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Nudity and sexuality is an aspect of how people experience and express their sexuality and how people see the sexuality and sexual attractiveness of others.

Nudity is one facet, and at times a very important facet, in the expression of feelings in intimate relationships in which there is physical or emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy is characterized by romantic or passionate love and attachment, or sexual activity.

Some people have a compulsive desire to express such emotions and have those emotions expressed without clothing. Some people may experience erotic and sexual pleasure in seeing their partner in the nude, or to be seen nude by the partner. Some people also experience similar pleasure from seeing others in the nude, and being seen in the nude by others, not necessarily their immediate partner.

Some cultures equate nudity with sexuality, but that is not always the case. Historically, nudity has been practiced in some cultures without any necessary association with sexuality. Nudity can exist in non-sexual social contexts, as in the case of naturist settings; or in sensual or erotic though non-sexual contexts; or in overt sexualized contexts, as in the case of pornography.

Many cultures that expect some level of modesty associate nudity with sexuality. When physical sexual attributes are shown in the main stream media of these cultures this is often seen as being sexually related. There are cultural difference regarding the acceptability or sexualisation of nudity[1], but the definition of what is lewd has also changed over the years, as has the comparative acceptability of male or female nudity.

Portrayal of nudityEdit

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In classical antiquity, the portrayal of nude male form in art (including the exposure of genitals) was considered to be more acceptable than that of the naked female form. This can be seen in the comparative portrayal of the classical theme of Perseus and Andromeda. In a wall painting of ancient Pompeii, Perseus is nude while Andromeda is fully clothed.

By the renaissance, this view had reversed.[2] For example, in Titian's treatment of Perseus and Andromeda 1500 years later however, it is Andromeda who is nude - save for the barest wisp of fabric - while Perseus is not only clothed but armoured.

In many western countries women's breasts are now commonly exposed and depicted without scandal. Although male nudity is becoming more widely accepted in various contexts, it is arguably the case that female nudity still remains less controversial than male nudity. Paradoxically, partial nudity (including toplessness) of males in public is often looked upon as less shameful in many cultures.

Nudity and sexual arousalEdit

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Nudity in front of a sexual partner is widely accepted, but at times with restrictions — for example, only at the time and place of sex, or with subdued lighting, during bathing with the partner or afterwards, covered by a sheet or blanket, or while sleeping[3].

Full nudity will, by definition, include the exposure of genitals, which can be indicators of a person's state of sexual excitement. In the case of males, an erection is an indicator of sexual excitement. The equivalent process in females (erection of the clitoris)[4] is less evident since the tumescent organ is held internally, although vasodilation of the labia may be apparent in some cases. Also, in human females, the nipples may become turgid and the breasts may swell.


  1. A modest test of cross-cultural differences in sexual modesty, embarrassment and self-disclosure. H W Smith. Journal of Qualitative Sociology. Springer, Netherlands. ISBN 0162-0436
  2. Love, sex & tragedy how the ancient world shapes our lives. Simon Goldhill. Murray, 2004
  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 025333411X
  4. Sexual arousal: similarities and differences between men and women. Alessandra Graziottin. Journal of Men's Health. Volume 1, Issue 2, Pages 215-223 (September 2004)


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