While the naked female form has been celebrated in various forms of art throughout the centuries, it’s rarely featured in its entirety in the contemporary film landscape.

Breasts have become so commonplace in films that their presence doesn’t even garner an R-rating. In fact, baring the bosom has coincided with Oscar gold for the likes of Holly Hunter and Halle Barry. The full frontal female form is another story: a bare pubic area can get a film slapped with the unsavory NC-17 rating.

One of the tools directors use to combat this is the merkin, a pubic-area wig that dates back to the 1400s that covers the more explicit area of the vagina. Surprisingly, shaving of the pubic area was common back then too, not for fashion or aesthetic purposes like today, but to combat pubic lice. They were also favored by prostitutes for covering up signs of STIs like syphilis.

These varying degrees of onscreen female nudity are so enticing to some people that there’s a subscription-based website called Mr. Skin, where instances of nudity are located and rated. Name dropped in the Judd Apatow film Knocked Up, the website attracts millions of visitors monthly.

“It’s the greatest job in the world,” said Jim McBride, the company’s chief executive. “As a kid, I used to tape as many movies as I could with nudity and then I’d save the nude scenes on separate tapes. I really amazed my friends with my nudity knowledge growing up.”

I’m going to step into Mr Skin’s shoes and catalogue some of my favorite instances of female nudity on film, scenes that are revered for their brash and commonplace treatment of a controversial subject:

Sharon Stone – Basic Instinct

Quite possibly the most iconic flashing scene of all time, Sharon Stone never breaks eye contact as she brazenly uncrosses her legs and pauses for a moment before recrossing them during a tense interrogation scene with Michael Douglas. Even though the view is partially obscured by shadows, her confidence in revealing her cooch leaves a very distinct impression of a woman in charge of her own sexuality. I adore this timing and tone of scene so much I spoofed it in a play I was in last year called If Looks Can Kill…. They Will.

femalenudity-juliannemooreJulianne Moore – The Big Lebowski

She’s on here partly for the way she channels her primal nude energy into dude-repelling feminist art, but mostly for the way she says “vagina,” tossing it out there with such conviction. I must admit, I’d love to try splattering paint while strapped naked to a harness, flying 30 feet through the air, but I’d change the music to something less childbirth-y. No stranger to skin on the screen, Moore has also shown off her feisty firecrotch in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and her heavy breathing skills during a sexy lesbian tryst with Amanda Seyfried in 2009’s Chloe.

Kate Winslet – The femalenudity-katewinsletReader

Winslet’s steamy sex scenes were enough to catch and capture the attention of the Academy, who had nominated her five times before finally handing her the statue for 2009’s The Reader. She plays Hanna Schmitz, a 36-year old woman who seduces and begins an affair with a 15-year old boy, only to cross paths with him years later when she’s on trial for Nazi war crimes.

Though we’re not treated to a full frontal shot, we get plenty of Winslet’s beautiful breasts and bare buttocks as well as a side flash of her nether regions. Since it’s a period piece from the 1950s, Winslet’s grooming had to match, although she revealed to Allure magazine that she had trouble achieving the unkempt bush: “Because of years of waxing, as all of us girls know, it doesn’t come back quite the way it used to. They even made me a merkin because they were so concerned that I might not be able to grow enough.”

femalenudity-elizabethperkinsElizabeth Berkley – Showgirls

What seedy movie about a stripper’s rise to Vegas showgirl could be complete without a bunch of gratuitous female nudity? Paul Verhoeven’s controversial 1995 film Showgirls was the first NC-17 film to be given wide release in mainstream theaters and distributors even had to hire extra staff to verify the ages of the filmgoers. While the film was ultimately a box office flop, it earned a tidy profit in home video sales from all those teenage boys who were banned from theatrical release. It features a predictable array of lap dances and sultry skinny-dipping by star Elizabeth Berkley, who shows off without anything on, on more than a few occasions.

Ontario resident Brian Coldin has gone up against an Ontario court, claiming that Canada’s current nudity laws should be struck down on account of being overly broad and archaic. The proprietor of a naturist resort, Coldin has been arrested numerous times for public nudity, including five counts that stem from incidents that occurred at Tim Horton’s and A&W drive-thru-s.

Coldin hired a prominent defense lawyer, Clayton Ruby, who argued that not only was he not completely naked (he was wearing sandals), but his nudist behavior was not done in a “prurient or indecent manner”.

The decision will be handed down by a court this May.

Be it resolved that Canada’s laws prohibiting public nudity are an infringement of constitutional rights.


Under the current laws, a throw-back to the stuffy Victorian morality code, indecent acts done with intent to insult or offend in a public place are prohibited. Yet few activities match the thrill of being naked in public, especially around people who are as accepting of it as you are.

I’m going to bare it all here I love being naked. I was raised in what can be said to be a “naked house”.   This is not to say that we ran around in our birthday suits every day because that could get a wee bit awkward, but that it was a climate where nudity was not something to be ashamed of. I guess you can blame my mother for my desire to strip down and bare it all in the name of burlesque!

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with nudity. As psychologist Brian Ferris told the National Post, nudity causes conflicted feelings between wanting to accept it on one level and wanting to condemn it on another. I guess some of us just have more of the acceptance and less of the condemnation.

Ferris also points out that children don’t feel the least bit self-conscious at a nude beach, since they lack the connection between nudity and sex. Take a moment to indulge your inner child and strip it all off. If you’re reading this at home, I encourage you to turn this article into an interactive experience by peeling away your clothes. Even if it’s just around your apartment, embrace your naked self!

Nudity is art! It can also be used for protest, as evidenced by a recent group of Ukrainian feminists advocating democracy, I think… I was too busy checking out their boobs. Nudity is self-expression! Nudity is freedom from the bondage of clothing!!


A society where everyone ran around naked all the time is tantamount to anarchy. Nothing would get done!

Next time you’re on the metro, here’s one of my favorite games to pass the time how many people on this car would you fuck? I’ve been mentally undressing attractive strangers for years, and my odds are usually around one or two per car. Now imagine all the rest of the rejects, naked as the day they were born. This is precisely why we could need some sort of committee to decide who could benefit from the laws most.

And I would like to be on that committee, as the jewels in the haystacks would more than make up for all the flabby stomachs, hairy chests and sagging testicles.

Post script:

At the end of the day, nudity is about acceptance. To be comfortable with nudity, you have to be comfortable with yourself. It’s a little like putting your words out there to be read, judged, chewed up and spit out… it’s definitely not always easy but often you learn a little something about yourself and others’ perceptions of you along the way.

In order for Canada’s nudity laws to have any type of meaningful change, there would also need to be a change in people’s attitudes to remove the stigma of nudity, and the societal pressures to look a certain way.   While skin in and of itself may be sexy, it isn’t nearly as sexy as someone who is wholly comfortable in that stripped down skin, no matter how they look!

Photo courtesy of www.essential-architecture.com/tunick/tunick.htm