It got me to thinking about a few months ago when my boyfriend and I went to our local field (typing that feels weird - does everyone have a local field? It's not really a park because it's just a field but it's a recreational field - we don't just go and sit in some furrows and mellow.) and there was a woman sunbathing there in a shiny gold bikini. A small, shiny gold bikini. Now, that wouldn't fuss me at the beach - and we live in Brighton, so there's a perfectly good beach that I could go to in order to be disgusted at scantily clad females. But it did fuss me in a field, partly because there was a local school PE class using the field, but partly because I guess I just didn't think it was appropriate.
When I mentioned this out loud my boyfriend reminded me of a discussion we'd had previously where I'd said that I thought illegal nudity was wrong. It was an interesting cross point. I do think nudity being illegal is wrong; I think it's one of the biggest injustices in the modern world. I think to be born into a society where your natural state is illegal is forcing you into subscribing to the state in some way. Unless either nudity is legal or clothing is free then it is an injustice in my opinion.
So, how can you think a lady in a bikini is wrong, but nudity in public should be allowed?
My argument is, that with the current approach to clothing and legality and society's modes of dressing, under dressing equates to sex. The naked body becomes a sexual object rather than just an object. If a body is clothed in some way you read it as preparing for an activity of some kind, if it is scantily clad to nude then you read it as preparing or ready for sex.
I believe this is wrong. I think if nudity was more readily and widely available for all body types, then we would start to unpack this belief that the body being naked is somehow a sexual thing; it isn't, it's just its natural state. At the moment, I think we have a situation where the most frequent naked shapes we see are women's and they tend to be sexualised in some way. Either through TV or magazines. If you could see naked people just doing regular things, it would help us to see that a body is for more than sex.
My male friend said to me once that he would find legal nudity in every day life difficult because, unlike the male body, "the female body always looks ready for sex to the naked eye". I found this a really alarming thing to hear. I'd never thought that before and found it unsettling. My body is my body that I use for a long list of things, sex of course being one of them, but I use it for 100 things a day that are not sex. I found it alarming to think that someone would look at my body and their first thought would be that I could be mated, not that I could ride my bike or climb a hill.
I certainly wouldn't be comfortable wearing a tiny gold bikini to a field or the beach, I am not proud of my body. And here comes the kicker, I'm not proud of my body because I don't believe it to be sexy enough. Instead of being thoroughly thrilled because I am healthy, fit and a good size, I would not bare my skin because I don't look like the vast majority of naked ladies I have ever seen. But would that be different if I'd been brought up looking at a variety of nude women instead of just the sexy ones?
I think it is the same for men too, although male bodies vary a bit I think because to be sexy for a man is to be muscular and toned, whereas for a woman it is more often than not to be very slim and curvy. My argument is not solely a feminist one - it is for all humans.
Could we embrace the body as a living tool and hope to shirk the sex only labels that go with a naked or scantily clad figure? Or have we covered up because the naked body can only ever be an icon for sex? I don't know, what do you think?
Whatever the answer though, I think we all know leggings solo are not the answer.