The Nakedness Question

Collage: God introduces Eve to Adam in R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated;   poet Allen Ginsberg holding a flower, standing in front of life-size photograph of himself, by  “Allen 2 (Portrait – Two Polaroids)” by Elsa Dorfman, 1986 ; Professor Farnsworth in Matt Groening’s Futurama;  Sally Eaton, Barry McGuire, and Hiram Keller from the musical Hair, photographed by Kenn Duncan for After Dark Magazine, December 1968, via Hair – The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, backed by a Hair poster that was also the album cover of the original cast recording; an illustration depicting tactics used by the Spanish Inquisition to compell confessions from accused heretics, via The Cutting Edge.

Maybe we overlook this question because it is so taken-for-granted, but when exactly, in the book of Genesis, did God tell Adam & Eve that nudity was wrong? The answer is, he didn’t. It is almost as if Adam & Eve assumed it, and God decided to let them go on believing it.

After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hide from God. 

The book of Genesis says, “Then the Lord God called to the man (Adam), and said to him, ‘Where are you?’

Adam answers, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.”

To which God replies, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Well, first off, God asks presumably asked, “Where are you” like a parent humoring a young child, pretending they can’t find the toddler hiding under in an obvious place. God sees and knows everything.

Secondly, God could have said, “Your bodies are nothing I haven’t seen before. I made you. I designed the whole reproduction process, remember?”

But God drops that subject and moves on to the fruit and the serpent, ultimately banishing the couple from the garden of Eden, but not before making some garments (of skin, not leaves) for them to wear. It doesn’t say what kind of skin God used for the garments, but we know cows and sheep were in for a rough time in the books that followed.

From that point on, the Bible assumes that people should not look upon each other naked, but it never really explains why.

I personally think that during the Dark Ages, some of the priests kept themselves covered because they were ashamed of their bodies, possessing either scrawny or flabby frames and in some cases, tiny penises, but that didn’t stop them from stripping the clothes off of accused heretics in front of leering, bloodthirsty crowds. Why is it that every time somebody was thought to be a heretic during the Inquisition, or a witch during colonial times, it was okay for the church people to strip off their clothes in public? See, that just seems counter-intuitive.

In favor of nudity, we’ve had Allen Ginsburg, the Age of Aquarius celebrated in the Broadway musical, Hair, and even Forrest J Ackerman, the editor of Famous Monsters Magazine in the sixties & seventies, who proudly proclaimed his membership in a nudist colony. And I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ve always thought that Professor Farnsworth, on the animated series Futurama, is based loosely on Ackerman, especially after watching the episode in which the Professor lauds nudity as natural and healthy.

On the other hand, widespread nudity would put even more people out of work (I’m thinking of clothing manufacturers, but yeah, porn producers, too).

But I’m not here to discuss the appropriateness of going without clothes. The release of R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated has simply made me curious about the origins of the taboo. William S. Burroughs would probably say it’s another control tactic. On the other hand, I like wearing clothes, so there is no urgency to figure it out.

4 responses to “The Nakedness Question”

  1. Man, Bill, you know your Hair! One piece of trivia on Hair – it was produced on Broadway by Michael Butler, a sort of hippy business man in Chicago and member of the wealthy Butler family of Oak Brook, IL.

    And about Barry McGuire, before he did “Eve of Destruction” and became a regular fixture on Shindig, he was in the New Christie Minstrals. He wrote the song “Green, Green”.

  2. Yes, Michael, surprisingly, that is the same Barry McGuire. I only recently found out about this. I read somewhere that the nudity was optional for every actor and I don’t know if Barry bared all. McGuire was not one of the original cast members.

    Hair was written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, with music by Galt McDermot. When Hair first opend on Broadway, the character of Claude was played by Rado, and the character of Berger was played Ragni.

    Well, let me back up a moment. Before Hair made it to Broadway, it had a limited run off-Broadway with Walker Daniels as Claude and Gerome Ragni as Berger.

    So, Hair opened at the Biltmore on Broadway with Ragni & Rado, but over the next couple of years, various cast members left and were replaced. Barry McGuire actually played the roles of both Berger and Claude at different times during the run of the play!

    Other original cast members included Melba Moore, Tim Curry, Lynn Kellogg, Lamont Washington, Sally Eaton, Shelley Plimpton, Diane Keaton, and Ronnie Dyson.

    Other actors to appear in Hair at various times were Ben Vereen, Keith Carradine, and Meat Loaf.

    I never saw Hair, but I owned the original cast recording and it contains some top-notch music.

    As you probably know, Barry McGuire went on to do contemporary Christian music and he says that the drugs were a dead end. He still performs at age 74! Here is a link to his web site.

  3. Was the Barry McGuire in Hair *the* Barry McGuire – the guy that sang Eve of Destruction? For some reason I never saw Hair – possibly because I was naked at the time.

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