This is the text of the article I was asked to write for this week's Radio Times. It was reported as a “lament”. It wasn't. I just thought it was quite funny.
Well, would you Adam and Eve it? Recently 3000 people took their clothes off, painted themselves blue and lay around the not-so-tropical city of Hull in varieties of heaps. All, of course, in the name of art.
Actually, I thought it was quite funny. I saw it on my phone while enjoying two days at the General Synod talking about sex. So, it seemed both timely and amusing.
What is it with nakedness at the moment. You can hardly turn the telly on without finding someone wanting to take their clothes off. I thought Big Brother was embarrassing, but clearly that was just the appetiser for Love Island, Naked Attraction, and Life Stripped Bare. At least the new paradise-building Eden (soon to arrive on Channel 4) has the islanders keep their clothes on – probably wise given the climate.
We'll come back to that in a minute. First, though, it might be worth knocking on the head one or two misapprehensions about religion, bodies and nakedness. The story in the Old Testament book of Genesis has Adam and Eve (man and woman) doing a naughty and then realising that they were naked. So, they run away and hide in the bushes in the garden. Which is reasonable.
But, the point of this is not that they were naked – that is, clothes-free; it is that they realised they were transparent… or, as we might put it, they knew they could be seen through. And this transparency was felt to be threatening rather than promising. So, they hid. And, funnily enough, it is God who comes looking for them (not the other way around) in order to find them and make sure they were OK for the future despite the mess they had got themselves into.
What is odd these days, however, is that some people seem to jump at any opportunity to get their kit off. Especially if there is a camera nearby. What is it that drives people to want to have not only their body, but also their character, habits and personality laid bare for an audience of voyeurs to criticise? What strange motivation lies deep within them that makes exhibitionism seem an attractive option?
I guess what lies behind these questions is the blurring of the lines between what used to be called the private and the public. Whereas society has developed conventions about what should be legitimately exposed and what should be kept private, it seems that contemporary society has binned these and invited the beautiful people to bare more than their souls in the name of the great god Entertainment.
Oh dear. That's wrong, isn't it? And now it’s not just the beautiful people. The telly is full of programmes about ugly people, people trying to cover up dodgy tattoos, operations that went wrong, weird people trying to make themselves attractive. And all in full public gaze. Why?
Maybe the ubiquity of social media has something to do with it? If breakfast used to be a matter of private interest, now the whole of Twitter needs to know what I eat. Obviously. The barriers are down, everything is open, nothing is hidden. Politicians and others in public life have their lives shredded by a prurient and ruthless media monster, insatiable in its appetite for flesh.
I am not sure this is entirely healthy. If the Internet has given our kids open access to all sorts of distorted views of what it is to be human – that beautiful and idealised bodies are to be valued above all else – then perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised at some of the identity and self-esteem problems faced by them as they grow through adolescence towards adulthood.
In which case, Love Island lies at one extreme of exhibitionist fantasy, whereas at least the Hull nudists were just ordinary people with ordinary bodies in ordinary shapes and sizes.
Still, there must be some places where it still is right to shout, “Get yer kit on!”.