“The naked body is a frightening thing to a child and a parent.”

This is more on the nudes in the art exhibit at the theater.

When the eight-year-old boys at the theater’s day-camp wandered into the lobby and saw the exhibit, they were evidently delighted and fascinated—so much so that later that day they were still talking about these “lots of naked pictures” at the home of one of the boys…where they were overheard by the vigilant mother.

Mother got on the phone with other mothers, and they went to see the theater’s Board of Directors to express their concern about their sons’ “premature exposure to sexuality.”

The Chair of the Board tried to pacify the irate parents by promising that the paintings would be taken down during the day so the boys couldn’t see them, and then put back on display for evening theatergoers (the intended audience).  Without even an allusion to barn doors and horses, the parents pronounced themselves satisfied. Alas, the artist was NOT satisfied, and took her paintings away, hanging “CENSORED” signs in their place. What a hubbub!

My assignment asked the students to decide whether the “compromise” should continue, or whether the artist was right to remove her work, or whether the exhibit should be hung as originally intended whether the parents liked it or not.

Clearly the student who wrote today’s gem was sympathetic with the parents. But there’s nothing in the story to suggest that a naked body frightened the boys: indeed, they were more thrilled than anything else. And if their parents are afraid of naked bodies, it’s hard to understand how the boys got conceived in the first place. It’s also hard to understand why, in such a world, baby-in-the-bathtub photos could have become as popular as they have been—as far as I know, beholders of such photos are more likely to say “Awwwww” than “Eeeeeeee!”

Well, I know my student meant that a child might find an adult’s nakedness frightening (although how frightening a painting would be he doesn’t say), and a parent might be frightened at the idea of his or her child gazing at a nude and thinking…whatever an eight-year-old boy might be thinking. Or perhaps the fear might be that The Talk had to occur before parent and child were ready for it.

Whatever he meant, I don’t think he was envisioning children and their parents fleeing from a naked person the way they might flee from Godzilla, or stand transfixed in horror as she stomped toward them.

He wrote it, though.

Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase 2.
Ooooh, scary.

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““The naked body is a frightening thing to a child and a parent.”

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