Why Are We So Afraid of Our Kids Seeing Nudity?

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Recently, a story hit the local news that grabbed my attention: Students from a nearby middle school had reportedly been exposed to nude photos for several seconds during a class lesson — and once parents caught wind, they were not happy.

My first thought: Is this really newsworthy? But of course, I clicked on the news alert (I’m only human, after all). According to the source, the photos were from a lesson in the history of photography and highlighted something all kids are familiar with — selfies.

My second thought: Okay, but is it really that big a deal?

I mean, how can you possibly keep your child from seeing nudity, anyway? There are barely-clothed women and men gyrating right in our living rooms (so to speak) each and every day on TV. In prime time. Not to mention what our kids see on the Internet 24/7, or the photos of scantily-clad men and women splashed across billboards and even magazine covers in the check-out line.

When my family and I lived in San Francisco, it wasn’t uncommon to come across a semi-nude person walking right down the street, or even in the grocery store. (Yes, really.) If you ask me, a moment of inadvertent nudity — especially within the context of a photography lesson — seems pretty tame in comparison.

That’s why it’s even more perplexing to me that anyone could get up in arms over such a brief, fleeting moment of nudity, like the one students apparently experienced in that Connecticut classroom. It also boggles the mind how some parents could view such an issue as a major concern, while others would simply take it in stride, or even laugh it off.

To be clear, not all nudity is created equal. There’s “tasteful” nudity and then there’s “smut” — and a whole lot of exposed flesh in-between. But surely equating all nudity with sexual content is a bit … misguided, to say the least.

Then again, we all develop our thoughts on nudity pretty early — and a lot of that starts at home.

Some of us are simply more comfortable with it than others. Some are hanging on dearly to, or running fiercely from, our Puritanical or Laissez-Faire backgrounds. But most of us, I think, are just trying to raise our kids “right,” which in turn brings up all kinds of doubt and second-guessing on matters like these.

You have parents who walk around naked in front of their kids, and some who won’t even change clothes in front of them. And who’s to say which way is the “right” one?

When they were young, my kids followed me everywhere, even to the bathroom — so modesty was definitely scarce during those years, due to convenience. Did I scar them in some way? Did I help them see that we’re all just human? Honestly, who’s to judge?

I think it’s important to raise our kids to be proud of their bodies — which is not to say that I encourage them to parade nude down main street or send selfies of their backsides to anyone who cares to look. But given today’s accessibility to nude images, coupled with the resistance by some parents to even talk about it, the only thing that seems to be clear to me is that this nudity thing can be a seriously confounding and complex issue. And raising a red flag in the press definitely makes it all the more taboo, don’t you think?

The media sure seems to have a love/hate relationship with nudity, in general. It may be off-limits on mainstream television, but plenty of shows push the limits. And there’s no getting around it: sex, as they say, still sells.

If it were up to me, I’d rather my kids see these kinds of images in their classroom, or with me, as opposed to elsewhere — and then talk about it together. Trust me, it’s worth the momentary awkwardness, and it lets them know the door is always open for conversation, no matter what. Whenever something comes up on the TV that I think is worth bringing up, I hit pause and we talk about it. At this point, the kids laugh at me because they’re used to it (and it has led to some very interesting conversations!).

The fact is, whether or not you think it’s appropriate material for your kids, it’s everywhere. We can’t possibly shelter them from all of it, so why not get the topic out in the open (so to speak)?

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