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The 'fig leaf' protects the genitals.  Imagine the posture nude for full effect!

The ‘fig leaf’ protects the genitals. Imagine the posture nude for full effect!

The fig leaf by either sex is a closed body position. It blocks the private mid section from view. This posture occurs by placing one or both hands in front of the midsection and takes its ‘fig leaf’ name from Adam and Eve’s traditionally portrayed posture in the Garden of Eden artwork. Modest men and women who find themselves accidentally disrobed will instinctively clasp their hands over their private areas. Naked women will split their attention from both breasts with one arm and hand, with the other hand over their genitals. Men will exclusively protect their genitals from view with both hands.

In real life however, will rarely find ourselves nude and exposed in public, but our minds are still hardwired to harbour feelings of insecurity from overexposure. In day to day situations women won’t be fund covering their breasts by clasping them and men won’t grab their genitals a-la Micheal Jackson, but they will claps both hands together either tightly by interlocking their fingers, or loosely with hand in hand and then casually placing them over their mid-section. Standing is the most obvious and common way that the fig leaf position shows itself, but it can also find its way in a seated position as the hands are rested on the lap. Women can and do block their chests from view, as well, but not in an offensive or obvious way. Rather, women cross their arms in front of their chests as a barrier or block their breasts from view when threatened with whatever objects they have handy, a textbook, a jacket or scarf, even bar tops.

These postures, of course, show insecurity and occur when we find ourselves in novel environments or around people we aren’t familiar with. We will often see this from less confident speakers who find themselves exposed to large audiences or when a presenter requires a participant (victim) to demonstrate a concept.