Full Frontal (Well, Semi)

Watching a show on Discovery about nurture / nature, and at one point the camera ends up, as it tends to do in so many documentaries, in sub-Saharan Africa. Observing a tribe of villagers going about their dailies, we see several women without tops, breasts swinging freely … during prime time … and not on Pay-Per-View. What circumstances make full-frontal prime-time female nudity kosher? Can you imagine suddenly seeing the breasts of any American female sitcom character? Front page news. If a culture is sufficiently removed from the mainstream, we treat them with different rules. You can’t explain this by saying that tribal women don’t mind being seen without garments – there are plenty of Western women who feel the same, but that fact doesn’t lift the taboo.

Music: Musci – Venosta :: Malangaan

14 Replies to “Full Frontal (Well, Semi)”

  1. I was watching a similar show the other day and wondering the exact same thing. The only rational I could come up with was that we still uncounciously feel that tribal people’s are uncivilized beasts. Its ok to look at naked animals, whereas it is not ok to look at naked people.

    Its racist and a double standard.

  2. I have in the past thought the same thing that mrgrape wrote about as the reason for this weirdness in media. However, there’s another difference here, between what you saw and seeing the breasts of a sitcom star. The Discovery channel, and other channels like it, seem to be able to get outside of the prime-time network rules when the (assumed) intent is to educate. Have you ever watched one of their documentaries on sex? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some white, european breasts on those.

  3. Last season, there was an episode of CSI (a prime time CBS drama) that briefly dislayed an Anglo-Saxon breast. However, the actor was playing a corpse, so I guess that made it ok. Of course, “viewer discretion” was advised!

    However, one cannot blame the double-standard on Discovery channel, or any other “educational cable channel” (there’s an oxymoron for ya!) Hasn’t National Geographic been doing essentially the same thing for years?

  4. FYI — full frontal nudity is considered completely naked — top and bottom seen from the front. So I think you mean topless nudity also known as semi-nudity. Oddly I’ve run across topless nudity being shown on cable and PBS over the years without anything other than a warning that “Viewer Discretion is Advised.” Probably the most memorable example I recall from childhood was the “I Claudius” Masterpiece Theater mini-series (based on the Robert Graves books) that I watched on North Carolina PBS as a young teen in about 1980. There was a good bit of topless nudity (mostly of white folks) in that and it was just broadcast. I think while this is unusual, it’s nothing to make too many generalizations about societal racism about. There’s plenty of other more obvious things to support that.

  5. I say:

    Bring on the nudity and leave out the gratuitous violence!

    I lived and worked in Copenhagen a few years back. I was watching evening TV one night and on came a couple advertising dildos. Holding them, showing them off, talking about the benefits of different models. 7pm on a Thursday! A lot of soft porn was shown around this time as well.

    Later on the *same channel* was The 700 Club!

    Can you imagine this ever happening in the states?

    What is amazing in the US is how much sex is used to sell product and film and TV and yet nakedness is still some huge taboo. “Whatever you do, don’t show that naked body! It will corrupt the youth!!!”

  6. I seem to recall the FCC relaxing restrictions on nudity on TV some years ago. At the time there was a sudden spate of it – Muriel Hemmingway in a topless scene in her show, and one of the cops from Law and Order (the old, bald cop, I think) had a nude shot from behind. The reason you don’t see more of it, I think, is that the networks don’t want to offend people. But, as on Discovery Channel, there is frequently a good reason to show this stuff, and so they do.

    For that matter, it still baffles me why it’s ok to show two guys shooting at each other, but not to show naked bodies. I mean, realistically, which are you more likely to encounter in your lifetime? You’ve already seen at least 50% of the possibilities for naked bodies, assuming you own a mirror.

  7. Is it ever mentioned in those programs that in most of sub-saharan African women are extremely modest in public, particularly when it comes their legs? Bare breast are not the norm, but the relatively rare exception. Watching television, you wouldn’t suspect this. The “nature” documentries do some heavy editing when it comes to contemporary African culture. Sub Saharan ladies, or at least in my east african experience, like go out in style. This can mean western-like clothing, the contemporary a-line print dress with big cap sleeves (very ugandan), great hair, etc… Agreed, some tribal lifestyles continue, and they are valid. They do not represent, however, all or even most, Africans. Why do nature programs go out of their way to locate all of Africa in the stone age?

  8. The other night on the CBC here in Canada there was a movie on that had full frontal nudity of both women and men and all there was, was a short notice at the beginning saying that it contained adult content.

  9. There are several issues to cover. First of all there is very little sex on American television. It’s all teasing. You know, all show & no go. Any real sexuality will be excused by calling it educational rather than entertainment in nature. The real issue with full frontal nudity is the presentation of pubic hair. That’s the real taboo. Also consider that men’s genitals are external and can be readily seen. Women’s genitals are internal (sorry kids the vagina not visible without a speculum). The only parts visible on an adult female are hair and maybe parts of the labia majora. The last issue is how sad it is that in western cultures nudity and sex are thought to be the same. They are not. Nothing equalizes quite like nudity. If you ever have the chance to visit a naturalist resort or to interact with people for whom nudity is just the way it is you will find that wearing clothes might make you self-conscious. We all have the same parts. Hiding them only increases our childish curiosity.

  10. Going Tribal Dangerous Games.Full Frontal male nudity and plenty of it.One scien involved nude man sleeping on back,the camera paned down to his penis and held the shot.IM not a prud but it made me a little uncomfortable.
    So why is dsc above the other channels they can the others cant .Ask the FCC I did …no reply????Disneyland nude men what a wierd combination on discovery you never know.Id rather know Ive filtered discovery.

  11. I think there is a double standard when it comes to full frontal nudity. For men it means showing the penis and testicles. For women it only means showing pubic hair. I have never seen true female frontal nudity on tv, i.e. vulva, labia.

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