignorance.

The discrimination against these parts of ourselves related mostly (though not exclusively) to our reproductive and excretory systems relegates these systems to some sort of seamy, unseemly status outside or on the border of the body politic. And since those same parts are the ones most reluctantly unclothed by the greater textile world, those of us who willingly unclothe ourselves as often as possible are associated in the popular imagination with those body parts and their forced exile to the fringe. This results from people aggressively drawing and quartering themselves, and setting up little reservations on their anatomical landscapes. It does not make for a cohesive body, but rather one that struggles with an incomplete sense of itself, a segregation the mention of which becomes, itself, a taboo.

It is for this reason that so many people’s first-time experience with social nudism is quite literally a revelation. It is an *unveiling* that leads to deeper comprehension and broader appreciation for the parts that make up the whole of the body, as well as the people that make up the body politic. Social nudism or naturism simply accepts areolas and ankles like it accepts arms and anuses–anatomical non-discrimination–because the emphasis is on the holistic, natural, fully integrated and articulated state of the body and not religious or political perceptions of shame-based segregation. Nudism inherently seeks to avoid these restrictive scriptures of church or state: no cover-ups of mysteries or policies, but rather the transparent contemplation of nature and our place in it, our human nature. Naturally and anatomically, social nudism does, however, accommodate the strictures of biology, which is why there exists a minimal etiquette policy related to hygiene and arousal. That’s all.

And that’s more than enough to drape over the body politic. Anti-anatomical discrimination is as untenable as anti-nudist discrimination. For more on the topic, read an outstanding article by Larry Darter on “Nudism and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

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