Female nudity and preteen boys

Oh yay. A documentary about early Native American history showed a quick image of young women with their babies and toddlers… and no one was wearing any clothes. 

I wish I could’ve recorded the look on Jeremy’s and Jackson’s exasperated faces in complete panic as they spun around and shielded their eyes, as if I’d just shown them the bloody entrails of a mutilated human body. They saw one full second of bare breasts and completely flipped out.


Now, I know this won’t necessarily be their reaction in a few years, but that was their reaction this morning – complete mortification followed by “Oh gross!” and “Mom! There’s stuff in this documentary!” Dang it, Ken Burns. I thought we were safe!

I just laughed and laughed. Then I reminded them, “They were probably just feeding their babies. That’s what those are for, remember?” (Adopted kiddos aren’t up to speed on breastfeeding.)

They just shook their heads and scarcely looked back at the screen. All was lost by then, so I turned off the documentary and minimized my giggling.

In all seriousness, I know the image of those young, half-naked Native American women is now cemented in the hard drive of their little boy brains and it is one of those things that can’t be unseen. This whole scenario jolted me into the reality that their perceptions of women are on the verge of shifting and I must be at the ready to explain the things they see and hear.

Updated: August 1, 2016

Over the weekend we let the boys watch Avatar. I watched it with them because it was recorded on FX in the evening and there were a million commercials to fast forward through. I also wanted to re-watch it (as they watched it with fresh eyes) to remind myself of what was in it. First, I forgot how preachy that movie is. War, environmentalism… It flew over the boys’ heads but it was irritating to me.


Second, I forgot about all the Neytiri side boob. Whenever Zoe Saldana’s character turned to the side, there it was. There’s also that one scene when Jake Sulley and Neytiri “mate.” (I fast forwarded through it…)

The whole time I was keenly aware that the Na’vi were naked. It was fine, since it was hardly any different from the Native American documentary we’d started to watch back in March 2015, when I originally wrote this post.

But here we are, on the cusp of Jeremy turning 13, and the lure of nudity is about to be as strong as ever. And there was Neytiri’s side boob, and it gave me pause. From here on out, what we watch as a family and what they watch without us around has more consequence than ever. 

This isn’t an argument to shield their eyes from the world or keep them from having any exposure at all. Rather, this is a noted awareness that WHAT IS SEEN CANNOT BE UNSEEN. This is why we keep certain safeguards in place, like no screens in bedrooms, the family computer is in the living room, and no endless trolling around YouTube. And there are passwords on everything. 

There is nothing innately wrong with nudity. In fact, nudity can be beautiful. But the culture of our world does not present our human form with the goal of making us respect it. Instead, culture feeds the taboo and tells us, “This is dirty,” and “Don’t you want to look again?” at the exact same time. 

Today, Jackson still thinks nudity is gross. If he were to see the same Native American documentary from last year, he would still flinch and close his eyes.

But Jeremy? I’m not so sure. He’s curious now. He’s looking at the world through older eyes and I’m watching the wheels in his head turn as he tries to figure it all out.

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