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Perseus and Andromeda, a fresco from Pompeii

Human sexual arousal and expression is often confused with partial or complete lack of clothing, though each condition exists exclusive of the other.


Sexual and non-sexual nakednessEdit

A nude erotic performer at a sex show in France.

Some modern cultures have equated human nudity with sexuality, inherently stimulating the libido; historically, that has not been a universal case. Many tropical cultures across the Earth have demonstrated partial or complete nudity (e.g. central sub-Saharan Africa such as Namibia; Polynesia). In ancient Greece, athletes commonly exercised and competed nude; when Japan allowed female sumo wrestlers, they competed nude, without the mawashi now worn by men.[1]

Cultures that demand some degree of modesty draw an association from nudity to sexuality. When physical sexual attributes are shown in the mainstream media of these cultures, this is taken as being sexually related. There are cultural differences regarding the acceptability or sexualization of nudity,[2] but the definition of what is lewd has also changed over the years, as has the comparative acceptability of male or female nudity.

Of itself, human nudity can be sensually pleasing without overt sexual context, as with naturism, and in various artistic media such as figure drawing and photography. Nudity can be intended for sexual arousal without physical contact, as with striptease or pornography.

Many people find nudity inherently erotic and even sexually arousing[why?]. Individuals may have a compulsive desire[when defined as?] to express themselves without clothing. Some people may experience erotic and sexual pleasure in seeing their partner or others in the nude, or to be seen nude. In response, legislated control of acceptable bodily display is couched in moralizing terms such as "protecting decency."

Nudity is a very important facet in the expression of feelings in intimate relationships in which there is physical or emotional intimacy. Exposure (or promise thereof) of the body is a tactic of courtship, a human courtship display or a form of flirting. Physical intimacy is characterized by romantic or passionate love and attachment, or sexual activity.

Sexual arousalEdit

Sexual arousal is an aspect of a person's sexuality and a part of sexual excitement. It is accompanied by physiological changes in the aroused person. It is difficult for males to conceal full sexual arousal, or indeed lack of it, while fully nude. Penile erection is an obvious indicator of sexual excitement of a male. In the case of females, physiological changes — such as vaginal lubrication and swelling, coloring and engorgement of the labia and clitoris — are less visible to others.

Nudity between sexual partners is widely accepted, and bathing with the partner, sleeping in the nude and dressing in front of partners are common. However, even in private, some partners feel uncomfortable being nude in front of another, or exposing their sexual arousal; and insist on some restrictions on their nudity. For example, a person may feel comfortable being nude only during a sexual activity, and then only with subdued lighting, or covered by a sheet or blanket.[3]


Naturists on a beach

In a 2009 report, Smith and King conclude that naturists have been able to sublimate their sexual impulses in a naturist environment:

"Sexuality, when practising naturism, was found often to be suppressed through the use of rules, geographical isolation and thoughts and behaviour. Some participants found ways of exploring and enjoying their sexuality by keeping their feelings hidden and/or seeking out more sympathetic naturist environments. Naturist environments may offer a unique space in which to explore aspects of our sexuality that are currently pathologised, criminalised or commercialised."[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Chie Ikkai (2003), "Women's Sumo Wrestling in Japan", International Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1 (1): 178–181, doi:10.5432/ijshs.1.178
  2. ^ A modest test of cross-cultural differences in sexual modesty, embarrassment and self-disclosure. H W Smith. Journal of Qualitative Sociology. Springer, Netherlands. ISSN 0162-0436
  3. ^ Sexual Behavior in the Human Female: By the Staff of the Institute for Sex Research, Indiana University, Alfred C. Kinsey ... [et al.] ; with a New Introduction by John Bancroft. Indiana University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-253-33411-X
  4. ^ Smith and King, Health & Place, Volume 15, Issue 2 (2009), pp. 439-446.