If you’ve ever taken a child to an art museum, chances are that they’ll quickly point out that “those people don’t have any clothes on!” Nude art—whether in paintings or statues—has been part of our artistic tradition for thousands of years, but that doesn’t stop kids from getting the giggles.
As a parent, you might hesitate and wonder whether you should be allowing your children to see these images. After all, we’re becoming more and more conscious that pornography does great harm to children and to adults and will go to great lengths to protect our children from exposure to naked images.
However, while both pornography and a lot of art show unclothed people, there are some key distinctions. The primary one is that pornography is designed to arouse people sexually. At least when we’re speaking of classical nude art, its purpose is to show the beauty of the human form—usually with an air of innocence and beauty.
So should your children look at nude art? Should you? Here are a few points to consider:
Do you personally find nude art to be sexually provocative?
Regardless of the artist’s intent, if you find nude forms to be a source of temptation for you, then you may choose to stay away. Especially if you are struggling with using pornography, if this kind of art is a trigger, there are always other galleries in the art museum!
Are you willing to talk to your children about art?
Chances are, your kids will be stifling some laughs when they see pieces of nude art. That’s a pretty normal kid reaction. However, it also can be a great opportunity to let them know that the human body is something designed by God to be beautiful. In fact, artists considered it to be one of the greatest skills to be able to effectively capture the magnificence of the human form. While there are some images and videos that seek to degrade our bodies and sexuality, this art shows the wonder of God’s creation.
Does your child feel comfortable asking you questions about the human body?
When it comes to building a relationship of trust with our kids, these questions can lead to important learning moments. Your younger kids might have questions about the human body itself and the difference in female and male body parts. Older kids may feel a bit uncomfortable, confused about why they feel embarrassed or even attracted to the art. This can actually be a great, safe, opportunity to talk about a little bit about human sexuality or simply to experience together that the naked human body itself is actually good and beautiful, when depicted in the right way.
So will you take your kids to art museums where they’ll see nude art? It will probably depend on your personal circumstances. But if you do, prepare yourself that your kids might have questions. Or they may not pay much attention at all—after all, the human body is one of the most natural things in the world.
Should Kids See Nude Art? Should You? – No is the answer to both questions. That should have been the shortest article ever. There is a reason why Adam and Eve had to cover their nudity, because there was a new found impropriety at being nude, there was a shame in it, and they needed to cover it, and God finally did it for them with skins rather than leaves. All throughout the OT are illustrations about how nakedness is shameful. If you are able to look upon the nude form of a woman without any shame, then there is likely something wrong with your desensitized reaction to a state of undress that God clearly says is dishonorable.
Well, someone would have to “look upon the nude form of a woman without any shame” in order to bear children. unless you think children are the creation of sin. Checkmate, Christian.
@atheist adventurer, through a Christian worldview, there’s no shame in the sexual intimacy that I enjoy with my wife. At least there isn’t supposed to be. My own baggage or misconceptions might cause me to feel shameful, but that is not God’s design. A more intense study of the Hebrew that the Genesis 3 account was written gives us clues that the shame felt by Adam and Eve wasn’t simply due to their nakedness, but that there was maybe a connection between their nakedness and the choice they had just made. That’s an entirely separate explanation, but my point is that naked doesn’t automatically = shame. For example, if were hiking in the woods, and I discovered a partially naked woman who was left for dead by an assailant, my instinct would be to cover her and do whatever I could to save her life. I’ve attached no shame to that kind of nakedness in my heart. On the other hand, if I’m looking out our bedroom window and see my neighbor unclothed and I continue to stare, then I’ve crossed over into territory where I’ve allowed lust and desire to take root in my heart. Again, I have a Christian worldview, which you may not agree with, but I hope those explanation make some sense. It’s almost always an issue of the heart and not the simple outward action. If outward action were all that mattered, then all those people attending church would be awesome Christians, but you and I both know that’s just not true :)
Be well – Chris
By the way, I have also heard of people argue that nudity in movies is OK, because it is art and it is not always used to evoke lust purposefully in the viewer, but to merely depict the love between two characters. HOGWASH. If you take it one step further, it becomes porn, whether it evokes lust in the viewer or not (again, more than likely due to desensitization in our sexualized culture). We are not meant to look upon the nudity of any person – Noah’s sons backed into his tent to cover his nakedness after a night of revelry, and only the son that gazed upon his nakedness was cursed. That was his own father! We certainly are not allowed to gaze upon the nude form of the opposite gender, because of the mere possibility of unrighteousness, which we are told to avoid even the possible image of being sinful/unrighteous in the NT. So what is the excuse for looking at nudity in any form, if we are to avoid the possibility that we might be sinning?
@ JeremiahP: So how do you feel about God commanding his prophet Micah to go nude for three years?
Dr. James McKeever has a very well-written article about this in his book, “It’s in the Bible”; just a few of his thoughts:
“Let me repeat once more: God wants us to be pure and clean, morally and sexually. He does not even want lust in our hearts, much less in our activities. But we cannot jump from that to a condemnation of all nudity. It occurs today in some circumstances and has through the centuries, at times even at God’s command. In no way am I advocating nudity. I am advocating a realistic view of God, the God who commanded one of His prophets to go nude for three years. Does your God condemn all nudity?”
For the record, the story about Noah’s nakedness is, when you get into biblical scholarship and cultural history, a euphemism for incest. Noah’s younger son took advantage of his father’s drunkenness in order to rape his own mother, as a ploy to get more power in the family (because he wasn’t the firstborn heir). That was something that, as vile as it is, wasn’t unheard of during biblical times. People reading/listening to Scripture thousands of years ago would have automatically known what that passage was referring to, but for us the reference is lost without further explanation. Our bodies aren’t evil. Displaying them with the intention of tempting others or due to carelessness (not bothering to pull your pants up if they slide, etc) are the sin.
Greg, to your question, the commands of God to his prophet Isaiah in 20:2, and in other prophets situations (Micah offered it up, was not commanded), and in the situations where others went naked, it was obviously a sign of extreme mourning and vile circumstances. There are many, many illustrations in prophecy that are vile in nature – emissions of large black men being akin to horses, prostitutes in their various mannerisms, etc. These are extreme circumstances and should not be considered the norm, nor license to practice these things as a part of regular culture. Christian women are commanded to dress modestly. Whenever nudity is present in the OT, it is clear that it should be treated as extreme, with embarrassment, and not worthy of holy mannerisms. The prophesies all too often speak of nudity as the state of a whore or prostitute, that they publicly flash their wares to the all too willing Israel – in such circumstances, they are illustrations and live examples of Israel that had “prostituted” themselves to idols and other worldly behaviors. Not examples of acceptable behavior.
Nudity in art was the first step toward public acceptance of pornography, in my opinion. There is no reason for it. I think JeremiahP may have incorrectly addressed nudity’s shamefulness as relates to the Bible. Adam and Eve were nude until they fell. It is the fallen nature of man that makes nudity shameful, not nudity itself. The fallen nature of man is incapable of separating nudity from impurity when there is any lack of innocence.
This is why, when a three year old takes off their clothes and runs through the dinner party, it is funny and not lewd. But as soon as nudity is related to a lack of innocence, e.g. naked paintings of women for men to view, it becomes sinful. The painter has sinned, the model has sinned and the viewers have, at the very least, been placed in the occasion of sin. Granted, not every viewer of nudity sins. Many look away. Particularly, a woman viewing another woman’s naked form may be able to look without even the sin of jealousy. But, the risk for sin is there when it need not be.
Nudity can be necessary. Doctors and nurses often must see their patients naked. I believe God grants special graces in these situations, at least when they are asked for. But “artful” nudity is unnecessary. We are not hedonistic ancient Greeks. We do not believe that man is the ultimate object of art. At least, that is not what I have been taught through my faith. Art, like all things, should be done for the greater glory of God. If something requires any sin, and I would posit even knowingly creates an occasion of sin, it lacks glory for God. It is also something that is simply unnecessary. Why take the risk?
It is not art. It is pornography.
Not everybody agree with your views.
you have to wonder at these kinds of comments, I mean these appear to be the type of people who are holier than the Pope. The human form is made in the image of God. Our bodies are a temple which is why we need to protect them and cover them. But that doesn’t mean nudity in art is a scene. Sure some of the nihilistic extremist art that you see today doesn’t fit that bill because it is trying to draw an extreme reaction. But the art in our museums and at the Vatican is not a sin. I really feel sorry for people who are so ready to judge and can’t even enjoy something as magnificent as classical art. You still have a beam in your own eye.
Well, “Me”, it’s easy to be a keyboard warrior and sacrifice people on the altar of judgementalism. The definition of sin is “missing the mark” (hamartia, in the Greek). We should constantly be questioning ourselves in the faith and moving toward a more holy way of living (and I doubt that the pope is a good example of that). Paul had a lot of advice about this, and if you looked to the scripture references that I gave, it would be more obvious that you are willing to seek the full counsel of scripture, rather than just come up with some sort of arbitrary judgement of your own.
I am not judging anyone here. If someone thinks that they can stare at the nude form of the opposite sex and not be affected by it, then I believe you are fooling yourself. This is not to say that you are in judgement of hellfire, which would be the very definition of judgementalism; nor am I saying that you are lesser in your faith as a result of holding your opinion. But I do think that we can fool ourselves into believing that some that is sin is completely normal. That is why our society is full of people that think that porn is normal and not a sin. Get to the heart and core of why porn is a sin, and you’ll find why it is abnormal and missing the mark for the artist to bring in real live nude models and paint them on canvas for all the world to see. Norms, folkways, and morays change, the word of God and the nature of God does not.
I completely agree. These people are crazy.
I hope that I wrote a little more concisely on the matter in a recent post:
Thanks for sharing this good food for thought.
I feel drenched in covetousness when I look at “The Temptation of Saint Hilarion”
I guess that answers Cailtin’s first question: “Do you personally find the nude art to be sexually provocative?”
Thank you for sharing. Luke Gilkerson, did it ever strike you as a bad idea to recreate, visually, an act of temptation? The artist is talented. We should not glorify art or human talent so much that we throw out morality. The image is pornographic.
Of course it occurred to me. I was merely replying to James’ thought.
This is one of those topics that’s complicated in its simplicity. There are many nudes, especially in the classical canon, that respectfully show the human body. That kind of art is a great counter to the porn culture, which denigrates the human body and thus the human person. But, it’s not all or nothing… Just because an image is purportedly “art,” even when it’s in a major museum, doesn’t mean that
It is just art. Just paint on a canvas. Does the paint sin? No. We sin when we make of the art something it should not be. We as humans can become aroused from all sorts of things we see. The sin is not in the seeing but in the “and” I.E. David saw Bathsheba, “and” . Also, The Catholic Church has little problem with nude art just visit the Vatican. Lastly, I see nude art as a que to me as a parent to speak with my children about a whole host of things. Everything from where is her arms, why did they not cover him up, to the artiest really worked to cut the marble in and polish it really well here. When we admire the work, we begin to see the real beauty of art.
So, if I decide to paint a picture from Penthouse, it’s just art? Just oil on canvas, right?
A few weeks ago, I went to my first oriental bath with some girl friends. They section the wet section off to rooms for just men and just women (and children up to two years old). Why is this significant? Because the baths are enjoyed without clothing. My friends were horrified at first! They had to strip buck naked in front of other women. Every other woman was going to see their hairy moles, their fat rolls, their boobs (or lack thereof), etc. So why are these baths so popular? Freedom to be as God made us. You see, we Americans, are heavily influenced by Puritanical ethics and so little wonder that we have body issues! We live in constant fear that we’re not going to measure up. We go on the latest diets, do the latest exercises, etc but we aren’t comfortable in our own bodies. In a place where everyone is naked with their own sex, no one will proudly judge you because everyone is too busy with their own perceived flaws. Not even porn will give that perspective because it is too busy trying to make humanistic perfection with makeup or camera angles. Someone brought up nursing and I chuckled a little because I did nurse training. I still do observe the occasional catheter because it’s my job to make sure the patient doesnt tug it off. It’s not special graces. It’s coming to the conclusion that no one has unique equipment and it’s a matter of fact procedure. You respect the patient’s privacy where you can, but ultimately it’s for the patient’s sake and not for the nurse. Where am I going with all of this? I guess, like the article said, much of your approach to nude art will depend on your culture. American culture holds breasts to be a sexual fettish rather than a tool for nursing infants. Other cultures think we’re crazy for that. It might help to read stuff on Theology of the body by JPII and subscribe less to Puritan ethos. Also “Love and Responsibility” by Karol Wojtyla is philosophically dense, but a good read on the human person. On a whole, you will gain more from teaching kids a proper understanding of the human body than from shying from the topic.
Eh, I choose to read the bible and allow it to interpret itself, rather than be educated by someone who just decides “this is ok, that other thing isn’t.” I’ve already presented ample evidence from the scriptures that public nudity is not acceptable, and I have yet to see anyone argue from the scriptures otherwise. You merely come up with theological books and cultural norms, euphemisms of what is clearly stated in the scripture. If you want to tickle your itching ears and gather around yourselves false teachings, I’m sure I can come up with even greater teachers that look like real Christians and can preach a great sermon, though I doubt they will quote much actual scripture.
Jeremiah, you cannot compare your interpretation of the Bible and some one else’s, and simply say yours is better by masking you opinion. You say that “I choose to read the bible and allow it to interpret itself,” but you, as the reader, have to interpret it yourself because you are the one processing the text in your brain. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Your “facts” have no basis because they are completely opinionated and biased.
Loling at sexually repressed Ameriburgers that can’t dissociate nudity from sexuality. Jesus I fear the day these people visit a sauna.
In the original Greek transcript of the bible, Jesus was specifically talking about obsessing over someone else’s wife. The English translators missed the point.
yes. All ages should be allowed to see the nude form. The nude form is way more beutiful that the clothed forms. The nude form real of imitation shows what God made. Don’t give the nude person real or fake guilt. That is not a thing that God gives.
I have only just seen this article and the following comments but I would like to comment also. As a Christian, homeschooling Mum I believed I was doing my children a favour by having art books with famous scuptures and paintings of many things, including nude images of men and women. I believed I was exposing my children to culture. I have since discovered that these nude images led two of my sons into a hidden, 2 year pornography addiction among other sinful behaviour. The trauma, guilt and consequences for our entire family after this was all discovered is not really explainable. I have since struggled with this issue. Is it art and part of a well-rounded classical education or is it porn? I know the Bible says nudity between a man and his wife is a good and healthy thing. But I have to conclude that nakedness in any other setting other than a marriage relationship must be considered by God as wrong. So whether your 3 year old runs through a party naked or someone performs for the camera in a Playboy magazine or a great artist uses his talent to produce naked paintings or scuplture, I have to conclude it propbably isn’t God’s design for nakedness. I would appreciate more thoughts on this. And my sons are now free of porn and pursuing their studies for God.
Hey Ruth. I really think the problem is not the nakedness iself, but the way that we think about it. We can sexually objectify another person at any time, regardless of the clothing or lack of clothing that they’re wearing. The problem isn’t in the other person. The problem is in ourselves and how we choose to view that person. Even if our kids never seen classical nude art, they’re probably going to be exposed to porn. And when they are, it would be great if they were prepared with the idea that every person is created in the image of God, precious, valuable–and not an object to be used for our own sexual gratification. Instead of avoiding everything about sexuality and nudity, I think we need to be teaching our kids what it means to respect people in the sexual realm, regardless of how many clothes they are or aren’t wearing. Blessings, Kay
Do you know that all figures in Michelangelo’s masterpiece “The Last Judgement ” were all painted nude ,including Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Soon a later pope ordered all figures clothed and “Il-Braghettone” was chosen for this work. Maybe if he had ordered the clothing of the 2 divine figures it would have been enough.
Later on during St Pope John Paul 11’s time most figures were unclothed again except 17 of them and this in the Sistine Chapel!
Nude art is one thing , pornography is another. Once before mass at Santa Maria Maggiore , Rome I saw a priest hearing confessions in English and went to him. I told him that I enjoyed seeing “bad films and literature”.
He asked me whether these were pornographic and when answering in the negative he told me that it was at most a venial sin , since they were not pornographic.
This is something I have often wondered about .I only know that my husband who I learned after we were married was very immoral enjoyed classical nude art.
I was brought up when my brother and I were not allowed to see each other naked , not even allowed the share the same bath and not even use the toilet when any of us was being washed ; I am saying this during our early childhood. On the other hand some of our cousins used to share the bath even when they were a brother and sister. Nowadays I’m hearing of the whole family sharing the same bathroom.
I do not feel anything wrong with children seeing nude art and here I am not mentioning pornography , I do not condone that. There were even times my parents told us we used to ask why were boys and girls shaped differently!