Saturday, September 17, 2005


My eleven year-old nephew from the US is dying to come visit me in Spain. But it’s not because he misses his uncle. Or has a passion for paella. Or feels a burning desire to view of works of Velazquez before becoming a teenager. No…he wants to come to Spain for one thing and one thing only: Nudity!

Spain is a waking, walking, wet dream for an American kid on the cusp (or in the depths!) of puberty. If you don’t believe me, then go to any street-corner newspaper stand and see for yourself. Today’s issue of El Pais will likely be flanked by a bevy of DVD’s displaying supple young maidens wearing nothing but eye-liner.

Need more proof? Watch any commercial for shampoo or baby-products on Spanish television, and you’ll be assured a gratuitous breast…or two.

Then there are the beaches. Q: What’s the difference between a Spanish beach and a nude beach? A: Three square centimeters of Lycra®.

Now…you might not have noticed Spain’s delicious smorgasbord of flesh-on-display if you moved here from another European country. The British, I assume, have been desensitized after a lifetime of exposure to page 3 of The Sun and adverts from leather-corseted entrepreneurs plastered onto those charming red phone booths. And for reasons that I need not mention, my Dutch readers are even more likely to be wondering what the fuss is about.

But remember that both my nephew and I come from this US—and to an American, Spain’s liberal (and, dare I say, healthy) attitude toward the human body amounts to culture shock of the highest order. Our homeland is, after all, a place where the television broadcast of sumo wrestling is apt to trigger an avalanche of letters demanding that future bashos implement a “mandatory Bermuda shorts” policy.

And boy-oh-boy…don’t *even* get me started on Janet Jackson’s 2004 Superbowl controversy. Socially-conservative US politicians and commentators wailed that this two-nanosecond flash of a thirty-five year-old woman’s partially-obscured nipple would traumatize America’s youth for at least four generations. Indeed, it was deemed an event more psychologically damaging than that of a young Bruce Wayne watching his parents gunned-down by The Joker.

But I’ve often imagined how this event (or non-event, depending on your point-of-view) might have been discussed between a Spanish mother and her eight year-old son. It would probably go as follows:

Spanish son: Mamá! Why are those American people yelling and holding big

Spanish Mother: They’re upset, cariño, because Janet Jackson showed her booby on TV.

Son: But why are they upset? We see lots of boobies on TV here? In fact, I saw yours in Benidorm last August.

Mother: I know, hijo…I know. But they’re also angry because that naughty Justin Timberlake touched it.

Son: But, Mamá…Justin Timberlake is only one man. There were five men touching a woman’s booby on that DVD for sale at the newspaper shop. You know…the one next to the Mars Bars®.

Indeed! It’s all much ado about nothing, and I’m hoping that my eleven year-old nephew realizes the same when he finally comes to visit. But if he ultimately fails to adopt Spain’s ho-hum attitude toward the human body, then at least he’ll have a lot interesting digital photos to show his friends back home.

Man! Is HE going to be a popular kid on the school playground.


At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Karl said...

I have to admit after I first moved to Germany, the nudity on TV did cause me to raise an eyebrow. But I'm so used to it now. I don't even know the last time I saw someone naked on TV or in print because it doesn't even register anymore. Although I tend to think nudity here in Germany is kind of tame compared to Spain.

Make sure he hides those mags good so they don't confiscate them at O'Hare :-)

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...


I'm not sure about Germany being more tame than Spain. I used to get VOX network on my television, and was "enthralled" by a very naughty show hosted by a aged German tranvestite who wore a blonde wig and often sat on a swing. I've never seen anything THAT wild on Spanish TV.

You must know the show I'm talking...and so (I'm sure) does Mausi. And to the rest of my non-German, I'm not making this up.


PS: My favorite German TV show, however, is the fully-clothed, transvestite-free "Koch Duell." (sp?)

At 10:35 PM, Blogger christina said...

What? You think I watch shows like that? Well, OK, maybe once or twice. :-) Yes, it's true, the show was called "Wa(h)re Liebe" and the aging blonde transvestite was known as Lilo Wanders, real name Ernie Rheinhardt.

There's nudity everywhere you look on German TV and a seeming preoccupation with all things erotic that I find to be fairly "in your face" (as it were :-)) - certainly not what I was used to before I moved here, but it all becomes pretty ho hum after awhile.

At 8:07 AM, Blogger Franje said...

Hi Sal,
are Spanish TV shows as ridiculous as the Italian shows? The Italian shows seem to be an excuse for displaying beautiful women in bikinis.

My extensive research on these shows indicates that I need to view them more often to develop a more statistically sound, objective stance...

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Angie said...

My experience with "flesh on display" in Spain: As I was getting ready to go out in Madrid one night, I pulled out a little black dress that I'd never had the guts to wear in Indiana. (My mom had told me, "That dress is waaay too short!") I put it on and showed my Spanish mama, and asked her if she thought it was too short. She looked at me like I was crazy, and proclaimed that I should show off my legs more often because I looked muy guapa!

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Angie said...

p.s. I did get a drink and a ride on a scooter with a very handsome Spaniard named Pedro that night, so apparently I should dress that way more often. ;-)

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...


Would this be the same Pedro who offered to give me a ride on his scooter if I'd wear the Lycra shorts?


At 10:17 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...


No...I'm afraid that for sheer sexist chessiness, nothing beats Italian TV. In fact, I wrote about it last year:

Although I must admit that Mexican TV comes damn close.


At 3:31 PM, Blogger ironporer said...

*ironporer sighs as he relives fond memories of Spanish TV, print and other ads filled with sexuality*

My wife still rants and raves over our 'Victorian' (false) sense of morality regarding the showing of any amount of flesh on TV.
We don't mind showing teenagers how to handle automatic weapons and graphically showing bodies torn apart by these in videogames and movies, but J.J.'s nipslip causes a national emergency akin to Hurricane Katrina. Europe and Spain in particular have a much more healthy view on nudity and sexuality than we do here. I'd love to see the outrage in the US if TV were to show some of the European commercials- one I recall vividly was one for Kas or Schweppes, simply showing a woman sucking a straw...but every man knew what they REALLY meant. But in a land where cursing and blaspheming has been made an art form, and where a woman can actually say such words without being thought of a less than a lady,it stands to reason that showing a breast would not bring such outrage.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger harsh said...

If spanish beaches are anything like the cote d'azur I think after seeing a few corpulent germans and brits (both male and female) in tiny bathing suits with flesh roll tan lines your nephew may reconsider his opinions about skin on the beach.


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