• 0 thru 9
    948
    (Although this topic and question may be a little humorous, it is sincerely asked. I am wondering about the very nature of our civilization and its core “values”: good, bad, odd, helpful, hurtful, etc. Mods please contact me if revisions are requested. Thanks!)

    A little thought experiment...

    How much would Western Civilizational (WC) be changed, if both public sex and public nudity were accepted and tolerated?

    Said another way... what if you woke up tomorrow, and public sex and nudity were no big deal, just part of the landscape... what else would change because of that fact?

    (EDIT: Scenario #2: You find yourself growing up and living in a world much like the one we live in now. One large difference is that nudity and sexual activity in public are commonplace, hardly noticed. What other things might be different than our current civilizational, following from that? Could that big difference exist and not have other repercussions? Would you wish to live in a culture like that, having grown up with it as a given? /edit).

    (Or if you prefer... consider the reverse question: In what ways would WC have to change in order to accept public nudity and sex?)

    First of all: some notes, ground rules, and disclaimers...

    1. Any sex in this scenario WOULD BE BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS! Anyone not an adult (such as younger teenagers) would simply have continue mating where they have since prehistoric times... in the backseat of a car. “Simple nudity” of those underage (as in a nudist colony) would perhaps be a debatable point, if one wished to argue (though I am not). Though of course, either NYC or LA (for example) is NOT a relatively safe and controlled nude beach. If one wished to argue that even nudity permissible only to adults, that might make the question simpler.

    2. I am NOT necessarily arguing for or against such a scenario. It is a thought experiment. (All I can say as of now is that I believe such a change would affect WC profoundly to its core. I’m not sure if for good or ill, or a little of both in different ways).

    3. You can either ignore Covid-19 (and such) or you can make it part of your reply.

    4. You can argue either for/against public nudity and sex only outdoors or in specific “approved” locations. Or you can debate for sex anywhere and everywhere... perhaps even the elevator or grocery store, ew. (Cleanup in aisle 7 please!)
    ———
    Some thoughts...

    Would these theoretical changes be good? Bad? A mixed bag? Would it be a hippie free love utopia Garden of Eden? Or a nightmare Sodom and Gomorah, triggering the Apocalypse? How and why?

    Personally, in such a scenario I would reason that (assuming that they are consensual adults like mentioned above) ...that all “forms” of public sex would thusly be acceptable. Homosexuality, lesbian, gender non-specific, “mixed-race”, etc. would all be equally accepted. Would this be a possible downfall of such an experiment? That some public sex is “good” and some is “bad”? (Mirroring perhaps all the divides currently existing). Would the mere witnessing (at a polite distance) of any sexual activity scar or damage an underage person in some way? Would this be any different, better or worse than pornography? Or would it just gross them out, like accidentally seeing your parents making love?
    Speaking of which, what effect would this whole scenario have on the institution of marriage?

    Could the “right” to public nudity and sex in this scenario be revoked for misdeeds, like how driving privileges can be suspended? Would one need a license perhaps?

    Would humans somehow benefit in some way by becoming like a somewhat more evolved version of bonobos? (Those fascinating primates related to chimpanzees that instead of fighting, use petting and sex as a social lubricant. Sorry for the terrible pun... )

    Is this thought experiment even more radical than legalizing all drugs? What effect would it have on the legal system, crime, and policing?

    For bonus points, how would this scenario affect the economic realities, as we currently know them? For example, would the entertainment and alcohol industries take an enormous loss since people would be more freely entertaining themselves? (and perhaps their neighbors, as well).

    For extra bonus points, is there even much difference now between Western and Eastern civilizations? Do tribal societies (who may have indeed practiced such things) even exist anymore? What (if anything) can they teach us, in general?

    (Incels, radicals, and anti-natalists... get your teeth in! And by the way, could the great Agustino make a surprise reappearance just for this thread? The mind boggles, lol.)

    Thanks in advance for your replies!
  • tim wood
    6.7k
    I suspect this was all worked out in primitive cultures large and small a long time ago. As such, what we all do is much informed by what they did do and what they decided they didn't want to do, or see, for reasons good and sufficient to them. And all of that gets tested from time to time, the boundaries pressed to see how firm they are at a given time and place.

    There were, and are unless laws have recently changed, towns in the US where public nudity is not illegal - not just secluded beaches but the main streets and stores themselves. The ancient Greek cynic philosopher Crates was reported to have public sex with his wife. But the consensus seems to be that all such is ὀβ σκένα, obscene, off-stage, to be performed out of sight of audience.
  • baker
    1.3k
    How much would Western Civilizational (WC) be changed, if both public sex and public nudity were accepted and tolerated?0 thru 9
    It would be just another dogma, just another standard of behavior that would become normative and obligatory for all. And sexually transmitted infections would have a field day, obviously.
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    But the consensus seems to be that all such is ὀβ σκένα, obscene, off-stage, to be performed out of sight of audience.tim wood

    Thanks for your interesting reply.

    The word “obscene” might be key. According to this etymology site, obscene derives from Latin “ob” (in front of) and the word for “filth”. Reading this I thought the word for “scene” (scaena) might have been more logical, and less negative. But anyway...

    I suspect this was all worked out in primitive cultures large and small a long time ago. As such, what we all do is much informed by what they did do and what they decided they didn't want to do, or see, for reasons good and sufficient to them. And all of that gets tested from time to time, the boundaries pressed to see how firm they are at a given time and place.tim wood

    I would not disagree with that. A main possible difference is that our culture covers virtually the entire world (more and more each year), producing something approaching homogeneity. The tribal cultures, ancient and modern, were smaller and more distinct and individual. They seemed to live in a way that worked for them. Our civilization is so monolithic that the parts of it that may not work (or perhaps never worked at all for the greater majority), seem to be extremely difficult to change. Assuming that one has figured out what is going on. (I still working on that one... ) Western civilization is a giant bureaucracy. Sexual repression and body shaming etc is only the tip of the iceberg.

    But anyway, you may not have addressed the question in the OP: how would civilization be different if this scenario were the case? (That’s ok, I haven’t addressed it yet, lol).
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    It would be just another dogma, just another standard of behavior that would become normative and obligatory for all.baker

    Why would it necessarily be obligatory or a dogma? Could it not be optional? Although, to be fair, if others are doing such in the vicinity it is impossible to ignore.

    And sexually transmitted infections would have a field day, obviously.baker

    That is a distinct possibility. But like the mob boss said, “if you want to make an omelet, you gotta break some legs”. :grin:
  • baker
    1.3k
    Why would it necessarily be obligatory or a dogma? Could it not be optional?0 thru 9
    Once something is deemed "normal", it eventually becomes the norm, obligatory.

    That is a distinct possibility. But like the mob boss said, “if you want to make an omelet, you gotta break some legs”.
    Because STI's are such fun!
    Don't just think chlamidya or HIV, think treatment-resistant tuberculosis.
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    Why would it necessarily be obligatory or a dogma? Could it not be optional?
    — 0 thru 9
    Once something is deemed "normal", it eventually becomes the norm, obligatory.
    baker

    Not necessarily so. Watching football on the telly is normal, but not obligatory. There is a big leap between the concepts of “acceptable behavior” and “obligations”, at least in my mind.

    That is a distinct possibility. But like the mob boss said, “if you want to make an omelet, you gotta break some legs”.
    Because STI's are such fun!
    Don't just think chlamidya or HIV, think treatment-resistant tuberculosis.
    baker

    Sorry for the bad joke. It wasn’t meant literally. I’m not arguing for public nudity and sex, let alone saying STIs aren’t a problem. Perhaps re-read the last part of the OP. What effects might it have on our culture at large? Any possible improvements? Or is everything just fine the way it is? These questions are more about our (often invisible) cultural mythology and its assumptions and implications, than any one aspect.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.3k
    My guess is that public sex and nudity would be a lot less entertaining were it to become so common as to be unremarkable. When sex in the park is illegal, its criminal status gives it an extra frisson.

    Sublimation of our libidinous drives is one of civilization's major inventions. Because we are not allowed to give free rein to physical urges, we channel that energy into productive activity -- work, in other words.

    So free sex, drugs, and rock and roll would probably require a post-scarcity society. Don't quite know how to achieve that, especially without repressing many millions of carnal drives.
  • Maw
    2.4k
    We really need to get everyone vaccinated and back on the streets, people are clearly getting way too horny
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    Thanks for the insightful reply, Sir BC. :smile:

    My guess is that public sex and nudity would be a lot less entertaining were it to become so common as to be unremarkable. When sex in the park is illegal, its criminal status gives it an extra frisson.Bitter Crank

    Probably that would be the case. Maybe not such a bad thing perhaps. Breathing oxygen is so unremarkable as to be unnoticed. Until there’s a lack of it, when it becomes golden.

    I’m wishing now that I’d have included mention of simple physical affection in the overly-long OP. But it was on my mind. Sex is not necessarily love, and vice versa. A Venn diagram could be drawn with three overlapping circles, each representing Emotional Love, Physical Affection, and Sexual Activity. And the sexual aspect, as important and powerful as it is, may be at least necessary of the three for health and happiness. At least on a regular basis. (Just a guess).

    When the eyes are closed, I see a world of people starved for attention and affection and acceptance. They (and I) think, “if I were perfect, successful, etc... then I would feel accepted and be loved!” It does not have the be this way. Does it? Perhaps it was not always this way, I cannot remember, even with aid of history books. We have the technology to change this situation. A very primative and human technology of body and mind and words... and touch.

    Sublimation of our libidinous drives is one of civilization's major inventions. Because we are not allowed to give free rein to physical urges, we channel that energy into productive activity -- work, in other words.Bitter Crank

    Ah, yes... this might be getting very close to the heart of the matter. Control, work, money, production, progress... Sometimes one feels like a rented mule, overworked, under appreciated, and beaten like a... something something. Or we feel like this poor donkey. Onward! Upwards! Faster! I will work harder!

    Screw that. Donkeys of the world unite! (literally, haha). Make Love, Not Widgets!

    So free sex, drugs, and rock and roll would probably require a post-scarcity society. Don't quite know how to achieve that, especially without repressing many millions of carnal drives.Bitter Crank

    Hmmm... yes. Post-scarcity society. An interesting topic. Scarcity is very scary. Even the idea of scarcity is scary. And fear is a great motivation, much better than even the possibility of rewards. Reminds one of the idea of the “original affluent society” popularized by Marshall Sahlins. I find the current writings of Charles Eisenstein to be a type of continuation of sorts to that type of scholarly questioning of the very roots of our cultural assumptions and institutions. His book, The Ascent of Humanity, is quite challenging, and well-written. And very long and comprehensive, too.
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    We really need to get everyone vaccinated and back on the streets, people are clearly getting way too hornyMaw

    Get the horny people out on the streets? Wouldn’t that make it worse? :razz: Otherwise, an accurate diagnosis, Dr. Freud! Add in spring fever... (Maybe I should take my meds too, lol).
  • BigThoughtDropper
    22
    We do not need to go too far back in time to know what this would look like. Russia manged to maintain a borderline medieval society until the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. The serfs - kept uneducated, poor and subservient by the system - lived and died within walking distance of the place of their birth. According to historical records they had no compulsions about jacking it in public.
  • James Riley
    765
    Considerations of cold and melanoma aside, I think there might be a re-ordering of some hierarchy in society. Clothing is somewhat of an equalizer. It is possible certain rankings might become more meritorious, rather than less. X would actually have to be X, instead of merely looking like X, if X were to maintain status as X.

    To be sure, clothing can allow merit to be enhanced, and that would be truer if all clothing were the same, and neutral, merely hiding distractions of the human body. But clothing has become just as nuanced, and distracting, as might be physical perfections or imperfections of the nude body. Rather than simply equalizing, it can enhance, and give credit where no credit is due.

    When I sported a red power tie and a dark, custom suit, I was treated with much more deference than I am in my jeans and tee shirt.

    Compare: When the grey hair came along, I got some of the deference that I got with the suit.

    And what sort of vulnerability do we lose when armored up with clothing, hiding shame? Maybe cloths are like a gun, giving a person a somewhat false sense of security. Sure, the security might be somewhat real, but it’s still does not make one invulnerable.

    And finally, without clothing, our sexual selection might skew from where it currently is. It would be an interesting experiment and I’d be all for it. But alas, it does get cold in these parts, and the sun can be a rough customer, especially at this elevation with little shade. I suppose we’d all migrate back to the jungle, or start selecting for melanin.
  • Todd Martin
    272
    If I recall correctly, the ancient Greeks exercised naked in the gymnasia...the males, that is. For there was (generally, of course) no danger of males being sexually attracted to each other...

    Now, Socrates, in The Republic, insists on both men and women exercising together in this manner, and this is part of his disenchantment of sexuality...making maleness and femaleness equal in his perfect regime...

    ...which takes us back to Eden, when Adam and Eve lived together naked without thought of their sexual relatedness. After all, that attraction came into being only after she had partaken of the Tree of Knowledge, had eaten of the forbidden fruit and had offered it to her unsuspecting mate. Thus did sexual intercourse become a crime...which was now, however, made necessary, since she had failed to partake of the Tree of Life, and mankind had therefore lost his chance at immortality...

    ...in the Biblical account, God created woman (Eve) as a mate to man (Adam) DOWN HERE ON EARTH, so that he not be lonely... though Adam already had God for his companion. Thus it was the distance between God and man that caused God to botch the Creation by making for Adam a companion! God realized that Adam was distant and alone, and so made for him an inferior companion (out of his rib-bone)...

    ...Btw, this is not necessarily my own opinion: it is just my tentative interpretation of scripture...

    My opinion of the possibility of public nakedness and sexual intercourse is that it is a chaemera: no civilized ppl would allow such a thing, anymore than that they would countenance public defecation. Man wishes to exalt himself above the mere animal, and he has as his advocate God, who is above both him and mere animals.
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    We do not need to go too far back in time to know what this would look like. Russia manged to maintain a borderline medieval society until the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. The serfs - kept uneducated, poor and subservient by the system - lived and died within walking distance of the place of their birth. According to historical records they had no compulsions about jacking it in public.BigThoughtDropper

    My opinion of the possibility of public nakedness and sexual intercourse is that it is a chaemera: no civilized ppl would allow such a thing, anymore than that they would countenance public defecation. Man wishes to exalt himself above the mere animal, and he has as his advocate God, who is above both him and mere animals.Todd Martin

    On our roots, and the roots of our problems...

    There seems to be an accepted hierarchy of behavior and being (partially subconscious) reflected by these comments. (Not picking on either of your comments, which are appreciated. The cultural teaching is imprinted in my brain as well). That the most civilized human is dressed exquisitely, and is non-sexual in public. Animals are not dressed, and mostly do everything in plain view. And somewhere in between, the “lower classes” have characteristics of both. Perhaps even skewing toward “the animal”. Also included in this category would be all people(s) deemed “uncivilized”, such as aboriginal tribes.

    Why are we so ashamed of our connection to animals? We are cut off from our roots, reaching for some higher glory while dangling unconnected to our foundations. Scientifically, we know (though some still deny) our connection ti animals via the theory of evolution. Culturally, I’m not so sure that the consequences of that fact have fully manifested into our group consciousness.

    Of course, humans are different than other animals. Much more so perhaps than dogs are different than fish, or something. Does different equal “better”? Humans seem to love hierarchies: this (idea, person, thing, value) is higher and better than that one. Which may be fine, until the hierarchies become less like a ladder and more like a prison, impeding the living of life in a sustainable and enjoyable manner. (Whatever that may be).

    How about having instead a flexible hierarchy? One visualized by a rounded and flowing Sine wave. It is a hierarchy that is open, relative, and changeable. This is not a flatland leveling of all value, distinctions, and differences, which I find difficult to even imagine let alone put into practice. The absolute hierarchy is rigid and unbending, almost completely vertical. And merciless to those on the bottom who feel the weight on their shoulders.

    This may be a coincidence, but the sound of a sine wave is very pleasant and soothing. The sound of vertical spike-shaped sound waves is noise.

    I do not believe that we have integrated the wisdom of civilization and the wisdom of the animal and nature. Some tribal cultures SEEMED to have done so, though on a much smaller scale. But on a vast timeline, civilization is relatively recent. For all our inventions and ideas, in some way we are like headstrong and rebellious teenagers who won’t listen to anybody they think is uncool. And this thinking produces the world we see around us.
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    Considerations of cold and melanoma aside, I think there might be a re-ordering of some hierarchy in society. Clothing is somewhat of an equalizer. It is possible certain rankings might become more meritorious, rather than less. X would actually have to be X, instead of merely looking like X, if X were to maintain status as X.James Riley

    And what sort of vulnerability do we lose when armored up with clothing, hiding shame? Maybe cloths are like a gun, giving a person a somewhat false sense of security. Sure, the security might be somewhat real, but it’s still does not make one invulnerable.James Riley

    Excellent points, thanks very much for the thoughtful reply. Yes... clothing and identity. Clothing is the house that travels with us. Protection and functionality. When does “protection” become “aggression”? When does “need” become “greed”? I’m not sure, but I’ve crossed that line on occasion.

    Nothing wrong with well-made or beautiful clothing. I like Thomas Moore’s ideas on the soul loving beautiful things, even ones that are broken like an old wagon wheel. Beautiful doesn’t always equal price or being in fashion, of course. We could just trust our guts when we look in the mirror at what we are wearing. Is this what I really want to be right now? Nothing wrong with a costume, if we don’t get fooled by our own masks. Easier said than done probably. I understand that “out there in the real world” one cannot be emotionally honest and naked when competing. But if we completely forget how to be so, a deep part of us slumbers, and we think that this hardened shell is really us.
  • 0 thru 9
    948
    Question: Why don’t animals have any shame or modesty?

    Answer from a moralist: Because they don’t know any better.

    Answer from an anarchist: Because they DO know better.
    :yum:
  • Todd Martin
    272
    The cultural teaching is imprinted in my brain as well0 thru 9

    The actual teaching of today’s culture is that there are no natural hierarchies: hierarchies are orders of things that man invents in order to oppress his fellow human beings. Armed with this enlightenment we can disenchant the priest and dethrone the king. But, looking at nature herself as philosophers, what do we see: a natural hierarchy!

    First of all, there are the different orders of beings, the merely physical ones on the lowest rung; next, the living beings; then on top of these comes homo sapiens. Thusly arise the separate disciplines of the sciences, physics, chemistry and biology, and anthropology.

    Even within these various disciplines we find hierarchy, for example flora vs fauna (higher), and element vs compound. Even among the elements some prove more important, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon being of superior status in that they combine to produce all of life and are dignified by their own special discipline: organic chemistry.

    Regarding the study of man, aren’t we taught nowadays that all cultures are equal? Yet some are “primitive” or “aboriginal”, and some “civilized”. An anthropologist, observing that the former often have no modesty in public and go about naked might conclude that there is no real purpose to clothing for the latter either; isn’t clothing’s only real and original purpose just to keep us warm? Then why do “civilized” men wear it when it’s so hot you want to take your very skin off? Civilized ppl at least realized that short pants gave them SOME relief from the heat...

    ...but short pants soon became associated with juvenility...not something dignified adults wore, even in the warmest climes. Wouldn’t a serious anthropologist ask himself (or herself) why civilized men and women wear clothing when it has no evident purpose? Such an anthropologist might discover, in pursuing this question, that there is a weightier element to his or her consideration than just protection from the elements. Perhaps, as far-fetched as it seems in these utilitarian times, clothing’s ultimate purpose is not to protect us from the elements, but rather to conceal our animal nakedness from each other. And this impulse derives from our hierarchical superiority to the animals: we realize that we are not mere animals; that mankind is The Supreme Species...

    ...only when we realize the truth of this can we begin to understand ourselves. Mankind’s advent into the world created a whole new arena for the understanding of things—a higher one. A whole new realm of knowledge was opened up pertaining to wholly new notions: such ideas as liberty and justice, modesty and nobility, wisdom and folly, etc. The attempt by wisdom itself to reduce our motives back into the cosmic slime has only resulted in a compromised and limited understanding of ourselves, reductionist theories in which man’s motives are explained by lower phenomena, as bodies in motion (physics) or animals promiscuously copulating (biology) etc. When we say that we share a certain “chemistry” with someone, we are unwittingly echoing this same sort of reductionism: human interrelatedness is no different than the affinity sodium and chlorine have for one another...

    ...but human beings are far different, are more complex, than either mere bodies in motion, elements of the Periodic Table, or baboons. We were much closer to the animals when we employed them as our help mates, when we used them as our vehicles, or our tractors (I refer to the horse and mule and bull, of course), or the source of our eggs milk and meat. This antiquated association is now perceived to be exploitative, akin to slavery and genocide. The next step in our enlightenment would be to realize that cutting forests or fields of grain is no different. After all, a stalk of corn or a maple tree is just as much alive as you and I...

    ...I once had a debate with a certain fellow on another philosophy forum, whom I forced to confess that a human being is no better than a rock. So I asked him: “so you don’t mind, then, if I kick you around a bit in the argument”...and he was offended! A rock wouldn’t have been offended. It might have been eroded a bit, maybe even broken in two, but it would have felt nothing, for it has no soul. Only human beings are offended by injustice...

    ...I fell a tree for firewood and it crashes to the ground. It does not moan or cry for help, yet it is a living being: it’s sap still percolates out of the stump, like a bleeding man’s blood does when you cut off his leg or arm, still trying to nourish the parts that are no longer there. I wring the head off a chicken and it’s body runs headless around the yard until it realizes it no longer has a head, and flops to the ground...but I needed some meat for my supper...

    ...I awaken out of a deep sleep and suddenly realize that there is a pistol stuck to my temple and a masked man hovering over me, saying, “get up”. In that moment, I better have already decided what I would do in such a moment. The tree didn’t get to decide that; the chicken didn’t get to decide that either...

    ...but I do.
  • Todd Martin
    272
    The reason we eschew hierarchy in this day and time is because the whole world, fostered by The Enlightenment, has come to perceive that “all men are created equal”. This includes the ancient kings and priests and prophets and philosophers, the present movie and sports stars and tv personalities and congress men and women and “scientists” of every ilk and billionaires, etc...

    ...but see how we bow before the present ones—a Bill Gates or Lebron James or Tom Hanks, etc—just like the ancient unenlightened crowd used to do obeisance to their kings and priests! If all men are created equal, why are we so fascinated with the Royal Family? Didn’t we overthrow a king and say sic semper tyrannis? And yet we want to know the latest concerning Harry and Megan, William and Kate, etc. What exactly, I ask, is the source of this populist impulse or instinct to pay homage to greatness, when we are supposed to believe that all ppl are created equal? Could it be that the Enlightenment teaching runs contrary to human nature? that ppl instinctively desire to look up to human beings they perceive to be better than themselves? to emulate them?

    In America, of course, we have adopted certain methods that keep us from having to compare ourselves unfavorably to examples of greatness from the past: finger-painting can become equivalent to Rembrandt—if you just call it “creative”—especially if it fetches millions at an auction. Nietzsche coined “creative” to describe a very rare sort of individual who had the character to reconstitute culture out of the debris of civilization’s decay—now, anyone, everyone, is creative...

    ...and anyone can now be a hero, a demi-god, just by signing up for military service, or by joining the fire-department or first responders. How many times have we heard on the local news this or that ordinary person, just doing their job, sometimes with little threat to their existence, called, nevertheless, a “hero”? One suspects, who has the proper historical perspective, that a diminution or dilution of the term has taken effect.

    In fine let me say that there is always a tendency in human affairs to dilute purity in order that it align more closely with our everyday lives. As an example of a true hero, let me offer you the widow Jesus and his disciples watched put her two pennies into Jerusalem’s coffers after the rich men had put much more money, “out of the abundance of their wealth”, therein. He told them that she had given more; for they had given out of their abundance, while she had given “all that she had”...

    ...two pennies was all that she had—and she gave it all...how was she going to feed herself afterwards?... she trusted that God would feed her. That’s how she was able to become a hero: because she trusted in something greater than herself, and that’s why she gave her last two pennies to Him.
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