Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How I Became an Erotic Model/Photographer (Redux)

I don't think anyone would have guessed - myself included - that I'd grow up to be a photographer and a model specializing in nude and erotic portraiture. When I was a little schoolboy, what I wanted to be was an astrophysicist - somebody like Albert Einstein, redefining the way we understand the very fabric of reality and the laws of the universe we live in. But all a college education taught me was the difference between my romantic view of science and the cold, hard truth of the discipline.

So I decided that if the secrets of the universe weren't mine to unlock, I might as well follow the creative pursuits that bring me pleasure in life. First in line was my guitar playing. When I picked up a guitar at the too-late age of 18, I wanted to be a rock star. I still do. But while my knowledge and skill at learning to play other people's songs has advanced a great deal, I've come upon the obstacle of not being very gifted at creating original music. So, instead, I've focused on photography.

I can't draw or paint the scenes in my head (though I wish I could), but I can hold a camera and click the shutter. And it turns out that I have a passion - and hopefully some measure of skill - for it. Photography, to me, is not just a way of making beautiful pictures, although I like that about it, but it's also a way to communicate - to interact with people in a non-traditional way (I'm not very social by nature) and to say things about the world that I think bear saying.

I take nude and sexy pictures because it thrills me - I won't lie - but I also have opinions about the human body and human sexuality that I can demonstrate in my photography; opinions that may not be common, but ones that I hold strongly, and think that more people need to be exposed to. I may not be able to change the laws of the universe, but I still maintain hope that I could someday change people's minds about certain things, like the relationship we have with our bodies, and our attitudes toward that fundamental aspect of living, breathing, surviving, and thriving - sex.

We have too much shame and paranoia about an activity that by all rights should be the source of endless pleasure and even the occasional miracle of creation. And we fear our own bodies, refusing to get to know them, willing to abuse them instead of taking good care of them, when in more enlightened ages the nude figure was exalted as a glorious work of art.

Whether or not I can change anyone's mind in the long run, or if I'm just collecting admirers who already believe similar things as I do, my photography is a way of expressing myself - who I am, and what I believe. And for somebody who has difficulty expressing himself in more traditional ways, that is very important. The freedom to do so is what allows me as an individual to participate in and contribute to the global community I am a part of.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Re: Porn Research

Something I don't understand that a lot of researchers on this subject do is presuppose the value of certain lifestyles over others. It's pretty commonly accepted that raising a family is healthier and more respectable than living in your parents' basement. But who is to say that receiving sexual satisfaction from another person is always better than getting it from a magazine? It's a fine ideal, but what about people who don't live perfect lives? People talk about how pornography allegedly "cripples" people's social relationships, but what about people who are already socially crippled for other reasons? Do they not deserve sexual satisfaction?

And all of this ignores people who can and do use porn and still function in society with realistic views on sex and healthy beliefs about how women should be treated (for example). I think this is very similar to the argument that violent media makes people more violent. There may well be some risks in exposing oneself to violent media, but ultimately, the choice of whether or not to engage in violent behaviors is a person's own, and it is their responsibility (not the community's, nor the government's) to avoid materials that might exacerbate the risk, if they know themselves to be easily suggestible or of a naturally violent temperament. The solution just isn't to babyproof the world we live in, restricting the freedoms of all to protect the delicate sensibilities of the few.

Where sex is concerned, if it could be proven conclusively that pornographic materials cause people to develop dangerous antisocial beliefs, then that's one thing (and researchers - and those that fund them - are eager to find evidence to "prove" this, because it would justify their wanting to restrict porn, which is really based on subjective aesthetic or moral grounds). But there are so many problems with that conclusion, starting with the difficulty of defining pornography (I cannot believe all porn is equal, otherwise just watching someone have sex in person should itself be a public health hazard - and way too often these anti-porn arguments conflate so-called violent pornography - which I've seen very little of, to me it seems like a niche interest - with all representations of human sexuality), and ending with the great diversity of individual people who will react to the endless myriad of stimuli in greatly varying ways.

In the end, if a person believes things like monogamy is unnatural, marriage is undesirable, sex doesn't require courtship, or prostitution is a legitimate vocation, they have the right to, and I don't see what's harmful about that.

On a related note, here's a telling question: if violent pornography is "shown" to be harmful, then why does that justify restrictions against porn, as opposed to simply justifying restrictions against violent porn? That should tell you something about the people who want to pass restrictions on porn using that argument. Read more

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Conventional Narrative of Love and Sex



At 8 years of age, boys and girls stay apart, due to superstitious fears of "cooties".

At 12 years of age comes the first sex ed course, and the boys start teasing the girls they like. A few chaste kisses are exchanged, then whispered about and giggled over.

At 16 years of age, hormones are raging, and boys and girls initiate awkward fumblings behind the bleachers and in the backseats of cars. But the good kids don't go all the way, because premarital sex is "bad", and can lead to STDs or teen pregnancy (education about the use of contraceptives can only undermine this important belief, and should be restricted as much as possible).

At 22 years of age or thereabouts, the child becomes an adult, having finished all his schooling. The men get promising jobs, and the women pair off with the men who can afford to raise their families. The family unit is paramount. Premarital sex, adultery, recreational sex, contraception, pornography, prostitution, non-traditional intercourse, and non-heterosexual couplings are all taboo because they (allegedly) threaten the sanctity of the family unit by emphasizing sex for pleasure rather than procreation, and by locating the source of that pleasure outside the marital partnership. Sex occurs only privately, and within marriage, or else it is ridiculed.

Now let me ask you this: Is this narrative objectively good? And is it the best one we can come up with? More importantly, is it necessary that as many people as possible follow it, or is there room for diversity? What about someone who, through no fault of his own, fails to follow the narrative, due to physical, psychological, or environmental factors? If they cannot find satisfaction in the conventional narrative, is it not okay for them to seek their satisfaction elsewhere?

What about people who miss out on the "awkward fumblings" of adolescence? What about those who never find the right partner - the person they want to spend their lives with, whom they are also physically attracted to? What about people who just can't function when confined within a long-term monogamous partnership? What about people who have a requirement for sex and affection like anyone else, but are unable to acquire it by conventional means?

Who's to say they even have a problem - could it not be that they are just different? Why should everyone be the same? Couldn't sex and love be a common human need that is tended to by different people in very different ways? Is there only one way to look at sex and relationships, or can we permit different people to define the parameters of sex and love as they view it in their own way? If, for some reason, you do not have the social skills to "snag" an attractive partner, is it somehow wrong for you to take advantage of pornography or a prostitute, as an aid to help you get what might come more naturally to others?

What if you don't want a family? What if the prospect of raising kids doesn't particularly thrill you? Do you have an obligation to society to live your life a certain way, whether you like it or not, or do you have the freedom to live your life the way you want to, to pursue happiness the way you define it, so long as that does not infringe on the rights of others (including their right to express themselves sexually)? If you want to talk about evolutionary psychology, and the propagation of the species, what's best for society on the whole - evolution functions through diversity. Your lifestyle may be good or bad for the species on the whole, but the only determinant of that value is whether or not you can survive. It is good for all of us to permit the widest array of diversity possible.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

After Porn Ends (2010)

I was drawn to the title After Porn Ends because I was curious to see if it was a feature that would address the stigma that's applied to individuals who work in the "adult industry". Naturally, though, I maintained some fear that it was going to approach the issue from an anti-porn stance. But After Porn Ends works effectively as a documentary because it doesn't appear to have an agenda. Therefore, it's in a good position to actually present the truth, which is complex and multi-faceted.

Personally, I believe the strength of this documentary is the way it humanizes those who have worked in the porn industry (they are people, just like everyone else, and neither superheroes nor monsters), and especially the way it demonstrates that nobody's experience in and attitude towards the porn industry is universal. This documentary interviews a variety of retired porn stars, both men and women, whose opinions about their work in the sex industry, and its effect on their lives, vary between the positive and the negative, and include those who regret working in porn, as well as those who couldn't be happier about it.

Because, in reality, that's how people are. Some people get into porn because they're desperate, and they learn to regret it. Others seek fame and fortune, and find that it's not something they have a problem with. You simply can't stereotype everyone in the industry either as being forced into it, or happy as a bumble bee. And one of the most pertinent points made by one of the interviewees is the fact that some people are just designed (whether by genetics or their upbringing) to thrive, emotionally, in the world of sex work, while others are not. And when those who are not find themselves in that industry (for any number of valid reasons), it's only a matter of time before they realize that it's not for them. But their experience shouldn't necessarily cast aspersions on everyone else's who gets involved with it.

The other important theme in this documentary is indeed the stigma that results when one decides to enter any form of the "adult industry". And the overwhelming conclusion by those interviewed is that working in the adult industry cuts you off from other opportunities in life, and that the stain is something that stays with you for the rest of your life. There is some voice given to my perspective - that this stigma is harmful and hypocritical (what's truly degrading is not working in porn, but consuming porn and then disparaging those who have provided that service for you) - but rather than question the validity of this shaming culture, it is largely accepted as a matter of fact, which itself could be used as a pretty good reason to avoid working in porn.

I understand that I do have a bias, but I think that good sexual health and the freedom to express one's sexuality is far more important than the spiritually-based doctrine of purity in abstinence, and conservative viewpoints about love, and the structure of human relationships. But rest assured, even if you don't agree with me on these points, I think you can still enjoy this documentary, because that is not part of its mission statement. I recommend it to anyone who has a stake in the great porn debate, no matter which side you may align with.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why in the World?

You might ask - and this is most probably true if you are not sexually attracted to me, but also if you are, yet believe that acts of sexual intimacy should remain private - what reason I could possibly have to publicly share, for example (since I just did this), a picture of myself with a dildo in my ass. First and foremost, there is the issue that I am a model, and an erotic artist, and basically what I'm doing is what would be commonly referred to as "porn". You might not agree with porn, but I do, and it's something I enjoy being involved with. If, then, pornographic images of me, personally, are not your cup of tea, then you might simply avoid them, but that would at least explain why it is I do what I do.

But there's another side to it, and it's this. Through my erotic photography - and most specifically, my erotic self-portraiture - I am following the philosophy, as spoken by one Mahatma Ghandi, of "being the change you wish to see in the world", as well as practicing a variation of the Golden Rule, which I would phrase thusly: "do for others what you would have them do for you".

Unlike most consumers of pornography, I do not feel ashamed and do not express hypocritical views whereby I will enjoy my consumption of said pornography and then turn around and criticize it to maintain my social standing. And also unlike the majority of pornography consumers (strictly speaking statistically), I am, although not female, above a certain standard of attractiveness (at least by certain opinions), which makes me more viable than average to serve as a model in pornographic pictures (and videos).

So, here's the thing. As an extension of my sex-positive perspective, I am not ashamed or appalled by any person's public, sexual display (provided basic standards of where and when this occurs, so as to minimize the possibility of unnecessarily shocking prudes). In my vision of the ideal world, if I come to know or know of a person in the world that I am attracted to, I would love for the opportunity to see that person in sexually compromising positions. It may be true that I'm asking for a shortcut to wining and dining, but at the same time, I'm not asking to actually have sex with them - I'm just talking about pictures, here. So imagine, for example, I cross paths with a hottie on the street. It is my desire that I should have access to images of, for example, that same hottie naked, on all fours, with a dildo in her ass (or maybe not that specifically - that's just today's example).

Obviously (or maybe not so obviously), I don't want to force people to pose for pornographic images against their will, but I would be happier if there were less stigma so that more people would be in a position to volunteer (enthusiastically, even) this service. There would still be those who are not interested, but those who are would not be so easily talked out of it, and those who aren't sure would be more likely to give it fair consideration. And by doing it myself, I am showing what a good sport I am, and that I am not asking of others anything that I would not do myself. In the meantime, people who are attracted to me (and not uptight about pornography), can get the benefit of viewing my images. In this way, I am giving back to the community of porn-lovers, and not simply being a non-productive consumer.

Does that make sense to you? If not, it may be because you hold certain beliefs, alluded to above, about the privacy of sexual intimacy, and possibly the importance of its being couched within the context of a committed relationship. You are also, probably, not entirely familiar and/or enthusiastic about the practice of consensual voyeurism and exhibitionism (which I do not deny is an important element of the appeal of these impersonal, non-contact, porn-related activities). Which is fine. You're free to have those beliefs, and live your life accordingly. But I have different beliefs, and this is how I express them. :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Principles of Exposure

Introduction: It's been almost five years now since I upgraded from amateur point-and-shoot technology and bought my first, real, dSLR camera. It was several months before I was ready to start shooting in manual mode, but less than a year after that, I felt confident enough in my understanding of the principles of exposure to write a simple guide for other photographers at that stage: beginners with point-and-shoot experience who were ready to take the next step and learn the basics of manipulating exposure.

I also had the clever idea of weaving my own style of erotic photography into the project, starting with a play on the word 'exposure'. The first image in what was to be a series demonstrated light exposure by drawing a parallel to exposure of the model's body. I had it in my head to do other shots with similar parallels related to shutter speed, aperture size, and ISO Level, but I never got around to finishing the series. That was in the spring of 2010, and now it's nearly fall 2013. But I've revisited the idea, created all new images (and mostly new descriptions), and finally finished the series.

Here it is!

The Principles of Exposure

At its heart, photography is a process that captures and records light. So, an important question to ask yourself before taking a shot is, "am I getting the right amount of light?" Without adding or subtracting light to the actual scene (e.g., switching on a lamp, closing the blinds), there are a number of parameters that can be adjusted within your dSLR camera to modify how much light the camera picks up.

Understanding how to manipulate these parameters to control the exposure (the amount of light the camera reads) is one of the fundamental skills that separates the amateur snapshot photographer from the serious hobbyist or professional. Knowing how each of these parameters works, and the effects it has on the image your camera records, will help you to intuit which of them needs to be adjusted to get a proper exposure in any given situation.

The question of "proper" exposure is, itself, often a subjective one. But modern cameras do a pretty good job of guessing, so you should learn to read the exposure meter on yours. Photos that are underexposed (not enough light) will come out dark and shadowy, while photos that are overexposed (too much light) will be bright and blown out. Either of these effects may be desired for artistic purposes (e.g., silhouettes, or high key photography), but generally you want to aim for that happy medium.

Underexposed images will be dark; overexposed images will be bright - aim for the middle.

Shutter Speed (side effect: motion blur)

When you "click the shutter", prompting your camera to take a picture, a gate opens, allowing light from the scene your camera is pointed at to reach the sensor (or film) behind the lens, to record the image it sees. The amount of time that gate stays open is determined by the shutter speed, which you can adjust. Fast speeds (often measured in fractions of a second) yield short exposures, and slow speeds (often measured in numbers of seconds) yield long exposures.

The longer the shutter is open, the more light the camera will pick up, increasing the exposure; but if you or your subject is moving, a slow shutter speed will produce an image with motion blur. This may be desired in some instances, where you want to depict movement (such as the headlights of moving cars, or the running of water in a stream). There are also some neat tricks that can be done with long exposures, such as light writing and ghost effects.

A fast shutter speed freezes motion; a slow shutter speed introduces motion blur.

However, often a clear image with sharp details is desired, especially in cases where you want to freeze some kind of action (like moving athletes or wildlife). This requires a fast shutter speed, which inevitably reduces the exposure. If you're shooting in low light conditions, I suggest using a tripod for stability. Additionally, you may have to consider adjusting another parameter to ensure that the exposure is bright enough.

Aperture Size (side effect: depth of field)

Aperture size is the size of the opening the light passes through when you click the shutter, and is another parameter you can adjust in your camera. Larger apertures take in more light than smaller apertures, resulting in a brighter exposure. Aperture sizes can be confusing to read, because they are measured in "f-numbers", with the number being the denominator of a fraction, so that f/1.8, for example, is a larger aperture than f/8.

A large aperture produces a narrow depth of field, where only objects within a small distance from the focal plane (where the lens is focused) are rendered in focus. Any objects beyond that distance will appear blurry. This creates an aesthetic effect that is very popular in photography (see: bokeh), and it also helps to focus the viewer's eye onto a single object in the image.

A large aperture yields a shallow depth of field; small apertures go deeper.

However, if you want objects at different distances from the camera to be simultaneously in focus (like a person's face, and the finger they're pointing at you), you'll need a wider depth of field, which can be acquired with a smaller aperture. But beware, your resulting exposure will be darker - you'll have to adjust some other parameter to brighten it up. You may also notice that with small apertures, points of light show up as star bursts.

ISO Level (side effect: noise/grain)

The last of the three important parameters you can adjust to modify exposure is the ISO Level. ISO Level refers to the sensitivity of the camera sensor (or film, if you're not shooting digitally) that records the light coming through the camera during an exposure. You can increase the sensor's sensitivity in order to pick up more light, without adjusting either the shutter speed or aperture size. This is especially handy when you're shooting in dark environments, and you need a quick exposure to reduce motion blur. However, the cost of greater sensitivity is a grainier image. You should try to use the lowest ISO Level possible in any situation, but don't be afraid to bump it up when the situation warrants it.

Higher sensitivity picks up more light, but produces grainier images.

Flash

If you're desperate, and there's just not enough light getting to your camera, no matter how you adjust the shutter speed, aperture size, and ISO Level, you always have the option of using your camera's flash. I use this as a last resort, however, because not only does it change the look of the scene (a candlelit dinner, for example, will lose its ambiance when lit with a bright flash), and look more amateurish (since amateurs who don't know how to adjust exposure more often resort to the flash in low-light conditions), the light produced by a direct, head-on flash is harsh and often unflattering. Use it sparingly.

Ambient light is more dynamic; direct flash is harsh and unflattering.

Of course, at this point, you may want to consider experimenting with alternative sources of light (like off-camera flash), or looking for a faster lens (which can be expensive). But then, we're talking about other areas of photography, and that discussion is for another day.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sexual Chronicles of a French Family (2012)

It occurs to me that, given my specialties, it might be fruitful to record my opinions of the erotic/sex-related films that I watch, which I have done only very sparingly up to now.

Well, this morning, I watched a delightful surprise of a little film titled Sexual Chronicles of a French Family (currently available on Netflix). It, well, chronicles, in a documentary-like format, the lives of each member of a French family, specifically as relates to their sexual fulfillment (or lack thereof).

The conflict begins when the teenage boy in the family gets caught at school filming himself masturbating in class (it was a dare). His mother is forced to acknowledge the fact that, as is so frequently the case, we teach kids about the dangers of sex, but leave them helplessly floundering when it comes to seeking sexual fulfillment.

So, the mother embarks on a quest to open a dialogue about sex within the family, and we, the viewers, are treated in voyeuristic fashion to each member's personal sex life, from the teenager dying to lose his virginity, to the elderly widower who regularly visits a prostitute, and everything in between.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much sex was actually in this movie, and although you don't see anything explicit*, it gets really close. Consistently. But the other thing is, although it's not unerotic, the sex feels very real, not like porn sex, and it seems to serve the purpose of fleshing out the characters and not simply existing for titillation's sake. The only thing that stood out to me was the fact that I didn't notice any of the characters ever experiencing orgasm.

Nevertheless, I feel that this film portrays a very healthy, sex-positive attitude toward human sexuality, even on topics such as prostitution and exhibitionism, which are frequently sensationalized for dramatic effect. The film does not ignore the importance of contraception, and there is a healthy balance between male and female nudity. One of the characters is even bisexual.

I feel I can recommend this film highly, although I doubt most people will be in a proper frame of mind to truly enjoy it. At least with regard to my experience of the American mindset, viewers either want mindless titillation (that goes out of its way to avoid incidental male eroticism), or they want a comedy where they can be free to giggle every time a character mentions a sex act. This film is neither. It is much more enriching, and much more fulfilling, than both.

* Yep, Netflix duped me into seeing the censored US release of this film. Fucking Americans. :-\

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Self-Portrait Photography

This is just a list I wrote up one day while bored.

The advantages of being a self-portrait photographer:

* You don't have to coordinate your schedule with other people.
* Your model is always on board with the kind of shots you want to take, as well as how you want to use them.
* You never have to bother with the confusing issue of model releases.
* You get experience modelling.

The disadvantages of being a self-portrait photographer:

* You can't really take any truly spontaneous shots.
* You get less experience behind the camera.
* Shoots encompass an awful lot of guess and check.
* You only ever have one body to work with, whether it's the one you want or not.

As a social recluse, I am greatly advantaged by the choice to be a self-portrait photographer. However, that last point is the crucial one. Luckily, in my case, I am at least moderately attractive, and that has brought me quite far. But in the end, it's not far enough. I know it's hard to believe, but I didn't pick up a camera to take pictures of feminized erotic male nudes. That means I am going to have to start working on my people skills.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Stigma of Sex

If a person can become a photographer because he's inspired by the beauty of natural landscapes, and wants to capture and share that beauty with the world, then is it any less valid if a person becomes a photographer because he wants to capture the beauty of naked women and share it with the world?

I think that the biblical concept of lust as a mortal sin presupposes that one's disproportionate interest in sex outshines other important concerns in life; and I think that, from an artistic perspective, this is the problem with most pornography, where the goal is to produce a sexually appealing - rather than an artistically accomplished - image. But if your goal is to depict eroticism artistically, then what's wrong with that?

Sex is an uncomfortable topic for many, but it is a part of life, and I feel that it deserves the artistic treatment just like everything else. And it's not like sunsets or wildlife or flower macros or sports or newborns or any other popular genre of photography is any less cliché, or has any less potential for commercialism, than taking pictures of nude subjects (that may or may not be engaged in sexual activity). Yet, as an erotic photographer, I have a really hard time finding like minds among respected art communities.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why YOU Should Be Sex-Positive

I'm a pervert. I'm sexually liberated. I enjoy the sensual, erotic aspects of life, and I voluntarily spend a lot of my time indulging in them. Obviously, being sex-positive serves me, because I can be positive about who I am and what I do, and not wallow in shame. But why should you be sex-positive, if you're not like me?

The answer is, being sex-positive doesn't just help you to have better sex - although it does, and that's a worthwhile goal of its own. But I imagine that not everybody places "having better sex" as a high priority in their life. Maybe the sex you're having right now is fantastic. Maybe you don't really like sex - whether or not it's due to a sex-negative attitude - and having better sex is actually contrary to your goals.

But there's more to sex-positivity than just having better sex. And even if you, personally, are not in a position to reap the physical and psychological benefits of having a sex-positive attitude (although I doubt that's completely possible), I believe that embracing sex-positivity on a widespread scale will do much to alleviate the pain and suffering of many who currently live under a sex-negative framework, and increase their pleasure and enjoyment of life significantly.

The attitude of sex-negativity hinges on the belief that there is something immoral or sinful about sex. Obviously, if you have this opinion, then you're not going to think that embracing sex will improve the state of society. But sex is a natural part of human life, and as sexual organisms, we all experience sexual feelings and desires. Going against the grain, and saying that sex is the problem in the first place, is a very warped view of human nature and, if you're religious, God's creation.

Look at all the problems that sex-negativity fosters. How many people experience guilt and shame over their sexual feelings and desires? How many people grow up hating themselves, or being hated by others, because of the sexual feelings and desires they experience? Additionally, gymnophobia (the fear of nudity) contributes to the body image disorders that are becoming pandemic in modern society.

Sex obsession and sex addiction are often cited as sex-related problems that modern society faces. It is understandable that sex-negative social activists would caution us that embracing a more positive attitude toward sexuality would feed into these "illnesses", but this is actually backwards. Addiction and obsession are rampant, now, because we repress our sexual urges, and they are forced to manifest in unhealthy patterns of behavior.

Just because sex-positivity celebrates the positive role of sex in life, does NOT mean that it advocates turning a blind eye to people who engage in unhealthy patterns of behavior. Sex-positivity does NOT mean saying "sex is always awesome, let's all have sex all the time". It simply means having a more positive attitude toward sex, and treating it with the reverence and respect it deserves - which also means taking it seriously when it causes problems in people's lives.

The fact is, if we embrace sex, we will become less obsessed with it, and it will no longer be a marginalized aspect of our lifestyles, just dying to break out after dark and transgress all boundaries; it will instead be re-integrated into our daily lives, and recover it's own appropriate level of focus.

Another problem that sex-negativity causes - and this is a serious one - is a lack of communication. Negative attitudes support a stigma surrounding sex and our bodies. This makes it hard for people to develop healthy attitudes, and to seek help when problems occur. That not enough people practice safe sex often enough, which itself leads to the transmission of diseases and unplanned pregnancies, is a symptom of a lack of communication, often caused by embarrassment about the topic of sex, but also by prudish, overly modest attitudes - the kind that support abstinence as a "form" of contraception and the cultural institution of slut-shaming.

All of these problems could be alleviated by embracing a sex-positive attitude. Chances are you've been raised in a sex-negative culture, whether those influences have been blatant or more subtle. And if so, you feel uncomfortable about the topic of sex. Naturally, you're going to feel uncomfortable about adopting a more sex-positive stance, and probably healthily skeptical about the good it can do.

But think about all the social problems we have to deal with related to sex. Many of them are directly caused by the same embarrassment you feel, the stigma that causes people to feel less than happy, and be less than vocal, about the sexual aspect of their lives. And most if not all of the others are exacerbated by the culture of silence and shame that keeps these problems in the dark, where they fester without access to solutions.

Do you want to continue to contribute to that? Is your embarrassment, your allegiance to the social mandate that there is something unholy about the natural biological function of sexual desire and intimacy, more important to you than helping to heal society of its crippling sexual malaise? If not: if you're ready to stop struggling against your natural impulses, if you'd rather stand up and do something good for the world, then start to adopt a more sex-positive stance today. The more of you who do, the more popular it will become, and the better off we will all be in the long run.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Teacher's Pet

A message to students everywhere: have a great school year! And don't forget, your teachers put a lot of work into preparing those lesson plans, so be sure to show your appreciation by giving them something in return!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Porn Without Plot

I've come to you today to talk about a very frustrating issue: the current state of pornography in modern culture. It's pretty sad when a person as sex-positive and pro-porn as I am can't stay interested while watching porn. I mean, take any television series with a premise that intrigues me, and I could sit down and watch several hour-long episodes in a row - because the story keeps me interested. But after an hour of, say, Girls Gone Wild, I'm plain bored. And it's not that the porn isn't hot and exciting. But it's just sex. And how long can just sex keep an intellectual guy like me stimulated?

This is why I want more from my porn. But there's a problem, because a lot of people believe that porn should remain separated from the rest of our entertainment media. This is, incidentally, a great example of the compartmentalization of sex that I've written about before. The prevailing opinion (from the non-shamelessly perverted majority) on erotic scenes in non-pornographic movies is that they should be "tasteful" which is to say merely suggestive and never explicit. Why? Because, if a person wants porn, they'll seek out porn.

And that's precisely the purpose for porn. Not to tell stories that involve human sexuality, but specifically to turn people on and then get them off, as concisely as possible. And I have to admit, there is a place for media like that. Sometimes, you're just really horny, you've got noone to get it on with, and you need something to stimulate you. But is that all media depictions of human sexuality are good for? It sounds to me like a symptom of the mindset that sex is only good for one thing. It's not worth intellectual discussion. It's not worth artistic consideration. And it should stay well away from all non-"sex ghetto" parts of daily life.

Sometimes, you have people who try to make porn with a plot. In fairness, sometimes it works really well (please read Alan Moore's Lost Girls if you like good porn with plot). But a lot of it is just really bad. And it contributes to the stereotype that porn with plot is terrible, and reinforces many people's belief that porn has one function, and telling a story is not part of that. On the other side of the divide, you have professionals who are telling really fantastic stories, but they almost always avoid bringing sex into the story. And when they do, it's always "tasteful" and "suggestive", and never explicit. (George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, is one notable exception to this rule).

What, exactly, is wrong with including explicit depictions of sex in mainstream entertainment - not even gratuitously, but where it serves the story, like in romances, for example? And not just sex, either, but explicit nudity? Unfortunately, the barriers to doing so are formidable, and have much to credit our modern taboo on sex for. Many people are happy to keep sexuality marginalized, but I fear that it does us (as a species of sexual organisms) more harm than good. And one of the symptoms is really crappy porn that can't hold your interest.

Look, in my life, sex is not simply a disconnected act that occurs behind closed doors and is not talked about outside the bedroom. And I'm not just talking about sexual intercourse. I'm talking also about sexuality - sexual desire and sexual orientation - sensuality, and eroticism. Sex is a part of life - and an important one - and I believe in the importance of integrating sex into other aspects of one's life. Thus, when telling a story about people, it makes sense that sex may come up as a topic with real importance (and not just to titillate the audience). And, because I do not fear and shy away from sex, I don't see what's wrong with depicting that sexuality explicitly.

Even if this formula for fictional entertainment is not suitable for widespread audiences (and obviously it won't be, so long as taboo and negativity prevails), I do believe it has its place. We are plagued with a scarcity of really good erotic entertainment - and here, maybe an appropriate distinction between pornography and erotica can actually be made. It's not that porn is more explicit than erotica, but that porn is produced solely for the purpose of getting people off, whereas erotica is more like other kinds of entertainment, but it does not shy away from approaching the subject of sex, and does not try to refrain from titillating its audience, but is concerned first and foremost with telling a good story, or appealing to other aspects of a person's interest beyond the simple goal of arousal to orgasm.

And, really, that's the definition I've been using for my photography all along. Photos tell stories in a much different way than narratives do. But putting the story-telling aspect aside, I have never shied away from being "too explicit" in the service of my erotic photography, because I know it is not a coy attitude toward sexuality that sets my art apart from simple pornography, it is the sensitive approach I use to depict my subject - whether it is the sensual appeal of nudity, or the full-scale titillation of sexual intercourse - with consideration to all the artistic elements that come together to form a beautiful and artistic (and not just sexy) picture. And I think the very same approach could be applied to the production of pornographic videos.

Obviously, it would require a different mindset - the goal being to make a great product, not to bring the audience to orgasm - but the result would be far more interesting, and I think it would serve to promote a healthier attitude toward sex, that integrates it back into the great multitude of facets of everyday life, liberating it from marginalization and helping to shed its stigma. Sex is a beautiful thing, and a regular part of life - like the sunrise; it is not a tool brought out of the woodshed only for the purpose of making people cum.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nude Fashion

There's one thing I don't understand about fashion photography - why do all these people think these models look better with their clothes on? This realization hit me when I saw a clothing ad in a magazine featuring a girl wearing one of those shirts with a wide collar that almost hangs off her shoulder, thereby exposing her beautiful clavicle to the world. And then I thought, I wonder how much more interesting the rest of her body would look without those boring, lifeless layers of manmade fabric covering up her natural beauty (or at least as natural as a photoshopped magazine ad can be).


I mean, I know I'm a pervert - I don't deny that fact - but it's not even about that. I'm not saying all these models should do porn (not that I would be against that, either). I'm just saying that I think the naked body is infinitely more interesting than the clothes we put on it. That's not to say that I have no interest in fashion - I do. Clothes can be a lot of fun, and they can look nice, too. But as an artist, the naked human body is so much richer an object for study and appreciation. (I think this is among the reasons why I will always be an art photographer, and not a commercial photographer).

I recently added a new quote to my sidebar on this topic. Well, actually, it's an old quote, and one that I'd passed over in the past. I've seen it used an awful lot among the nudist community, and that, I think, caused me to view it as a sort of cliche. But I'd always liked it, and recently I realized that, not only was it written by an artist (as opposed to a nudist) - I'm sure you've heard of Michelangelo - but it actually applies to art. Specifically, nude art, which Michelangelo had no qualms about dabbling in (see: endless controversies over whether or not David should be covered up). So, as a nude artist (in both senses of the term), I am reclaiming the quote for art.

"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?"
 - Michelangelo


And I don't give a damn whether you're an artist who thinks there is nothing sexual about nude art, or a pervert who thinks the great appeal of nudity is sexual in nature (I give weight to both of those arguments), either way, the truth and the importance of this quote is not diminished. A naked body is more beautiful than a clothed one, and that's true whether you're sexually attracted to it, or if it's rather your aesthetic inclinations that are aroused (my ideal would be both, simultaneously).

I regret that modern "civilized" society likes to throw a fit about anything that has to do with human sexuality, but I'm not going to let that get in the way of my appreciation for the beauty of life. As a matter of fact, whether you're for porn or against it, I think that in either case, if you were to be honest with yourself, you'd find that you agree with this statement: the world needs more nude art. (Whether for supplementation or diffusion, I leave up to you).

Of course, if all you can see in an image of the unclothed human body is ugliness and sin, then, as Oscar Wilde would say, you are the one who is corrupt.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Entertaining Myself


I'm in the middle of a weeklong process (delayed partially because I didn't have enough space on my hard drive for all my pictures) of organizing several gigs of photos I took on a trip to the mountains last weekend; I have several other photo ideas in my head that I'm holding off on until I finish this set, including one that's very time-sensitive and I want to get done very soon; and I still end up doing a spontaneous, unplanned shoot when a bolt of inspiration strikes me while browsing random pics on the web (from conception to completion in just one hour!).

Yeah, you could say I'm obsessed with photography.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Slumber Party Campout

Back in 2010, I produced an image titled Slumber Party. I don't remember what the genesis of the idea for that image was, but the goal was to capture the iconic atmosphere of a girls' slumber party. As a self-portrait photographer, this - of course - could only be accomplished via a clone shot, with me posing as each of the girls. In choosing the outfits and hairstyles for the four girls, I ended up creating distinct personae for each of them: the beauty queen, the athlete, the sex pot (a.k.a. lolita), and the air head. The result was one of my most elaborate shots to date, and proved to be very popular.


One of the elements that most intrigued me about Slumber Party was the different outfits the girls wore. I liked their variety, and how they reflected the girls' personalities, indicating the different styles of pajamas a girl might wear to bed (or a sleepover). There were still more outfits I wanted to depict, so after a time I began to consider shooting a sequel to the first image. I was inspired by the slasher film Slumber Party Massacre, and decided to make my sequel an homage to the horror genre that I am so fond of. But due to my experience and interests, I chose to focus on the sexual subtext of the concept, without ignoring the violence completely.

During the planning phase, Slumber Party Massacre grew from a single image into a 7-part series, featuring each of the four girls twice - once together, during the titular party, and each of them individually, offering insight into their personal, daytime lives. As a result, we learned that the air head was a cheerleader, the athlete belonged to a swim club, the beauty queen had a substantial wardrobe, and the sex pot liked to engage in illicit activities in the boys' restroom. Additionally, a fifth character was introduced - the perverted killer - showing up in each shot (usually hiding in the background) - and an aftermath shot was included to round out the week and provide closure.


Months of effort went into producing the series, aided by my creative assistant and close friend Willow, who also helped out with the original Slumber Party image. The sequel, released in 2011, was even more elaborate than the original (to a substantial degree), and though I don't think any of the individual images stand out quite like the first Slumber Party, they work well together to tell an entertaining story. (You can dive into it right here on my blog).

Understandably, I needed a break after Slumber Party Massacre, so it was a while before I even considered the thought of completing the trilogy; and when I finally did, I was determined to scale back and produce another single image like the original Slumber Party. But the thing was, I didn't want to repeat myself. So I needed an original idea. And then it hit me. What's similar to a slumber party, but different enough to avoid repetition? Sleepaway camp! It was a fantastic idea, so I got started on planning the third image in the series: Slumber Party Campout.

Which I have just finished this weekend. Here it is, for the first time ever:


The name of the camp is Camp Climax, an homage to a sight gag in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Lolita (a book that appeared in the original Slumber Party). This time, the athlete is decked out in (rather skimpy) hiking gear; the beauty queen is traipsing barefoot through the grass in a sundress and flower crown; the sex pot has donned a string bikini, no doubt headed for the nearest swimming hole; and the air head's got her Girl Scout uniform on, enjoying a toasted marshmallow. By far, the most difficult outfit was that Girl Scout uniform, which Willow and I created from scratch - including that sash complete with made-up badges! Here's a closer look:


This was my opportunity to apply my own perverted touch to the Girl Scouts, so naturally I didn't hold back. As a result, I proudly introduce to you the Girl Sluts of America! In this organization, girls are awarded badges both for demonstrating experience in sexual skills and for reaching a variety of milestones on their journey to adulthood. Allow me to describe the various badges featured on the sash above, in the order that they appear (left to right, top to bottom), along with the requirements for earning them :

* Cookie Seller (req: participate in the Girl Sluts Cookies program, where girls learn to work the streets and ply their wares)
* Training Bra (req: purchase/wear first bra or training bra)
* Bikini (req: wear two-piece bikini-style swimsuit in public)

* Thong (req: purchase/wear thong underwear or bikini)
* Naturism (req: participate in a naturist camping trip)
* Shaving (req: first time shaving legs or other body parts)

* Puberty (req: first period)
* Self-Exploration (req: show basic understanding of your own anatomy and demonstrate arousal to orgasm)
* Lesbian Experimentation (req: share an erotic experience, including kissing and/or touching, with another female)

* High Heels (req: wear high heel shoes in public)
* Makeup (req: demonstrate basic competency as a makeup artist)
* Dancer (req: perform a choreographed dance routine in front of an audience)

* Virginity Loss (req: engage in penetrative sexual intercourse with a male)
* Oral Technique (req: demonstrate basic competency giving blowjobs)
* Sexting (req: send sexually explicit image/text digitally to another person)

* Toys (req: demonstrate usage of various sex toys on oneself)
* Discipline (req: submit to an erotic spanking)
* Bondage (req: demonstrate basic competency with knots)

* Free Love (req: show willingness to give sexual pleasure to others unselfishly)
* SlutWalk (req: participate in a SlutWalk event)
* Cock Slut (req: awarded to girls upon completion of the Girl Sluts program)

And there you have it. I hope you're as excited about the completion of the Slumber Party trilogy as I am. I put in lots of work, and had lots of fun producing these images. It is very satisfying to be able to look at the completed images and see the fruits of my labor. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I have no plans for there to be any further continuation of the Slumber Party series, but I will not rule out the future possibility, provided a good, solid idea comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will no doubt continue to produce clone shots, many involving me dressed in various feminine fashions, that are not officially part of, but certainly in the vein of the Slumber Party series (such as this one I put together in 2012, depicting a sex ed class).

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Protect The Skin You're In

I just found out that Miley Cyrus recently posed nude for a skin cancer charity. Marc Jacobs is offering for sale a t-shirt with the nude image of Miley Cyrus, accompanied by the slogan "Protect The Skin You're In", with all proceeds going to the NYU Skin Cancer Institute.

This is a double boon - we get to see Miley naked, and it supports a good cause! It's win-win! I am so excited by this news, and my respect for Miley so strong, that I wanted to do something special (aside from purchasing one of her tees) to show my support for her. Please enjoy this self-portrait tribute, inspired by the campaign Miley posed for:


To be clear, I think people should have the freedom to get naked without having to justify themselves. If you or me or Miley Cyrus wants to pose nude in a public forum, I consider that a positive thing, regardless of what it's for. But unfortunately, despite posing nude (tastefully, you'll notice) for charity - in a context where nudity is entirely appropriate and not gratuitous (it's skin cancer, people) - I am still seeing tons of criticism leveled against Miley by moral conservatives, and it makes me sick.

It's that kind of slut-shaming mentality (which is not targeted exclusively at people who actually behave promiscuously, but to anyone who chooses to dress or act in ways that contradict an unreasonably strict standard of modesty) that prevents other, less determined individuals from making decisions like the one that Miley recently made, because they can't (or don't want to) deal with the criticism. The result is a scarcity of healthy depictions of nudity in the media, and a lack of support for healthy attitudes about our bodies and towards sexuality in general, which contributes to the moral quagmire we are currently stuck in.

For that reason, I respect Miley Cyrus enormously, for the strength of will she demonstrates in making these decisions that support the authentic expression of her individuality - and yes, I think she's a great role model, even for children. The irony is that I respect her so much because she's the kind of person who doesn't need my support to be just who she is; but I want to show my support for her nonetheless. These are exactly the reasons I bought her album Can't Be Tamed when it came out just a few years ago, despite not being into the pop music scene. I'll be putting that disc on rotation today.

I heart you, Miley!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mutual Attraction

The picturesque, fairy-tale view of romance that we are all taught to believe in as children involves a mutual attraction, wherein each partner of a couple is drawn to and desires the other. It promotes the principle of love, and freedom of choice in who we choose to marry, even as the reality of arranged marriages and partnerships where one desires the other more than the reverse, and where the disadvantaged party is encouraged to give the relationship time, so that she may "grow to love" her partner, encroaches on that fantasy ideal.

The way gender politics are set up in this world, with regard to sexual selection rites, is that the female is expected to preen, so that the male may hunt and choose his mate. It would be naive to believe that the female has no power of choice in deciding her mate, but the balance of power and selection stands squarely in the male's corner. Yet - as loath as I am to feed into misogynistic PUA culture - there is a perceived difference of experience between the "alpha" males, who get to take what they want, and the so-called "beta" males, who must pick from the scraps.

As a rather effeminate male, with a deficiency of social skills and self-confidence, I have rarely been in a position to pursue those females I am attracted to. I do not whine and blame the females for my own deficiencies, however the fact remains. And I am not alone, as a guy who dreams of going out with a smoking hot model-caliber beauty, who nevertheless must largely resign himself to the likely fact that this is no more than a pipe dream. Were prostitution legal, one such as me could trade of his resources (whatever they may be) for an experience with such a woman, but you can not buy that woman's desire (for anything other than what you are buying her with).

Oh, to be wanted, by the very one you want. It must be a lovely experience. To be honest, I am not completely alien to it, but my experience is largely biased toward one-sided attractions, and tragic, unrequited loves. Going in both directions, mind you. As an erotic model, I have made myself an icon of desire. Curiously, though I originally hoped to have a larger female fanbase, I have found that I am disproportionately popular among gay males.

This is curious, indeed, and begs considerable consideration. Loath, also, am I to tap into cultural stereotypes of gender and sexuality, but they are impossible to ignore. Men are said to be more sexual than women. I don't actually believe that, but I do believe that women are more likely to keep their sexuality private, for fear of social ramifications. It is also said that men are disproportionately affected by visual representations of sexuality, compared to women (who, stereotypically, gravitate toward literary erotica instead). As much as I dislike that conclusion, I must concede the possibility that it represents a biological difference between the sexes.

Nevertheless, in my personal life, outside the realm of being a photo model, the trend has reinforced itself. I seem to receive a disproportionate amount of attention from gay males, and a relative dearth of attention from straight females. This may certainly be a result of my effeminacy, which I lament. I want to appeal to straight females, but it would be inauthentic for me to adopt a culturally masculine appearance (and mannerisms) - essentially, becoming someone I'm not to trick someone I like into liking me.

Still, I haven't ruled out the possibility that straight females are simply not expressing their attraction to me because, a) they are expected to be more sexually passive and less aggressive compared to males, and b) my social reticence presents a barrier for most people to 1) get to know me well enough to decide if they are attracted to me, and 2) let me know how they feel if they do. Nevertheless, whatever the causes, I would feel a lot happier, and be a lot more confident, if I knew that I was reciprocally desired by the sort of people (it doesn't have to be every single one of them) I myself desire.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Slut Day


Today is the first Saturday of August - that means it's Slut Day! So be sure to don your sluttiest outfit, and walk the streets! Or, if you don't have the courage, you can still celebrate by throwing a Slutty Party and inviting all your friends to dress in their sluttiest clothes (tip: private homes can have more lax dress codes than public locations!).

Not a slut? That's okay! You don't have to be a slut to enjoy Slut Day, and participating in Slut Day does not mean you are a slut. Slut Day is an opportunity for everyone to get in touch with their inner slut. And the more people that participate, the better we can stand up and fight the culture of slut-shaming!

Slut Day is not officially affiliated with SlutWalk, but it does share with it a common ethos: namely, to raise awareness of the fact that a person's manner of dress does not dictate their sexual behaviors, and also that a person does not give up their dignity, respect, and humanity by choosing to express their sexual agency.

So this is it! Whether you just want to wear that slutty outfit you never had the guts to leave the house in before, or you're looking for an excuse to flirt up a storm, this is your day. But please remember, if you do engage in any promiscuous behaviors - like every other day of the year - be safe! And if you bump into some-sexy-body, remember to treat them like a human being and honor their consent (or lack thereof)!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Echo Chamber

I'm still reading lots of more and less fascinating articles at The Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Here is a quote from one such paper about fidelity and sexual ethics. Some of the author's conclusions are a bit conservative for my tastes, but it is otherwise a good read. And he argues masterfully the absurdity of the dominant view of sex as an activity whose primary purpose is procreation. Allow me to paraphrase for impact and clarity:

"The sex life of a typical person involves thousands of erotic episodes (including masturbation), frequently leading to orgasm. Of these, it would be very unusual if more than half a dozen of these events were reproductive. Thus, the notion that human sexuality is to be explained by its reproductive function is simply based on an ignorance of human sexuality."

I really liked this review of the book America's War on Sex, which clearly articulates the problems America has with sex, and exactly the reason I am so frustrated with the American view of sexuality. We are positively obsessed with sex (as is the human condition), but as an erotophile, this doesn't comfort me, because our attitudes toward sex are so poisoned by shame and hypocrisy. You're not actually allowed to enjoy sex, you just indulge in it (because you can't help yourself), and are then supposed to feel bad about it afterward.

On that note, here's a brief discussion of sex-positivity, by Charlie Glickman. Also, in Glickman's dissertation on Sex and Shame: Authenticity in Adult Education (which is very long, and has more to say about adult education than sexual shame), he touches on Rubin's five ideas that feed into the social construct of sexual shame, that are so exciting, I have to introduce you to them here:

(These are discussed, with citations, in Chapter 5 of Glickman's dissertation).

1. "Sex-negativity is the assumption that sex is inherently degrading and sinful. While it may be redeemed through procreation, ideally without pleasure, sex is still damaging. This concept rests in part on the belief that the sexual organs are less holy than the heart and mind, much less the soul, and in part on the belief that anything that involves them is guilty until proven innocent. As Rubin points out, 'such notions have by now acquired a life of their own and no longer depend solely on religion for their perseverance.'"

Simply put, the pursuit of sexual pleasure is either viewed as a sin (if you're religious), or a vice (if you're not). It's not socially acceptable to view it as a virtue, much less an activity with divine significance.

2. "The fallacy of misplaced scale is a corollary of sex-negativity. When transgressions of sex 'standards' and laws are considered as deserving particularly harsh punishments, sexual acts become burdened with an excess of significance. Not only are many consensual sexual acts punishable as felonies in the United States, but outside legal contexts, differences in sexuality frequently provoke anxiety, fear and rage to a degree that differences in diet, hobbies or clothing do not."

This is quite vividly expressed by the attitude that sex is "different", not to be treated like other aspects of human experience, and specifically to be considered more grave and serious than other activities. It's the reason sex offenses carry more stigma than murder, and why gay people get disowned by their parents more frequently than vegetarians.

3. "The hierarchical system of sexual value refers to the pyramid of possible sexual acts in which married, reproductive heterosexuals are given erotic privilege. People who engage in non-reproductive sex, are unmarried, or deviate from this standard in any other way occupy lower positions. The closer one is to the apex, the more one is rewarded as mentally healthy, and given respectability, legality, physical and social mobility, material benefits and institutional support."

Inevitably, when you mention sex-negativity, you'll get some people claiming to view sex in a positive light, but with the caveat that only certain kinds of sex are good (like, straight, married sex). This absolutely feeds into a system of discrimination against sexual minorities and those who practice alternative sexual lifestyles.

4. "As a result of these tenets, United States society also believes in a domino theory of sexual peril. Only through constant vigilance can one climb up the pyramid of sexual value, much less remain at the peak. Any deviation from allowable sex can cause one to slide down to the unregenerate depths."

On the topic of the "slippery slope" argument, have you heard the one about the man who starts watching porn on the internet, only to become utterly addicted to the point of completely ignoring his wife, resulting in their divorce, who then seeks out more and more extreme erotic stimuli to satisfy his perverse hunger, until he finally gets arrested for soliciting a minor for sexual activities involving handcuffs, a leather whip, and a dog?

5. "The last facet of United States sexual beliefs that Rubin traces is the lack of a concept of benign sexual variation. As she describes, 'most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere.' Further, United States society 'discriminates against diversity' in general and with respect to sexual diversity in particular."

Along with sex-negativity, I think this is the most important of the five concepts. We insist upon this model of sexual normality, to the point that any variation is viewed as an undesirable aberration, and frequently a mental illness. Seriously, why can't we just accept that different people have different tastes in sex and leave it at that?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Am A Perv, Not A Slut

Are you sexually liberated? Sexual liberation does not mean doing things you don't like to do, just to prove that you're "willing" to do them. But it does involve keeping an open mind about sex, and being tolerant of other people's sexual practices, even when they differ from your own.

As a sexually liberated individual, you can imagine that I am very frustrated living in the current, sexually repressive climate. But contrary to what some would assume, even in my ideal fantasy world, promiscuity would not be particularly rampant. Most people would (still?) have most (though not necessarily all) of their sex within the context of committed relationships (or, potentially, committed friendships). But, people would be a lot more open about sex. There would be no stigma about others seeing you naked, and couples (or larger groups - committed relationships needn't be monogamous) would regularly have sex within public view*, or unselfconsciously share their intimate moments in a voyeuristic/exhibitionist capacity through pictures and videos.

*Keeping in line with the theme of non-promiscuity, others would respect the personal space of the "performers", for lack of a better term, instead of trying to insinuate themselves into the sex act. (I just have this image in my head of the stereotypical "cruiser", who thinks that if a person is liberated enough to have sex in public, then they must not care who joins in - which I don't understand, beyond a blind self-serving desire to get what one wants, disregarding the others' comfort and wishes. It's a lot like the victim-blaming mentality, that insists that if a girl puts our for some guys, or flirts and wears sexy clothes in public, then she's open game for your sexual advances).

Obviously, this all reflects my own personal interests, and would not be an ideal world for others not like me. But, I think it brings up an interesting point. I consider myself to be perverted, and sexually liberated beyond the norm that is expected of people. Yet, I have less sex, and probably safer sex than many who are labeled average.

For example, a guy can have unprotected sex and "knock up" his teenage girlfriend, and while he may indeed be chastised by his peers (or at least elders), he's still pretty much viewed as being normal, with a normal sexual appetite (just, perhaps, a lack of responsibility). Meanwhile, if I engage in "weird" sexual practices, like allowing anonymous strangers to watch me masturbate on the internet, I am viewed as a deviant, in spite of how responsibly I may engage in those practices.

This situation is illustrated perfectly by a scene I viewed on an episode of Girls Gone Wild. The cameraman follows a party girl back to her hotel room where she expresses mild jealousy about the guys the two girls she's staying with have been hooking up with. Then she permits herself to be coaxed (with very little pressure required) to strip naked and masturbate to orgasm, on camera.

It would not be a stretch for me to imagine the ridicule she might have received from her two promiscuous friends, if they found out (despite masturbation being an intrinsically less risky act than having sex with another person). I could also easily imagine them being the type who might, at most (and only with adequate pressure), flash the camera, but would otherwise scoff at the suggestion of getting naked and masturbating in front of it, so that countless strangers could watch it later.

It seems to me that breaking the 'privacy' taboo is more serious than being promiscuous. That is to say that whatever shit gets tossed around about sluts, pervs get it even worse. Personally, I'd rather value the responsible pursuit of sexual pleasure over the perceived 'normalness' of others' sexual practices. But I guess not everybody thinks that way.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Feminism's Response to Pornography

(This post, like the last one, is in response to another article linked in The Electric Journal of Human Sexuality).

For Goddess' sake, please explain to me how this image promotes violence against women.

Here's the problem with the feminist argument against pornography. Feminists complain that pornography is misogynistic. I think we can agree that misogyny is a bad thing. But in attacking pornography, they are essentially stating that all pornography is misogynistic - that pornography is in some way intrinsically linked to violence against women.

Certainly, some - possibly even a majority - of pornography is misogynistic. And fighting to reduce misogyny in porn is a noble cause. But you'll notice that this isn't a stance against pornography - it's a stance against misogyny in pornography. If misogyny were the problem, then anti-porn feminists would actually support pornography - provided it's of the non-misogynistic variety.

But no, you don't see that among the anti-porn crusade (which is not the same group as the sex-positive feminists who argue for better porn), they're too busy telling you why pornography - the entire form of speech which involves graphical depictions of sexual activity - is harmful to society (and women especially) and should be banned and censored.

That's like saying comedy should be criminalized because some of it is racist. Certainly, some comedy is racist - and there are arguments to be had about whether or not such comedy deserves to be protected under the freedom of speech. Regardless, labeling all comedy on the whole as racist and calling for its elimination could quite rightly be called insane.

And it's such an ingrained cultural idea that it's to the point where even non-"radical feminists" support this view. There is at least one art photographer whom I otherwise respect and admire, who takes nude portraits of women, who has publicly defined "pornography" as a form of "violence".

Quite frankly, I have taken photographs that most people - myself included - would describe as pornographic, and for you to suggest to me that those shots indicate a representation and defense of violence is extremely offensive to me, on the same level of offense Olympia Nelson rightly expressed when Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd described a nude photo of her as being "revolting".

I understand that nudity and sexuality are separate issues; I'm asking you to respect the fact that sexuality and violence are separate issues as well. And although - like nudity and sexuality - they can be combined, they are not equivalent. A graphical depiction of sexuality is no more intrinsically violent than a graphical depiction of nudity is intrinsically sexual (and I might even argue less so).

Let me make it simple: I will not concede any ground to anyone who's stance is in opposition to pornography on the whole, as an entire genre of speech. We can argue about types of pornography and things that are depicted within pornography, but if you're against pornography altogether, then your position will receive very little sympathy from me.

And, whatever you might say about semantics, there are actually a lot of people who seem to be of this position in the world. If it's a matter of poor phrasing, and using the term "pornography" when you really mean a specific kind of pornography, then it's really not unreasonable for me to ask you to redefine your stance to the point that you're actually saying what you mean, and really meaning what you say, before we can come to any kind of a common ground. That's not only fair, but extremely important in debates.

I am a pornographer. I am also a feminist (although I don't advertise it so much because the term has become so muddied and watered down as to become worse than meaningless). I am sensitive and I care about the tolerance of minorities (minorities that do not make up 50% of the human population).

And that is exactly why I will not concede any ground to anyone who is so insensitive as to criticize anyone who considers themself a pornographer or a defender of pornography, that is NOT part of the grand misogynist patriarchy these feminists rail against.

(For more on this topic, do check out my list of 5 Myths About Porn).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sexology, Perversion, and Asocial Sexuality

I was browsing the blogs on XTube today - but only briefly, because they consist entirely of uninteresting hookup personals - and I became frustrated, as I so frequently do, that despite so many people having an interest in sex, there are very few people willing to talk intelligently about it. The extent of most people's desire is to find what gets them hot so that they can get off. And then it occurred to me, that you do hear a lot about sex from the anti-sex crowd - the people who don't like to indulge in sex but like instead to talk about how horrible sex is ("the moral decay of modern society", etc.). And there just isn't enough of a voice from the sex-positive crowd - which I attribute at least as much to the sex-indulgers being ashamed of their indulgence than the proud ones being too busy getting off.

Anyway, a thought came to my mind which has come in the past - that I should be a sexologist of some sort. How awesome would it be to have some kind of official degree declaring my interest in sex beyond the obvious, to the level of intellectualism? I'm not really interested in couples therapy or the biology of sexual activity, but sex from a more philosophical and political/sociological perspective. I'm interested in how people think and feel about sex (more so than the actual sex that they have). I'm interested in how we as a society define sex, and how little that conforms to real human sexuality, and the enormous societal problems that causes in terms of how we deal with sexual issues (personally and culturally), as well as what solutions there might be to ameliorate that damage, and help improve the health of our sexual attitudes in the future.

But there's two problems. One, which is not dissimilar to the phenomenon I described above, being that 'sex' is not as frequently treated as a serious issue for study as, say, medicine, or engineering, or what have you. There is what looks to be an awesome school in San Francisco (of course) - the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality - but that brings me to my other problem. I do not live in (or anywhere remotely near) San Francisco, and I don't have the money to go back to school even if I did. Nevertheless, I began digging into their online journal of research, reviews, and such, and I came across this paper titled Constructing Perversions, which deals with the topic of classification of paraphilias in the DSM (a subject of particular interest to me, as it highlights the dysfunction in our current view of what constitutes normative - or, as the author designates it, "normophilic" - sexuality).

I have long been of the suspicion that our understanding of "perversity", particularly in the context of diagnosing mental disorders of a sexual variety (i.e., "paraphilia"), is a symptom of our grossly negligent misunderstanding of human sexuality in the first place. And the paper linked above does an excellent job of arguing that. The author explains how the religious model of non-procreative sex acts as sin has been redefined in our modern, secular world by designating the "purpose" of sex not as procreation but as being for "reciprocal affection". In other words, the point of sexual desire is to bring people together, to facilitate interpersonal bonding. Any sex acts that do not accomplish this goal are deemed non-normative and thus perverse.

This is actually, exactly the topic of an essay I tried to write once before, but never posted because I ended up going off on a massive tangent. It was titled "asocial sexuality". The dominant paradigm of sexual activity is that it serves a social function - to bring people together. Therefore, sex acts that are viewed as being "asocial" (which I do not consider to be the same thing as outright antisocial) are labeled perverse, and viewed in a negative light. Among these are included such popular pastimes as solo masturbation and private porn use. But, I would argue, these activities are not only a healthy part of normal sexuality, but are also invaluable resources for those who struggle with social interaction (as I do), and that stigmatizing such acts only further marginalizes those minorities who are unable to seek out sex in its accepted form - that is, the form of reciprocal affection.

Wow, I just summarized this long, meandering essay I had written in a single paragraph! Anyway, the paper I linked above is a very good read (for better or worse, the middle section goes on about Big Pharma's monopoly and selfish manipulation of our modern understanding of proper mental functioning), that also touches (albeit very briefly) on the possibility that "exhibitionism" may include a wide swath of behaviors beyond the caricature of the indiscriminate flasher (which itself is just one example of the importance of differentiating between people with truly problematic and antisocial sexual hangups, and other people who just have peculiar, but otherwise healthy, sexual appetites) - which I have approached before (here, and here).

God, the things we think we know about human sexuality are so tragically wrong. It truly is an appalling vista. And every time a lone voice of reason chimes out, cutting through all the din of ignorance and dogma, it is shouted down mercilessly. Oh no, you don't dare suggest that maybe pornography could be good for society. Or that prostitution might be seen as a legitimate vocation. And don't even think about re-evaluating what we teach kids about sex. Because we're absolutely addicted to our sexual dysfunction, and we want it to persist through the generations!

You know, it's true what Jim Morrison said. People are attached to their chains. ;-)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Girlfriend's Closet

I was reading about fashion in an issue of Seventeen magazine, and it hit me. Girls wearing their boyfriends' clothing is so accepted and mainstream, that a girl can actually buy clothes made for her, that are designed to simulate the "I grabbed this off my boyfriend's floor" (implied: after we slept together) look. See: boyfriend tee, boyfriend jeans. Generally, the style emphasizes the difference between guys' and girls' clothing, with the "boyfriend" styles being larger and baggier, compared to girls' usual slim, form-fitting garments.

And don't get me started on girls wearing boxers. Yeah, I can see the kink appeal of a girl wearing her partner's underwear (even more so than their outerwear), but in my opinion, a girl just doesn't look appealing in men's underwear. But it's a popular trend that's almost unanimously deemed "sexy", thanks to mainstream "guy culture".

But, try turning the tables for a second. I think a guy wearing his girlfriend's underwear is sexy, too (from the perspective of a guy wearing girls' underwear, not necessarily how he looks). And it's not uncommon, because a lot of guys (though most of them probably wouldn't admit it publicly) do have a bit of a perverted interest in women's undergarments.


But how is it viewed in mainstream culture? Not sexy. Not even cute. Just plain perverted. What kind of guy wears his girlfriend's panties, unless he's a perv or a closet homo (or both)? Either that, or he's a "pussy-whipped" sissy and it's part of his humiliation at the hands of his dominant girlfriend.

I'll grant you, that men's underwear (at least of the baggy, boxer variety) is more comfortable than a lot of women's (tight-fitting) underwear. (Although, I've never liked the feeling of wearing loose undergarments beneath another layer of clothing). And while women's underwear is more frequently designed to look sexy, because of the difference in men's and women's bodies, it often doesn't have the same effect when stuffed with a bulging package.

These pictures are probably unfair, given my ultra-feminine style and grooming.

Nevertheless, as with the entire wardrobe, women's clothing is designed with more variety, frequently more emphasis on aesthetics over comfort (compared to men's clothing - except maybe in the case of tuxedos and business suits), and many more fabrics and colors and styles. Maybe most men aren't into those things, but just as some women probably love the comfort and simplicity of men's casual clothing (the kind of girls who take every chance to borrow their boyfriends' clothes, and often buy garments of a less feminine nature at the store), I know for a fact that there are some men out there who find the ethos and philosophy behind women's clothing appealing.


Now, you can find fitted tees for men, and skinny jeans, and things of that sort, that are probably closer to feminine styles than what guys usually wear. But even then, I don't think we get as much variety in terms of colors and fabrics and graphics and what have you. Girls have the option of rocking distressed jeans and Nirvana tees (and are respected for it), but guys aren't really given the choice to wear unicorn tees and sequined jeans (and if they do, they're more likely ridiculed for it). Unless they actively shop in the women's section, of course, but then finding clothes in the right size can be difficult - since girls can rock the baggy "one size too big" look probably a lot better than guys can rock the ultra-tight "a couple sizes too small" look.

I came upon that problem trying to squeeze into this dress.

Well, this isn't the first time I've conjectured on a clothing line for men designed to simulate women's clothing. Ultimately, though, what's needed is not just the opportunity for men to dress like women (if they so choose), but also acceptance for it as well (although acceptance may be a gradual side-effect of there being more opportunities). A girl can grab something off of her boyfriend's floor and wear it for the day without much to-do. But can you imagine what it would be like for a guy to grab something out of his girlfriend's closet and, in all seriousness, wear it for the day?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Couple of Pet Peeves

To each their own, but both as a voyeur/exhibitionist and as a photographer/model, these two things get on my nerves.

1. Men who don't let their wives/girlfriends dress sexy or pose seductively, because they're jealous of other men looking at her.

You fuck with your cock, not with your eyes, jeez!

I could also go into fathers who police their daughters' wardrobes because they don't want them to dress like "sluts", while turning around and high-fiving their buddies when a group of skimpily-dressed "sluts" passes them on their way to the bar. If you enjoy women's sex appeal, how about treating the ones who show it off with a little respect? Sheesh.

2. Women who say they won't pose nude because they're saving their body for their significant other.

Even if the entire world sees you naked (which is not a big deal, by the way), your husband/boyfriend is still the only person who gets to have sex with you. And that's a pretty big fucking deal, in my opinion.

Like I said, everyone can make their own decisions in life, but these are two things I don't personally agree with.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Unzipped


This is why guys don't sport the unzipped look very often.

The penis is such a pesky organ - always getting in the way, always demanding attention...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Speedos for Feminism

A new local waterpark opened this season, and I took the time to peruse its rules board. Unexpectedly, I had a particular interest in the section labeled "swimming attire". Along with various articles not designed for swimming, and anything see-through, there was a part prohibiting "thong suits" and "men's speedos".


Now, I can understand the prohibition of thong suits. Thongs (for women or men) are deliberately provocative and - most importantly - leave bare nearly a person's entire bottom. But speedos? Aren't speedos basically the male equivalent of a woman's bikini? I mean, I know that speedos are notoriously unpopular in America, and frequently the butt of many a joke, but actually prohibited at a waterpark? That's insane!

Now, I figure, the rules have probably been designed to minimize exposure (read: public indecency), and to maintain a "family-friendly" atmosphere. And speedos are, it's hard to deny, more provocative than the below-the-knee baggy board short style that's popular among men these days. But you can't stand there and tell me that a fit young woman in a flattering bikini (even of the full-backed variety) is not sexually provocative! Yet, they're not prohibited.

So what's the problem with speedos? Is it because they "highlight" a man's package? How is that any different from pokies and camel toe? And if you're worried about genital outlines, there are suits specifically designed to prevent that (I know, I own one). Speedos are not fringe fetish wear, like t-backed thongs (American Apparel demonstrates). Speedos are designed for swimming, not for lewd exposure. They are far more substantial than the near-mythical pouch-on-a-string (have you ever seen anyone wearing one of those?). Hell, athletes often wear speedos at the Olympics! You can't get much more legitimate than that.

No matter how I look at it, I can't help seeing this as a double standard that disadvantages men. How come women can put on a bikini to look and feel sexy (and minimize unnecessary fabric floating around in the pool, which also takes longer to dry after you get out), but if a man dares wear a speedo, he's viewed as being either overconfident or a walking joke?

Believe me, if you do a search on people's opinions of speedos (and please, feel free to search for yourself), you get a whole lot of this: "speedos should be illegal", "nobody looks good in a speedo", "speedos are gross because they show too much", "speedos look ridiculous even on attractive men", coming from men and women. It's disgusting! And yet, what are people's general opinions of bikinis? "Hot," not gross. "Sexy," not funny. All this, despite the fact that not all men are fat, old, and ugly, and not all women have bikini-ready bodies.

And you know what it sounds like? It sounds like the old feminist argument about the patriarchy sexually objectifying women. I'll tell you what, it definitely smacks of a male perspective. Women in bikinis are hot, because men are attracted to them. But men in speedos? Gross. Why? Because men aren't attracted to them. Seeing a man in skin-tight swimwear raises most straight guys' gay alarm. The thing I don't understand is why women have jumped on that bandwagon, too.

Maybe it's because - as the dreadfully tiring stereotype goes - men are interested in looks while women go for something else (personality? sense of humor? their wallet?). But frankly, I think it's ridiculous to believe that women aren't visually attracted to men in some sense. Or maybe it's because - as another dreadfully tiring stereotype goes - men's bodies just aren't designed to look appealing the way women's bodies are.

Hell, I've said that myself - but I'm not attracted to men's bodies, I'm attracted to women's bodies. And you know what? That sounds a whole lot like more (straight) male perspective. Men are attracted to women's bodies and not to men's bodies (unless you're gay, and being gay is even lamer than being a woman), and so it's politically correct to say that women's bodies are beautiful works of art while men's bodies are ugly, utilitarian machines (though I bet the Greeks would have an argument with that).

And yet the fact remains that there are plenty of women out there without perfect bodies, and at the same time, lots of men who take their appearance seriously. Doubtless, the average guy probably thinks he looks sexier in board shorts than he would in a speedo (and the average woman would enthusiastically agree), but that's more cultural conditioning, if you ask me. We aren't used to treating men's thighs as a potentially attractive part of their body. A little grooming does wonders. And most of the population seems not to have passed the point of maturity where they can acknowledge that men have penises without giggling like little schoolgirls. But the bottom line is, you can't say that no man looks good in a speedo.


As it stands, it seems to me that wearing a speedo (in America, at least) has become a rebellious act. It undermines the straight male culture that holds so much power over society. And feminism is every bit about legitimizing feminine roles (like being the object of someone's desire) as it is about empowering women to adopt masculine roles. Wearing a speedo tells the world that you believe women aren't the only sex that can be objectified, and that men ought to be subject to the same pressures to be attractive as women already are. (And, as a side-effect, they can reap the same benefits - that is, of adoration and the feeling of being desired).

Damn, I could organize a really good protest around this. "Speedos for Feminism!" Unfortunately, though, I don't think there are enough men (or women) in this town who care. How sad is that?