Nudity and Vulnerability

Note: This post contains spoilers for the anime Sword Art Online.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3:7)

Recovering after a traumatic event, a young man — Kirito — and a young woman — Asuna — spend the evening together. After dinner is where things turn awkward. Asuna, thinking that Kirito wants to sleep with her, undresses. Embarrassed, Kirito insists that his motive for being with her tonight is pure — that he really does just want to sleep at her house.

This scene made me think:

Asuna is embarrassed to be the only one in her underwear. Why? She feels vulnerable. Not only is Asuna vulnerable physically — her body is exposed for Kirito to see — she is vulnerable emotionally — she is afraid that Kirito is not seeing her as the human being she is.

That is why Asuna asks Kirito to undress, too: She doesn’t want to be the only one who is vulnerable. I imagine that Asuna’s thinking is: If both of us are vulnerable, one won’t be able to see the other as less than human.

A person who is naked is implicitly saying “See me — all of me — and love me — all of me.” Why? Every person wants to be loved. And when a person is naked, they have removed the physical barrier (clothes) between what others see and think about them: Nothing is left to the imagination. That’s why there is a feeling of vulnerability and shame that comes with being naked: Everything a person physically is, is laid bare for others to see and judge. And at the heart of that judgement, is a question: Will you see me as a human being, or as a means to attain pleasure?

For further reading: Nudity and Shame


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