Showing Skin

Our most predominant organ is often stigmatised.

When you hear the phrase “showing skin” it’s usually in relation to someone inappropriately showing too much of their body. And as a society we’ve become conditioned to know what is socially acceptable to show and what isn’t. For the most part we abide by these guidelines but it doesn’t mean that people don’t often want to push these boundaries. There are some societal norms that make sense, there are others that, not necessarily don’t make sense, but it can be questioned as to why it is the way it is.

Disclaimer, I’m writing this with no prior thought or plan. The idea just came in my head and I’m just kind of riffing. I’ll find my point eventually so just bare with me. I recently posted the header image of this post on Instagram and it was a really weird experience for me. I knew that the idea of the post was something that I wanted to do but I had no intention of taking the photo with my top off. I originally took a photo where I was fully clothed but something didn’t quite feel right. Because of the bathroom setting I thought it would make sense for me to be partially nude which is why I decided to take it without a shirt on. If you know me you know I am not one for shirtless pics or showing off parts of my body. It’s something I am very self conscious about and even the fact I was just showing my back in what was a pretty dim image made me very uneasy. Because of this straight after I posted it I immediately logged off Instagram because I didn’t want to see the reaction.

In my head I knew this was an irrational response. Instagram is full of people of all shapes and sizes showing off a lot more than I did, so maybe people would take note of that fact that it was me presenting a different perspective of my body but it is nothing that they haven’t seen from numerous other people. And it’s weird the way we react to people showing their bodies off. Of course there is inherently a sexual side to it but is this always the intention when people decide to show some skin? It’s pretty obvious when this is the case, but for someone like me that just wanted to be authentic in the depiction of someone in a bathroom this doesn’t stop the sexualisation of my body. I am not going to say whether this is a good or bad thing, I mean it’s just a thing right. The two biggest motivators in life are money and sex, in my opinion. It does say something when the post performed better than most of my other recent posts.

It’s important to be aware of this bias though as it leads us to some pretty inaccurate assumptions as to why people decide to show off their body. Not every half dressed person is doing so to play into some sexual narrative. Our bodies are our own and they function for more than just sex. Our bodies can often tell stories for who we are as people and sometimes, presenting something that is often covered up is almost like revealing a secret. Artists often painted their subjects in the nude and a good amount of the time it wasn’t for sexual pleasure. The human form is the most pure and natural thing we have and exposing it doesn’t have to be directly associated with sex.

When I think about how hard it is for me to show parts of my body off I know that there are people out there who have had similar issues. They’ve overcome this and are now advocates for body positivity. I am firmly in support of people feeling comfortable in their own skin and no matter what you look like if this is something you want to share with the world then this is up to you. And it may be you’re on a sunny beach in a bikini which by all means go for it or maybe there is more intention to it. Either way, we shouldn’t be ashamed or shamed in doing so. It is important for us to be exposed to what the world really is. The majority of people don’t look like cover models which is okay. The more we can witness the presentation of “normal” bodies the quicker we can start to feel a bit more comfortable in our bodies. Also, there are a multitude of body imperfections out there that most people have. Whether it’s birth marks, cellulite or moles these are just common body blemishes that we shouldn’t feel the need to cover up.

Having said this though, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It is always important to be aware of the societal realities of a given situation. Even though we would love for a world where our bodies aren’t automatically sexualised unfortunately this isn’t the world we are living in so it’s important to act accordingly. Your online presence is a great way to parade your body in anyway you see fit but a family basketball game, I don’t know. Always be respectful to the setting and people around you and know that others may not have as progressive body positivity opinions as you. That’s a topic you are free to discuss and debate. I in no way reject or condemn people who have more conservative views when it comes to body expression as I know there are many different factors which shape these ideas and opinions.

But one thing that we can all agree on, is that our bodies are ours and what we do with them is ultimately down to us. We should be aware of any repercussions this may have but people’s reactions are simply opinions formed by their own world view.

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