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Burton, in his _Anatomy of Melancholy_ (Part III, Sect II, Mem.
II, Subs. IV), referring to the recommendations of Plato, adds:
"But _Eusebius_ and _Theodoret_ worthily lash him for it; and
well they might: for as one saith, the very sight of naked
parts, _causeth enormous, exceeding concupiscences, and stirs up
both men and women to burning lust_." Yet, as Burton himself adds
further on in the same section of his work (Mem. V, Subs. III),
without protest, "some are of opinion, that to see a woman naked,
is able of itself to alter his affection; and it is worthy of
consideration, saith _Montaigne_, the Frenchman, in his Essays,
that the skilfullest masters of amorous dalliance appoint for a
remedy of venereous passions, a full survey of the body."
There ought to be no question regarding the fact that it is the
adorned, the partially concealed body, and not the absolutely
naked body, which acts as a sexual excitant. I have brought
together some evidence on this point in the study of "The
Evolution of Modesty." "In Madagascar, West Africa, and the
Cape," says G.F. Scott Elliot (_A Naturalist in Mid-Africa_, p.
36), "I have always found the same rule. Chastity varies
inversely as the amount of clothing." It is now indeed generally
held that one of the chief primary objects of ornament and
clothing was the stimulation of sexual desire, and artists'
models are well aware that when they are completely unclothed,
they are most safe from undesired masculine advances. "A favorite
model of mine told me," remarks Dr. Shufeldt (_Medical Brief_,
Oct., 1904), the distinguished author of _Studies of the Human
Form_, "that it was her practice to disrobe as soon after
entering the artist's studio as possible, for, as men are not
always responsible for their emotions, she felt that she was far
less likely to arouse or excite them when entirely nude than when
only semi-draped." This fact is, indeed, quite familiar to
artists' models. If the conquest of sexual desire were the first
and last consideration of life it would be more reasonable to
prohibit clothing than to prohibit nakedness.
When Christianity absorbed the whole of the European world this strict
avoidance of even the sight of "the flesh," although nominally accepted by
all as the desirable ideal, could only be carried out, thoroughly and
completely, in the cloister. In the practice of the world outside,
although the original Christian ideals remained influential, various pagan
and primitive traditions in favor of nakedness still persisted, and were,
to some extent, allowed to manifest themselves, alike in ordinary custom
and on special occasions.
How widespread is the occasional or habitual practice of
nakedness in the world generally, and how entirely concordant it
is with even a most sensitive modesty, has been set forth in "The
Evolution of Modesty," in vol. i of these _Studies_.
Even during the Christian era the impulse to adopt nudity, often
with the feeling that it was an especially sacred practice, has
persisted. The Adamites of the second century, who read and
prayed naked, and celebrated the sacrament naked, according to
the statement quoted by St. Augustine, seem to have caused little
scandal so long as they only practiced nudity in their sacred
ceremonies. The German Brethren of the Free Spirit, in the
thirteenth century, combined so much chastity with promiscuous
nakedness that orthodox Catholics believed they were assisted by
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