I’ve got to get this off my chest.
My name is Chris and I’m bored with nudity as a transgressive act. Or even as an inherently sexy one.
No no, I like the view. This isn’t about being prudish or me trying to pass myself off as someone who has transcended such carnal needs as lust. Nonsense, I’m another lump of hyper-evolved protoplasm with the same biological drives the rest of y’all have. I want to procreate so my next generation of offspring will thrive. NYAR!!!!!
But I’m no longer that hormonal teen who hoped for a lingerie catalog to sneak in to my bedroom for… personal growth *cough*.
What bugs me is when nudity is the hype… and that’s it. Yay hot naked girls!
It’s what turned me off of burlesque towards the end. The emcee would announce that the audience might see some boobs and all I could think was that not only had I seen plenty of boobs before, I’d actually seen those boobs before many times and… well, what else was there beyond that? Ideally there would be talented performers with well constructed acts. Realistically, there were fewer of those than the swelling ranks of performers who took the stage hoping that nudity would disguise the terror in their eyes as they gamely aped the moves they’d learned from others before the audience cheered.
After a while it felt like a kind of “lowest common denominator” of sexiness, this institutionalized expectation that seeing a naked woman was inherently shocking and titillating and thereby trumped anything else about the work. Ignore the subject or the emotion or the narrative because we’re looking at tits, people! It’s bold!
Really? Is it?
After a certain point, can’t we admit that we’ve all seen enough nudity in our lives that the fact itself is no longer shocking?
Or that we aren’t inherently shocked by seeing pictures of what we can see and know of ourselves? It always cracks me up when I collaborate to have to label risqué photo references as not safe for work. The warning is fair, yes, but that nine times out of ten, I’m not sharing a picture of anything the models can see of themselves in the mirror. “Fair warning, Jenny. This picture has some nudity…”
So yeah, I’m kind of jaded when it comes to the sexy and kinky. I mean, you spend six years shooting burlesque and another five years adjacent to the kink scene, of course you’ll have seen a few things. Over and over again. To the point of ridiculousness.
So I try to ask questions.
Why is this sexy? Is it sexy because it is inherently, universally sexy or is it something that we’re being told culturally is sexy and it’s easier to go along with it rather than make waves?
Like porn. How much of that industry’s troubles stem from the fact that they’re not producing what people really want and instead produce something that the most people kind of want with the least amount of hassle and embarrassment? Do we really want those Olympic level fuck fests of bad acting and clearly uncomfortable positions in eerily empty bedrooms? Or two (or more) people who have clearly found a moment of lust and go at it for three minutes like a Bernie Mac routine?
Like strip clubs. The strip club a couple blocks from my house (the sign up top is outside it) has a sign that says “No Teasin’, Just Pleasin'”. But that’s their business model, isn’t it? Look but don’t touch. Enjoy talking with “Candy”, who’s real name is Joan but you’ll never know that and isn’t it hot just watching what you can never have, gentlemen?
Like the photo sets a friend and I swap back and forth, ripping them to shreds for bad costumery, incompetent staging and the most lifeless “hot” poses ever… but they’re naked and they’re supposed to look like they’re making out so, hey, it’s obviously sexy!
Like a hot naked girl.
Don’t you want to see the girl of your dreams? Naked? How about if she just stood in front of you with all the inherent warmth and dynamism of a mannequin? Would that still be sexy? Really? Because clearly that’s all that matters.
And yet we live in a world that has an erotic carp calendar (the link is work safe). Really. Because hot girls are hot.
Look, nudity without context is Grey’s Anatomy. Not the TV show, the medical tome. Nudity without intent is the Visible Woman. It’s just what’s there when people don’t wear clothes and the audience isn’t looking at them in a sexual context. Like life drawing or modeling for medical conferences or being backstage at a theater, there may be a moment or two nervous discomfort but pretty soon you get used to it.
Despite what Republicans would have you believe.
To make nudity sexy, you need conviction and context and a lot of the erotic photography I see lacks that. It’s just hot girls and aren’t you shocked by looks that we’re pretty worn out when Suicide Girls first became a thing?
I’m thinking about this again because the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival is accepting submissions again and I’ve always been of two minds about it.
On the one hand, I definitely think that there should be more exploration of the erotic arts and a safe space to share all the myriad things we find titillating, even and especially when they are not universal. We need to be able to talk about our sexuality freely and openly.
On the other, having attended a couple of times, I’m left wondering if it has to be naked all the time? After a while isn’t it kind if deadening to see, yep, another cock and balls. Another bit of pubic hair without a hint of humanity. Woman tied up like side of beef, yep. Again. It’s funny to consider how frequently these erotic images feature only one person at a time. Not sex or a relationship or even the interplay between two people, just one body frequently after something has been done to it: arms in bondage, ball gag in a mouth and that’s it. Probably because he viewer is meant to see themselves as playing a part in the image without the artist’s participation. It’s just the audience and the subject of the photo… and that’s not creepy at all!
How cool would it be to just imagine what’s going on? Or see the real, wonderful, human story without seeing every damn thing? I want to see the process of bondage, not the end result.
For the record, I’ve shown and sold at SEAF before and I’m chuffed as hell that not only did I do it with a fairly tame image, but it was purchased by a photographer whose work I admire greatly.
And I’m submitting again this year with a couple of ideas I’ve had rattling around in my head. I have no idea if I’ll make the cut but I’m really curious to see what happens.
Beyond that, I want to see what I can do with and about this. I want to see what I can show without showing or seeing too much.
Live! Nude! Girls! Need! Not! Apply!