Whatever happened to embarrassment which, as I recall, was the sole purpose of adolescence? I was saying as much last night over supper with my friend, Tom. Lying on the kitchen table between us was a copy of Boob, the most aptly-named magazine I have ever skimmed. Sixty-four pages, 128 breasts.
When its owner, Tom's 14-year-old son, Digger, shuffled by I handed back the mag and Digs took it with him. I was shocked. Not that he shells out pound;3 for such nonsense, but that he wasn't embarrassed that I knew he did.
I used to think I was pretty relaxed around nudity. Take me to the Saatchi Gallery and I will prosecute no one. Sexual shame has always struck me as illogical. Its roots, if you believe the Bible, lie in some serpent sniggering at Adam and Eve. Why the first couple didn't point out to the serpent that he was naked too, Genesis doesn't explain, but the porn trade has done pretty well ever since at the expense of human naivety.
Over the generations all manner of special pleading ha gone on so we can indulge our understandable desire to look at pictures of naked people. Women were OK on the walls of papal palaces providing a piece of gauze had inexplicably wafted in and landed on the rude bits. Men were OK too provided they were suffering the pains of Christian martyrdom.
As for naked children no one in Renaissance times had any problem gazing on the private parts of baby Jesus but each generation has to grapple with what it labels unacceptable nudity. The Victorians photographed naked pre-pubescent schoolgirls but covered up piano legs. Because there is no logic behind our prudery, society will always make a fool of itself whenever it starts defining what can and cannot be shown. I was saying this to Tom when Digger ambled in.
"When we were young the last thing you wanted was your parents to know," I spluttered.
"You should see his room," said Tom.
I may be relaxed about nudity but I'm not relaxed about kids who are more relaxed about it than me.