Nude Versus Naked

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Published February 6, 2016
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The Montclarion
Photo Courtesy: x1klima (Flickr)

When “nude” and “naked” are put into Google Images, the same thing pops up: women with their breasts and genitalia unclothed. This may make it seem like the two words are interchangeable, but a closer look at the pictures proves otherwise.

The “nude” pictures are mostly professional photographs and some even have company names on them, while the “naked” pictures seem either more candid or pornographic.

Putting “nude” and “naked” into Google Images is a great way to demonstrate the differences. The way the two are shown as the same without a closer look is how many people treat the two words.
What thy do not understand is that nudity is seen as an expression of art. It is synonymous with photography, painting and other art forms. Nakedness, on the other hand, is seen as something taboo or private and usually connected to censorship.

Look at our media and pop culture. A magazine cover showing Rihanna wearing only a leather jacket around her shoulders with her arms as her only covering is considered “nude” by Billboard. A

Calvin Klein ad with a man and woman pressed together unclothed is considered “nude” rather than “naked” and displayed in malls and shopping centers.

The idea of nudity being an expression has been so ingrained into our pop culture that even the dictionary defines it as “unclothed as a person or body,” whereas nakedness is defined as “without adequate clothing.” Nudity has even reached color status and has become a trend with not only makeup artists and fashion icons, but with the masses who see it as an “risqué” trend.

Performers like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga who forgo “adequate clothing” are depicted as “nude” even though there are children who will watch their performances, demonstrating that censorship is not associated with nudity, even though nudity and nakedness, to the objective eye, are both physical states of being unclothed.

Nakedness, however, goes hand-in-hand with censorship. Conversations with nakedness as the subject are often more sexual in nature because nudity does not have an explicitly sexual connotation and also because “naked” takes up another meaning. When nudity is in conversation, many people will think of partial covering, strategically placed items or cropped pictures like magazines covers and perfume ads. When nakedness is in conversation, the image is of a fully naked man or woman.

Another thing that needs to be taken into account is that “naked” can be used with a man or a woman, whereas “nude” pertains mainly to women. A partially clothed man is not nude, but rather partially clothed.

Nakedness, as a consequence, is associated with pornography and the inappropriate act of not having any clothes on. Rihanna in a leather jacket as her sole piece of clothing in front of a camera is “nude.” The next door neighbor marching around the streets with a leather jacket as her sole piece of clothing is “naked,” and probably someone to watch out for.

Objectively speaking, the only differences between nudity and nakedness are the ideas behind them. Both are social constructs used to the advantage of rising, edgy artists who want to differentiate their work from pornography. Rihanna is still actually as “naked” as that next door neighbor. The only difference is that Rihanna was standing in front of that edgy artist and that image of her can be displayed at CVS and Rite Aid without mothers protesting at her label’s door.

If someone videotaped the next door neighbor and posted the video online, it is a 50-50 toss on whether a news headline surrounding the act would have “nude” or “naked” in it, but in either case the neighbor, by definition, is naked. Only a celebrity can be “nude” because of the power behind the word.

The power of “nude” is that nothing associated with it can really be censored. Celebrity selfies in the bathroom would be considered “nude” and thus not strictly censored. Obviously, not everything that has not been censored can be put up on display. Kim Kardashian’s nudes are not going to show up on a display at the Plaza, but they will make a guest appearance in a book that features them and all her other selfies.

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