Which is worse, nudity or violence?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  October 22, 2009 02:35 PM

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My post about Hillary Swank being nude around her boyfriend’s child sparked some interesting discussions, one of which took place on Twitter. “Nudity is natural. Violence isn't," one person wrote. Others shared stories about parents who covered their kids' eyes during a brief nude scene but let the same kids watch the hours of violence that preceded the kissing.

Which got me thinking about Halloween and all of the slasher movies and tortureporn (like the Saw series) out there... how come that stuff is acceptable in the mainstream, but nudity isn’t?

The violence-is-acceptable theme isn't limited to older audiences. Hey, Disney: What’s with the whole killing-off-of-the-parents thing? (Think Nemo, Bambi, The Lion King for starters.) Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny cartoons -- my childhood favorites -- are so violent that I cringed when I saw them recently, and was reluctant to let my preschooler watch them.

Meanwhile, people can get arrested for indecent exposure in their own homes, and TV dramas for teens (like BBC America's series, Skins) show little nudity but deal openly and explicitly with sex.

On his blog, C.S. Daley points out: “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has a man's beating heart removed from his chest and gets a PG-13. If it had been a woman and her chest had been bared, automatic R.” (Edited to add: Tim Nasson of Wild About Movies emailed to tell me that the Indiana Jones movie was actually rated PG; it was the catalyst for creating the PG-13 rating though, he says.)

Parents of older kids, weigh in, please! Which are you more likely to let your child watch and why: a movie that shows nudity (male or female, doesn’t matter) or one that’s explicitly violent?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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33 comments so far...
  1. I hate to burst your bubble, but violence is nature too, watch a few hours of animal documentaries (particularly our close relatives the chimpanzee) and you'll see quite a bit of violence.

    Violence just doesn't make us squimish, seeing someone's head bashed in is less upsetting than seeing their junk flap in the wind.

    Thanks for your comment, JT. I'm not saying that violence is not natural -- that was what someone said to me during a conversation about my last post. What I'm asking is, why is violence more acceptable than nudity? Why are you more squeemish about seeing someone's naked body than seeing someone hurt or killed (or special effects designed to mimic that)? -- LMA

    Posted by JT October 22, 09 05:20 PM
  1. JT, what an odd perspective. "Seeing someone's head bashed in is less upsetting"? I have to think you're trolling.

    For me it all depends on context -- why is there violence? What is the movie's attitude towards the violence or sex/nudity? The reason I find a lot of nudity in movies problematic is not because nudity is shameful, but because there is so often a not-so-subtle objectification of women involved. What I am trying to teach my kids (one tween, one teen) is that women are actual people, not toys/objects. If the nudity or sex is natural to the plot and characters, and also is there for some reason *other* than "Hey look! Guys! A naked chick! Awesome!" then I don't really have a problem with it for my teen.

    As for violence, movies that expect the audience to be titillated by the violence are out. When the movie considers it exciting to watch the 19 year old "coed" get tortured, no. Torture and violence do not equal erotic or exciting in my book. Again, all context. There is violence in a movie like "Children of Men" for example, and I am fine with my teen seeing it -- because there is thought behind everything that happens. It's a movie to inspire thinking, not simple reactive eroticism.

    So to make a short story long, I don't have a blanket ban on either sex or violence in movies for my teen, and there is not one I consider better to watch than the other. All about context.

    Great point about context, jlen. Thanks for your comment! -- LMA

    Posted by jlen October 22, 09 08:30 PM
  1. Violence is harmful to the victims; nudity is not harmful to anyone. I've never understood the nudity problem that so many people have. When Janet Jackson exposed a breast, I doubt any children were upset or perverted by it. The problem was the reaction of adult parents, who may have made the children feel discomfort and shame.

    Generations of Americans (and others in the world) grew up in one-room cabins or tenements where there was no privacy. Certainly the parents had sex in the same room with their children. The children on farms have seen the pigs and horses do it, so they knew all about sex.

    I worry about anybody who enjoys watching real violence, but I'm not as convinced about violence that we know is staged. Cartoons where the coyote goes over a cliff and then appears back to normal in the next scene aren't a problem. Kids know the difference.

    Posted by Concerned October 22, 09 09:09 PM
  1. Our kids are in their 20s, but I'd like to add something anyhow. American officialdom has an obsession with sexual misbehavior that has it finding it where it doesn't exist; that's part of what an obsession does. This goes well with the hypocritical, manipulative attitude aimed at teens that sex is available for the asking but if you ask, we'll criticize you severely or even make you a criminal.

    The related massive body phobia harms children. It promotes terrible body self-image (especially in girls) and other socio-sexual pathologies --- and continues that prudish, debilitating sexual obsession that unites ignorant mis-education with self-righteous, paternalistic moralizing.

    Neither public nor private policy is well served by groundless prejudice and fear-and-loathing censorship. The assumption in the Hilary Swank story that nearly all nudity in the presence of minors means deviant, harmful sexual activity is beyond ridiculous.

    Perhaps that will do as an indirect answer to at least half your question.

    Posted by Paul Rapoport October 22, 09 11:15 PM
  1. Honestly, I try to keep my kids away from both gratuitous violence and gratuitous nudity. I am far more disturbed by excessive, gory violence for the sake of violence alone than I am by nudity in general. My kids went to see a full production of Hair (including the entirely-nude last scene) with their grandparents when they were 6 and 8. They briefly mentioned that there were naked people, but had a lot more to say about the rest of the show, and asked why he didn't want to go to war, etc.

    Posted by akmom October 23, 09 07:00 AM
  1. I want my children to grow up having a positive, healthy attitude towards their bodies, and to understand that human sexuality is not something to be hidden or ashamed of, especially now that they are reaching adolescence. I think that even subtle censoring or avoiding nudity or sexual content sends the wrong message.

    We also listen to satellite radio, and I enjoy a station that does not play edited versions of music with explicit words. But my kids understand that those words are not to be used as a matter of routine. It's funny, I caught my 14 yr old son using the "s" word out of frustration about something. I chided him, saying, "you're not with your friends. You don't use that language at home in front of me."

    Posted by toots October 23, 09 07:25 AM
  1. I totally echo jlen's sentiments when it comes to nudity vs.violence in movies or on TV - for myself. Obviously, at 18 months, I'm not letting my toddler watch anything more violent than "Elmo's World" (though admittedly, that desk drawer of his does like to bash him around a bit!).

    Nudity and violence are both natural. It's true. There may be a time and place for both, no matter how peacefully we live our day to day lives otherwise. I think that the European view of treating vioence the way Americans treat nudity is just as ill thought out and ridiculous as our shaming of a nude body in this country.

    Oh, FWIW: Tortureporn is not a new phenomena. It's been around for as long as film. Normally, we call it bondage or S&M. It's finally become mainstream through films such as Saw although Betty Page posed and performed in some which brought it to light in her heyday as well. I just sort of felt compelled to point that out. Clearly, our sons and daughters have been interested enough in it through generations past to keep it going as a huge sub-set of the porn industry...and now, we're at a time and place where showing this sort of material is acceptable outside of the home setting.

    And to those self-righteous Europeans who posted on your HIllary Swank column with respect to our horrid attitude to nudity and the overall European model for the world with respect to regulating violence, 90% of the bondage/S&M and true tortureporn on the market comes from the Eastern Bloc, Germany (the majority) and England. I wonder if it has anything to do with the taboo toward any violence whatsoever over there? And I wonder why that sort of violence and degradation, which can be purchased openly in adult stores where I've seen families with children in tow as a matter of normal routine, is OK in a culture that reveres such peaceful, forward thinking living?

    Sorry...got off on a bit of a tangent there...

    But really, the sex, violence and nudity my daughter will eventually be exposed to that can be controlled by me will be limited to context. Gratuitous BS is out. But there will be no blanket ban on either one, as jlen noted.

    Posted by phe October 23, 09 07:48 AM
  1. I think this is very cultural. When I lived in England, nudity seemed much more prevalent than violence in television and movies (at least compared to the U.S.). I was shocked at the time to see such nudity, but I would rather nudity over violence. An overexposure to violence seems to numb us from reality....

    Posted by bella October 23, 09 09:22 AM
  1. i wonder if it's because we're more comfortable drawing lines about what is and isn't 'acceptable' violence versus nudity. short of self-defense (or defense of a loved one), i think most americans are very comfortable agreeing that violence against other people is wrong.

    with nudity and sexuality, we have a much more diverse opinion of what is 'ok' ... and i'm sure some folks are unsure exactly where they stand on it personally.

    because we're more confident in our personal and societal opinions about violence, it's easier to talk about with our kids and draw lines about movies versus real life. with nudity and sexuality having a much bigger gray area (in my opinion) ... it's harder to talk about so it's easier to try to avoid it altogether.

    i'd rather my son be exposed to nudity and sexuality than violence because i see more good in nudity and sexuality (while it can be abused, there are times and places for it) but it is much harder to talk to him about it.

    Posted by stephanie October 23, 09 09:46 AM
  1. I feel we should let our teens look at nudity freely including pornography as long it is tasteful, then allow them to basically grind their crotches into each other on the dance floor at high school events while we play lyrics like "after all we are just mammals so let's do it like the animals on discovery channel". Then hand them out bubble gum flavored condoms but make sure to tell them we'd rather you didn't but since deep down inside we feel you have no self control and because we allow you to maul each other on the dance floor here you go just in case.

    We've lost our way.

    Posted by RUKiddingme? October 23, 09 10:14 AM
  1. When my children were younger, I thought I was preparing them "for life" by allowing them to see an amount of violence in media, not sex, though. But, look now, we adults have given our children a society with a 50% divorce rate; and then another 40% rate of "low libido" for both men and women ---- divorce (splitsville) and then no intimacy zones for the rest. Sometimes, a lot of times actually, it seems that maybe we did something wrong.

    Did we? What do you think of this?

    Posted by raymond October 23, 09 10:29 AM
  1. For both instances I would say that the context of the movie would be the most important item.

    For Violence-"Saving Private Ryan" is one of the most violent movies of the last 20 years. From the opening scene of the landing to the then final battle at the bridge where Tom Hanks is killed, the movie is almost continously violent image; and it shoulb be. The violence in that movie is a critical part of the story. On the other hand a movie like Saw is simply violence for the sake of violence. I would have no trouble with my child see Saving Private Ryan, but would not allow her to watch Saw (She is 11 years old)

    For Nudity-No set examples come to mind but I the difference is obvious between a National Geographic documentary and Debbie does Dallas. Both show nudity, but in completely different contexts.

    In either case, parents need to make sure that they have previewed what a child is going to watch on their own, or watches something with them with the remote at the ready. And probably the most important, if you get questions...answer them. Truthfully, Simply, and Seriously.

    Posted by will October 23, 09 11:00 AM

  1. Anyone who allows their kids to watch Hostel, any of the Saw movies, or other ultra-violent films, is an idiot, pure and simple. Fundamentally, a bad parent. I'd rather my kid see a boob on screen than see someone's eye-ball gouged out. People like RUKiddingme and JT should have their parent licenses revoked.

    Posted by Tim October 23, 09 12:01 PM
  1. As usual, this is a multi-tiered issue that cannot be polarized to, "nudity or violence, pick one". doesn't work that way. nudity is part of life; so is violence. i watched Tom & Jerry as a kid and found it hilarious, in fact I still do when I gloss by it on cartoon network. I would let my kid watch it, but generally speaking, I discourage television watching at all.

    How about instead of putting kids in front of TVs, then arguing about what he or she should or shouldn't be seeing on the glowing box, we get them outside more or entertain them in ways that don't zone them out?

    If kids dealt with reality more instead of being coddled by a-scared parents, they would be able to figure out the reality of nudity and violence, when it's acceptable, when it isn't, and learn its place in life far easier than if they're nannied into thinking there are no consequences for their actions.

    Posted by FJ October 23, 09 12:03 PM
  1. Nudity can be natural, or it can be exploitive. I don't freak out if my kids see nude statues or artwork. If they come in while I am dressing (little boys = zero sense of boundaries sometimes) I am pretty sure they are not going to be traumatized for life. At the same time, they don't need to see 91/2 weeks either. Neither do they need to see slasher films. When violence or 'action' is used as a means for good to combat evil (i.e. Star Wars), that seems fine. But when violence is portrayed as just 'how people behave', that seems like not the message I want to send. When sex is portrayed as 'this is what all people do, without regard to safety or emotional attachment', then it is a problem.

    Posted by BMS October 23, 09 12:06 PM
  1. Tim my friend,

    Why specifically do you think I should have my parent license revoked?

    Posted by RUKiddingme? October 23, 09 12:56 PM
  1. Animal violence is natural in the animal kingdom. What is supposed to separate humans from animals is an allegedly highly developed brain. Violence in humans should not and cannot be mistaken for a natural act. To expose children to violence is creating a form of detachment with regard to feelings of empathy or remorse.

    Nudity, if tasteful is the better choice as long as the nudity is not in the form of degradation and or violence combined. Exposure to natural nudity in ca loving situation can create a better sense of self esteem.

    Posted by A Dingo Ate My Baby October 23, 09 01:13 PM
  1. The question posed was which is worse, nudity or violence? Why does nudity seem to be interpreted as sexuality or pornography? Those are completely separate things. I don't understand the fear and aversion to nudity in this country. It's just body parts. We all have them. Why is it necessary to hide this like a dirty secret from children and even each other?

    This mentality has a friend of mine teaching her daughter that her vagina is her "front butt". Talk about confusing for a child! And when the daughter got a glimpse of Daddy in the shower and asked about his parts, she was told it's not something you talk about. So this little girl will grow up thinking that her female parts are dirty, and she’ll be afraid to ask about male parts. This is not a healthy way to raise our children.

    As akmom demonstrated with the Hair anecdote, children do not think it is shameful or dirty to be nude until we teach them it is. Stop teaching them that nudity is shameful. The human body is a wondrous work of art and not a dirty secret.

    Posted by badcats35 October 23, 09 01:48 PM
  1. Everyone in my family gets dressed in clear view of the others. My kids are 3, 7 and 10. My wife and I walk out of the shower nude and get dressed with our door wide open, the kids frequently wander in and out. I frequently shower on one floor and get dressed two floors down, so I dry off and walk naked through my house.

    None of the kids shut the door either. Many frequent mornings the two oldest will be getting dressed in the laundry room (folded clothes that haven't made it up to their rooms yet).

    It's no big deal. To the person last week who said Social Services should be called on me - I asked a friend who is a social worker for for DCF (formerly DSS) and they laughed. This is not something they would investigate and given the seriousness of the abuses they investigate every day it pales in comparison.

    The only time someone shuts the door is in the bathroom.

    Posted by Dave October 23, 09 02:12 PM
  1. I suppose I let them watch violence before nudity. After thinking for a moment I came up with 3 reasons why this is true for me. 1. I want my children to be protective of their bodies. 2. discussing why violence is wrong always is much easier for me then dicussing why nudity or being intimate is wrong for them now but one day will become appropriate. 3. Violence is harder to avoid then nudity.

    Posted by Jen October 23, 09 02:37 PM
  1. I'm 27. No children yet.

    I have to say: The people with teens are likely only 10-15 years older than me. You're speaking about what you're going to "let your teen" see as if you never lived life. Is my memory really going to change all that much?

    Reality check: Your teen will have looked at plenty of pornography, and will likely have seen many objectionable movies, long before you get to debate what you're going to let them see. Frankly, your child will be sneaking out at night to have sex, while you're drifting off to sleep on the comforting knowledge that you saved your child by telling him/her not to watch an R-Rated movie.

    As for violence: If watching a movie is going to make your child do violent things, then you have not functioned as a parent. Sane people do not do violent things simply because they saw them on TV.

    Think back to your own childhood and stop being basking in hypocrisy.

    To answer you're question: My focus will be on raising intelligent children with the courage to think for themselves. If they want to watch naked people shooting each other, that's their own business.


    And to answer some questions: "Why does nudity seem to be interpreted as sexuality or pornography?"

    Because reasonably attractive people who see each other naked want to have sex with each other. That's biology and you're a fool to deny it. If there is a full-frontal-nudity photograph of an attractive woman in an art museum, I guarantee you that NONE of the people looking at it feel absolutely NO sexual arousal. They may be appreciating the art, but none of them can completely ignore the "body parts" (as it has been put). Your brain won't let you do that, and you're lying if you claim you do.

    Posted by D October 23, 09 03:18 PM
  1. D,

    I know several children including my son and ALL six of his neices and nephews between 16 and 28 who are either virgins or waited until marriage. I also do volunteer work with several teens who plan on remaining virgins until marriage.

    You act as if kids can't show self control by saying
    Frankly, your child will be sneaking out at night to have sex, while you're drifting off to sleep

    Sex for us humans is more then biology.

    Peace and Blessings

    Posted by Henway October 23, 09 04:46 PM
  1. I hope I'm not one of phe's "self righteous Europeans" (post 7), but since I have commented on the Hilary Swank article, I guess I must be!
    All I have tried to point out is that nudity does not equal sex as many of your respondents here have rightly said. There IS such a thing as non-sexual nudity. Why? Sexual attraction happens in the mind and we are intelligent enough to not become aroused if we know sex is not available. This does not mean we do not find the naked body attractive; it would be a sad world if we didn't, we also a beautiful landscape attractive, but we cannot have sex with it!
    Equating nudity and violence? As has been said here already, context makes a big difference, but violence is all about hurting people, but simple non-sexual nudity never harmed anyone.
    I have always had a problem with gratuitous violence and gratuitous nudity is not much better - the fact of it being gratuitous implies sexual motives. The problem is that too many people fail to distinguish between this and simple family nudity such as that described by Dave in post 19. It should be possible for the film industry to portray that kind of non-sexual nudity as a part of family life, but can you imagine the reactions of the censors and some sectors of society if here were to do so?

    Posted by Brian Taylor - British Naturism October 23, 09 07:02 PM
  1. I'll try only once more with my question of 23 October 2009.

    With our record now of having almost all families falling apart, are we at the point where even notice that something seems awry? Maybe. Maybe not.

    My children are grown now. The words have all been spoken and now it's difficult to change the past. If we could change the past, then would we, should we?

    I let them see violence, no sex. That's the story of their childhoods. Did I (and many people like you, too) break their world while we slept? Of course, we didn't mean to; but did we?

    Just what happened in the lives of peoples whose lives are mostly falling apart today? Is it OUR fault as parents?

    Posted by raymond October 24, 09 11:15 AM
  1. I would have to say I approve of nudity over violence with one condition. The nudity needs to be both male and female. It shouldn't only be one sex if there is going to be a healthy approach to it.

    Posted by D May October 25, 09 01:49 AM
  1. This has long been my concern. The level of violence has has gone from the roadrunner cartoons, westerns and cop shows that talked about murder or had quick draw action in them to the current trend where we are exposed to blood and gore, mass murder etc and this is the prime time fare. But oh what a tempest in a tea pot we make of a singing stars breast being exposed during a superbowl show. And talk about violence, 22 guys pounding on each other and 65K fans at the game and millions at home screaming for our team to kill the other team.
    hope you get the drift bring on the naked bodies and leave the violence to the news.

    Posted by Greg E October 26, 09 05:50 PM
  1. Though I don't have kids of my own, if I did, I'd rather they see nudity in non-sexual settings than any kind of violence (with the exceptions of the cartoons geared for kids...like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, etc.). As a nudist, you can guess why I'd prefer nudity over violence.

    Posted by David - a nudist May 6, 10 05:55 PM
  1. I'm sorry that I don't quite have the vocab as most of you people. That statement was not meant sarcastically. It’s just a warning, lol.
    This is not an overall consensus. This is my opinion based on observation but I have had friends who agree. I know I know. It doesn’t mean it’s the Holy Grail.
    My problem is that nudity in most cases in movies or T.V. does not fit or move the plot. So the nudity looks out of place and offensive. In most cases the violence is the story. not the sex. Sex is mostly exploitive. Here the villain is descends at a fast pace on our heroes and the characters must run away because their lives or the lives or others is desperately in their hands. oh oh. the bad guy probably knows the script. So time out for the nude shot. What? It has no plot expounding purpose. Nor does it flesh out the characters. No pun intended. It's like having a commercial interruption. Then it's "Was it good for you? Where were we? Oh, we were running away in fear of our lives and world domination." Where if it was happening in real life we'd be killed in our beds. I think nudity is beautiful like most of you but also good violence pushes a story quite a bit. I'm of coarse talking all violence natural or otherwise. I loved Titanic and Volcano in which nature was the villain. Where would Goldilocks be without the big bad wolf and dead grandma in the closet.
    Next, why show nudity by people who have less beautiful bodies than most of the audience watching. Most of these actors are hard pressed in keeping relationships together in real life so in essence they are bad examples for sexual encounters. I don’t mind nudity really but just show me the story please. Not the nudity or sex unless it fits the plot.
    Examples: In Desperado the bad guys used Guitar Guys romantic interlude to take advantage. In Basic Instinct the bedroom was where the violence was taking place and the main plot of the story. In Hitman it was shown to show how the heroin was humiliated by our villain. Hating the villain in a story drives the story.
    If the nudity is the plot. Go for it. Otherwise leave it out. Leaving it out does help the pace of the movie.

    Posted by Rickerd July 12, 10 12:32 AM
  1. It almost seems like a government population control. Violence leads to death, sex leads to pregnancy.

    Posted by Mike September 10, 10 11:12 AM
  1. Violence is much worse than nudity, in my opinion. It is extremely stupid that if a female nipple is shown, even in a non-sexual way, than it brings a movie up to an R-rating. Your kids hopefully used to suck on those things every day when they were a baby, and as you said, male nipples can be in a PG movie. Even seeing genitals can't possibly do anything to your kids brains worse than extremely brutal and graphic violence, and making it look cool. The rating system really has to change.

    Posted by Liam October 29, 11 02:35 AM
  1. Your child drinks milk from breasts and sees him/herself nude in
    The bath / mirror at least every other day I do not see
    The problem that the world has with none sexual nudity
    However in movies and such where someone is being taken advantage of sexually or two people are " getting busy "
    I would not let my kids witness that until they hit their teen
    Years and I have no control or I give them " the talk " personally


    I can understand why people rate nudity higher than violence
    In the ratings and that is because when you see nudity in a movie, it's
    Real and not all parents are okay with that violence is cgi and makeup
    and they expect people to realize that

    Posted by Commonsense medie November 28, 11 11:04 AM
  1. The ratings are in place for a reason. I don't understand the problem with following them.
    Why do kids under teen years need to see Aliens or Halloween exactly?
    How does it help nourish their lives?
    Why do kids under teen years need to see the naked blue man in Wathcmen exactly? What would Jude or Porkys do to nourish the child's life?
    To me its that simple. Follow the ratings and Restrict when advised.

    That being said, we have sure done a 360 since I was a kid. I still remember the bath scene in Clash of the Titans being Ok but not the scarred heads in Planet of the Apes.... times have changed. Now some folks will take their children to see Hannibal... 0O

    Posted by Rich March 5, 12 08:22 AM
  1. This is a bit old but I feel compelled to reply just the same. Firstly, the only reason nudity is gratuitous on most shows is because sex sells. Same with violence. Now, gratuitous aside, I would rather my child see nudity all day long than violence. homicide and other violent crimes are too prominent in the U.S. and I think the acceptance of it on television is a big reason. As for the sexual crimes, the majority of nudity on TV tends to be of a sexual nature which does nothing more than to help associate nudity with sex. Having said that, I firmly believe that if we didn't teach our children that nudity was taboo and raised them more freely around it, along with actually talking openly about sex and nudity with them, there wouldn't be as many sexual related crimes. Or teen pregnancies for that matter.

    What could a child gain from nudity? Body acceptance, better self esteem, Something most anorexics and bulimics don't have. And I could easily go on and on. The fact that more people are afraid of a naked body versus a gun is absolutely insane!

    Posted by James March 19, 13 03:09 AM
 
33 comments so far...
  1. I hate to burst your bubble, but violence is nature too, watch a few hours of animal documentaries (particularly our close relatives the chimpanzee) and you'll see quite a bit of violence.

    Violence just doesn't make us squimish, seeing someone's head bashed in is less upsetting than seeing their junk flap in the wind.

    Thanks for your comment, JT. I'm not saying that violence is not natural -- that was what someone said to me during a conversation about my last post. What I'm asking is, why is violence more acceptable than nudity? Why are you more squeemish about seeing someone's naked body than seeing someone hurt or killed (or special effects designed to mimic that)? -- LMA

    Posted by JT October 22, 09 05:20 PM
  1. JT, what an odd perspective. "Seeing someone's head bashed in is less upsetting"? I have to think you're trolling.

    For me it all depends on context -- why is there violence? What is the movie's attitude towards the violence or sex/nudity? The reason I find a lot of nudity in movies problematic is not because nudity is shameful, but because there is so often a not-so-subtle objectification of women involved. What I am trying to teach my kids (one tween, one teen) is that women are actual people, not toys/objects. If the nudity or sex is natural to the plot and characters, and also is there for some reason *other* than "Hey look! Guys! A naked chick! Awesome!" then I don't really have a problem with it for my teen.

    As for violence, movies that expect the audience to be titillated by the violence are out. When the movie considers it exciting to watch the 19 year old "coed" get tortured, no. Torture and violence do not equal erotic or exciting in my book. Again, all context. There is violence in a movie like "Children of Men" for example, and I am fine with my teen seeing it -- because there is thought behind everything that happens. It's a movie to inspire thinking, not simple reactive eroticism.

    So to make a short story long, I don't have a blanket ban on either sex or violence in movies for my teen, and there is not one I consider better to watch than the other. All about context.

    Great point about context, jlen. Thanks for your comment! -- LMA

    Posted by jlen October 22, 09 08:30 PM
  1. Violence is harmful to the victims; nudity is not harmful to anyone. I've never understood the nudity problem that so many people have. When Janet Jackson exposed a breast, I doubt any children were upset or perverted by it. The problem was the reaction of adult parents, who may have made the children feel discomfort and shame.

    Generations of Americans (and others in the world) grew up in one-room cabins or tenements where there was no privacy. Certainly the parents had sex in the same room with their children. The children on farms have seen the pigs and horses do it, so they knew all about sex.

    I worry about anybody who enjoys watching real violence, but I'm not as convinced about violence that we know is staged. Cartoons where the coyote goes over a cliff and then appears back to normal in the next scene aren't a problem. Kids know the difference.

    Posted by Concerned October 22, 09 09:09 PM
  1. Our kids are in their 20s, but I'd like to add something anyhow. American officialdom has an obsession with sexual misbehavior that has it finding it where it doesn't exist; that's part of what an obsession does. This goes well with the hypocritical, manipulative attitude aimed at teens that sex is available for the asking but if you ask, we'll criticize you severely or even make you a criminal.

    The related massive body phobia harms children. It promotes terrible body self-image (especially in girls) and other socio-sexual pathologies --- and continues that prudish, debilitating sexual obsession that unites ignorant mis-education with self-righteous, paternalistic moralizing.

    Neither public nor private policy is well served by groundless prejudice and fear-and-loathing censorship. The assumption in the Hilary Swank story that nearly all nudity in the presence of minors means deviant, harmful sexual activity is beyond ridiculous.

    Perhaps that will do as an indirect answer to at least half your question.

    Posted by Paul Rapoport October 22, 09 11:15 PM
  1. Honestly, I try to keep my kids away from both gratuitous violence and gratuitous nudity. I am far more disturbed by excessive, gory violence for the sake of violence alone than I am by nudity in general. My kids went to see a full production of Hair (including the entirely-nude last scene) with their grandparents when they were 6 and 8. They briefly mentioned that there were naked people, but had a lot more to say about the rest of the show, and asked why he didn't want to go to war, etc.

    Posted by akmom October 23, 09 07:00 AM
  1. I want my children to grow up having a positive, healthy attitude towards their bodies, and to understand that human sexuality is not something to be hidden or ashamed of, especially now that they are reaching adolescence. I think that even subtle censoring or avoiding nudity or sexual content sends the wrong message.

    We also listen to satellite radio, and I enjoy a station that does not play edited versions of music with explicit words. But my kids understand that those words are not to be used as a matter of routine. It's funny, I caught my 14 yr old son using the "s" word out of frustration about something. I chided him, saying, "you're not with your friends. You don't use that language at home in front of me."

    Posted by toots October 23, 09 07:25 AM
  1. I totally echo jlen's sentiments when it comes to nudity vs.violence in movies or on TV - for myself. Obviously, at 18 months, I'm not letting my toddler watch anything more violent than "Elmo's World" (though admittedly, that desk drawer of his does like to bash him around a bit!).

    Nudity and violence are both natural. It's true. There may be a time and place for both, no matter how peacefully we live our day to day lives otherwise. I think that the European view of treating vioence the way Americans treat nudity is just as ill thought out and ridiculous as our shaming of a nude body in this country.

    Oh, FWIW: Tortureporn is not a new phenomena. It's been around for as long as film. Normally, we call it bondage or S&M. It's finally become mainstream through films such as Saw although Betty Page posed and performed in some which brought it to light in her heyday as well. I just sort of felt compelled to point that out. Clearly, our sons and daughters have been interested enough in it through generations past to keep it going as a huge sub-set of the porn industry...and now, we're at a time and place where showing this sort of material is acceptable outside of the home setting.

    And to those self-righteous Europeans who posted on your HIllary Swank column with respect to our horrid attitude to nudity and the overall European model for the world with respect to regulating violence, 90% of the bondage/S&M and true tortureporn on the market comes from the Eastern Bloc, Germany (the majority) and England. I wonder if it has anything to do with the taboo toward any violence whatsoever over there? And I wonder why that sort of violence and degradation, which can be purchased openly in adult stores where I've seen families with children in tow as a matter of normal routine, is OK in a culture that reveres such peaceful, forward thinking living?

    Sorry...got off on a bit of a tangent there...

    But really, the sex, violence and nudity my daughter will eventually be exposed to that can be controlled by me will be limited to context. Gratuitous BS is out. But there will be no blanket ban on either one, as jlen noted.

    Posted by phe October 23, 09 07:48 AM
  1. I think this is very cultural. When I lived in England, nudity seemed much more prevalent than violence in television and movies (at least compared to the U.S.). I was shocked at the time to see such nudity, but I would rather nudity over violence. An overexposure to violence seems to numb us from reality....

    Posted by bella October 23, 09 09:22 AM
  1. i wonder if it's because we're more comfortable drawing lines about what is and isn't 'acceptable' violence versus nudity. short of self-defense (or defense of a loved one), i think most americans are very comfortable agreeing that violence against other people is wrong.

    with nudity and sexuality, we have a much more diverse opinion of what is 'ok' ... and i'm sure some folks are unsure exactly where they stand on it personally.

    because we're more confident in our personal and societal opinions about violence, it's easier to talk about with our kids and draw lines about movies versus real life. with nudity and sexuality having a much bigger gray area (in my opinion) ... it's harder to talk about so it's easier to try to avoid it altogether.

    i'd rather my son be exposed to nudity and sexuality than violence because i see more good in nudity and sexuality (while it can be abused, there are times and places for it) but it is much harder to talk to him about it.

    Posted by stephanie October 23, 09 09:46 AM
  1. I feel we should let our teens look at nudity freely including pornography as long it is tasteful, then allow them to basically grind their crotches into each other on the dance floor at high school events while we play lyrics like "after all we are just mammals so let's do it like the animals on discovery channel". Then hand them out bubble gum flavored condoms but make sure to tell them we'd rather you didn't but since deep down inside we feel you have no self control and because we allow you to maul each other on the dance floor here you go just in case.

    We've lost our way.

    Posted by RUKiddingme? October 23, 09 10:14 AM
  1. When my children were younger, I thought I was preparing them "for life" by allowing them to see an amount of violence in media, not sex, though. But, look now, we adults have given our children a society with a 50% divorce rate; and then another 40% rate of "low libido" for both men and women ---- divorce (splitsville) and then no intimacy zones for the rest. Sometimes, a lot of times actually, it seems that maybe we did something wrong.

    Did we? What do you think of this?

    Posted by raymond October 23, 09 10:29 AM
  1. For both instances I would say that the context of the movie would be the most important item.

    For Violence-"Saving Private Ryan" is one of the most violent movies of the last 20 years. From the opening scene of the landing to the then final battle at the bridge where Tom Hanks is killed, the movie is almost continously violent image; and it shoulb be. The violence in that movie is a critical part of the story. On the other hand a movie like Saw is simply violence for the sake of violence. I would have no trouble with my child see Saving Private Ryan, but would not allow her to watch Saw (She is 11 years old)

    For Nudity-No set examples come to mind but I the difference is obvious between a National Geographic documentary and Debbie does Dallas. Both show nudity, but in completely different contexts.

    In either case, parents need to make sure that they have previewed what a child is going to watch on their own, or watches something with them with the remote at the ready. And probably the most important, if you get questions...answer them. Truthfully, Simply, and Seriously.

    Posted by will October 23, 09 11:00 AM

  1. Anyone who allows their kids to watch Hostel, any of the Saw movies, or other ultra-violent films, is an idiot, pure and simple. Fundamentally, a bad parent. I'd rather my kid see a boob on screen than see someone's eye-ball gouged out. People like RUKiddingme and JT should have their parent licenses revoked.

    Posted by Tim October 23, 09 12:01 PM
  1. As usual, this is a multi-tiered issue that cannot be polarized to, "nudity or violence, pick one". doesn't work that way. nudity is part of life; so is violence. i watched Tom & Jerry as a kid and found it hilarious, in fact I still do when I gloss by it on cartoon network. I would let my kid watch it, but generally speaking, I discourage television watching at all.

    How about instead of putting kids in front of TVs, then arguing about what he or she should or shouldn't be seeing on the glowing box, we get them outside more or entertain them in ways that don't zone them out?

    If kids dealt with reality more instead of being coddled by a-scared parents, they would be able to figure out the reality of nudity and violence, when it's acceptable, when it isn't, and learn its place in life far easier than if they're nannied into thinking there are no consequences for their actions.

    Posted by FJ October 23, 09 12:03 PM
  1. Nudity can be natural, or it can be exploitive. I don't freak out if my kids see nude statues or artwork. If they come in while I am dressing (little boys = zero sense of boundaries sometimes) I am pretty sure they are not going to be traumatized for life. At the same time, they don't need to see 91/2 weeks either. Neither do they need to see slasher films. When violence or 'action' is used as a means for good to combat evil (i.e. Star Wars), that seems fine. But when violence is portrayed as just 'how people behave', that seems like not the message I want to send. When sex is portrayed as 'this is what all people do, without regard to safety or emotional attachment', then it is a problem.

    Posted by BMS October 23, 09 12:06 PM
  1. Tim my friend,

    Why specifically do you think I should have my parent license revoked?

    Posted by RUKiddingme? October 23, 09 12:56 PM
  1. Animal violence is natural in the animal kingdom. What is supposed to separate humans from animals is an allegedly highly developed brain. Violence in humans should not and cannot be mistaken for a natural act. To expose children to violence is creating a form of detachment with regard to feelings of empathy or remorse.

    Nudity, if tasteful is the better choice as long as the nudity is not in the form of degradation and or violence combined. Exposure to natural nudity in ca loving situation can create a better sense of self esteem.

    Posted by A Dingo Ate My Baby October 23, 09 01:13 PM
  1. The question posed was which is worse, nudity or violence? Why does nudity seem to be interpreted as sexuality or pornography? Those are completely separate things. I don't understand the fear and aversion to nudity in this country. It's just body parts. We all have them. Why is it necessary to hide this like a dirty secret from children and even each other?

    This mentality has a friend of mine teaching her daughter that her vagina is her "front butt". Talk about confusing for a child! And when the daughter got a glimpse of Daddy in the shower and asked about his parts, she was told it's not something you talk about. So this little girl will grow up thinking that her female parts are dirty, and she’ll be afraid to ask about male parts. This is not a healthy way to raise our children.

    As akmom demonstrated with the Hair anecdote, children do not think it is shameful or dirty to be nude until we teach them it is. Stop teaching them that nudity is shameful. The human body is a wondrous work of art and not a dirty secret.

    Posted by badcats35 October 23, 09 01:48 PM
  1. Everyone in my family gets dressed in clear view of the others. My kids are 3, 7 and 10. My wife and I walk out of the shower nude and get dressed with our door wide open, the kids frequently wander in and out. I frequently shower on one floor and get dressed two floors down, so I dry off and walk naked through my house.

    None of the kids shut the door either. Many frequent mornings the two oldest will be getting dressed in the laundry room (folded clothes that haven't made it up to their rooms yet).

    It's no big deal. To the person last week who said Social Services should be called on me - I asked a friend who is a social worker for for DCF (formerly DSS) and they laughed. This is not something they would investigate and given the seriousness of the abuses they investigate every day it pales in comparison.

    The only time someone shuts the door is in the bathroom.

    Posted by Dave October 23, 09 02:12 PM
  1. I suppose I let them watch violence before nudity. After thinking for a moment I came up with 3 reasons why this is true for me. 1. I want my children to be protective of their bodies. 2. discussing why violence is wrong always is much easier for me then dicussing why nudity or being intimate is wrong for them now but one day will become appropriate. 3. Violence is harder to avoid then nudity.

    Posted by Jen October 23, 09 02:37 PM
  1. I'm 27. No children yet.

    I have to say: The people with teens are likely only 10-15 years older than me. You're speaking about what you're going to "let your teen" see as if you never lived life. Is my memory really going to change all that much?

    Reality check: Your teen will have looked at plenty of pornography, and will likely have seen many objectionable movies, long before you get to debate what you're going to let them see. Frankly, your child will be sneaking out at night to have sex, while you're drifting off to sleep on the comforting knowledge that you saved your child by telling him/her not to watch an R-Rated movie.

    As for violence: If watching a movie is going to make your child do violent things, then you have not functioned as a parent. Sane people do not do violent things simply because they saw them on TV.

    Think back to your own childhood and stop being basking in hypocrisy.

    To answer you're question: My focus will be on raising intelligent children with the courage to think for themselves. If they want to watch naked people shooting each other, that's their own business.


    And to answer some questions: "Why does nudity seem to be interpreted as sexuality or pornography?"

    Because reasonably attractive people who see each other naked want to have sex with each other. That's biology and you're a fool to deny it. If there is a full-frontal-nudity photograph of an attractive woman in an art museum, I guarantee you that NONE of the people looking at it feel absolutely NO sexual arousal. They may be appreciating the art, but none of them can completely ignore the "body parts" (as it has been put). Your brain won't let you do that, and you're lying if you claim you do.

    Posted by D October 23, 09 03:18 PM
  1. D,

    I know several children including my son and ALL six of his neices and nephews between 16 and 28 who are either virgins or waited until marriage. I also do volunteer work with several teens who plan on remaining virgins until marriage.

    You act as if kids can't show self control by saying
    Frankly, your child will be sneaking out at night to have sex, while you're drifting off to sleep

    Sex for us humans is more then biology.

    Peace and Blessings

    Posted by Henway October 23, 09 04:46 PM
  1. I hope I'm not one of phe's "self righteous Europeans" (post 7), but since I have commented on the Hilary Swank article, I guess I must be!
    All I have tried to point out is that nudity does not equal sex as many of your respondents here have rightly said. There IS such a thing as non-sexual nudity. Why? Sexual attraction happens in the mind and we are intelligent enough to not become aroused if we know sex is not available. This does not mean we do not find the naked body attractive; it would be a sad world if we didn't, we also a beautiful landscape attractive, but we cannot have sex with it!
    Equating nudity and violence? As has been said here already, context makes a big difference, but violence is all about hurting people, but simple non-sexual nudity never harmed anyone.
    I have always had a problem with gratuitous violence and gratuitous nudity is not much better - the fact of it being gratuitous implies sexual motives. The problem is that too many people fail to distinguish between this and simple family nudity such as that described by Dave in post 19. It should be possible for the film industry to portray that kind of non-sexual nudity as a part of family life, but can you imagine the reactions of the censors and some sectors of society if here were to do so?

    Posted by Brian Taylor - British Naturism October 23, 09 07:02 PM
  1. I'll try only once more with my question of 23 October 2009.

    With our record now of having almost all families falling apart, are we at the point where even notice that something seems awry? Maybe. Maybe not.

    My children are grown now. The words have all been spoken and now it's difficult to change the past. If we could change the past, then would we, should we?

    I let them see violence, no sex. That's the story of their childhoods. Did I (and many people like you, too) break their world while we slept? Of course, we didn't mean to; but did we?

    Just what happened in the lives of peoples whose lives are mostly falling apart today? Is it OUR fault as parents?

    Posted by raymond October 24, 09 11:15 AM
  1. I would have to say I approve of nudity over violence with one condition. The nudity needs to be both male and female. It shouldn't only be one sex if there is going to be a healthy approach to it.

    Posted by D May October 25, 09 01:49 AM
  1. This has long been my concern. The level of violence has has gone from the roadrunner cartoons, westerns and cop shows that talked about murder or had quick draw action in them to the current trend where we are exposed to blood and gore, mass murder etc and this is the prime time fare. But oh what a tempest in a tea pot we make of a singing stars breast being exposed during a superbowl show. And talk about violence, 22 guys pounding on each other and 65K fans at the game and millions at home screaming for our team to kill the other team.
    hope you get the drift bring on the naked bodies and leave the violence to the news.

    Posted by Greg E October 26, 09 05:50 PM
  1. Though I don't have kids of my own, if I did, I'd rather they see nudity in non-sexual settings than any kind of violence (with the exceptions of the cartoons geared for kids...like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, etc.). As a nudist, you can guess why I'd prefer nudity over violence.

    Posted by David - a nudist May 6, 10 05:55 PM
  1. I'm sorry that I don't quite have the vocab as most of you people. That statement was not meant sarcastically. It’s just a warning, lol.
    This is not an overall consensus. This is my opinion based on observation but I have had friends who agree. I know I know. It doesn’t mean it’s the Holy Grail.
    My problem is that nudity in most cases in movies or T.V. does not fit or move the plot. So the nudity looks out of place and offensive. In most cases the violence is the story. not the sex. Sex is mostly exploitive. Here the villain is descends at a fast pace on our heroes and the characters must run away because their lives or the lives or others is desperately in their hands. oh oh. the bad guy probably knows the script. So time out for the nude shot. What? It has no plot expounding purpose. Nor does it flesh out the characters. No pun intended. It's like having a commercial interruption. Then it's "Was it good for you? Where were we? Oh, we were running away in fear of our lives and world domination." Where if it was happening in real life we'd be killed in our beds. I think nudity is beautiful like most of you but also good violence pushes a story quite a bit. I'm of coarse talking all violence natural or otherwise. I loved Titanic and Volcano in which nature was the villain. Where would Goldilocks be without the big bad wolf and dead grandma in the closet.
    Next, why show nudity by people who have less beautiful bodies than most of the audience watching. Most of these actors are hard pressed in keeping relationships together in real life so in essence they are bad examples for sexual encounters. I don’t mind nudity really but just show me the story please. Not the nudity or sex unless it fits the plot.
    Examples: In Desperado the bad guys used Guitar Guys romantic interlude to take advantage. In Basic Instinct the bedroom was where the violence was taking place and the main plot of the story. In Hitman it was shown to show how the heroin was humiliated by our villain. Hating the villain in a story drives the story.
    If the nudity is the plot. Go for it. Otherwise leave it out. Leaving it out does help the pace of the movie.

    Posted by Rickerd July 12, 10 12:32 AM
  1. It almost seems like a government population control. Violence leads to death, sex leads to pregnancy.

    Posted by Mike September 10, 10 11:12 AM
  1. Violence is much worse than nudity, in my opinion. It is extremely stupid that if a female nipple is shown, even in a non-sexual way, than it brings a movie up to an R-rating. Your kids hopefully used to suck on those things every day when they were a baby, and as you said, male nipples can be in a PG movie. Even seeing genitals can't possibly do anything to your kids brains worse than extremely brutal and graphic violence, and making it look cool. The rating system really has to change.

    Posted by Liam October 29, 11 02:35 AM
  1. Your child drinks milk from breasts and sees him/herself nude in
    The bath / mirror at least every other day I do not see
    The problem that the world has with none sexual nudity
    However in movies and such where someone is being taken advantage of sexually or two people are " getting busy "
    I would not let my kids witness that until they hit their teen
    Years and I have no control or I give them " the talk " personally


    I can understand why people rate nudity higher than violence
    In the ratings and that is because when you see nudity in a movie, it's
    Real and not all parents are okay with that violence is cgi and makeup
    and they expect people to realize that

    Posted by Commonsense medie November 28, 11 11:04 AM
  1. The ratings are in place for a reason. I don't understand the problem with following them.
    Why do kids under teen years need to see Aliens or Halloween exactly?
    How does it help nourish their lives?
    Why do kids under teen years need to see the naked blue man in Wathcmen exactly? What would Jude or Porkys do to nourish the child's life?
    To me its that simple. Follow the ratings and Restrict when advised.

    That being said, we have sure done a 360 since I was a kid. I still remember the bath scene in Clash of the Titans being Ok but not the scarred heads in Planet of the Apes.... times have changed. Now some folks will take their children to see Hannibal... 0O

    Posted by Rich March 5, 12 08:22 AM
  1. This is a bit old but I feel compelled to reply just the same. Firstly, the only reason nudity is gratuitous on most shows is because sex sells. Same with violence. Now, gratuitous aside, I would rather my child see nudity all day long than violence. homicide and other violent crimes are too prominent in the U.S. and I think the acceptance of it on television is a big reason. As for the sexual crimes, the majority of nudity on TV tends to be of a sexual nature which does nothing more than to help associate nudity with sex. Having said that, I firmly believe that if we didn't teach our children that nudity was taboo and raised them more freely around it, along with actually talking openly about sex and nudity with them, there wouldn't be as many sexual related crimes. Or teen pregnancies for that matter.

    What could a child gain from nudity? Body acceptance, better self esteem, Something most anorexics and bulimics don't have. And I could easily go on and on. The fact that more people are afraid of a naked body versus a gun is absolutely insane!

    Posted by James March 19, 13 03:09 AM
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