Brainiac On Banjo #066: The Naked Truth

The Gibson Girl, 1902

All your children are / Poor unfortunate victims / Of systems beyond / Their control • Frank Zappa, What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? 1968

There are a lot of things in this world that I just don’t understand. That’s not a complaint – the adage “the more I know the more I want to know” is like a monkey on my back. I am terminally curious, and humbly proud of that.

Well, okay. Sort of humble.

I do not understand society’s attitude towards the human body. We have a growing concern about all sorts of “shaming,” including body shaming. Yet we obsessively self-shame our bodies to the point of neurosis. Why?

Because society defines us by where we have our curves. OK. I’ve got that. But we are society. Attitudes change and, hopefully, we strive to end discrimination. The Gibson Girl of the late 1890s, perceived as the height of sexuality at the time, today is seen as a fat and self-indulgent woman. These days the flapper girl of the 1920s is seen as a skinny flat-chested woman who must be trying to pass herself off as jailbait. To fit in with the perceptions of our time, some decide they need surgery to enhance their bustline – all surgery incurs some degree of danger, and curve-enhancement seems an unworthy reason to add more risk to our lives.

John Held Jr’s Flapper, 1925

This is less an issue for men, beyond our self-indulgences and the inconsolable fact that, as Robin Williams put it, gravity works… on men and women alike. Nonetheless, the view of the perfect man in 1895 is quite different than that of 1925, which differs from the man of 1975, and so on. Today, mustache wax is not a huge seller outside of certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Sex became a dirty word when those in power realized that controlling sexuality is a highly effective means of asserting authority. This is not the sole province of organized religion, but they did turn sex control into an enduring art form, in a Torquemada-like way. All sex between consenting adults is natural; the acquisition of power over others is warped, sick, and evil.

The moralists went apeshit over the fraction-of-a-second exposure of a fraction of one of Janet Jackson’s nipples during a football game 15 years ago. Well, we now know no one went blind from the spectacle, and thus far I have not read about how Ms. Jackson’s nipple is to blame for the spike in autism.

“But the children! What about the children!!!” the moralists chatter. First, anybody who is using that argument is a liar; it’s their sick agenda and kids have nothing to do with that whatsoever. Second, when a small child sees an exposed nipple, said child doesn’t think “sex.” Said child thinks “lunch!”

Janet Jackson (nipple-free!)

Chill out, folks. It’s not the placement of the curves, it is the sensitivity of those curves and to get a handle on that, you need both mutual desire and permission. Repression is ugly; self-repression is hideous. And needless. You’ve got a lot going for you; use it as you will.

In other words, if you’re about to sit down to a holiday feast, don’t worry about what that might do to your curves. They are your curves; if somebody doesn’t like them, it’s on that person and not you.

Besides, if you do that holiday feast right, everybody should be too logy to care.

This is a time of cheerfulness. Enjoy yourself. You can do that without abandoning reason and boundaries. Like I just said – it’s important to repeat – you need both mutual desire and permission.

Happy holidays.