Revealing Intimacy

I once saw a protest in which a group of women were expressing their need to free themselves of the oppressive nature of clothing. I may have gotten that premise wrong and, in fact, I don’t really know what they were protesting, but something that one of the young ladies said really stood out to me. When one of them was asked why they were doing their protest topless, one of them responded, “It’s just body parts. It’s nothing to get worked up about.”

Hearing someone say that about her own body was astonishing to me because I had heard something like it used before but not to promote a kind of sexual “liberation.” I had seen similar “explanations” used in genocidal propaganda in a history museum in Austria from the lead up to the holocaust. That exact kind of thinking can be used to strip a human being of their dignity and inherent rights by reducing them to a collection of parts. If all we are is merely the sum of our parts, then why should we be treated any differently than any other collection of parts . . . like a computer, or a car, or a sofa bed?

In reality, what she was describing wasn’t “just” a body—it was herself. She is a body and that body is a precious gift to the world; filled with purpose, meaning, potential, and the capacity for impact upon others. That’s the first thing that stands out about that kind of thinking. It’s a very narrow and simplistic view of the human person and if applied universally, it begins to reveal some terrible implications.

But it does raise an important question: If our bodies are so precious and wonderful, as Christianity affirms, why do we cover them up? Why don’t we share them with the whole world, all the time? To me, this is a question of intimacy and not just physical intimacy.

I’m talking about the kinds of profound relationships we have with only a select few people in our lives, whether they be family members, close friends, or significant others. One of the things that makes these relationships so special is that we only share certain things within them because of the unique level of closeness they offer. We can tell them about our fears, our dreams, or our secrets and be confident that they will honour the trust we’ve placed in them. But, if we went around sharing those aspects of ourselves with everyone we knew and even strangers, we would be diminishing our very special relationships because it could no longer be said that they were uniquely intimate. If you have nothing uniquely personal to share with those special relationships, because you shared those parts of yourself with everyone else, then what about those relationships can be said to be special or intimate?

You could draw some principles here from the law of supply and demand. If there’s an abundance of supply, often the value of a commodity drops. For example, gold is valuable because it’s rare, but if someone discovered a way to synthesize it and started mass producing it, its value would drop significantly. I think this can be applied to intimacy.

When we seek out physical intimacy, we should show an appreciation for the nature of intimacy as a rare commodity that should only be given in truly committed and authentically intimate relationships. If we’re giving that intimacy away through trivial physical encounters or by wearing revealing clothing, then we’re not gaining more intimacy. Rather, we’re losing the ability to have a unique and exclusively intimate relationship with someone.

Aspects of your body and your personal life are precious for the very same reason that intimate relationships are precious. If you try to have too many forms of intimacy you risk reducing its value as well as your capacity to have future intimate relationships. The more selective you are with your ability to offer intimacy, the more intimacy you will experience.
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brianBrian is passionate about the Church’s ability to communicate effectively in the modern world. From his role as the Creative Director of Holds Worth Design, a Graphic Design and Web Design studio in Edmonton, Canada, he promotes the use of strategic communication and effective branding and packaging of timeless truths through modern means. Learn more about his work on Facebook and Twitter.

21 Comments

  1. I’ve been wondering lately:

    I’m wondering:

    What is the problem with nudism? People who are nudists don’t seem to care that they are naked. They live their lives like everyone else, they just don’t where clothes.

    Then there are people who just love being naked. They see clothes as a prison. They’re naked in their homes all the time, whether they’re alone or in front of their family. Sometimes entire families are naked. Are they sinning?

    By Tim | 1 year ago Reply
    • I don’t think its right because it effects others. just because one person can walk around naked feeling fine… it makes others uncomfortable, and makes lust even easier. this falls back into chastity imo

      By Kurt | 1 year ago Reply
      • I suppose I’m wondering then:

        What about the people who aren’t uncomfortable with nudity.

        I wouldn’t want to see some naked guy walking down the street. But what about families who are naked inside their own homes?

        Or people who go to nude beaches? People there are just fine with nudity — they don’t seem to be struggling with lust.

        How does one deal with something like that?

        By Tim | 1 year ago Reply
          • Brian,

            Thank you for this.

            By Tim | 1 year ago
          • Brian,

            I read what you sent me, but I don’t see how it pertains to nudists.

            Nudists, it seems, see no problem with being naked at all and live their lives just like anyone else.

            And again, what about nudist families? Husbands are attracted to their wives, and I don’t see how not wearing clothing would change that if the husband was self-disciplined and didn’t see his wife as an object to be used for his pleasure.

            By Tim | 1 year ago
          • It applies in the sense that the degree with which we cover ourselves up is based, in part, on societal convention, or what Lewis calls rules of propriety or decency. For example, some tribal societies in warm climates wear next to nothing and this isn’t a sin against chastity at all. I don’t know much about nudist colonies, but they could possibly fit into that category, but in the context of Western society, it raises a lot more difficult questions that are beyond my understanding. That said, I do struggle to sympathize with someone who thinks clothes are a prison. That seems over dramatic. If someone actually believed something that severe about clothing, to me, there are bigger issues than questions about modesty can address.

            By Brian Holdsworth | 1 year ago
          • Brian,

            Thank you for talking with me about this.

            Yea, the question of nudism is out of my hands, too. I’ll just leave it up to God.

            Have a good day.

            By Tim | 1 year ago
      • It’s all about self respect. Clothes not only keep in what is supposed to be kept in. But also let’s out what’s supposed to be let out. Clothes are also a way of self expression. An expression of your own unique personality and personhood. There’s a tendency to look at a naked person merely as piece of walking meat rather than a human individual. Or a naked person goes naked because they want to flaunt or show their bodies as what makes them who they are. Lots of reasons. But if one wears clothes. And wears them properly. It tends to show more of what makes a person inside, or it shows more beauty and meaning to the human person rather than being naked.

        By eli | 1 year ago Reply
  2. What a great post! I’m 18 and I am not always sure what to say to other girls when they ask me why I like to dress modestly. While I personally understand why I do, I have a hard time putting it into words. Thank you for explaining this, and its great to know people appreciate modesty, and now I can explain that to others. Thanks!

    By Lizzie | 1 year ago Reply
  3. Ok. Let’s say that yes, what you say is true, we should keep some parts of our body private (that’s what I assume you are saying, keep them private and only shared with people who really matter). But, how do we decide what parts are worth that intimacy? Any part of your body could be sexual, or not. It isn’t about what part of your body is showing, it’s about how you treat that body part. Read Memoirs of a Geisha- the most intimate, sensual, and suggestive body parts were their wrists and the back of their necks. Does that mean that we should all wear turtlenecks and gloves? What makes one piece of skin more or less intimate than another?
    The answer is, as you say, a supply and demand issue. An issue of exposure. A body part that is exposed for long enough, stops being considered sexualized. It becomes normalized in our culture. So, my question to you is, if it *should be* that some parts of our body are kept private, who should be the one to decide that? Who gets to decide what parts of people are sexualized or normalized?
    And, if it is the case that things like breasts *should be* covered up, because it’s a way of saving intimacy, why aren’t men being asked to adhere to the same practices? Why don’t men have to keep their nipples covered and save that intimacy for their significant others? Because I think that has a lot to do with this discussion: men are allowed to walk around in nothing but shorts, sometimes a speedo, and the expectation is that that’s still ok because his private parts are still covered. But women are expected to cover up three areas on her body- two breasts and her sexual organs (and even then, she is still objectified). So why does she need to cover her breasts?
    Clearly covering up her breasts does not help keep her from being sexualized or objectified. I ask you, honestly, how do you suggest a woman protect herself from not being objectified other than normalizing her body within culture to be first and foremost a body, a carrier of her as a person, not a sexual object.
    If you want to preserve intimacy, start teaching people- both men and women- to save sex, not body parts, for intimate moments.

    By Molly | 1 year ago Reply
    • Well, the reason that men and women have to cover up differently, to put plainly, is that men and women are different!

      People in our culture often make the mistake of equating equality with sameness, which is a fallacy. Although men and women are created equal, they are fundamentally different, down to a chromosomal level, they are different. And that’s awesome!

      The reason women need to cover up more than men is that women is shrouded in beauty and in mystery.

      When women cover up, they preserve that mystery who’s revaluation is preserved only for her some-day, or current husband.

      It’s similar to how a woman’s belly button is seen as erotic, but a mans isn’t. This again highlights the difference between men and women. A woman’s belly button is ventured right above the womb, the very tabernacle of life. For this reason, to respect their dignity and preserve their mystery, women who wish to dress modestly don’t bare their midriff.

      Christopher West does a great job of explaining the need for modesty, and he refers too it as (referring to Adam and Eve) “The need for Fig leaves in a fallen world”

      Yes, it’s true, we SHOULD be able to look at a naked woman and only feel a call to love and not to lust, however, we live in a fallen world, and we can’t pretend that we don’t. Clothes help preserve our dignity, so we continue to wear them.

      I hope this helped!

      By Dommy | 1 year ago Reply
  4. Not every religious discussion should be reduced to what is or is not a sin. The fact is you want to cover something as personal and intimate as your body. The fact that they feel more comfortable without clothes has nothing to do with the discussion. If i feel more comfortable being mean to those around me that surely would not make it ok. I can see school uniforms as prisons and furthermore one where everyone looks the same but they are worn for a reason and I can’t simply decide to show up naked at school can I? Technically I can but what I mean is it would not be right to do so for the reason of feeling imprisoned. The same goes in this case.

    By Kimberly | 1 year ago Reply
    • So, are you saying that clothes are or aren’t a prison, and that if a person decides to wear them or got naked it is their choice?

      Thank you.

      By Tim | 1 year ago Reply
  5. This is the best article I’ve read about this! I’ve always been an advocate for modesty, but never really knew how to respond when people say its their right to be able to display their body or that nude bodies shouldn’t make people uncomfortable. I think the author explained it perfectly though. I love the analogy between secrets in a close relationship and that. This was wonderful!

    By Paige | 1 year ago Reply
  6. This is nice, especially coming from a guy. Often times guys want their girlfriends to dress revealing, even worse the same guy after choosing the girl himself, can come and say years into the relationship that actually he does not like her body. How sad to have guys so superficial and girls valuing themselves so little that even after so much hurt, they stay in the relationship. Well a relationship that is destined to end anyways. I am so glad there is so much information nowadays on the internet, that teach girls when it is time to leave a relationship. Guys can rob a decade from a girl’s life and they find themselves alone at an age when all their girlfriends are married with children.

    By Tunde | 1 year ago Reply
  7. Wearing revealing clothing or no clothing invites the wrong attention. We need to be responsible for the young girls and teach them how to be respected and taken seriously. All this talk about nudity is nonsense. Gets girls in trouble.

    By Tunde | 1 year ago Reply
  8. Nice article!

    It made me think of the connection of body and spirit (or mind in the modern wold!). Church is sometimes attacked as dissociating body and spirit, but if we thing of many things including modesty, it’s ecxactly the opposite.
    The same way we don’t reveal our inner, more intimate thoughts, we don’t reveal certain, more intimate, body parts. The most revealing thoughts are kept to the best friend as so should be our body. Body and Spirit in communion is what we are.
    As the body is the most fragile, we should not expose it first. So, share the spirit first and then the body.

    Thanks and God bless!

    By Claudio | 1 year ago Reply
    • Nice text, I mean!

      By Claudio | 1 year ago Reply
  9. “I’m talking about the kinds of profound relationships we have with only a select few people in our lives, whether they be family members, close friends, or significant others. One of the things that makes these relationships so special is that we only share certain things within them because of the unique level of closeness they offer. We can tell them about our fears, our dreams, or our secrets and be confident that they will honour the trust we’ve placed in them. But, if we went around sharing those aspects of ourselves with everyone we knew and even strangers, we would be diminishing our very special relationships because it could no longer be said that they were uniquely intimate. If you have nothing uniquely personal to share with those special relationships, because you shared those parts of yourself with everyone else, then what about those relationships can be said to be special or intimate?”

    PERFECT! 🙂 I love the way you explained this. I will be using this analogy to explain modesty/chastity from now on!

    By Michelle | 1 year ago Reply
  10. Great article to read!

    By Janique | 1 year ago Reply

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