Why Lena Dunham’s nudity matters

 When I get up in the morning the first thing I do is get dressed. Right now, I’m living in a kind of dorm, and when I get out of my room, there is a possibility that I might meet someone. Getting dressed seems natural. Being naked seems to be a conscious and provocative choice (even though it’s how I sleep over here. NY heating is a mess). My getting dressed is in a way an invisible act. I do it alone, before my day has started properly. I don’t interact with anyone, might put on some music.

When a boyfriend is sleeping beside you, those few minutes of non-time suddenly become actual time. A time for planning the day, talking, getting ready together. Either way though, if you’ve slept naked you’re naked at a point, out of bed.

In an episode of Girls (Dead Inside, s. 3 ep. 4), we witnessed exactly this. Hannah getting out of bed, bare breasted, getting dressed. The scene was entirely asexual. And although there have been a lot of scenes like it in Girls before, it really got me thinking about how entrenched we are in the thought that the naked body is sexual, and how tired and potentially dangerous this trope is.


When looking at the scene in Girls, it would be hugely inappropriate to have an “Oh yeah, tits!!!” reaction. It would be sexualizing a person who is not ‘in on it’. Not participating in a sexual act. It would mean that there was no way for a woman to be naked without being sexual, that the female body in and of itself, has sexual connotations even when her mind does not.

Seth McFarlane’s atrocious song at last year’s Oscars “We saw your boobs”, also engenders this. [watch if you want to get in a bad mood]

It is the idea that a body is a reservoir of sexual potential decided outside it, by people looking at it. That, in effect, what I want to do or what I am thinking about at that particular point in time really doesn’t matter, because boobs.

This is rape culture.

Let me state this plainly. This is not a handy little pamphlet about how you should not be attracted or want to have sex with people. You should. Sex is terrific. However, you should make yourself a mental note that the object of your desire is not a part of it. This is your thing. This exists in your brain, and if you want to externalize it, it will require conversation in order to find out if the other person wants to be part of it. If they don’t, that might be hurtful and a disappointment to you. But they do not belong to you just because they fostered sexual thoughts in your mind.

This idea of fostering by nudity or just possessing a body leads me back to the Girls example. If I am able to foster a sexual idea in a person’s mind by just existing, just standing there, the way I was born – thinking about something boring like a gif or why I can never seem to manage to cook fucking pasta – we have a problem.

It is of the outmost essence that we desexualize the female (and male) body. Sex is a thing of the mind that manifests itself with the body (mostly), simply because that is how everything I do manifests itself in this world. Attraction is in the mind. Love is in the mind.

Casting the body in itself as possessing revelatory secrets about a person means that I everyday, by just dressing in my room, send out sentiments. And I don’t. I also have boobs when I cry. I am also naked when I take a shower at the gym. My body doesn’t mean a thing. It is a shell. I look at it everyday and I can assure you that it is boring as hell.

Parts of life that contain nudity but are asexual have a strong and important signal value, because they diversify the meaning of the naked body (or, ideally, empties it of meaning).
And holy shit do we need that.


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