Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cachez ce sein que je ne saurais voir... by Thomas

For the ones of you not familiar with "la comédie française", this sentence is from a play by Molière, called "Tartuffe" and talking about religious hypocrisis. I was supposed to write about what is French joie de vivre but after reading some comments, I just decided to talk about a different subject... Sex, nudity, sex and/or nudity, however you want to call it.

I keep having that discussion over and over with Americans and it appears that other more puritan countries than France also have a big problem with nudity, and see it as a sexual symbol. And I feel like rolling my eyes, everytime they bring the argument: "and how about kids watching???". I would like to stop here, and start by saying that nudity and sex are two different things and associate both is a terrible mistake. Why some people are shocked when they see a nude chest on tv, if not because they think wrong about it.

You see, I was born and raised in France, and I was lucky enough to live very close to the Ocean, so from a very young age, I was spending most of my holidays on beaches. As everybody knows (this time I am sure people are more aware of this than Tartuffe), topless women is a common thing in France, and I am very sure that I have seen plenty of pair of boobs being a kid... But guess what, I remember having fun in the waves, I remember building sand castles, I don't recall seeing one single topless woman.(if it wasnt for pictures , I wouldnt even remember I was naked till age 6)..Why? because it wasn't a big deal, I didn't care. My parents or other people never made it something abnormal and so I just didn't give a damn about something that was considered normal. Do you get shocked when a woman is breastfeeding in public? I am not. It is still a boob.

We have to stop pretending that we want to protect our kids about things that are shocking us as adults, we think differently, THEY think differently... (My cousin was taking bath with my brother and she was pulling on his weewee for fun - it is something shocking between adults, it is nothing bad for kids, that didn't traumatize them). You are shocked when you see a naked chest because YOU put an erotic response to the image. So unless you don't put that concept in his head at a very young age, I doubt he will have a sexual response till his teenage, which he will have anyway, naked chest or no. I am not really aware of female poition on this, but if they can find half naked male bodies on a beach arousing, should guys also start wearing bras just to protect little girls.

Should we start putting bras of the Venus of Milo, put a leaf on David's penis... How about covering the Sabines showing their boobs. We would probably have to mutilate most of the Renaissance pieces of art. Should we ban all signs of nudity to protect the corrupted consciences? (The same consciences who consider, by the way, violence as something natural - ok this is a direct attack on American puritanism here).

Now, don't get me wrong... I do find shocking all these HipHop videos displaying naked girls. But not because they are naked, but cause of the message sent, which is nothing but sexual (and nasty in a way).

One last point here, I remember myself when I was 12, and I am listening to 12yo americans talking together, they talk MUCH more about sex than we were, eventhough we are more exposed to sex (American pie is unrated in France. Rated R in USA).


At May 05, 2006, Anonymous Jillybean said...

So does this mean you'r not going to do my Happy Life Blog:(?
I agree with you on these points-although I am not as free as the french, I am more open to my kids and showing that its not bad so they are not obsessed with it later. And anything we see in movies-naked or sex, we talk about and answer questions instead of shelter and pretend it doesn't exist, because of course they'll talk about it at school or watch it somewhere else.

At May 05, 2006, Blogger traveller one said...

Thomas-- you are right on!! This is exactly how I feel about the subject even though I grew up in Canada. I remember when we first moved to Holland my son was 13 and he went to the beach with a dutch family. The mother quickly took off her bikini top. When my son came home at the end of the day he told me all about the beach but said "Mom don't you EVER go topless like Danny's Mom at the beach!" LOL- I guess it was okay for everyone else but not for someone's MOTHER.

At May 05, 2006, Blogger carra said...

Well I do agree that nudity is nothing wrong, and I love art (the first day in Paris I rushed to the Louvre). And I do not find breastfeeding in public disturbing either (it is the most beautiful thing in the world, though I don't think I could do it). I see that my comment on the last post was a bit annoying, but I will admit I am boring. I do not watch films that contain violence, I do not watch films that contain sex (unless it's a light symbolic stuff) maybe I am mad. But I do agree children think differently. I remember my grandmother taking to the "women's beach" (such thing exists in Lithuania) and there were all these women completely naked, I don't remember their bodies but I remember I didn't like the way they lay in the beach (legs open to the limiots etc) I was about 5-6, I have never gone to the beach like that in my adult life, I don't think I ever will. You are right I just sometimes feel unconfortable as a woman it seems to be alright on TV showing women topless or naked but never men, it's like showing woman's naked body is alright you can be as cheeky as you want about it, but then once more I'll admit I only watch news on TV and a film on Sunday. Because I live in France I accept the culture, the language and so on and if I don't like what I see on TV (that includes violence) I do not watch it. And yes there is always two ways of showing nudity first as part of nature, and other is the sexy way, I guess I prefer the first option.

At May 05, 2006, Blogger Kim/Thomas said...

Ooooh excellent comments! (and Thomas, I DID NOT solicate any, I swear, you can ask them yourself:)

I just wanted to quickly mention that not only did my frog post a wonderful post (I'm soo biased, I'm in love with everything this guy does) BUT my beloved little pickles (who i'm even more biased about:) also posted.

So if you have a free moment, go to the first link on my 'blogs i visit' (A KIDS POINT OF VIEW) and see what he has written about.

This is very good practice for him and he REALLY appreciates comments, (from his, "fans", dontcha know!) I'm hoping that he'll get on the ball about posting, as it has been so good for his creative writing skills.

He is also using this blog to hopefully get credit for his writers college, he is working towards his bachelor degree, right now he has his associates degree..I'll have him post on that next, so you understand what that is:)

Thanks again in advance for any comments for pickles, it is greatly appreciated, and a simple 'right on' is sufficient! :o)

At May 05, 2006, Anonymous Pumpkin said...

Thomas, that is fine but the French commercials I see during the day and when my kids cartoons are on are not just about nudity but SEX. I don't understand why there is always this sexual undertone in French commercials. Plus, the women they show as nude are air brushed and perfect not like a real woman.
I have been to the beach here in Strasbourg with the topless women...funny they are all older and not the younger women that the men would really want to look at. These women want to be seen. My French husband dares me to take my top off...why? Because he doesn't want other men to look at his wife's breasts.
I don't have a problem with kids taking a bath together or many other things in regard to nudity. However, it is simply not true that the nudity on French tv and ads or on the beach have nothing to do with sex.
I don't care that those women want men to look at them but don't pretend that isn't what they want. And, my girls will be raised with common decency.
I am not an up tight puritan. But, I see it for what it is.
By the way, all my male friends tell me that women who dress sexy without showing it all are the sexiest. Men like to use their imagination. ;)

At May 05, 2006, Blogger cncz said...

All I am saying is that French commercials need to have some male nudity. I am all for getting rid of fake puritanism, but sheesh. On French tv I have seen boobs for shower gel (normal), laundry detergent, and yogurt. One commercial that offends me right now is a bank commercial that shows a woman thrusting up her hips to put her underwear on as she gets out of bed. I just don't see the link. I am just for equality of the sexes here.

At May 05, 2006, Blogger Pardon My French said...

I know exactly which yogurt commercial cncz means! I'm all for equality, but how about some of that reality that pumpkin mentions. Seriously, do all of the breasts have to be perfect? How 'bout at least putting some real boobs with sags and stretch marks out there to even it out a bit. So, during the Janet Jackson/Superbowl deal, they blocked out her nipple in the U.S. When Sophie What's-her-name had a wardrobe malfunction last year I remember some talkshow dudes in France playing the video, making comments, rewinding and replaying the video, making comments, and repeated that I don't know how many time. Puhleeze. It made me think of 8th grade in English class when we watched Romeo & Juliet, and one of the boys hijacked the VCR to rewind the 'breast' scene a couple of times before our English teacher wrested the remote control out of his hands.

At May 05, 2006, Blogger Kim/Thomas said...

-bikini or topless, what is the difference?????????? the first one is decent the second is indecent, explain that to me, cause I dont get it?

-perfect boob or perfect woman? what are you girls critisizing? that they are showing boobs or the fact they are using plastic models?

-Strasbourg is in penguin land, come to the south, you will see that A LOT of women are topless, younger, older, skinny, slim, fat, beautiful, ugly...

-A girl who wants to be watched btw, doesnt need to be topless, and a guy isnt waiting for a girl to be topless to watch.

-See, it may be indecent to raise your kids like that, but at least I can talk to a girl without looking her cleavage, I don't mind receiving a howtopickupagirl lesson from a friend's mom.

-Now, I never said sex couldnt be indecent, it all depends on the way it is displayed. If you prevent your kids to watch everykind of nudity or even sex cause you find them indecent, chances are they will be totally unaware about it and eventually be too curious.

-Explain this...
average age of first sexual relation in USA:15.8, in France:16.8...and in HOLLAND where it is worse than France in term of sex, 17.7

I am not saying here that everyone should expose their kids... I do agree we have to protect them, and I would definitly forbid my kids to watch certain things, but pretending that nudity OR even sex is not part of life is not preparing them for the future.

At May 05, 2006, Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I do wish American's and Canadians were more open to stuff like this. IT was a really hard transition when I got back here again. I enjoyed having coed changing rooms in baths and not thinking of anything when at a beach... You are so right though! Great write up... :)

At May 06, 2006, Anonymous Pumpkin said...

Thomas, I agree with you but I do think that the French tv is too sexual and degrading to women. Sometimes, I have to pick my chin up off the floor.
I don't have a problem with nudity...the natural kind. I do have a problem with the fact that in France women are picked up on game shows when they have short skirts on or dancing on tables with the camera zooming in up their skirt. What is that all about? I think in America it goes too far one way but in France it can go too far the other. I think that is looking at it fair. Is it necessary to have a commercial where the guy sprays perfume on himself that makes the girls crazy and striping off clothes on the way to the bedroom....a commercial that is shown during my kids cartoons. What are they trying to promote there?
America could loosen up a bit and France could be more careful with the tv.
BTW, I have a problem with them showing perfect women and not really with them showing women nude if it matches the commercial and is done without being too sexual. However, most of the time I think the sex sells marketing is really big here in France!!!

I hated that in America they would put plastic signs over a magizine cover and when I looked it was only a picture of a woman in a slinky dress...not even sexual.
I know what you are saying however I am still uncomfortable with the freedom of sex and nudity in France and I am not a puritan and very openminded about this.
There are times it is ok and times it is not.

At May 06, 2006, Blogger Pardon My French said...

Girls?!?! You called us girls?! Okay, I'm just teasing and playing the stereotypical American feminist, but I thought it was funny that it came up in this particular discussion. I thought it was pretty clear that we were talking about boobs that don't look like the average boob. You can see a variety of faces, but not many saggy breasts. I can't write for long, but I think we can all have a big discussion about topics related to teen girls and the images they see in each country. What about diet pills here and attitudes toward plastic surgery? Anyway, I'll be back...

At May 06, 2006, Blogger Kim/Thomas said...

Talking about shows and girls dancing... in the US they have this hiphop subculture wayyyy bigger than in France, and I have seen the worst shows or music clip broadcasted 24/7.. I am even trying to find a way to BLOCK entire channel so the kids cant watch them (haven't figure it out)

if you are talking about AXE deo ad...well they are in the US too...There is not a single american movie with a sex scene, as if it was mandatory for the story that we see the hero and a girl in bed.

I can go on and on about it... all I say is we have to stop being hypocritical about the subject, nudity and sex are present everywhere. If you think it is bigger in France than in the USA, I think you are highly mistaken, the only difference is in France we wont pretend to hide it or that it doesnt exist. Nor we pretend that everything is OK. I get your point, I just think you are having that stereotype of the promiscuous French, and seeing sex everywhere, when in your own country, there are things WAY more shocking concerning sex and the way it is displayed.

Nudity is not bad, nor is a way it is part of life, the more you make it an issue, the more an issue it becomes (dont make me say everything is ok - I do agree some boundaries needs to be set, but we obviously dont agree on where to set them).

Now to reply to "pardon my french"... my point was that when you critisize the perfect boobs, I think that is a different debate... it's not about nudity here, but about the fact we see so-called perfect figure of beauty everywhere used for everything...not sure I make myself clear.

But to resume, we are more exposed to sex and nudity at a younger age in France, yet we seem to be more reasonable about sex behaviour...

At May 06, 2006, Blogger Pardon My French said...

My husband is seriously going to mad at me if I don't get off of the computer, so this one really will be fast. I understand what you are saying, but I'm really not saying that French are more promiscuous and buying into stereotypes. Yes, there are plenty of sexualized images in the U.S. -- but the shows you mentioned...are they on public television or on cable? I think it's fair to say that people's discomfort here is that we are just not used to seeing such sexy stuff on public TV channels during shows for children because we feel that we do have a little bit of control over what they see. On dable, fine, but the really shocking things aren't during children's shows, or on public television at least with all the heavy censorship. You can see some nasty stuff, but the point I think people are making is that it's NOT everywhere because it's censored. I understand your argument against the censorship, though.

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