Collage: God introduces Eve to Adam in R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated; poet Allen Ginsberg holding a flower, standing in front of life-size photograph of himself, by “Allen 2 (Portrait – Two Polaroids)” by Elsa Dorfman, 1986 ; Professor Farnsworth in Matt Groening’s Futurama; Sally Eaton, Barry McGuire, and Hiram Keller from the musical Hair, photographed by Kenn Duncan for After Dark Magazine, December 1968, via Hair – The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, backed by a Hair poster that was also the album cover of the original cast recording; an illustration depicting tactics used by the Spanish Inquisition to compell confessions from accused heretics, via The Cutting Edge.
Maybe we overlook this question because it is so taken-for-granted, but when exactly, in the book of Genesis, did God tell Adam & Eve that nudity was wrong? The answer is, he didn’t. It is almost as if Adam & Eve assumed it, and God decided to let them go on believing it.
After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hide from God.
The book of Genesis says, “Then the Lord God called to the man (Adam), and said to him, ‘Where are you?’
Adam answers, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.”
To which God replies, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Well, first off, God asks presumably asked, “Where are you” like a parent humoring a young child, pretending they can’t find the toddler hiding under in an obvious place. God sees and knows everything.
Secondly, God could have said, “Your bodies are nothing I haven’t seen before. I made you. I designed the whole reproduction process, remember?”
But God drops that subject and moves on to the fruit and the serpent, ultimately banishing the couple from the garden of Eden, but not before making some garments (of skin, not leaves) for them to wear. It doesn’t say what kind of skin God used for the garments, but we know cows and sheep were in for a rough time in the books that followed.
From that point on, the Bible assumes that people should not look upon each other naked, but it never really explains why.
I personally think that during the Dark Ages, some of the priests kept themselves covered because they were ashamed of their bodies, possessing either scrawny or flabby frames and in some cases, tiny penises, but that didn’t stop them from stripping the clothes off of accused heretics in front of leering, bloodthirsty crowds. Why is it that every time somebody was thought to be a heretic during the Inquisition, or a witch during colonial times, it was okay for the church people to strip off their clothes in public? See, that just seems counter-intuitive.
In favor of nudity, we’ve had Allen Ginsburg, the Age of Aquarius celebrated in the Broadway musical, Hair, and even Forrest J Ackerman, the editor of Famous Monsters Magazine in the sixties & seventies, who proudly proclaimed his membership in a nudist colony. And I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ve always thought that Professor Farnsworth, on the animated series Futurama, is based loosely on Ackerman, especially after watching the episode in which the Professor lauds nudity as natural and healthy.
On the other hand, widespread nudity would put even more people out of work (I’m thinking of clothing manufacturers, but yeah, porn producers, too).
But I’m not here to discuss the appropriateness of going without clothes. The release of R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated has simply made me curious about the origins of the taboo. William S. Burroughs would probably say it’s another control tactic. On the other hand, I like wearing clothes, so there is no urgency to figure it out.