It looks so simple. Like an exponential graph. A series of pencil line drawings; they always start at the littlest and end with the biggest. Tracking a boy as he becomes a man. A girl as she becomes a woman. The chest that broadens, the hips that widen, the nipples that swell. And the hair, the bloody hair! How it sprouts here, there, and everywhere. And I was at once alarmed that he even knew the word, and touched by the innocence of his misinterpretation. When your children are born everyone tells you how fast they grow up, that you must not wish the precious early stages, their babyhoods, away.
That particular picture has not made it into any of the family albums; it sits in a huge, unsorted stack inside a shoebox-sized tin on a shelf. It's not that either myself or my daughter is sensitive about its content. For a while, the photo used to sit on top of the piano. But there are pictures in the tin I would be less casual about.
What deadly affront would cause a group of conservative booksellers — and a rather attractive golden retriever — to protest by doffing their duds to pose in the buff? Everyone get naked! Many institutions and individuals have roles in gatekeeping what is appropriate — or not — for children to read. These include schools and teachers, religious bodies, publishers themselves, and parents, to name only a few. Where, to whom, and in what contexts should sexual behaviour be expressed? How much should children be told about their bodies and their various capabilities? Exposing children to frank discussions of sexual functioning and the range of adult sexual behaviour remains contentious even in secular communities.
Ruth Barcan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Has anything changed in the decade since I wrote a book about nudity? What bigger issues does the seemingly frivolous topic of nudity point to today? There was a precise moment when I realised this.