Sin Shame and Inferiority Shame

If you feel uncomfortable being naked and your discomfort stems from an unendorsed feeling that nudity is immoral, then attending Burning Man would be great for you. (“Woo! Self-Expression! Nakedness!”) However, if you feel uncomfortable being naked and your discomfort stems from feeling less attractive than others, then attending Burning Man would be terrible for you. (“Wow, everyone here is fit and attractive, and people are nicer to the cute ones.”)

Let’s call the above sources of discomfort “sin shame” and “inferiority shame”. I predict there will be a societal pendulum switching between these two types of shame.

As we move further away from our religious traditions, fewer people will have sin shame and there will be more nudity. This will in turn cause more inferiority shame as body comparisons become harder and harder to avoid. As this change occurs, people will start noticing that nudity negatively affects those with inferiority shame (a now more robust faction). This will then cause people to feel reluctant to be naked, not because they feel bad in comparison, but because they feel morally bad about causing sadness in those with inferiority shame. Sin shame will return.

In summary: I predict sin shame will recede for a while because it’s silly to think your body is “impure”, but will return for more sane reasons when we realize that nudity affects some people in negative ways.

Hopefully we’ll be able to notice this pattern and correct for it. We want people with low inferiority shame to be able to freely associate and celebrate their bodies both for the sheer fun of it and to fight miscalibrated sin shame. (Wild naked bacchanalia are good for fighting miscalibrated sin shame.) But sin shame *can* be well calibrated—there are ways that nudity can hurt people and we should be aware of that.

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