Public Female Nudity - A Matter of Taste

Posted on: Apr 12, 2016

Public female nudity - a matter of tasteI’m so bored about the debate on public female nudity, which is not surprising since it has been going on since the beginning of civilization.

Should Instagram ‘free the nipple’? Should Kim Kardashian keep her kit on? Is a woman who decides to appear nude in public empowered or exploited?* Here’s my tuppence worth...


  • Whether or not you find public female nudity acceptable is entirely a matter of taste i.e. it is impossible to quantify in such binary terms of whether it’s 'good' or 'bad'. Just as it’s impossible to say whether a piece of art is ‘good' or 'bad’, there is only your opinion on it. 

  • Paintings of nude women that were originally commissioned by rich men for their own titillation and hid behind curtains in private rooms are now called fine art and displayed in museums for people to look at and feel cultured. They have achieved acceptability by virtue of antiquity. One person’s porn is, quite literally, another person’s masterpiece.

  • Whether or not you find a celebrity’s public nudity ‘tasteful’ or ‘tacky’ depends entirely on your views on her as a person. This is why some people can’t stomach Kim Kardashian’s nude selfies on Instagram but can happily accept Kate Moss’s nakedness in a fashion magazine as ‘edgy’, for example. It’s a simple as if you like a celebrity, you will like their decision to appear in public with no clothes on. You will cheer and applaud and celebrate their decision. If you dislike them, you will dislike their decision to appear in public with no clothes. You will tut and shake your heads and condemn their decision. 

  • We use our own assumptions of motive to judge whether a woman is publicly nude for the ‘right’ reasons i.e. if they’ve stripped off for charity or art, it’s a Good Thing. But if we see it as being purely for self-promotion or provocation its’s a Bad Thing. This is why posing naked for PETA is seen as 'better' than posing naked for Playboy.

  • A woman’s nudity is now always viewed in the context of feminism. We have to analyze and agonize over every instance of public female nudity, and whether or not it’s an act of feminism. Why? There is no feminist rule book. I can’t overstate this point. Like the famous image of a woman’s leg with markings showing the length of different hemlines and how they relate to her character (the point being it’s not possible to judge a woman’s character by the length of her skirt) there is no ‘level of feminism achieved according to flesh displayed in public’ chart. Thank god. 

  • Your own reaction to a woman’s public nudity is never unbiased – it’s coloured by your cultural upbringing, any religious beliefs you may have, whether you would be prepared to bare all in public, your feelings about your own body, and a myriad of other prejudices and biases that you may not even be aware of. 

So why don’t we call it a draw and agree that it’s all simply a matter of taste? We’d all save a hell of a lot of time.

Lady Godiva statue
 Near my hometown there is a statue dedicated to Lady Godiva,
showing her legendary naked horse ride protesting against taxes.
A perfect example of celebrated public nudity!

*referring to instances where women are knowingly and willingly nude in a public domain, either online or in real life, not as a result of coercion or hacking of private photos, for example 

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