During my first East Coast trip, I tried something new: I modeled for a photography workshop.
I learned a lot of lessons that day, some of which I’m sure will come up in later blog posts. But what really struck me was a conversation I had with one of the photographers. He wanted to know why I was comfortable with art nudes, but wouldn’t pose erotically like he wanted.
As he explained, he already found me attractive. And since he was already sexually turned on from my being naked, what I was doing was already sexual. Basically, he thought by only doing art nude poses, I was lying to myself. I was drawing an arbitrary, hypocritical line in the sand. And worse, I was being a tease about it.
First: eww. This guy obviously did not convince me to spread my legs or my labia. Because he was missing one very important point in his attempted guilt trip: intent.
His point of view was centered entirely around one thing: him. How he felt, how aroused he was. There was no convincing him that nudity could be non-sexual in any context. Or pretty girls that he was attracted to either, for that matter.
The thing is, I’m not responsible for his boner. If he pops a stiffy looking at Picasso, that’s not Picasso’s problem. That just makes him a weirdo. In contrast, I can tell you that posing nude isn’t a sexual act for me. I’m not thinking about getting my audience, photographer, or myself off.
This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with models that pose erotically. The ability to switch from art nude to glamour to fetish to erotic is incredible, and I’m consistently impressed by the ability of models that can cross over multiple genres. Nor is there anything wrong with creating erotic art and images. They are just as valid as any other type of art.
I’m just personally disappointed that there’s an instinctual belief that nudity must equal sex. I’ve seen it throughout my career, but it still saddens me when I come across it in its multiple forms.
For example, sometimes my art nudes are considered too sexual. My images have been banned from three different galleries. Why? Because they showed pubic hair. Full-frontal nudity was considered inappropriate for public viewing.
Although it may not seem like it at first glance, it’s the same problem as the workshop. Whether it’s a gallery owner looking at an art nude, or a GWC trying to coerce a model to show more, both are assuming that they are looking at an inherently sexual object. Whether they want to see more or less isn’t the issue. The issue is they’re seeing the wrong thing in the first place.
Unfortunately, you can’t control what people see in your art. You can only control what you put into it. Sometimes weirdos are going to get boners from Picasso. Sometimes people are going to get turned on by your art nudes. All you can do is keep making your art the best you can, with the best intent you can.
But I think continuing to make nude art, and talk about it will ultimately broaden everyone’s opportunities. If we make and share enough of it, maybe we can show people that the nude human form doesn’t have to be a sexual object. Even GWCs at photography workshops.