I’m pretty open about being bisexual. I can be attracted to all sexes and genders, not just two, and I don’t keep this a secret if people ask. Technically, the term for this is pansexual, but that isn’t as commonly understood, so I use the label bisexual since it gets the point across in everyday conversation.
When a photographer asked me about my sexuality recently, I didn’t think anything of it. I just answered his question. But this photographer took this one little fact and ran with it, drawing conclusions I didn’t agree with at all. He thought that I was interested in posing nude solely because of my bisexuality, and there was no convincing him otherwise.
He assumed that I appreciated nude female art because I’m attracted to women. The reasoning went that if I like women, I would like to see naked pictures of them, and that I’d want to create more such images. But I saw a problem with his thought process: thinking that way means making women into sexual objects. Although I’m attracted to women, I don’t generally enjoy objectified ones.
What this photographer was missing is that he assumed nudity meant sex, when in my mind they’re not correlated at all. Take life drawing, for example. For an average life drawing class, I’m often surrounded by twenty or so people clinically examining me to transfer my pose onto their paper. Almost all the artists are retired, and most are women. Trust me, being scrutinized naked by someone that looks like your grandmother is just not sexy. Endearing, yes, and an incredible example of human connection—many of them treat me as if I was their actual grandchild. But it’s certainly not sexy.
Photography is no different. I’m still using my body to create interesting shapes and images for the viewer. And like with life drawing, there’s an incredible sense of human connection. It also means that I’m more often than not in some type of pain from scrunching, twisting, and otherwise contorting my body into shapes it doesn’t naturally take. I’m constantly flexing muscles, pointing toes, and generally putting my body under weird types of strain. And that’s just indoors! Out in nature, I’m often trying to meld my human form into the landscape—and suffering bumps, bruises, scrapes, and frigid temperatures in the process.
So no, being bisexual has nothing to do with why I pose nude. But that doesn’t mean that my sexuality doesn’t affect my art. It does; it informs it.
I believe that artists bring everything to the creative process: what they have, who they are, what they’ve experienced. For example, I know several models that have suffered from eating disorders in the past. They turned to art nude modeling as a way to explore their now-healthy relationship to their body. Modeling has become a part of their self-expression as well as a healing process, and they bring all that depth to the images they create. They take their pain, their past, and their identity, and they turn it into art.
I try to approach my bisexuality in the same way. It’s an important part of who I am. I think drawing from the deepest parts of ourselves adds honesty, complexity, and truth to our artwork. So I try to take my experiences, good and bad, and use them. Maybe I can relate to women on several different levels, and can bring that to the images I create. Maybe I’ve faced discrimination for my sexuality, and can express that depth of feeling through my poses.
My sexuality isn’t why I pose nude. But I do hope that being bisexual and open about it accomplishes the same thing as my nudity does in modeling. Being naked strips away a layer between the viewer and the subject and creates a sense of connection. Hopefully sharing my bisexuality accomplishes the same thing: it allows me to be more open about my humanity and the art I’m trying to share.