Friday, May 30, 2014

The Continuing War on Nudity

"In keeping with a family-friendly environment, the Park does not allow clothing which is too revealing of one's body..."

How is a nudist supposed to react to this statement? Nudist resorts are notorious for being family-friendly environments, and yet within such environments, everybody's body is completely revealed. It's true that many nudists would argue that certain styles of clothing are more inappropriate and indecent, and sexually suggestive, than complete nudity. But if revealing one's body is not intrinsically family-unfriendly, then how can I swallow a policy which restricts the revealing of one's body on the grounds that doing so violates the family-friendly atmosphere?

You have to be a hypocrite - you're forced to be - to exist as a nudist in this textile society. It really bothers me, though. If the majority of the population is not mature or enlightened enough to live the lifestyle I want to lead, then I don't want to share my everyday life with them, following their "least common denominator" rules. I'd love to run off and live exclusively on a nudist resort, but it could get expensive, it kind of restricts your mobility, and it'd be hard to make a living without leaving the grounds and braving the textile world. Plus, as enlightened as nudists are, they're maybe not quite enlightened enough to deal with the allowance of photography, except under the strictest of conditions, and that's one of my major sticking points with the modern nudist lifestyle.

Also, while I'm impressed that the "Park" seems to have a very progressive policy re: breastfeeding - "we will never demand that a breastfeeding mother must relocate, nor do we discourage a mother from breastfeeding wherever she has a right to be" - I'm concerned about the implications of allowing breastfeeding but not topfreedom. Is the female breast an indecent organ or not? Is it only decent when a babe is suckling on it? But how come? Frankly, I think a baby sucking on its mother's teat has a greater potential to offend someone than a female breast simply being there, in an uncovered state. I understand that there's this whole social movement to give mothers the freedom to breastfeed in public, but you could say the same thing about topfreedom. Why does one matter and the other doesn't? Or, the better question to ask is, if we can tolerate the sight of breasts during feeding, on what grounds do we possibly have to stand to insist that non-feeding breasts are otherwise indecent and offensive? I seriously don't get the logic there...

Dear god, we have such incredibly fucked up attitudes towards the human body in this country.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Surface Depths

Forgive me if I get the details a little bit wrong, but it was a little while back that I read Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. I should probably read more Heinlein, from the things I've heard about him, but as yet that's the only Heinlein book I've read. It's actually a really neat story about (among other things) a religious cult that incorporates casual nudity and open sexual liaisons that I found to be very inspiring to my own social philosophies. I don't remember enough to give you a detailed plot description, and anyway, that's unnecessary. One thing I do remember is a little character detail - an almost incidental side note - that nevertheless left an impression on me, about art appreciation.

As I said, I can't remember all the details exactly, but it involved an important character's preference for one sculpture (Rodin, I think) depicting a frail, elderly woman, possibly supporting a heavy weight with her shoulder (or maybe that was another one), over a more traditional sculpture depicting a young woman in her physical prime. Although the sculpture of the young woman had a more direct aesthetic appeal, its value was largely superficial, as compared to the depths of meaning contained in the statue of the elderly woman, which spoke of the inevitable decay of age, and the weight of time that bears down on us heavier and heavier as the years pass. Its draw - as a work of art - is more intellectual, more emotional than the purely physical and appreciative appeal of the sculpture that depicts the beauty of youth.

As Heinlein describes it*:

“Anyone can see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is . . . and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be . . . more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart . . . no matter what the merciless hours have done."

These are two very different - and both legitimate, and popular - approaches to art. And I can, personally, see the appeal in both of them. In fact, I think both angles are important, and the best art is that which can achieve both goals of being aesthetically appealing, and intellectually or emotionally stimulating. The appeal of beauty is, I think, obvious, in that it invokes a very direct and pleasant reaction upon viewing it. But there is another side to art that taps into the pathos of life, existence, and humanity, even if that involves the dark and depressing side of things. I'm not entirely sure why this is (although I have speculated in the past), but I have a deep appreciation for this kind of art - and this is especially true for me in other artistic media, like music and movies, if my fandom of horror and the blues is any indication.

And yet, when it comes to visual art - in particular, photography - I find myself drawn as much if not more to the superficial/aesthetic/beautiful works. I would choose the statue of the young woman in her prime over the old woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders. I can't say why this is (either), but I have a deep appreciation for visual beauty. I like to joke that I am very vain and superficial, to make myself feel more comfortable about my preference in this matter, but the fact is that I am not truly superficial (a fact that I should like to think the writings in this blog attest to). As I said, I think superficial beauty and intellectual/emotional depth are both important, and the best art contains each.

But I do not necessarily subscribe to the belief that "superficial" beauty is not significant, nor that it cannot incite a powerful emotional reaction in a/the right viewer. Neither do I believe that the pursuit of aesthetic beauty is less valuable than that of intellectual depth, nor that to pursue it is necessarily indicative of a "lazy" approach, calculated to appeal to base, prurient interests, while avoiding the difficulty of creating a piece of art that can affect people in a more complicated and less straightforward way. Certainly, different people will have their differing opinions, and different artists their different approaches. I'll be satisfied if both remain common and popular, if among different audiences. In the meantime, I am every bit as much a sucker for a beautiful form as I am for a compelling story, but I tend to give more weight to the former in the visual medium, if the latter most everywhere else.

* Relevant to the topic of this post, I found this passage extremely moving. Maybe Heinlein possesses an appreciative quality I don't, but I don't necessarily get all of this just from looking at the sculpture. The passage itself - Heinlein's reaction to the sculpture - is beautiful. More beautiful than the sculpture alone, I think. It's fair to say that it's the sculpture that inspired the passage, but I find the latter to be a separate piece of art from the former, and a much more interesting one, in my opinion.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rapture

"If you are on a beach and you notice a face, or a body, that stands out from the crowd, the sight of which makes your heart leap in your breast, then stop. If your feeling is honest and sincere, it will help you find the right words. Who knows what could then come from such a meeting?" - David Hamilton


I like to create beautiful images. And the most beautiful thing in the world is, in my opinion, the human body. Not necessarily any human body, but particular human bodies. I don't know to what extent that appreciation is fueled by sexual attraction, but sometimes I wish that that didn't have anything to do with it at all, because it would be so much simpler that way. But even if there is a sexual element involved (and I can't honestly say for sure that there isn't a connection), it is not a rapacious kind of predatory sexuality, but more of a romantic, erotic appreciation of the physical aspect of sensuality.

When I encounter beauty of this nature, it's not like I'm even thinking about sex or doing anything sexual. I am, rather, trapped in a state of awe - a kind of rapture. All I can think is how beautiful the sight before me is, and how much I want to immortalize it - to protect it from the inevitable decay of entropy, and the ever constant motion of reality - in the only way I know how: photography. It's not just the body, though - it's the moment I want to immortalize. The sight and situation that caught my attention, and my breath. In a way, maybe it's my own reaction I want to immortalize - because my photography is a way of expressing myself, of showing the world what I find beautiful. And I would hope that the way I approach my photography and my subjects, other people would be able to pick up on that, and see what I see, and perhaps find beauty where they might not have found it before.

Beauty is not simply an object, but an interactive experience. And the body is not the only thing I want to document. I like to think that my self-portrait photography does not only document my body, but also shows glimpses into my personality, my personhood. Although it is a fallacy to think that you can actually know someone just by looking at a series of split-second glimpses of their life, it is nevertheless true that knowledge of the personhood of the subject of a photograph can lend weight and depth to the image before your eyes, and I want very much not just to document beautiful bodies, but to get to know the people who inhabit them. Some of them may not even realize how beautiful they are. But regardless, their experiences have the power to humanize the images that are created of them.

But, alas, whenever I encounter a beautiful creature in the wild, I am left speechless and dumbstruck, with the inability to make even the slightest approach, much less a suggestion of participation in the artistic voyage I would like to embark upon. Added to that is the fear that in spite of my sincerity and integrity, the sort of suggestion I would like to proffer is too far outside the lived experiences of the average citizen, and is of the sort that is commonly viewed with much suspicion in these dark days, that I could not possibly be taken seriously, and that my humble request to document the beauty of another could offend the subject of my admiration, potentially to a severe degree.


I wish I could say these things to every beautiful stranger I meet.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Human Condition

I don't know why, but I just felt like there was a certain amount of "humanity" emanating from this image. It's not trying too hard to be anything (and indeed, it was taken in a pretty impromptu fashion), and it kind of speaks of the sexual needs of the average human organism, which in our sophisticated, complex world, can't always find a social outlet.


Truth be told, I was sitting on the couch watching - not porn, actually - but an ecchi anime series. "Ecchi" is Japanese for "erotic" (or something similar, depending on your translation), and a series of the ecchi variety - as opposed to hentai, which is basically porn - leans more in the softcore direction, with a lot of "fanservice" and sexual suggestion, without going too far.

A situation like that, or like when I'm often browsing pics on the net, or even not infrequently when engaged in sexual contacts with another, needn't proceed to an orgasm for me to enjoy it. I rarely experience goal-oriented arousal (i.e., "I need to get off"), which has the peculiar effect of leaving me with an ostensibly low sex drive.

At the same time, I'm a highly sensual being, and I enjoy being in a state of arousal. I also enjoy thinking about sex an awful lot, although it might be worthwhile to mention that when I do think about sex, I'm not so often imagining intercourse or, again, goal-oriented sexual contacts, so much as I like admiring the aesthetic/erotic appeal of girls' bodies, or particular erotic situations, or, quite frequently, simply thinking about the psychological aspects of human sexuality, as in the kinds of things I write about here on this blog.

Which is not to say that I'm always constantly aroused when I engage in all of these activities, but erections may come and go, like the wind, and I appreciate the sensations they give me when they are present, but without any expectation of them leading anywhere, or even, sometimes, consciously "encouraging" them. As such, I find my own sexuality a little hard to pin down in terms of conventional stereotypes.

Not that I have any desire to do so, but it leaves me a little confused, sometimes, as to where I fit in to the great, diverse picture of human sexuality profiles. Particularly considering my gender "experimentation". It's actually kind of curious, because though I feel determined to label various aspects of my behavior, appearance, and personality as either male or female, it seems as though my sexuality (among other things) could go either way depending on your perspective.

Certainly, in terms of the gender wars, and where feminism frequently comes into play, I typically (maybe too hastily) identify myself, by default, as having a male pattern of sexual desire, largely on account of the fact that I am attracted to the female sex, and that I have strong reactions to visual (some would say superficial) stimuli.

On the other hand, my actual desire for intercourse, even when regularly available to me (or orgasm by other means, in other situations), seems to follow more of what would be considered the average female pattern. It is not unusual for a male to masturbate regularly - even daily - in the absence of a regular source of intercourse, and I have indeed encountered this among male communities, at least on the internet.

Meanwhile, I could easily (and regularly do, when left to my own devices) go for weeks without feeling any strong desire to stimulate myself to orgasm, which seems more in accord with the female pattern. Then again, those periods might include regular instances of arousal and stimulation, though some of which are very brief and happenstance, and none of which may necessarily accompany a desire to go "all the way".

Plus, if you add porn in to the mix, though I share the "visual" approach that is usually associated with the male pattern of desire, I find myself frequently repulsed by a lot of the hardcore stuff that is so popular and ubiquitous in certain corners of the internet. Maybe it's my artistic sensibilities, or maybe it's my less aggressively masculine and more romantic approach to eros, as opposed to an all-out celebration of penis-in-vagina intercourse and all the icky smells and touches and fluids that come with it...

One thing's for sure, I'm not a typical case. Although I'd love for us to abandon the notion that any case is typical, and just look at different patterns as individual expressions of a diverse - and spectacular - population.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mixed Signals

It is not at all unusual for me to sometimes revisit photo ideas I've shot in the past. If anything, I'd like to believe that I am conceptual in my approach to the sort of photography I specialize in (nude and erotic self-portraiture). I have lots of great ideas for shots, and I am not always capable of producing a shot (or shots) that does that idea justice during any given photoshoot. Hence, I am inclined to make another pass at it sometime in the future. Alternatively, I might get a shot I'm pretty happy with, yet still find myself later wanting to revisit the idea, either to put a new spin on it, to view it from a different perspective, or just simply to turn my camera on it and see what else I might be able to come up with.

I created an image almost four years ago (goodness, has it been that long?) which I titled Mixed Signals. I was wearing a very feminine red dress, but because it is very tight, there were certain aspects of my anatomy hinted at that I felt resulted in the image sending out mixed signals - part feminine, part masculine. Of course, a lot of my photography does that, and often not even by intention, but by the mere fact of my androgynous (bigendered?) appearance. Well, the other day, I found myself wearing that same red dress again, and an impromptu photoshoot resulted in an image unique enough to stand alone, but very much in the same spirit as the previous one, to the point that I even wanted to give it the same title (and I rarely like to do that, as I feel it could cause confusion for the hypothetical curator).


I thought the pose and especially the placement of my hair came off very feminine. At the same time, my penis is very clearly outlined by the dress (even more so than in the previous image), in a very conspicuous, attention-grabbing sort of way. I like it a lot. Not just because I think the image looks aesthetically appealing, but because it's also sort of a huge "fuck you" to anyone who insists that people ought to conform to one set of gender stereotypes or the other. No apologies for my appearance or my identity here. Either take me as I am, or take a hike.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Eastern Light




It's amazing to look at these photos and then think about where I was five years ago. A lot of my photography was very dark then - in a literal sense, but occasionally also figuratively. It was a reflection of my life: I was living nocturnally at the time. I've always been a night owl, and as someone who is shy and introverted, I found a certain security in the quiet mask of darkness. But my current living conditions don't allow such a luxury. On the other hand, even as a night creature, I always revered the sun - instead of shunning it, like I was supposed to - and although I doubt I'll ever change my mind about my preference for pale, untanned skin, one must admit that my hair looks extra gorge with fully natural, sun-bleached highlights. It pays to look on the bright side of things. -_^


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ethical Imperatives vs. Artistic Freedom

It's no secret (anymore) that pictures of celebrities are often heavily photoshopped, but that fact never hits home quite so hard as when you actually have a chance to see some before and after pictures, which are scattered across the internet and not hard to find. And when people talk about the effect this has on people's body images, in particular, it raises the question of whether publishers have an ethical imperative to present celebrities (and other models) realistically, or if they have the artistic freedom to make them appear as attractively (by a subjective judgment, admittedly) as they want?

Being an artist with a social conscience myself, I can actually see merit in both arguments. Artistic freedom is, for me, fundamental. At the same time, presenting heavily doctored images as if they were the reality for a fashionable elite that many people strive to model themselves after could be unhealthy. My general approach to photography is one that values realism. I like pictures that show things that are real. Real people, in real places. You could liken me to the movie fx guy who prefers practical effects over the convenience and sky's-the-limit approach of a digital effects artist. If something's not the way I like it in a picture, my first instinct is to change the scene, not to make changes digitally in post-production.

That having been said, there's nothing wrong with photo-manipulation, and a certain amount of adjustments are necessary for most pictures, to get them looking their best - things like color enhancements and the like. Where you end up drawing the line between enhancement and fabrication, though, is a matter of personal opinion. I, for example, don't like the look of model shots that are excessively airbrushed. I understand the thought-process that goes into wanting to even out a model's skin tone and remove "imperfections" (another matter of opinion), but super smooth airbrushed skin doesn't look realistic to me, and I can't enjoy a photo as much when I know that what I'm looking at is not actually the model's skin but a digital addition.

Now, a lot of the impression a photoshopped photo makes is in how well it is photoshopped - if you can't tell it's not real, you're more likely to be impressed with it. (Well, I am, at least). But then, that is a kind of deception. And generally I prefer the red pill. But the truth is, my photoshopping skills are rudimentary, and my digital art skills non-existent. If I actually had the ability to make incredible-looking images from nothing, or even to make incredible-looking and significant changes to an existing image, I might be more enthusiastic about using those skills. One of my great disappointments in life is not having the skill of an illustrator, to create scenes purely from imagination. Being a photographer is, in my mind, a second place occupation. I can't create images from scratch, but I can manipulate scenes in the real world to create photographic images, albeit with the incumbent restrictions of reality.

So, I deal in "real" images, as opposed to fabricated images, and maybe I feel like the fact that my images are real - which is, in reality, a limitation on what they can look like - somehow gives them a quality that less imaginatively-restrained, fabricated images aren't able to acquire - the badge of truth, of being "genuine". And heavily-manipulated photographs are blurring the line between photos that are real, and images that are fabricated, denying such photographs the badge of truth, thus placing them in the same playing field as images fabricated from nothing, where the value of the artist's talent and vision is not in how they manipulate reality to compose an image, but primarily in their digital art skills, of which I have little to none.

On the other hand, getting back to the adjustments and enhancements argument, while I may not agree to be part of the heavily-photoshopped crowd, I can't really fault their differing philosophy. When you create an image, you want it to look the best it can be. If you have the skills to remove a model's wrinkles, slim her waist, embiggen her bust, and so on, and if that's the kind of image you're trying to get, then why shouldn't you use those skills to get the image you want? Granted, not every image is about capturing perfect, flawless beauty, and especially in art, there is room (and an audience) for alternatives - like portraits of real people, in all their flawed beauty. But the advertising industry in particular is very superficial, and if having the prettiest, most perfect images is what gets the best results, then you can't really fault advertisers for using every tool at their disposal to do that. If you don't like it, maybe you should lodge a complaint against rampant commercialism, which fosters that kind of "profit matters more than ethics" mentality.

On the other side of the debate, there is merit in the idea that maybe this mentality is unhealthy, and we shouldn't be bombarding people with so many unhealthy images, passing them off as reality. Coming back to the issue of artistic freedom, I think the bottom line is that an artist should always have freedom to create the image they want to create. Even if doing so runs counter to public opinion about what is healthy. As long as they're not violating anyone's rights in the creation of an image, it's their prerogative to make the image they want, even if it upsets or has a negative effect on some or many of the people who eventually view it.

I believe that while an artist may have some responsibility to consider the effect their art has on people, they are not, however, required to censor themselves for that reason, and they are not, ultimately, responsible for how people react. That's a fundamental part of the freedom of speech, and it is required to ensure that speech remains free. Now, that doesn't mean that if an artist decides to be a dick, you can't call them out on that. That's part of free speech, too. But an artist shouldn't be obligated to make only healthy or popular art, and making art that bothers people should never be a crime.

So, I've probably just been going back and forth on the issue without making any solid conclusions. I think that if artists and publishers want to be in the business of creating heavily-photoshopped images, that's their prerogative and their right. I also think that it may be reasonable to consider such an approach potentially unhealthy, and that it may be justifiable for the public to call for more accurate representations of celebrities and models in the media. Artists and publishers have no imperative to listen, but when they don't, the public is justified in maybe making some less than totally nice comments about said artists and publishers (within reason).

And while I think it would be great if there were a larger trend of representing people accurately in the media, at the same time I think there's still room for images of "enhanced perfection" as well. It's mostly a matter of balance. And I think that it may be a good idea (or it would at least show good faith) if artists and publishers were a little more up front when they do make significant adjustments to an image. There's nothing inherently wrong with such an approach, from an artistic perspective, but unless doing so is some integral part of the artistic message (and I could imagine cases where that might be true), passing off such fabrications as reality is problematic, and could be considered kind of a dick move.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nude News Roundup

I should probably do this more often - I've only done it once before. But I get a newsletter in my email from ClothesFree.com every so often which is a roundup of news articles appearing across the internet with news involving nudity that could be of interest to nudists (which the site ClothesFree.com caters to). I guess it's just kinda fun to chime in on these topics and take a chance to address my opinion/reaction to these articles.

San Francisco Police Chief Spells Out Bay To Breakers Rules: ‘Nudity’s Not Okay’

This is a short article, so I don't know all the context, but this is pretty infuriating. When Scott Wiener (of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors) nuked the last standing public refuge for nudists in this country by ruining San Francisco's long-standing tradition of tolerance for public nudity (in certain areas), it was said that this would not affect special festivals, just everyday nudity. And here we have the police trying to crack down on public nudity in one of the most popular festivals in San Francisco where public nudity (see "Bare To Breakers") has been a tradition. I hope there's a mass protest and scores of naked people show up for the race. I would if I lived in San Francisco - I wish I did live there, so I could join the protest. The police chief's comment is pretty moronic (and confusing) though, because he refers to people who "might not have six packs" seemingly suggesting that they would frighten or traumatize "kids and families". Real paleolithic thinking there...

Stunning Nude Photo Series Will Make You Think Twice About The 'Ideal Body'

This is great, really. There should not be a single ideal, and people of different body types should be able to feel confident, and represented in the media. However, the article has a very obvious anti-skinny slant in its use of words like "skeletal" to describe mainstream models, and its references to "plastic surgery" and "eating disorders". I support acceptance of differing body types, but body acceptance entails acceptance of skinny bodies just as much as the more full-figured varieties. I'd like it if we could get rid of this idea that "fat acceptance" has to come at the cost of cutting down skinny people. No, that's not okay. The goal should not be to redirect the abuse in the opposite direction, but to stop the abuse altogether.

I Saw a Penis on Primetime UK Television. So What?

Lol, this kind of sounds like a line I remember Brian using on Family Guy. Not sure if it really counts as news. But then, I guess that's kind of the point. I think it's great that a TV program can show nudity honestly, without getting all in a huff about it. When the subject of nudity comes up, and you have to bend over backwards to avoid showing specific parts of the body, it just feels really fake and contrived. I can imagine the reaction that people living in this never-nude society for long enough would have if they visited a nudist resort - they'd be like, "oh my god, I've been looking at naked people on TV for years, but I never knew about those parts!"

Well, except for the fact that porn is so ubiquitous these days. I think it's unfortunate, though, that we associate honest nudity solely with pornography - and we really do. The solution is TV programs like this one, who are willing to show honest, unflinching nudity in a non-sexual context, wherever it comes up in the course of a show, and without shying away from it. Nudity is a natural part of life. Everybody gets naked to change their clothes sometimes. Everybody showers in the nude. (Well, barring an extremely neurotic minority). Let's get over it, already. Naked bodies are not some huge secret that nobody should be allowed to see!

"Advocates...believe nudity reflects a decline in standards...in society as a whole."

Typical conservative hogwash. The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Oh my god, people actually get naked on TV! Oh noes!!!1 Except the irony is that there is very little actual nudity on TV in America.

"...sex drives every atom of western culture in the modern world."

This is a separate issue (and it's a shame we have to bring it up in a discussion of non-sexual nudity), but so what? Sex is pervasive. Sex is ubiquitous. Sex is kind of a big deal. And that's the way it's supposed to be. It's only centuries of religious fundamentalists and moral conservatives preaching about the purity of our divine souls and how we have to reject the pleasures of the flesh to gain a seat in an imaginary heaven that have made sex this bad thing. That sex is more visible than ever now is not an indication that our civilization is in decline, but rather that we're becoming evolved. Unfortunately, though, I would argue that our attitudes toward sexuality are diseased. We don't need less sex. We just need a healthier relationship with sex. One that wouldn't encroach on the ability to display a human being's unclothed body without causing people to get in a fit because the only thing they can think about is sex (and gawd, how horrible that is!).

Stunning Nude Photos Explore The True Power Of Stereotypes And Labels

This is actually a very fascinating photo project. I wish I could do projects like this, that combine nude portraiture with some intriguing, thought-provoking, socially-conscious theme. I guess I do sometimes, with my own self-portraiture, but it'd be nice if I could find the opportunity to photograph other people nude.

But, to submit my own experience, I've been called a "slut" (lovingly), a "faggot" (not so lovingly), a "woman without breasts and with penis - small one" (by a person whose mind was even smaller), and a "guy/girl/thingy". I've also been called "beautiful" and "sexy" more times than I can count, and "smart" by people for as long as I can remember. My peers in school saw me as "quiet", and my asocial demeanor has sometimes led people to read me as "aloof". One of the things I get called a lot that delights me the most is "ladies" (usually when I'm out with my BFF), since it indicates that either a) I am passing, or b) the person speaking to me is open-minded enough to accept me as the gender I'm presenting as (either one works for me). I've also been called "butthead" a lot, mostly by my older brother, but the last time was probably about twenty years ago.

Woman naked for 50 years

Neat little human interest story. It's interesting to see how a very different culture reacts to someone who in this culture might have discovered they are a nudist. But without a "nudist community" to join, and other nudists to associate with, it's just this weird condition. On the other hand, social standards are so much different that she seems to have been able to get away with just simply not wearing clothes for such a long time, even about the village. Although, attitudes about her "condition" are not necessarily ideal, even in this culture. And for someone who hates wearing clothes, it's unfortunate that she still feels self-conscious around strangers.

But it's worthwhile to note that even she puts on clothes to climb trees (because they are scratchy), but then takes them off when she is done - which is to show that nudists are not pathological about never wearing clothes, and that clothes can be used as a tool to accomplish a job. But that for some people they're just not comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and in most contexts, where they're really not that necessary. I can totally identify with the feeling of just not being comfortable in clothing sometimes, and I wish my community would accept me that way - at the very least in reasonable situations, like in the rain, or outdoors on super hot days, or at the pool...

We Tried It: NYC's Naked Yoga Class

This is actually a great little article about the experience of someone not accustomed to social nudity trying out a naked yoga class. And she discovers that the "elephant" in the room - the fact that everyone is naked - turns out to be smaller than a mouse, because it's really not that big of a deal. People who are used to this are not judgmental, and it's not a sexually charged atmosphere - it's just a regular yoga class where people get to practice in the nude.

Why avoiding sunshine could kill you

Good advice, I guess, but it's presented rather sensationally. Not that news outlets don't do it that way as a rule, but I really don't think it's that healthy to exaggerate the facts in order to motivate somebody to do (or believe) something (especially when the facts are not actually all that well understood). And besides, while it's clear that sunshine is healthy (hello, we didn't evolve from cave trolls), this kind of advice might have the effect of under-representing the potential hazards of too much sun exposure (which is a concern I think that some nudists don't give proper weight to). Of course, it's pretty confusing when one research reports that too much skin exposure causes melanoma, and another indicates that staying out of the sun causes melanoma. What's a person to believe? At any rate, it makes sense that some sun exposure is probably healthy, and too much could plausibly be dangerous, so a smart plan would be to try to strike a balance and go for the middle-ground. Duh?

The naked and the living

Another neat little story, about an artist working with nude life models. I found two things of particular interest in this short interview. One was how much people are socialized to react with outrage to the idea of doing anything related to nudity, but that when they really sit down to think about it, they realize they're actually interested.

"The response changed from incredulity to outrage to curiosity. ... The first person to agree was a writer in her 20s. At first, she was appalled with the suggestion and didn't even finish her coffee and left my apartment. But a few days later she called to say she was ready to pose."

Now if we could just get past the initial incredulity and outrage stage, and go straight to the curiosity. The other interesting tidbit is how the artist first got the idea to work with nude models while hanging out with friends in a clothing optional setting, but when he asked those friends to model for him, they got uncomfortable and refused.

Of course, there are all sorts of individual and cultural variations involved, but as gung ho as nudists are about hanging out in the all together, there's a certain subset of them who get totally antsy when it comes to making any kind of visual documentation of that hanging out. I know some nudists have to worry about how their friends, family, and coworkers would react if they "found out" about their hobby, and some of them are ultra paranoid about "what if somebody thinks sexy thoughts about me?" But really, nudism shouldn't be a secret - how is it ever going to gain wider acceptance if individual nudists insist on remaining invisible? And who gives a flying fuck if somebody sees your body and gets turned on? Big deal. Especially if you're not even in the same room (or hell, even country) when it happens...

Michigan Town Moves 'Blue Human Condition' Sculpture After Backlash

This is ridiculous, but not uncommon. Still, some people need to get a grip on reality. Yeah, I can see how the sculpture could be interpreted as being "sexually suggestive", but I doubt that's its intention, and it's not like it's explicit or anything. Do we really need to police society to the extent that we can't have anything in public that might carry the risk that it could make somebody think a sexual thought? So what if that does happen? This would be a scary move, but given how much sexual suggestion permeates the media anyway, it just seems stupid instead. And watch how the detractors play the "children" card. God forbid somebody's child should see a representation of human sexuality. Doomsday scenario right there, right? Sheesh...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Apartment Life



It's been a long, cold winter. It's finally broken, with a string of truly summerific days already this May. But the stresses of the holiday season, and being sheltered indoors for so long, has taken its toll. I've been spending a lot of time on a huge non-photography-related project, and various health issues have been interfering with my regular exercise for far too long. As such, I feel a bit out of shape and haven't had much motivation for photography of late. But I also recently moved again, and I love to take advantage of shooting in empty apartments. I don't know what it is about abandoned spaces, but I know I'm not the only photographer (not even the only nude portrait photographer!) with a fascination for them.



I was thinking about it while shooting, and in true "hindsight is 20/20" fashion, I realized that my serious photography of late has very much been in the theme of "apartment life". That wasn't really a conscious choice, but merely a reflection of the changing circumstances of my life. Unfortunately, I seem to have less opportunities to go outside and take pictures these days (although there have been some notable exceptions), which is kind of a bummer. Two or three years ago (gosh, it's getting harder to keep track of time as the years go past...), when I got my first mobile phone (with a camera), I went crazy taking hundreds of shots in the "sexting" style. I really had a lot of fun with that, though it's cooled down now, and my current phone doesn't even have a self-timer (!).


It's also been very different not posting on flickr anymore (now that it's been about a year since I left that website), although I've been splitting my time between deviantART and XTube. But, even there, it's mainly old material I'm posting (although the XTube videos are previously unreleased), so that my current stuff has kind of taken on less of an "exhibit" type feeling. On the other hand, I'm probably more critical about the shots I take now more than ever, with less of an impulse to post new stuff all the time, and I'd like to think that my photography skills have only improved with time and experience; it kind of makes me feel like I may be evolving into the next stage as a photographer, who is more calculating about the work he produces, and the work he shares. It's just too bad I'm still limited by the same restrictions I've always had - plus, my body's not getting any younger.


Remember when it was monsters you had to worry about hiding in the closet? Nowadays it's sexual deviants...

The artist at work.

Another thing that came to mind while doing this shoot is something you might not realize about male erotic photography, because it's all behind the scenes. But as much as it looks like it's all fun and games, you have to realize how difficult it is to maintain an erection over an extended period of time. It's one thing if you're focused on whatever sexual act you're engaged in, and you have constant stimulation. But try keeping yourself hard for upwards of an hour, while you're in the middle of a job (posing, composing, and constantly adjusting camera settings) that takes a lot of creativity and concentration. It can be a real chore when you've gone soft for the third time, you have the camera set up, and you think to yourself, this shot would look better with a stiffy, and then you gotta stand there and pump yourself up as quickly as possible, and then try to keep yourself hard while you try out different poses, and (as a self-portrait photographer) repeatedly walk back and forth between the camera and the set...

The Turnstiles


These two shots were an idea I had based on something I read once about an art gallery featuring a controversial exhibit which included hired nude models to stand in doorways, forcing gallery viewers to squeeze uncomfortably between them to go from one room to the next. I thought, how wicked would it be if the nude models had hard-ons, and the gallery viewers actually had to push through them to get through the doorway? I'm terrible, I know - but you have to admit, the idea has some pull. Keeping the previous discussion in mind, though, it would be pretty tough if not impossible to keep the models aroused for the duration of the exhibit (you'd have to, like, use Viagra or something, and switch out the models every so often to avoid medical problems...).

A lazy clone shot, just to use the space.

Appropriately titled: Filthy Animal

And in case you missed it, that was the end. ;-p

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Libertinity

It occurs to me that the more I describe my liberal - perhaps even radical - views on sexuality, the less obvious it may become that I have any limits or boundaries at all, as far as what I believe is acceptable for people to do in the pursuit of sexual pleasure. Actually, my beliefs on this point reflect fairly well the Wiccan Rede (even though I am not Wiccan) - as long as it's not hurting anyone (who doesn't want to be hurt), go crazy - no matter how bizarre or unconventional your sexual practices may be. Of course, determining what "hurts" others can be a thorny issue (especially in the age of "the right to be offended" - not that I support that notion), but the general idea is to take other people's morality out of the equation and let people get their rocks off in whatever ways they like, so long as they're not victimizing anyone in the process.

Now, just because I am sexually liberated, the assumption that I am not a rational and compassionate being is pretty unfair, but people who already hold moral opinions about the perceived damage inherent in some of the things I believe are acceptable - like viewing porn within the context of marriage, paying prostitutes for sex, open relationships, etc. - will probably have a hard time believing I could possibly be a decent human being, just as the sexual conservatives of recent history have believed that, by engaging in immoral homosexual behavior, homosexual persons were incapable of exercising good judgment in terms of their sexual beliefs and practices. I guess that's one of the pitfalls of moral relativism.

I'd like to take a leaf from the Marquis de Sade's playbook (on whom I'm hoping to write more about in the future, when I revisit his works) - although doing so probably won't endear me in the minds of the sexual conservatives, but this is for the people who are willing to give me a fair chance - and say that while I have an active imagination, and do enjoy fantasizing (and will defend anyone's right to fantasize about anything they want, no matter how perverse or depraved), my actual sex life is, if open-minded, fairly tame; and I'm pretty happy with it that way. In a perfect world, there might be more opportunities to get busy outdoors, willing partners would be easier to come by, and people wouldn't get so hung up about other people's sexual expressions, but it's not like I want to participate in 24/7 no holds barred sadomasochistic sex orgies out in the street.

However, as a rational-minded skeptic, with no allegiance to any prepackaged ideologies (like feminism, for example, or any religion whatsoever) - one of the benefits of not aligning myself to any groups larger than the individual (the smallest, and thus most in need of defending, minority) - I can't help but view with suspicion some of the unchallenged axioms we hold dear about human sexuality. And the one that perplexes me the most is this idea that sex is strictly an adults-only activity. You hear about consenting adults this and consenting adults that, as if sexuality wasn't a fundamental part of the human condition at any age. I do believe in age-appropriate activities, but sexual experimentation and discovery is a lifelong process, and the unconscious learning begins not long after birth (if not sooner, in the case of fetuses observed masturbating in the womb).

Following that, puberty occurs for a reason, and it's not to torture adolescents with sexual frustration for 5-6 years, on average, until they can find a [not just legal, but] socially-approved outlet. I also have a hard time believing, that in every case, sex between two inexperienced teenagers is somehow always more desirable and less risky than sex between a responsible mentor and a younger novice. Or that relationships that involve some kind of "power imbalance" (like the average heterosexual coupling) are always exploitative and never productive. That's not to say that if we didn't have certain restrictions in place, it would be entirely unproblematic, but hiding behind the begrudging acceptance of the fact that adolescents are horny beasts is the hypocritical notion that there is something wrong and - incredulously, from a biological perspective - destructive about the natural process of sexual initiation for youths.

That having been said, I do not advocate anyone engaging in any kind of illegal behavior - no matter how unjustified laws based on morality are - as there are serious consequences to breaking them (and in the case of sex laws, the penalties may be truly dire, sometimes even to a cruel and unusual extent). I also hold high, as most sexual progressives these days do, the importance of consent in any activity. Nobody should be forced to engage in any sexual activities against his/her desire. That seems like a pretty simple and compassionate moral basis for anyone to start with. I just don't believe that a person's ability to consent to any and all forms of sexual experimentation (from the mundane to the extreme) depends entirely upon which side of their 18th (or 16th, or whatever) birthday they happen to be on. Sex - like adolescence - is not an on/off switch, but a gradual process of learning.

At the very least, we should be honest about why we have the rules in place that we do - to prevent unscrupulous individuals from abusing the situation (although I wonder sometimes how effective the laws and social taboos are at effecting even that), not because the situation is inherently abusive. I also believe that a not insignificant part of the "trauma" and shame of sexual experience is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy - people believe sex is a Big Deal, and so when people have sex, everyone makes it out to be a Big Deal. This also makes it harder to talk openly about sex, which has the effect of silencing those who are victimized by abuse. Most people are probably attached to this paradigm, as people usually are to the traditions they blindly adhere to. I count myself different in believing that the way things are aren't necessarily the best way things could be. Then again, I hold myself and the human race to rather high standards of civility - standards that probably the majority of the population are currently incapable of meeting. :-\

Monday, May 12, 2014

Considering Kinsey

Reading the Kinsey Reports can be a chore at times - as they are sociological texts with in-depth statistical analyses. But I would argue that they are, nevertheless, the most interesting text books I've ever read (and ones, it is worth noting, that I am reading fully voluntarily). But just as fascinating as the revelations Kinsey's statistics uncover (and probably more interesting to read), are the almost philosophical treatments he gives the subjects he encounters in his analyses of the statistics, often related to the conflicts that arise due to the vast differences between people's actual sexual behaviors, and the social, moral, and legal codes people are expected to follow.

On a related note, I find reading Kinsey to be uniquely refreshing because he takes a truly scientifically neutral - even anthropological - approach to human sexuality, free from the typical moral biases that most people take for granted when discussing sex (even most scientists, to the tragic detriment of mankind's factual knowledge about sex). I imagine, however, that that's also the reason that people who are threatened by Kinsey's findings (and his application of the scientific method to the traditionally "moral" realm of human sexual behavior) are so hostile toward his contribution to our knowledge of human sexuality. Moralism is frequently an obstacle to the truth, and in return, uncovering the truth often threatens traditional morals.

Really, I wish I could quote a whole bunch of passages at length from the Kinsey Reports, because they are insightful and well written and deserve to be read, and I fear that they may be lost among all the (what most people would call) boring statistics; in addition to the fact that the age of the reports - are they even still in print anymore? - may prevent some people from giving them proper consideration, despite how surprisingly relevant much of it still is today. Some of the details may have changed in the last half century or more - thanks to feminism, the sexual revolution, and increasing acceptance of homosexuality. But a lot of the issues as regards social expectations, moral treatments of sex, and the legal code are still applicable, certainly at least in a general sense.

Take, for instance, the following example. Though laws (and social restrictions) today are thankfully more permissive of non-procreative, extra-marital sexual behaviors, you can still find examples of the out-of-date and ultra-conservative sexual morals that have influenced some of the social and legal codes of today we have yet to abolish. At one point in his volume on the male (specifically at the beginning of the chapter on Marital Status and Sexual Outlet), as a kind of thought experiment, Kinsey discusses legal restrictions (at the time) against masturbation, due to the classical ascetic approach to sex (instead of the more fun hedonistic approach) inspiring modern sex codes. Note that laws criminalizing masturbation do so on entirely moral grounds.

Now imagine an educator who does not hold the same moral view of masturbation (and who is entitled thusly, as protected by the U.S. Constitution), and who, studying the science, comes to the conclusion that masturbation is healthy, and subsequently decides to start teaching people to masturbate. Well, because the law restricts speech that could be considered an incitement to commit a crime (in this case, masturbation), then the educator is committing a crime and can be prosecuted. This is a perfect example of how science can be impeded, and telling the truth can become a crime, when laws are written based on moral beliefs. Time has, thankfully, eroded opposition to the idea of masturbation being a potentially healthy sexual outlet, but are there not other cases, even within the realm of human sexuality (a subject that is rife with moralism) where the law reflects moral views that may run contrary to the natural facts?

If you are doubtful, try thinking about encouraging children, specifically (which in modern legal jargon includes adolescents), to masturbate, and see where that leads you (probably to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of minors). Among other things, Kinsey's data suggests that males reach their peak sexual potential just before the onset of adolescence. He also found that girls who have reached orgasm at least once through pre-marital contacts are much better at making sexual adjustments later in marriage. Try preaching that opposite your school's next church-sponsored "abstinence is rad" lecture. It's obvious that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a pervasive aspect of human life, and - for many - driven by a powerful, biological impetus that even strict moral codes and social prohibitions can only do so much to quell. What's not obvious, to me, is why so many people push so hard against that fact, and insist on viewing sexuality with so much suspicion, disdain...and moral revulsion.

Friday, May 9, 2014

In support of an amoral view of sexuality

I think one of the things that delights me most about reading Kinsey's findings, is his scientific approach to human sexuality - which, in particular, is remarkably devoid of any kind of moral judgment. It is so incredibly hard these days (and perhaps also in antiquity) to encounter a view of human sexuality that does not incorporate centuries old moral judgments. I would really like someone to explain to me why treating the issue of human sexuality from a moral standpoint is a good idea. What purpose does it serve? Because I'm of the opinion that approaching the issue with logic would be a whole lot more productive.

I think the moral view hinges on the treatment of sex as a "sin" - something dirty and vile. It's pleasurable, yes, but for some reason that makes it bad. Puritan much? If sex causes any kind of personal or social problems, can we not confront those problems directly, without making up fairy tales about staining the purity of your immortal soul? I just don't understand why anybody should want to think that the natural, biological urge of any sexual organism to seek sexual stimulation and satisfaction should be treated as some kind of tragic flaw.

I can see where the whole idea of procreation can cause some turmoil. Because, in actuality, though it can be argued that the purpose of sex is procreation, any rational observation of sexual behavior (in humans and other animals) will lead to the conclusion that a) a sexual organism derives more from sexual stimulation and satisfaction than solely the joy (or goal) of procreating, and b) the majority of sexual contacts in the life of any higher animal do not, in fact, lead to procreation.

Now, what I don't understand is why this whole moral thing about non-procreative sex being bad even comes into the picture. Non-procreative sex is natural - it's not abnormal, nor an aberration of the natural course of things. And though, among the animal kingdom, humans are civilized to the point of considering "planned parenthood", and not simply fucking around indiscriminately until somebody gets pregnant (although there is an alarming amount of that still in evidence), we are also technologically advanced to the point of having several methods of contraception.

But these are logistics. Pregnancy is a big deal, whether you view it as a God-given miracle, or simply the creation of a life that you're going to have to expend unimaginable amounts of time and money caring for. So why can't we simply view it as a practical matter, devoid of moral judgment? If a person seeks sexual satisfaction through means that avoid (or significantly reduce) the risk of unplanned pregnancy, for example, why should that still bother anyone? Why all this emphasis on "saving yourself"? The whole idea of soulmates - while romantic - is wildly unrealistic. It's fine as a personal ideal, but it's also unnatural, and noone should be punished for not living up to it.

Sex is everywhere. That's natural. Why do people still push so hard against that fact? Accept it already! Why is sex even bad anyway? Why are people who fail to live up to society's unrealistic standards of prudishness viewed with such disdain? Why does anyone who chooses to wear revealing clothing in public receive so much criticism? Why is someone who accepts the fact that sexual intimacy is (for many) a requirement for a healthy life viewed in such a negative light? And why should such intimacy be limited to very specific legal arrangements (i.e., marriage) anyway?

The reason Kinsey was so insightful is because he didn't let moral judgments blind him to the truth of his scientific findings. I mean, that's a requirement of any successful scientific study. The problem is, nobody (hardly) treats sex with scientific objectivity. There's too much moral baggage. And I guess a lot of people are okay with that - they're invested in the illusion. But I'm not. It's bad. It's bad for individuals, and it's bad for society on the whole. And it's got to change.

I don't know how to change anyone's mind on this matter (or any other). But are there not more people out there in this world who think "morality" is a terrible thing to apply to something that affects so many people? Different people are going to have different moral beliefs. That's one of the fundamental issues. Kinsey also suspected that a lot of the social problems we have regarding society's view of sex are the result of different people with very different sexual capacities and experience imposing their own personal beliefs on the population as a whole, without regard to the varying needs of different people.

I don't give a damn if you think non-procreative sex is bad. I don't give a damn if you think pre-marital intercourse, or extra-marital intercourse, or intercourse with prostitutes is bad. I don't give a damn if you think masturbation is immoral. I don't give a damn if you think abstinence, or celibacy, is a virtue. I don't give a damn if you think there's some special value in virginity. I don't give a damn what your own personal morals surrounding sex are. But other people are going to have different morals - as they are entitled to - and regardless of anyone's morals, these behaviors are going to occur. The morals are irrelevant. What choices people make for themselves is nobody else's business. The only thing that matters is the effect those choices have on other people, and that is the realm of ethics, of logistical concerns, keeping individual liberty - supposedly a tenet the United States was built upon - in mind.

But, above all, sex is an act. It is not a battlefield for your immortal soul, and especially not one where everybody else's choices in the world determine the level of your own perceived "purity".

{I apologize if I get a little too preachy sometimes. It's because I'm really pissed off. And sometimes I feel completely alone in my beliefs - even if I'm not literally alone, you don't exactly hear my views distributed via mainstream channels. And in the rare case that you do, they're always beaten down relentlessly by conservative blowhards (and sometimes even liberal fucktards). The worst part isn't that these people disagree, but that they somehow manage to do so while maintaining an air of moral superiority. When, in truth, they're the ones who are morally bankrupt. It's disgusting. And it's depressing.}

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tube Bottom

I was doing some spring cleaning in my closet recently, and I decided on a whim to wear this tube top as a bottom! It's not exactly "street legal", I guess, but it does [barely] conform to my body in an unexpectedly pleasing way.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why do you like that?

Taking a scientifically neutral approach to sexual response, Kinsey often emphasizes tactile stimulation in sexual activity, as well as the important role that psychologic conditioning plays in determining our erotic triggers. This is especially true with regard to the question of homosexual experience. Whereas mainstream opinion (more so in the mid-twentieth century when his research was first published) was of the belief that most people are straight and a minority are "gay", Kinsey found that homosexual experience was a lot more prevalent than previously thought.

But further, in my interpretation, he seemed to be a proponent of the theory that the human organism could respond to a wide array of stimulation, not strictly limited to one's narrow preferences. For example, a true heterosexual male (with no feelings of homosexual attraction), might respond physically (if not psychologically) to the experience of another male tactilely stimulating his genitalia, so long as he keeps his eyes closed (or perhaps even otherwise). This is not necessarily a statement about his psychological preferences, but merely evidence of the physical aspect of sexual arousal.

Kinsey, however, almost seems to want to extrapolate this observation in an effort to suggest that a person's preferences are not so much hard-wired as being conditioned by one's experiences - after all, if a "straight" man can become physically aroused by homosexual stimulation, then the only thing keeping him straight is his psychological conditioning to believe that heterosexual contact is desirable and homosexual contact is not. While there may be some truth to this view, I don't think it adequately explains the full situation.

For example, in a world that shuns homosexual contact (again, much more so in the mid-twentieth century), how is it possible that a person could become conditioned to prefer - maybe even exclusively - such contact? It seems to fly in the face of the - fairly popular nowadays - "born this way" theory; and, simultaneously, dangerously lends credence to the belief that a person's sexual preferences can, ostensibly, be forcibly changed through re-conditioning (a theory that has had a less than stellar track record in practice).

While it is probably true that people are a lot more fluid in their sexualities than they often give themselves credit for, and I appreciate any attempt to encourage people to experiment with new possibilities (and be more compassionate and understanding of others not like them), I'm just not so sure that a person's preferences are not at least a little bit wired from the start.

Certainly, the particulars of my sexual tastes have evolved through the years, and it is hard to acknowledge an attraction to something you haven't really had the opportunity to be exposed to, or seriously considered in an erotic context, but I don't see myself as ever having had a drastic change of preference; and though I might come to see the maybe not-so-obvious appeals of alternative erotic triggers, I have a hard time believing that the basic, physical force behind my attraction to the things I like will ever change on a fundamental basis.

Maybe it's because the role of conditioning is far more potent during a person's formative (i.e., childhood) years, but even then, how do you explain the existence of people who seem to have preferences that go against the grain of their upbringing? I think this is a fascinating question to ask in the realm of sexology - what makes people like what they like - but I think there are still some important pieces of the puzzle missing.