Birds and bees, flowers and trees: about as natural as you can get. I find it very interesting that “the birds and the bees” works as a euphemism for explaining sex, because it hides the idea of copulation even as it broadcasts that sex, too, is perfectly natural, and that all you have to do to learn about it is observe. Observation, after all, is how we learn about birds and bees – and we continue to learn so much more about them. The “birds and bees” euphemism has been around for at least two centuries, much longer than we’ve known about the dances that bees do to show the location of a pollen source, much longer than we’ve known about the magnetic retina strips that orient migratory birds. What more will we learn?
Yet the observation of our bodies, let alone our “birds and bees” organs, is what causes so much irrational alarm for large segments of the population. I believe that we still have much to learn from the observation of our bodies, and what’s more, we very much need that observation for our own good – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. It reminds me of the phrase “starved for the sight of nakedness” by Cec Cinder, author of the exhaustive The Nudist Idea:
“One does not object so much to the wearing of clothing in the larger society as to the insistence that clothing be worn always – with costumes even for going to bed and bathing – so that we are perpetually starved for the sight of nakedness and just so much the aesthetically and spiritually impoverished, as if we had been forbidden the sight of flowers forevermore (for what we do so admire in flowers are, in fact, their blatantly exposed sex organs); and also one is repelled by the nature of that clothing, which is, more often than not, uncomfortably tight, awkwardly cut and depressingly drab.”
Cec Cinder from “Bare in Mind,” 1974.
What we admire in flowers are their sex organs. When I read or hear disparaging opinions about the aesthetic beauty of our sex organs, female or male – sometimes even from fellow naturists – it makes me frustrated that we are not more aware and more appreciative of ourselves. We need to be more objective, more botanical, about our “stamens” and “pistils.”
And I’ll add that we should also be a bit more bisexual about our bits. I mean this in the sense that mystery writer Rita Mae Brown gives the term in this piece of advice for writers: “Virginia Woolf said that writers must be androgynous. I’ll go a step further. You must be bisexual.” Her implication is that in order to write convincing characters of any gender, you need to be imaginative enough to put yourself in that gender. Whether you write or paint or analyze markets or repair cars, we all need to be empathetic, and observation of our bodies helps enormously.
The terrific photo above (I wish I could assign proper credit to it – does anyone know the name of the artist?) brings to mind a phrase in Spanish, a flor de piel. Literally the expression means “on the flower of the skin” but figuratively it means “with open and abundant passion or emotion.” Unfortunately, the English version of the expression – “wearing your heart on your sleeve” – insists on covering up the Spanish “skin.” I prefer sleeveless. And I think there’s still so much more to learn from observing, with abundant passion, the unclothed flower of the skin.