In defense of pleasure

Nude signI just finished Mark Haskell Smith’s wonderful book Naked At Lunch.

The subtitle is “A reluctant nudist’s adventures in the clothing-optional world.”

In it he examines our cultural values relating to nudity. He addresses our deep seated resistance to experiencing pleasure, much of it expressed as fear and suspicion about the human body. In the book he examines very thoroughly the origins of our fears about nudity, and he analyzes the debates that circle around this subject.

The book is 298 pages long and is, in my opinion, quite intense. It is well researched, and his writing never failed to entertain me. I like the sass and edge he brings to the subject.

I was raised in a family that was suspicious of pleasure and knew very little about it. My dad substituted alcohol in place of genuine fun. I tried to devise my own appreciation of pleasure, but it was a clumsy effort.

So, essentially, if some random dude, like a park ranger, finds your breasts erotic in some way, then it’s your responsibility to cover them.—Mark Smith

Pornography teaches us about our shared views about pleasure. Pleasure is deemed wrong, off-limits, and being wrong is touted as a way to enhance the experience. Porn informs us about our collective culture that is suspicious of pleasure.

I think guilt is a common view of the nature of pleasure. Mr. Smith defines a Puritan as anyone who is fearful that somewhere someone is happy.

Mr. Smith sets a standard for us in regard to examining our fundamental values. If we brought the same degree of intensity, wit, and humor to our exploration of all of our values and judgments I think we would do our society and our individual selves a tremendous service.










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