Oversexualization of the Human Body Damages Self-Esteem

There are many wacky traditions here at Berkeley High School (BHS), but arguably the wackiest is Senior Streak. During this upcoming event, students run through the school and into the city with no clothes on. Though it may seem all fun and cheeky, Senior Streak brings up a more serious question about human behavior. Should public nudity be considered an act of rebellion? We place a lot of shame on the body, but normalizing nudity could actually have incredibly positive effects on our society.

We may seem pretty relaxed compared to other places, but being naked is still taboo in American culture. When you bring up the idea of nudism with most Americans, their reaction is, “Ew, I’d rather not.” But why do we have such a strong aversion to nakedness? One reason may be that since covering up is the norm, people only find themselves stripping in sexual situations. So when we see nudity in any context, we connect it with sex. In a study from psychologist Kurt Gray, subjects were shown photos of the same person in a headshot and in a revealing outfit. The study found that people wearing less were judged as being less intelligent and less capable, but more reckless and pleasure-seeking than their clothed counterparts.

This over-sexualization of the body has awful consequences. High school students will receive criticism about their outfits being “inappropriate.” These comments feel especially awkward coming from adults, who shouldn’t be thinking of teens in a sexual way. This thought process also leads to unwanted sexual attention and harassment. If nudity wasn’t so frowned upon, it would allow us to get used to the human anatomy and see it as more than just an object of desire.

Additionally, studies show that being nude is very beneficial to our mental health. It lets us feel comfortable in our own skin and appreciate the way that we look instead of being ashamed of it. Research from Dr. Keon West at Goldsmiths, University of London, showed that spending more time naked leads to, “greater life satisfaction” and relationships that are “mediated by more positive body image and higher selfesteem.” This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to start going to work and school fully nude, but getting comfortable with the bodies we live in would certainly benefit us all.

Unfortunately, walking down the street showing only what your mama gave NATHAN BOOTH you can lead to arrest and conviction for indecent exposure. Nakedness can feel liberating, but it shouldn’t have to be an act of defiance. We project a lot of shame on to being nude and depicting it only as highly sexual or embarrassing. This is why it’s so crucial that things like Senior Streak continue, to normalize nudity until it’s no longer seen as making a statement. We were all born with these bodies, so we might as well embrace them.

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