NORMAL PEOPLE LOOK LIKE THIS
Written in Dutch for the newspaper De Standaard - Column 'The Opinion' #1
It was Friday’s news. Forgotten by now, but in my head the headline of a New York Times article lingers. The tv show Ultra Strips Down, a Danish educational show for children, lined up five naked people, of different ages, nationalities and body types. “Normal bodies look like this”, the tv-makers said, and that was the headline of the article.
There was a minor commotion about the five adult naked bodies and the children in the studio audience watching them. Sofie Münster, expert in ‘Nordic parenting’, says that today we are overcareful, and that she prefers to be under-careful. That’s how we can teach our children something, she says, by showing them reality. A naked body is not necessarily something sexual. It’s about being free and finding yourself. It’s about accepting that bodies are not perfect, about being happy with who you are.
I’m glad it’s happening somewhere, and sad it’s not happening everywhere. That most naked bodies you can find online only contribute to an unrealistic body image and often have a sexual connotation. And even though so much - and perhaps everything - has been said by now about the nude images of three famous Flemish figures that recently reached the adult, whatsapping Belgian, I can’t help but think of it.
Flanders was shook for a minute. No one argues that it’s horrible for all those involved that these images were shared without consent. It has happened to women before, many times, and seldom with the same legal and large-scale consequences. A ban on the sharing of the images suddenly gains support from the masses. Rightfully so, of course. Hopefully, the same level of outrage and consequence will also be given to such occurrences in the future, when it concerns a non-famous woman.
The reactions on the nature of the images were diverse. The internet was crowded with opinions of people who thought it outrageous, scandalous, pervers, pointing fingers at the men. But almost no one said “so what?”. I was shocked that we considered it to be news that three men sometimes take off their clothes, have a sex drive, pleasure themselves. I was shocked that we were all so shocked about it. And secretly - even though I didn’t see the images - I thought it was beautiful. That there are still people, men with good judgment and media skills even, who would trust a stranger online.
We can call it lust, or a case of being under-careful, or a piece of reality we prefer to deny. That bodies and heads are not perfect. That even in 2020 we still find it hard to look at a naked or sexual image. Especially of a famous person. That we’d prefer to make a big commotion, call it stupid, or naive.
But normal people look like this. Are sexual beings. Do things they might afterwards regret. And from time to time, share - with admirable trust in the other - themselves.