Our Nudity Is Different
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Different cultures have different ideas about what parts of the body should or should not be shown, or even discussed. For some people on this Earth, a woman's face or hair must not be exposed. For others, you can be topless as long as you keep your shins covered; a girl has to have modesty, after all! Then there's the characters in Fantasy / Sci Fi settings who are outright scandalized if they discover their orthoblaxer is showing.
Basically, this trope is for those characters that have a notably different definition of "private parts" than most of the audience.
Please do not add real life examples unless historical or otherwise well-documented.
Films -- Live-Action
- In The Great Race (set in 1908), Maggie DuBois daringly exposes her stocking to the newspaper editor, Mr. Goodbody.
- In The Night Angel Trilogy, Sethi consider showing ankles to be obscene but have no problem showing breasts. In fact, Sethi wedding dresses are almost more like wedding skirts from the description. Sethi who spend too long living away from home often have trouble readjusting their standards of modesty.
- The cultures based on the Vorin religion in The Stormlight Archive consider a woman with her left hand bare to be provocative. Commoner women wear a glove to cover it while noblewomen wear dresses with left sleeves that cover the entire arm and hand and button shut.
- At one point in the Belgariad the fanatic zealot Relg rants about how Ulgo women try to entice him by showing their calves and forearms. (Or at least He thinks so).
- Relg's idea of modesty isn't different so much as it is extreme. Ulgos have the same standards of modesty as the rest of the setting, and are already quite modest by that standard (no doubt assisted in this by living in caves, which are probably quite cold). That's just not enough for Relg.
- The classic SF story The Wheels of If has a scene on an alternate Earth where belly buttons are considered obscene...but nothing else is, resulting in Barely-There Swimwear of an unusual sort.
- In The Last Hero, we're told there is a religion in Ankh-Morpork which prohibits women from showing their ears, lest they inflame the passions of men.
- In Unseen Academicals, the wizards are adamant they can't wear shorts that expose their knees, for fear of the effect this might have on women. The one woman who hears this has trouble keeping a straight face.
- This prudishness seems to be entirely confined to the presence of women, however—in Night Watch, the Archchancellor is completely oblivious as to why another wizard thinks he's "inappropriately dressed" after hurriedly getting out of the bath—he's wearing his hat, after all, and that's what matters.
- In Making Money, the University's golem-expert is titillated by the prospect of relocating to a place where he'll actually be able to see women's ankles. Presumably it's lucky that he's already a ghost, else he'd have keeled over with heart failure upon actually entering the Pink Pussycat Club....
- Trolls consider near-nudity to be the norm; it's when a troll woman starts putting clothes on that she's singled out as provocatively-dressed. Troll "robers" from the Strippers' Guild actually put on layer after layer of clothing during their acts.
- In one of AP Herbert's More Misleading Cases in the Common Law, when a man is charged with indecency for entering the sea wearing the "wrong" sort of swimsuit, a judge goes into a bit of a rant about this, contrasting the 19th century definition of "indecency" used by the municipal council with a more liberal 1920s definition:
Mr Justice Wool: Stuff and nonsense, constable! The male torso is not indecent. If it is hairy it may be unattractive: but so is the male foot. So is your face; but the Council cannot compel you to drape it. A lady's back is not indecent: it may be attractive, but so are a lady's eyes. The act says "indecency" not "allure". My father wore nothing but drawers. So did I.
- In Jack Vance's short story "The Moon Moth", everybody keeps their faces covered at all times by stylized masks that show the wearer's current social standing. Not even spouses ever see each other's naked faces.
- Similarly, there's another Golden Age SF story which explicitly cites the progression of erotic interest in the female body over the centuries from the hips to the breasts and then carries it forward (upward?) to the face, so that in the era of the story women can be all but nude as long as their faces are covered.
- Played for Deliberate Values Dissonance in The Poisonwood Bible. Kilanga women hide their legs under long skirts and think nothing of going topless. Missionary Nathan Price is shocked by their indecency; the Kilanga are similarly shocked by Mrs. Price wearing pants.
- In Stephen King's The Stand, 108-year-old Abagail Freemantle remembers appearing on a talent show back in 1902. Before her, a woman performed a "racy French dance", showing her ankles.
- In Memoirs of a Geisha, Sayuri explains that geisha generally do not go out without their makeup on, so to leave just a little bit of bare skin unpainted at the hairline is a very suggestive thing indeed, hinting at what lies beneath. Additionally, necks are considered very attractive and a geisha will wear a kimono with a low collar in the back in the same way a Western woman would wear a short skirt.
- In the Cops episode of My Name Is Earl, a foreign Sikh neighbor denies spying on Joy in her trailer and says "Look at the way she dresses! I can see her elbows any time I want to!".
- In the short-lived Something Is Out There, we find that Ta'ra's culture had a different definition of nudity than humans.
Ta'ra: We've already seen each other's hands, what more is there?
- Star Trek:
- One regular feature of blooper and out-take shows comes from the American version of The Price Is Right, where an over-excited woman contestant called down from the audience to participate in the show whoops, hollers and dances her way down the aisle, bouncing so hard that her breasts bounce right out of her skimpy strapless top. And for a moment or two she does not even notice... when this aired in "blooper" shows in the USA, this segment was censored by the classic black band. Exported to Britain, it was uncensored and screened in all its dubious glory. When several months later a censored version was shown on a British show, possibly because that was lifted directly from an American edition, people rang and wrote to the TV station to ask why they were bothering to censor the clip after it had been screened uncensored for so long.
- An episode of Quantum Leap had a WWII GI's Japanese bride hanging her laundry out to dry in the air, then stripping to the waist to continue the laundry, unaware of her mother-in-law's horror at the nudity.
- Played for laughs in Topsy Turvy, when one of the cast objects to wearing a kimono that leaves his ankles exposed, feeling this is an inappropriate level of nudity.
- In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows... Anything Goes.
- In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones the L'Arachel/Ephraim support conversations have L'Arachel panic at the sight of Ephraim's bare shoulder (which he exposed so she could heal an injury to it). It should be noted that L'Arachel's own shoulders are constantly exposed.
- In Drowtales, drow usually wear high collars so that it became Fanon that they view the neck as a private part. Confirmed as Ascended Fanon at the bottom of this page. However it's apparently not strictly enforced.
- In Humon's Love and Tentacles, Frida is embarrassed to discover she's been waving her smaller tentacles around in front of Tom's mother.
- Bastin from Twokinds always hide their feet, wrapping them from ther ball of their toes to their ankles. Word of God is they have a species wide foot fetish, and thus consider bare feet nudity. Alaric's statue of Keith has only the feet covered.
- In the NSFW Dreamwalk Journal / The Widow / Nightshade the Merry Widow none of the insect/human hybrids wear any clothing at all -- except for woven waistbelts, without which they consider themselves naked. Visiting humans must adhere to the same dress code.
- The current (2014) header for Nightshade on The Duck shows the title character wearing a shawl (apparently knitted from her own webbing) that partly covers her breasts. That's very much the exception, however.
- The Simpsons
- Skinner is horrified when his mother goes on a date in an outfit that reveals her... figure.
- There's also an episode set in the 1800s, where the buy-your-photo section of a log flume ride has to deal with a shot of a lady "flashing her private parts". It's her ankle, and the man running the shop claims he'll take care of it before shiftily stowing it in his pocket as if it were porn.
- In one episode of American Dad, Stan sets up a deal with Ikea to refurnish all of Iraq so it looks like "your first apartment". This cues a Cutaway Gag of a citizen appreciating how his new home looks, before being appalled at his wife's blatant display of nudity and telling her to put some clothes on. She's fully clothed except for her eyes so she covers up her eyes and immediately trips over a table.
- On The Muppet Show, Kermit is considered indecently naked when he loses his collar.
- Donald Duck is always embarrassed if he loses his clothes for whatever reason, even though he never wears pants anyway.
- Throughout the Victorian Era, the sight of a woman's ankle was considered outright scandalous.
- Kimono Fanservice mentions in passing a fetish for the nape of the neck. There was never a taboo against showing them, however.
- The "CAP" Alert Christian movie review website, frequently deprecates movies where females wear "form-revealing tops".
- In some African cultures, thighs are considered indecent to show, yet breasts are A-OK, hence you'll see women wearing skirts long enough to cover their thighs and nothing on top. In fact, people of these cultures will find it hilarious when they are told of the Western fetishization of breasts, believing those who buy into this to be like babies.
- The Mormons' idea of dressing modestly is that which will cover their temple garments, which are basically a white T-shirt and white shorts with special symbols embroidered on them. Showing any part of their temple garments in public (especially to a non-Mormon) is considered a taboo in the LDS Church. So any strapless or tank tops are automatically out, as well as anything too short to cover the bottom part.
- Ancient Minoan artwork depicts women walking around in outfits that cover their legs, but leave their breasts exposed.
- Men of the Kapauku tribes of Papua New Guinea often wear nothing but penis-shafts, which will cover the penis but leave the testicles exposed.