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zompist bboard • View topic - Privacy and modesty in world cultures

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:30 am 
Smeric
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The other day, I was discussing my Terpish architectural designs with some people #erelae and we got on the subject of privacy within the home. It seems we disagreed on whether all occupants in a given household would want private bedrooms, as they generally do in American culture. I pointed out that many activities, such as sex and clothes-changing, require private spaces so that others don't see you doing them. Pthag, among others, objected that people have no innate need for privacy in conducting such activities, and that many cultures have made no such efforts to hide sex or nudity. I pointed out that pretty much every modern industrialized culture seems to value this sort of privacy and modesty, which would suggest it has something to do with the effects of modernity. Of course pretty much every modern industrialized culture has been influenced by European Modernity in some way, which probably skews these observed tendencies.

This got me wondering about the different attitudes toward privacy and modesty that cultures can take and why those attitudes vary so much. Notions of modesty vary immensely throughout the world, from the to the nigh-totalitarian expectations in many Islamic countries and almost everything in between. Pretty much all "modern" cultures, from the US to Europe to Japan, seem to hold a fairly consistent set of expectations regarding modesty. All agree that one should not appear nude or semi-nude in public (except for infrequent or specific contexts like medical treatment or saunas), that sex should remain private, that children shouldn't be exposed to sex or nudity, and so forth. This general attitude, or precursors to it, seems to have evolved independently in many parts of the world which leads me to wonder if it represents some tendency inherent to civilization or modernization.

Anyone care to shed light on this subject, perhaps someone with uncanny knowledge about so much like Salmoneus? Discussion of modesty and privacy in your own concultures would not be out of place, either.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:01 am 
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Uh things like nudist beaches'll be accepted differently in different places, even within Modern West. Like there was a story about Polish coming to Germany and being like "Yo what's this about nudist shit". (Here's a video for it: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6c9ft ... urita_news) And Germans have nudist swimming pools too. And the relative homogenity of Modern West ist kind of due to cultural influence in the time of the Second Wave of European Invasion. And America pretty much is European colony. I would google to try and find out about taboos on nudity of kids (or lack of them) and shit like that but you can do it yourself.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:38 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:51 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:19 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:20 pm 
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Could it be that part of the reason that some cultures don't have or haven't had more privacy is that it simply isn't practical a lot of the time? If everyone's going to have their own bedroom, then you're going to have to build that room, which means putting up more walls, doors etc., which means using up more resources; then, in colder climates especially, you have to heat the rooms separately and everything: the prices all add up to quite a lot more than just having everyone in a single room. In cultures where these kinds of resources are quite limited (which I would suspect includes most cultures across history), you might want privacy, but it just isn't practical to have it. (This is just an idea.)

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:06 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:52 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:07 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:54 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:39 pm 
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Last edited by dunomapuka on Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:18 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 8:51 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:24 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:28 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:46 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:02 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:04 am 
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Although I don't want to get into the specifics of the debate here, I would like to interject a bit of my knowledge, particularly concerning East Asian culture and "modern"' East Asian culture.

My father was born in Vietnam, he also lived in Japan for several years, and has studied China to some degree, so he knows about East Asian culture more or less pretty well. According to him, in these cultures, "privacy" doesn't operate the same as it does in America. Basically, although people may have separate rooms, he has noticed that in East Asia, people generally are free to go into each other's rooms without that much interruption, whereas in America, people generally keep their room more off-limits to others except in certain situations or if the person in question is pretty close to the other. So I conclude here that just because you have separate rooms does not imply "true privacy" or whatever per se, since in East Asian cultures, you can still go into other people's rooms if the situation is appropriate.

I would also like to add that sometimes in East Asia, privacy is even more of a serious thing than it is in the West; for instance, I've heard that in Japan, people are somewhat unwilling to engage in sex - or even things like kissing or close embracing - in the comforts of their own home, or even in their own room, which is why Japan has the somewhat infamous Love Hotels where people can have sex, because you don't want to do it in your own home. Likewise, I've heard that in many East Asian cultures, parents will rarely display affection to each other in front of their kids, whereas in the West, it really isn't that big of a deal if your mom and dad hug each other or kiss each other on the cheek in front of you.

Likewise, another thing to consider is personal space. which varies a lot even across modernized cultures.

Anyhow, one might argue that parts of East Asia aren't as developed and "modernized" as elsewhere, and further that my father's life in Vietnam was mainly restricted to the earlier days of the Vietnam War, when Vietnam definitely wasn't really modernized, but I would like to counter that by saying two things: firstly, that my father came from an upper-class family in Vietnam (my grandfather was high up in the foreign ministry of South Vietnam), and they picked up quite a number of conventions and customs from the English and French; secondly, that Japan itself proves that a society can still be modernized, Westernized, and yet still reasonably unique. Especially in Japan, where politeness, modesty, and one's place in society matter quite a lot, one can see that they are, sometimes, entertain "more privacy" than Western, modern cultures, but, on the other hand, sometimes they also entertain "less privacy" as well.

Just my two cents.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:58 am 
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You know, Eddy, even if a particular set of modesty standards aren't universal you can still apply them to your conculture. If it's similar to an existing culture, at least people can't claim that it's unbelievable. You can always throw in little wildcards that kind of say, "Not America!"

Yeah, we have private sleeping rooms for adults. Mom and Dad sleep in their own rooms. The kids all sleep in dormitories with all the other kids in the cooperative. Bathrooms are multi-user without separate stalls. When children need privacy or when Mom and Dad need to get together romantically, the compound has many S&M rooms (Sex and Masturbation). Youths don't get private rooms until they take up apprenticeship. It's a bit unusual for kids to take up apprenticeship with their parent's cooperative, so this usually involves moving to a different compound.

There, that's not quite Saint Looie is it?

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:55 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:06 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:21 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:44 pm 
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The nudist Jains traditionally believe that women cannot achieve salvation. I believe that they explain that they have to be reborn as men in order to achieve enlightenment. While that doesnt mean anything regarding "women's rights" it would be wrong to describe them as a forerunner of modern Feminism.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:18 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:57 pm 
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