By Yana Fedyanova
Naked Boys Reading is back for another night of guys baring their bodies while reading literature to a room-full of people at LIVE! on Elgin. NBR is an international literary salon, which features nude men reading to an audience to promote body positivity and diversity.
Does watching a group of unclothed men reading poems or excerpts of novels, with their manhood on exhibit centre stage, get you feeling more confident about your own body? Or does this display of nudity with a dose of literature poke fun at the idea of body-shaming and unrealistic physical expectations in our society?
Starting in the early 2000s, some makers of cosmetics and hair products began to work towards changing the way society sees and talks about beauty.
The Dove Campaign For Real Beauty, for example, encourages parents to teach their children to celebrate the individuality of their appearance and accept their own bodies. The purpose of the campaign is to create a vision in which beauty is a source of confidence rather than anxiety, and for future generations to grow up with the self-esteem necessary to help reach their full potential.
More recently, NOW Magazine in Toronto published a Love Your Body issue in January 2015, which featured nearly-nude Torontonians, showing off bodies of different shapes, sizes, abilities, orientations, genders and colours. More importantly, the magazine included personal stories of those pictured to share their inspiring journeys of growth, transformation and acceptance.
These kinds of campaigns encourage audiences to love and accept their bodies by taking us along on the journeys of those who went from self-criticism to self-love, inviting us to do the same.
Naked Boys Reading claims to promote body diversity by inviting men to strip down and read books, but is this really an effective way to spread body-positive vibes and a sense of self-acceptance?
This demonstration cannot effectively heal the anxieties of society when it comes to the Hollywood bodies that many of us don’t have, but have been brainwashed to expect of ourselves.
There seems to be something missing in this kind of performance — something that logically connects nudity, an appreciation of good literature and happy thoughts about one’s own body.
Literary material in the performances has ranged from snippets of postmodern novels such as If On a Winter Night’s Traveller by Italo Calvino to self-help books like Trust Agents: Using The Web To Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
Naked Boys Reading is a poor stab at the “love your body” movement that we have slowly seen gain momentum in recent years. The simple act of being naked does not do this movement justice and belittles the campaigns that have come before it.
The show will most likely work towards making the audience feel more comfortable around nudity. However this is not necessarily linked to body positivity. Watching confident men perform in the nude does not really change how the spectators feel about themselves.
If the purpose of Naked Boys Reading is to give their audience a good laugh and put on an entertaining show, the organizers are likely to be successful. However, with the promotion of body diversity being a key message behind their show, it seems this medium is not the best way to deliver that message.
Naked Boys Reading takes place at Live! On Elgin, 220 Elgin St., Monday, March 19, 8-10 p.m. Tickets are $15. Details: https://www.facebook.com/NBROttawa/