Parents Posing Nude

Posted On: 04.05.10

parents posing nude

Calm down. I have no Playboy plans. I am the girl who sleeps in very sexy flannel PJs and practically wears a cover-up in the pool. Should my rookie novel LIFE AFTER YES be an earth-shattering success and should I suddenly sprout into a come-hither supermodel and should Heff come a-calling, I would giggle profoundly, think about his naughty offer for all of three seconds, and then politely decline. And then I would write a very braggy blog post about all this.

Fine.

So why am I sitting here contemplating this far-fetched hypothetical? Well. Because last night I crawled into bed early (yes, in the aforementioned flannels; pink paisley and super-hot literally and metaphorically) and tuned into a DVRed episode of Real Housewives of New York City. In this particular episode, one of the “real housewives” (ha) Kelly Bensimon takes her young daughters to dinner to tell them her plans to pose in Playboy. Her precocious girls giggle and make fun of their mom and everything is peachy.

And I know this is not just a silly reality show, but perhaps among the silliest of reality shows, but still. Here I am thinking seriously about a few things.

Is it okay for a parent to pose nude, to display sexuality? Now, as we’ve established, I would never in a million years agree to pose nude. This has little, if anything, to do with my status as a mother. This is just not for me. I am pretty modest. A pinch prude. (In public at least. Roar.) But I don’t think that there is necessarily anything wrong with Playboy and with those who choose to share their goodies therein. I do think there is something compelling about celebrating a beautiful body, particularly when that body belongs to someone in her forties as Kelly, the oh-so-real housewife we are discussing here, is. But. When there are two little creatures, two little girls, in the picture, I get more uncomfortable. What are they learning by watching their mother strip down and expose all?

Is it okay for a parent to opt to display her life and the life of her family on television? If we are going there, we must go there. Is there something plain wrong with allowing cameras to film a family in any capacity when members of said family are really too young to proffer meaningful consent? It is one thing for a grown woman to sign on the dotted line and open herself up to drama and sensationalistic editing, but it is another thing – a more problematic thing – when we are talking about impressionable young kids. That said, who are we to judge how people choose to make their living?

Is it okay for a parent to do anything that might arguably work to the detriment of her family? I cannot sign off without taking these questions into the more universal realm of concerns. Once we commit to partners or become parents, do we abdicate the ability to make a whole host of decisions that might affect our partners and progeny in detrimental ways? What about writing memoirs about family? What about blogging about our kids and our families? We all tell ourselves we weave words and pen stories to memorialize the fleeting moments of our days, to carve meaning in the stone of existence, to stay afloat in the sea of modernity, but surely our very blogging might have short-term and longer-term effects on those we love most, right?

So. This started with a little Sunday night mindless television escape, but leave it to me to knit this into a pesky existential conundrum. This is not just about baring all for the glossy pages of a notorious magazine. This is about life. How it should be lived in light of the fact that our very living, what we do and what we don’t, affects so many others.

____________________________

  • Would you pose for Playboy (or Playgirl) if asked? Come on, some of you have to be cooler than yours truly!
  • Do you think there is anything wrong with parents of younger children exposing themselves in the pages of a magazine or on the episodes of a reality series?
  • Do you think the range of appropriate behaviors shrinks once we marry and start families?
  • Are we bloggers (or those of us who blog non-anonymously at least) sacrificing our own privacy and that of our families on a daily basis? Is this medium markedly different than that of reality television because we have control over publication?
  • Do you agree that if we trace the possible consequences of every decision we make and action we take, we can easily become paralyzed?
  • Am I the only one who finds herself in a thicket of deontological debate after watching a fluff-fest of a television show?

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30 Comments for: "Parents Posing Nude"
  1. kat

    “But. When there are two little creatures, two little girls, in the picture, I get more uncomfortable. What are they learning by watching their mother strip down and expose all?”

    Personally I think that mothers of daughters need to keep it real — not censor or change themselves based on what they think their daughters need to see. Because even if you’re trying to protect them, you’re not being 100% yourself.
    So I think that if your motives are pure (not sure about hers) and this is something you (one) really wants to do, maybe the best thing they could do is to do it and show their daughters that it doesn’t have to be a low-self-esteem thing, a desperate-for-attention thing, or a trying-to-be-liked thing. That you can be sexual and still a dignified, got-it-together kind of woman.

    But this is in general since I can’t imagine wanting to pose nude in a magazine either.

    • You captured the jumbled mess of words in my head perfectly, Kat. I completely agree!

      My challenge is to live an authentic life that I am proud of. That is the message I want to give to my (future) children. In approaching my life choices through that paradigm, I hope that I will make the right decisions…whatever they may be.

    • T

      Yep, I second what Kat says. As a single mother of two little girls, my goal is to demonstrate that they can have healthy views of their sexuality. And the human body is a beautiful thing to be respected. Nudity isn’t a bad thing.

      This also comes up quite a bit among single parents. Many people believe single parents should not have sex with their significant other in the same house with their children. Why not? Don’t married people do it all the time?

      Great post!

  2. Oh Aidan! You are making me think on a Monday morning. Not that I would get any phone calls from Heff but I did tell my kids before traveling over to Ithaca to pose nude for an art class. The girls – both in their 20′s – were “whatever.” The boys – 25 to 15 – universally were “gross.”

    I do think that there is a difference as it is hard for children of the opposite sex of the parent to see the sexuality/sexual nature of that parent. Do I think it was wrong for me to do? No. Would I do it again? If it fits into my schedule, without a second thought.

    On the putting your family on TV, I am torn. So many things can go wrong with this scenario. On top of that, the children should have the chance to grow up as normally as could be expected for their actual environment. I do not think that making life a reality show allows that at all.

    I do not think that the arena of acceptable behavior shrinks when we marry or have children. I do think, though, that the thought process for making decisions changes as we are now considering others.

  3. Pose nude? Nope. Could never do it. And I’d like to hope that the parents who do make decisions like these never intend to hurt their children through their actions, even though they do sometimes.(That’s probably just my naivete talking, along with my prudishness.)

  4. Well, I’m sure they’re just beating down my door to try and get me into their mag, but not this year…
    I think there’s a BIG difference sharing adventures in writing, where they no doubt are embellished and altered somewhat, and filming our kids on reality shows. Even if they want to be on the show, they’re not capable of understanding the ramifications. My 15 year old LOVES to read my blog if it even remotely mentions her. She also sees that I change certain details almost every time.And she very often disagrees with my perception.
    I’m sure she’d really love being on a reality show. But that’s not consent. We as parents have to exercise our right to “know better.” And stick to (if we must…) messing up our own lives in public.
    Good thoughtful post for a Monday morning!

  5. I’m not a fan of reality TV shows at all. I see blogging as something totally different. The content of my blog is 100% in my control. Not in the control of a procuder looking for the best ratings. On my blog I take full responsibility just as I do as a parent in the physical world.

    When Heff finally gets around to calling me, I’ll turn him down as well. I’m not opposed to nude photos/drawings/paintings/scuplture. I think the human body is beautiful. I wish I had nude pregnancy photos done. I would share those with my inner circle. But just as reality TV doesn’t appeal to me, the medium of Playboy doesn’t either.

  6. I enjoyed the same fluff fest last evening. And smiled, reading your post title, knowing it was about Kelly Bensimon.

    Honestly? I think it’s a non-event. Chalk it up to my semi-European lifestyle. And if we weren’t so prudish (and hypocritical) in this country (including the snarky remarks of “Jill” on the show), it would be a non-event for the kids, too.

    Gorgeous body? Why not? The nude is an art form.

  7. Phoebems

    Great topic! I am most fascinated by the question you pose asking to what extent one person’s behavior should be guided by a concern for “family image” or whatnot. It’s an age-old quandary, and I think, impossible to completely separate a person from their family. The concern that what a parent/child/sister/brother does with affect their greater sphere of relatives is legitimate. People judge and they can judge rather harshly.

    Still, I think we must have open discourse and that blogs, memoirs, even reality TV (gasp!) all have helped show that everyone is a person with ups and downs, problems of their own, etc…

  8. Wolfie raises an interesting point: our interpretation of this “housewife’s” decision is vastly influenced by our culture. However, just because there are cultural norms at play here doesn’t mean that they can just be stripped away. If we support the decision to pose nude and to expose young children to that decision then we have to understand they myriad ways in which it will affect them (which I would argue isn’t completely possible).

    You can’t say to a child, “Ahh yes, but Americans are all prudes. If we were in Europe this would be a non-event, trust me.” It doesn’t matter what the circumstances would be elsewhere or elsewhen, because these kids are here and now.

    I agree that the nude form can be beautiful and tasteful. But it’s something that requires respect and maturity. And I would contend that young kids (by definition) lack the requisite maturity, and that Playboy has very little to do with showing beautiful women respect.

  9. Personally…not in this lifetime! Call me a prude but I just couldn’t do it! At one time, I probably would have judged others for doing it, but now I know that what is right or wrong for me does not apply to all others. Besides, I don’t think Hugh will be stalking me for some nude pics…that would just be hilarious!

  10. Reminds me of Suzanne Somers -
    I guess you have to be comfortable with what you are doing, I mean, this is being published and if you have family then one day the kids, grand kids, …
    I mean this is like a legacy.
    I wouldn’t want to be perpetually nude, no, that is not for me.
    On a humorous note, I went to the men’s room a bit ago, and now I am wondering – how did I get to work without knowing I had my “drawers” on backwards! haha…
    I have been debating getting in a stall and changing them. Maybe I should go to the gym at lunch today. lol

  11. My husband subscribes to Playboy (for the articles, of COURSE). I must say, I think they do a tasteful job. I don’t consider it overly pornographic, like Hustler or some of the other skin magazines.

    Would I have done it before kids? Maybe. I think I probably wouldn’t have because of my poor father, but I’m not sure.

    Now? Nope. Even if I had the goods.

    Reality TV is even worse than that, I think.

    Sometimes I do wonder about blogging. Whether it’s exploitative to talk about my family. I hope not, but is there a line?

  12. Eva

    Oof-da. This is a deep, mentally trying topic for a Monday morning!
    I hope the difference between reality TV and blogging is that we all hold something back when writing about our families. There must be some things, some private moments, that we do not share on our blogs. Or if we do share, they are summarized accounts rather than play-by-play visual action. There is certainly a difference. I would never put my family on reality TV (although I might consider competing on Amazing Race!).

  13. Julia Masi

    Parents are a child’s first teacher and role model, therefore they have a moral responsibility to think through any and all decisions that call attention to their family. It is never acceptable for a parent to behave in a way that will prove detrimental to their family. Posing nude is a matter of personal choice. But a parent has to realize that such photos could re-surface in the future and embarass the family. Living in the fishbowl of reality television is a difficult choice that may be considered for the economic gains and the effect it will have on the children’s college fund rather than mere fame or exhibitionism.

  14. I think the word prudish is incorrect here. I wouldn’t decline from Playboy out of shyness or modesty. It is one thing to feel comfortable with one’s body and feel comfortable with nudity, but posing for Playboy is ultimately (no matter what else you get out of it) about looking good for men’s (or women’s) eyes. But it isn’t about who (men or women) is looking, it is about the fact that displaying pictures of a body in this manner results in objectification. Of course, this is true whether there is clothing or not, but to a different extent.

    I guess the simple, bottom line of it is if I wouldn’t want my daughters doing something than I shouldn’t be doing it.

  15. Pose nude? No way. I think it would be disrespectful for my children AND my husband.

  16. Hi Aidan,

    I wish more folks would take the time they spend watching reality shows and use it to live their own magical lives. Broadcast voyeurism can be a form of hiding out. If I were a parent contemplating being on such a show, I’d want to get the o.k. from my children. They ought to have a say. Having someone in your face 24/7 could wreak havoc in a family.

    Fame comes with a price, your family may or may not be willing to pay. Group decision!

    Blogging runs the gamut from people exposing the grittiest details of their lives to people offering watered down support. It depends on your purpose for blogging. To make a connection with readers, some self-disclosure needs to happen. Do you have to air all your dirty familial or business laundry to be a good blogger?

    Don’t think so.

    Blogging seems therapeutic for some people. Others get bored with it and move on. I like to use it as a platform for encouraging people to get out of lock-step!

    Much thx, Giulietta

  17. Just let yourself love the reality shows, no matter how awful. If you enjoy watching them and it provides a nice little escape from everyday life, I say hit that play button! (I watch General Hospital).

    To get to your Playboy question, I have never had the best body image and therefore would probably not feel comfortable at any weight. But even if I felt super awesome about a smokin hot bod to be shaped in the future, I think I would still say no. I’m all for people making the choice to do so – if they feel comfortable that’s great. But if they are married and have children, I do feel like it’s stepping outside the boundaries. It’s a thought provoking issue, however, and I can’t say definitely yes or definitely no.

  18. Many years ago in college, a bunch of reasonably intelligent friends schooled me on Playboy being a cut above in terms of artfulness and reputation and were quick to point out that many women would die to be included. And learning that Gloria Steinem was once a Bunny cured my knee-jerk reaction to this obviously gray matter.
    I personally wouldn’t do it but have no problem with women who do. Married with children or not. It remains a personal decision, regardless of who is raising their eyebrows and having a reaction. As for it being detrimental to the children, there are so many ways that we can damage them with what we do, say, don’t do or don’t say. With freedom comes responsibility. If allowed to take over one’s identity, then it could be a problem. If handled well, it could very well be a non-issue.

  19. Charfinn

    Hmm… Nude? Maybe if I had an absolutely stunning body then it’d be fun to do for an artist, but not Playboy. I find paintings so much more alluring than photographs, they seem to reveal more subtle elements without the brazenness of a photograph. It would also help if the artist was male and attractive :)

  20. I have to admit, I saw the title for this post on TKW’s blogroll and I giggled, wondering what kind of pic you would use to illustrate your post! Love the bunny ears, btw. ;) I watch the New York Real Housewives, too, and was disappointed at Kelly’s decision to pose nude from a mother’s perspective. But then I thought: What kind of personality poses nude? The kind that displays their every day life on reality television. And since I think the human body is gorgeous, as long as the pictures are tastefull – where’s the harm? Her daughters are obviously used to the attention. Their mother was/is a model – they’re used to her body being objectified. Their response was normal for them. For me, on the other hand? I was a teacher. Now I’m a mom. Except for my blog (where I am still somewhat private) I’ve never put myself “out there” for the world to see. It would be out of character and too far out of the realm of what is “normal” for our family. It’s all about perspective.

  21. Jessica

    I can see posing nude in Playboy for the right money while I’m still child-less or when my child was really young and it would be forgotten by the time they were in grade school. And after some intense personal training! For what celebrities get paid, it would make a heck of a college fund. I am 99% sure the stars will not align that way though!

    I don’t think it’s fair to these children on reality shows. Kids need to be kids and I don’t think it’s good for their well being to be in the public eye.

  22. i realize that my gender kinda gets in the way of my answer, but me personally? i’d rather have my kids know that i’m posing naked than know i’m watching the vapid and materialistic whores who comprise the various “real houswives” series.

    whoops. sorry about that.

    you bring up memoirs and family blogs…i’ve done / am doing both… so i’ll comment to that… i will not do that which insults my soul. i will not do that which goes against what my greater instincts tell me is right.

    my greater instincts tell me that writing a memoir about my kids/wife/family is A-okay. my greater instincts telling me posing in soft porn pics is not.

    case closed.

    love your style aidan…

  23. I definitely wouldn’t pose nude, unless it was for some sort of famous artist. Even then, though, I’d have reservations. (And as a former bookstore employee, I have to say that Playboy is way more classy than the other mags. Even this feminist didn’t get too up-in-arms while perusing it behind the counter.)

    My issue is more with the way the people on these shows choose to give up their privacy for a little bit of fame. I’d consider posing nude before I’d ever let a camera follow me throughout my daily life. It would surely f**k up your sense of yourself and your place in the world. I don’t watch much reality TV, and I only saw a minute of one of these housewife shows before changing the channel, because it just makes me uncomfortable. (Sure, if I let myself, I could see getting hooked, and that is why I’ve chosen not to go there.) We are all voyeurs, which is probably the main reason we read blogs. But I think I have shame and embarrassment for these women. I wish they had some for themselves.

  24. Oh. My. Bunny ears.

    No way is this OK. Playboy is porn. I’m against porn. I think it’s wrong in every sense, even more than cheerleaders wearing short skirts and cheering on all boys football teams.

    Women being paid vast amounts of money to go nude in magazines is objectifying women. It’s wrong. Just plain wrong.

    How has society morphed into one that accepts this crap? Much less on TV?

    On that note, it’s probably a good thing I don’t watch TV much. I read. I write. I create. I think TV is for the dogs. :)

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  26. I haven’t any problems with porn provided that all the players are consenting adults. Of course we can argue for days about what is porn and what isn’t.

    The question to me is simple, are my actions going to harm my family. The problem is that you can’t always tell. Somethings are impossible to predict.

    So I’ll hedge and say that time and place always affect my decisions. What is good now may not be later and vice versa.

  27. Chiming in as a watcher of Real Housewives in all cities — which could make me guilty of a similar voyeuristic pursuit as any Playboy reader, getting a curious thrill from seeing people’s private biz gone public…

    Disclaimer aside, I think parents posing nude has a lot to do with context. Posing nude could mean a huge spectrum of things — a mom could be an artist’s model, for example. Playboy, however, is largely read by men (and not just for the articles). So Kelly could also be sending her daughters a message about needing male approval, the “right” kind of body that’s considered sexy enough to turn men on, and a lot of adult sexual issues they may not be ready to learn. I think one of her daughters is adorably chubby, too — so what about the whole body image issue?

    On the show, Kelly seems pretty insecure and in need of male approval even when she’s dressed. So whether she’s in Playboy or not, her daughters may not get the most empowering message.

    It would be awesome if mothers could model confidence, ownership, autonomy and self-love around our bodies (not that society has ever encouraged that). But the reality is, women struggle with body image and figuring out the “why” of our sexiness — is it really “for ourselves” that we put so much work into our appearances? Maybe in part. If anything, we need to have honest conversations with our kids about the world they’re inheriting — one that tends to reward women for being “hot” (by bunny standards) and has consequences/labels the farther they diverge from this narrow image. I think it was irresponsible for Kelly to simply announce her debut to her kids, without having a conscious discussion about these underlying issues. Of course, I’m probably expecting waaayyy too much of her. But you asked!

  28. I feel so bad for their kids! Sometimes my hubby and I watch shows where parents are putting way too much out there and say how sad we are for their kids that have to go to school the next day…kids are mean! I doubt they will get past this unscathed…

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