Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Material Presence and the Detox Delusion: Insights from Social Nudism

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Material Presence and the Detox Delusion: Insights from Social Nudism

Article excerpt

Tous a Poil! (Everybody Gets Naked!), a book for children, aimed at countering images of the ideal body, often undressed, elicited austere reactions. This study considers the mythic elements of the clothed body as explicative of such austerity. An analysis of clothing absence in the context of social nudism reveals that the myth of the clothed body cannot easily be remythologized or adapted to suit individual preferences. Rather, social interactions in contemporary societies remain largely locked in material presence. This study calls for public policymakers and social marketers to consider dominating myths as possible constraints to anticonsumption and consumer well-being.

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The book Tous a Poil! (Everybody Gets Naked!), first published in 2011 and written by authors Claire Franek and Marc Daniau, depicts a baby, the babysitter, the neighbors, the teacher, the policeman, and all of us undressing to swim naked in the sea. According to the publisher, Melville House Books, the aim of Tous a Poil! was to promote an uninhibited view of nudity and to counter the many images in the media of the "ideal" body, often undressed and manipulated by Photoshop or altered by cosmetic surgery. However, recommending Tous a Poil! to primary schools elicited austere reactions. During an appearance on the French cable news channel LCI on February 9, 2014, Jean-Francois Cope, who at the time was leader of the political party Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement), questioned whether teachers could be respected as figures of authority if they were depicted naked in the book: "A naked teacher ... isn't that great for teachers' authority! We don't know whether or not to smile, but as it is for our children, we don't feel like smiling." Langner, Robinson, and Moran (1991) expressed a similar point of view, explaining that nudity robs human beings of the dignity and authority imparted to them by their clothes.

Although Cope's comments backfired, sending the book to the top of the best-seller lists in France, his attempt to censor the "nude" children's book indicated that one of the most pervasive and undisputed of all myths is that the inner self is revealed in the material presence of clothing and that exposing the naked body has moral implications. Although images of nakedness often appear in advertisements and movies, researchers note that the naked body continues to be perceived as a catalyst for impure thoughts (Andriotis 2010; Barcan 2001; Daley 2005). The naked body exposed to public gaze is often discussed as indicative of animalism, criminality, debauchery, chaos, transgression, deviance, hypersexual perversion, erotic oases, or incivility (Andriotis 2010; Barcan 2001; Cover 2003; Daley 2005). The body is thus embedded in a myth of covering; even during swimming or sunbathing activities, social pressure compels us to wear at least minimal clothing.

Yet, the myth of the covered body has not always dominated all of our actions and human interactions. Cover (2003) reminds us that Adam and Eve were neither hiding nor ashamed of the naked body. During the Golden Age of Greece, athletic contests were often performed in the nude. The word "gymnasium" comes from the Ancient Greek gymnos meaning "naked," and the word "gymnastics" signified "unclothed exercising" (Warren 1933, 161). Nakedness was also appreciated by the Romans, who emphasized nudity in art, a trend revived during the Renaissance when painters and sculptors thought of the human naked body as something to be respected and cherished. Along with unclothed figures of adults, Renaissance artists developed depictions of the naked Christ Child in his mother's arms, his genitals prominently exposed. Descartes' cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), which connects human self-consciousness with the mind as opposed to the body, also points to the body as a pure and simple embodiment. For Descartes, ghosts and automatons wear hats and clothes for it is their garments that render their constitution, not their minds, souls, and thoughts (Warminski 1992). …

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