Thursday, 10 January 2008


Naked, taste the word! Its meaning is simple, it means no clothes, no covering, to be bare. Still there is magic in a word. It conjures up ideas, images, excitement, resentment, anger, humiliation, desire, lust, pleasure. It means almost nothing without a context but it can be the magic of a text.

Naked, nude, bare, unclothed, stripped, uncovered, unclad. Words that are similar but mean slightly different things, used in different ways. To be naked is not exactly the same as being nude. The artist model is nude, not naked. A nude is someone in a painting, in a gallery. There is something elevated something acceptable in the word nude. It is nakedness being cultural and grand.

Scholars and art critics and educated and sophisticated people can look at nudes in paintings by great artists and find it aesthetic and an expression of pure and fine emotions worthy of the greatest minds. A nude doesn't conjure up the sensations and thoughts that without doubt lurks at the bottom of the finest minds.

Naked, on the other hand means something less sophisticated. Something more direct. Naked means being without clothes, your body uncovered. That is what it means to be naked. That is simple.

There are so many kinds of nakedness. There is the proud kind. The one you see in glamour models who wear there nudity as clothes of the grandest kind. Their bodies are a source of strength, a target of desire and show the power they have over the poor onlooker. They say, 'look at me, I am worthy of praise, I am beautiful and now I allow you to look at me and my body.'

There is another kind of nudity, when you are devoid of clothes, poor and pathetic and just vulnerable and ugly and helpless. That kind causes pity or even worse. That is the kind of nakedness that makes you ashamed and hurt. The one that shows how weak you are. No one wants that...except for others.

But there is so much more in between. There is a kind of nudity that means you are stripped, bared and seen. You may be ashamed, even humiliated by it. It definitely makes you feel vulnerable and defenceless. It is the kind that makes you feel that your whole person is on display, that the one watching you can

That kind of nudity may also carry the promise of pleasure for what you display may be desirable, what you bare may be touched and loved and you open yourself for scrutiny but also for pleasure. That is a kind of nudity to desire.

Naked is also pure, natural, not concealing anything. It means to enter into something without anything in the way. It is to strip off what is old and touch what is new and beautiful.

But you are also vulnerable and easy to hurt. Baring the skin may mean making you feel a touch more but it is also the humiliating preparation for the whip to bite harder.

I think a simple word like naked, used in a story, in a fantasy can mean some of these things, all of them and most likely a lot more. And that is what makes stories and language and fantasies so amazing and powerful. It means so much, so many different things and all at once and a little at the time and different things for different people.


Paul said...

Janice, the thing is, there are lots of words with many meanings, especially in English.
For me this is the richness of our language, a word has meaning not only determined by context or what ever precedes or follows it, but also our emotional state when reading it.
Naked is a loaded word it can carry a large charge of emotions, there are many such words in English, as there are in most languages.
Warm hugs,

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, I like naked. A lovely word and can have so much emotion and imagery attached to it depending on the situation and characters. I am getting rather keen on punishment when completely naked and starting to incorporate that more in my writing.

Sometimes, (shhh don't tell anyone) I walk around naked at home, it is so sensual to feel the warm air caressing my skin. Only when it's warm though. *blushes*

A lovely and thoughtful post Janice.


Wystan E said...

I love a lover of words.... Hence a rant... A phrase you often use in your stories is the imperative, "Strip!" And strip she does (you do) -- stripped naked. One would not say "Strip nude!" "Bare your breasts" is nice...

Consider similar terms with regard to other body parts: bare breasts & naked breasts; bare feet (or toes) vs. naked feet.

I agree that there is a sort of dignity in nudity that nakedness cannot match: consider the difference between a nude dancer and a naked one; or a naked slave standing next to a nude slave...

Interestingly, in a crime setting (say, CSI) it is more typical to refer to, e.g. finding a "woman's nude body" than a naked one. The dignity of an undignified death?

Janice said...

Dear Paul, how I agree with you. The ambiguity of language is fascinating. Although I don't think this is specially marked in English. I believe most languages work in the same way.

Dear Mina, yes the complete stripping before a punishment is quite exciting, seems to indicate your complete surrender to it or something. Naked is better when the weather is mild but there is something excitingly cruel about nudity in harsher weather too.

Dear Wystan, I agree with you too. There is a difference and that is so fascinating. I think your reflection at the end of your comment is interesting. Maybe it is an attempt to make the dead person less humiliated, as you suggested?



Alan said...

I like the word.

There is so much in it. Nakedness of the soul, of a confession, of a part of the body.

To show something. Knowing it will be seen. To risk vulnerability. Emotionally too.

Iits includes the sensual realm. However far more. Exhibiting layers of the soul. Dark primal passions, something socially not consensual. Lots of ambiguity too.

Decades ago Rudolf Otto wrote about the mysterium tremendum et fascinosum.

Everybody may feel something special listening to this word. Speaking it out.

Its a wonderful word.