Friday, June 30, 2017

Two Rooms



I do believe this is my first clone shot using my iPhone (and a theme that I'm surprised I haven't taken advantage of more, living where I am - here is one example from earlier this year). I tell you, let the elitists say what they want (I can hear it now: "hur hur hur, you're not a real photographer!"), but shooting with an iPhone is the best of both worlds - the convenience of a cell phone, with the picture quality of a much better camera. You can't shoot in RAW (although as a result, the files take up much less space on my hard drive), the resolution is a little smaller (although I have yet to print any of my photos in anything nearing poster size), and it's basically like you're shooting in Auto mode (although what's wrong with letting robots do the technical work, and allowing you to focus on the creative aspect?), but I daresay the advantages outstrip the disadvantages, with the technology where it is right now. The number one important thing in photography is having a camera when you need it, and my phone is pretty much always in my pocket. Yet I find myself shooting with it even at home. It's just easier, and I like the results. There's less hassle between the kernel of an idea and the final result. Call me lazy, but how can you argue with output?


I believe I've mentioned this before, but when I take clone shots, I usually do a round of preliminary shots with me standing in each clone's place just to get the positioning down so I can cycle through them real fast on the camera and make sure I like how it looks before I go to all the trouble of perfecting each clone's pose, outfit, etc. So here's your behind the scenes look at this particular shot. It's less polished, but more raw, for those of you who like that sort of thing. :-p

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Horny in the Morning




I'm not going to say this is a regular occurrence, because - counterintuitive though it may seem - having an erection doesn't necessarily mean you're in the mood to fuck. But some days, you just wake up horny. And if you've never felt the warm sunshine on your nether regions (even through a window), then you live a far too sheltered life, my friend.



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Checking the Router

(behind the chair)


It's wonderful how unselfconscious one can be when one is alone. (Really, I feel like a different person). This is one of those instances in which I was in the middle of unscripted, daily life, and I suddenly thought to myself, "gee, I'd really be putting on a show if there were somebody else in this room". Naturally, being who I am, I ran into the other room to grab my camera, so I (and also my pleasantly perverted internet audience - that's you!) could see what it might look like from the other side. At first I tried recreating the pose as closely to the unplanned original as I could - for the sake of realism - but then I couldn't help tweaking it with my photographer's eye (because I can't help myself), for better or worse (that's up to you).


This is another one of those situations that makes me think about "relative erosthetics", as I like to put it. A lot of people would use this as an excuse for why it's not a good idea to let people just roam around naked, because, statistically speaking, most of the people you surround yourself with in your everyday life are not necessarily attractive, or at least not to you. For that matter, just because someone is "beautiful" doesn't necessarily mean you want to stare at their genitals; for example, they might not be your type. Yet, when I look at a photo like this one (apart from the fact that the anatomy isn't my first choice, it's still a nice view), I can't help thinking about how appealing it is, and how much I'd love to just surround myself with beautiful, naked creatures. Does that make me weird? I mean, the reason I ask is because I feel like this is something most people would agree would be desirable, but for some reason, you'd have to be insane to actually pursue it in reality. But I don't see why this should be the case. Why do we insist on refusing ourselves anything that feels good? Are we really anhedonic puritans? These creatures wouldn't even have to have sex with me - I'm not talking about a harem of sex slaves here (necessarily) - I'd just really enjoy the eye candy, and the muse it would provide for my art.

I don't think this really has much to do with nudism, but I feel like nudism is a valuable stepping stone on the path to making more people comfortable being naked, especially around other people - no matter what they look like. Because beautiful people often don't realize how attractive they are (unless they're professionals, and most people aren't). And despite the stereotype that prudes of all stripes love to cite, the wider, non-nudist culture doesn't offer a lot of opportunities for people to look at other, beautiful people naked. I mean, yeah, sex sells, but there's also all that censorship. It's a weird dichotomy, but while you'll have no trouble finding raunchy scenes in television and movies, honest portrayals of even innocent nudity are few and far between.

And while you might think that the lucrative porn industry would provide a counter-example to my argument, it only strengthens my point. Even aside from the fact that beauty (like nudity) is not equivalent with sex (which is what porn is all about), it, too, is a distant form of wish fulfillment, and not real life in the flesh. (Or, when it is - as is the case with much amateur porn - it's still not your life). Plus, it unfortunately occupies a low class niche that higher society absolutely refuses to let it wander from. Its reputation is so soiled, people assume that porn will be trash, and that if a piece of media aspires to be anything better than trash, it can do so only by ejecting the pornographic elements. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, that resurrects itself through a vicious cycle. It's like the difference between a supermodel, and a drug-addled street walker. Sure, if you take sex (the lowest common denominator) out of the equation, you have things like "fine art". But it doesn't infuse our everyday lives. I want to be surrounded by living, breathing art.

So perhaps it's an excuse, but - especially in this erotophobic society - nudism seems like a better justification than my own personal, aesthetic desires for wanting beautiful people to take their clothes off. It doesn't mean I'm an impostor - I practice and support genuine nudist ideals, and I believe it's a freedom we all deserve to have, independent of what we look like. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there was an added bonus for me. And, unlike some, I've long been of the opinion that "having to endure" the sight of unattractive bodies (which is really an insensitive way of putting it) is a small price to pay for the opportunity (rare though it may be) to see the attractive ones.

Are we not allowed to admit that this is one of the perks of a lifestyle that involves people taking their clothes off? It seems kind of silly and disingenuous to me for us to pretend that this isn't part of the experience. If that makes some people uncomfortable, I am genuinely concerned - because, obviously, it will result in less people joining in (especially those who might have good reason to believe that people will be looking at them). But the solution isn't self-deception. It's only human to want to look. We need to start examining ways to make looking more innocuous.

For example: as much as "true" nudists despise them, nudist documentaries are a step in that direction, by outsourcing the looking to people who aren't present in the moment, and thus cannot make the people being looked at feel self-conscious (at least not any more than is caused by the presence of the camera, which isn't going to bother everyone as much as it bothers some - I, for one, would happily volunteer to be a model for the nudist lifestyle). However, this is still removed from "real life in the flesh", which is solved by things like beauty pageants (although I've argued before that there are better, less superficial alternatives - like spectator sports) that involve performances that invite looking, even if just temporarily, within an appropriate context.

This is the discussion I want to be part of - not trying to paddle upstream or make futile assaults against impassive windmills. Admitting this simple fact of reality - that people like to look - and not conveniently sweeping it under the rug, is my most basic requirement for negotiation on this topic. Otherwise, we're just wasting each others' time. And we've only got so much of it before we have to go.

"Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late." - Bob Dylan

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pokémon Trainee


With apologies for the not-so-clear picture (sometimes it's hard to get a good shot of yourself walking down a city street), this is the perfect outfit for tooling around downtown playing Pokémon GO - a pikachu dress! I guess that makes me the trainee. huh?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Impromptu



An impromptu, sunlit blinds/lying on the bed selfie. The focus came out a little soft, but we'll call it a romantic, Hamiltonesque effect. It looks good, anyway.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mortality

(Not to be confused with morality :-p)

The standard process by which one may attain a certain measure of immortality (in a metaphorical sense) is through procreation - passing on one's genes. But while I'm not interested in procreation, for a number of reasons, I am nonetheless not immune to the very human desire for some part of me to outlast my limited time as a conscious being on this plane of existence. The next alternative is to create some great work that will be passed down through the ages, and talked about for generations to come. People like Shakespeare, Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Socrates - these are people who are still remembered because, during their lives, they contributed to human culture and understanding in profound and lasting ways. Granted, geniuses of this level are few and far between, and the chances of me attaining that kind of status are much slimmer than the chance that one of my sperm might fertilize an ovum (given the opportunity). I'm ambitious, but I'm not delusional.

Then again, the cult of celebrity seems (at least) to be growing in modern civilization, particularly with the advent of more convenient recording technologies, and diversified forms of entertainment. Art moguls, movie directors, authors, innovators, philanthropists - these are people who have made a name for themselves by their contributions to modern society (such as they are). And it seems as though there are more famous people now than ever before. Of course, it could be because they're all still recent, and we haven't had a chance to forget them yet. Nobody can say how many of them will be remembered far into the future, and it could be said that when everybody's famous, no one is famous, because fewer of them will stand out. But, at least on a localized scale, it seems as if anyone can attain a little bit of fame these days, especially through viral marketing.

What I want, though, isn't so much fame, as respect. I want to contribute something worthwhile to our culture. Not through celebrity endorsement, but conceptual innovation. I'd love to do that through art, even though I don't consider myself on the level of a world class artist. But even though I'm not the best, if my voice is unique enough, and if I can fill an important niche that nobody else is filling, or be some kind of visionary pioneer of a new and valuable way of thinking, demonstrated or communicated through my art - well, maybe I could be remembered for that someday.

I think about my artistic instinct. From the beginning of this journey, I've been inspired by the profound impact that beauty has on me. In my personal experience, nothing in life is quite like it. It stops me in my tracks. (And sometimes, in this erotophobic society, I have to hide my reaction to it - like John Preston in Equilibrium - which causes the anguish that informs much of my more scathing rants). It's a difficult thing to communicate, as it is so intensely personal, but all I want to do through my art is make other people feel that feeling that is so familiar to me - when you see a body, a person, that is so exquisite that you have to catch your breath. I want the rest of the world to know what that's like. (So they will understand how cruel it is to force others to suppress that feeling, until it morphs into self-loathing). I know that beauty is subjective, and there are countless artists already out there pursuing this muse, but in spite of that, I feel like I must have an outlet through which my own personal voice can be heard - to contribute my own personal understanding of what's beautiful, especially where that deviates from the mainstream.

Will it last? Will this expression of my voice and my vision endure the test of time? I obviously can't say. It wouldn't stop me if the answer were no, but I still hold out hope that maybe - even if I haven't hit on it yet, then someday - I might tap in to something universal. Something that isn't necessarily tied down to a certain place or a certain time, that doesn't require a highly specialized set of interests to appreciate. I know there are probably few people (relative to the human population) that appreciate eroticized portraits of feminized males (although I'd hope that my sex-positive, gender-bending approach could be appreciated from a more generalized, progressive viewpoint as it challenges conservative social standards, and not just as porn), but I am a human being with a body. And we all have bodies. And bodies - especially the beautiful ones, by whatever standards you're using - have been admired since time immemorial. Michelangelo's David is just a sculpture of a body, but we still admire it today.

Then again, there's a cynical voice in the back of my head that whispers to me about the transience of life, amidst the vast, lonely emptiness of space and time that constitutes our universe. Even if I could accomplish the impossible task of creating a work of art that every human being that will ever live would appreciate, it's not unreasonable to assume that some day mankind will become extinct. And even if there are (or will be) other intelligent life forms out there somewhere in the interstellar expanses, and even if they were to cross our path against all odds, like two goldfish in the deep blue sea, who's to say that they would be capable of appreciating any of what humans have created?

We send signals out into space, arrogantly assuming that alien races will be able to understand our symphonies, much less appreciate them. What if they don't hear sound the way we hear it? What if their eyes don't pick up the same frequencies of light that ours do? What if they don't even have eyes? Their bodies will almost certainly be different than ours (in spite of what Star Trek's limited fx budget insists), so even the most profound nude portrait of a human will be rendered meaningless to them - as meaningless as alien porn would be to us. There's a reason animals can walk around us naked without anybody throwing a fuss, and that hardcore photos of snails having sex don't require a mature filter on Flickr.

Furthermore, that alien race, too, will eventually die out. Like the great works of Ozymandias, all that will be left of life in the universe will be a great ruin, but with nobody left to remember what it once stood for. And in time, the universe, too, will collapse. If, by chance, a new universe emerges in its place, and, by astronomical odds, new life forms develop, there will be no evidence that we had ever existed - not even a footprint - and no way for us to communicate with them. And all our mortal toils will have definitively been for naught. Why, then, should any of us continue?

I'll tell you. Because we exist. Maybe just for a little while. But right now, you and I - we exist. And we can feel. We can feel joy, and we can feel sorrow. We cannot escape the sadness that will hound us and haunt us throughout our lives, but we can try our best to offset it with as much happiness as we can grab a hold of. And whatever foolish trick it was that evolution played on us to make us delight in the pleasures of the flesh, well, I derive a great joy from appreciating the aesthetic sensibilities of the human form. And I'm going to revel in that. I'm going to celebrate the things in life that make us feel good, and share that with anyone who cares to join me. Because pretty soon, we all have to give it up, and return to the eternal night of non-existence. But it doesn't have to be today. And in the meantime, I'm going to have some fun. While I still can.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Outfit of the Day (#ootd)

I seem to be in a bit of an introspective/analytical mood lately - there's nothing like the sophisticated thrill of turning over a concept in your mind, examining it from every angle, and putting together a framework for it. (Am I a nerd or what?). There's more to come, but I like to split up my rambling thoughts with some easy-to-appreciate photos, whenever convenient. You know, for the sake of digestion. Here's an outfit I wore this past weekend:


I had the unusual problem of having to dress for a trip both to the mall and to the park to engage in some athletics - two very different situations requiring very different fashion approaches. It's fun to dress up for the mall; not, like, formal gown dress-up, but just your "Saturday best" - things like cute tops, leg-baring shorts, and primped hair. I always enjoy seeing the way girls dress for the mall, to go shopping with friends or flirting with boys. In fact, one of my dreams is to set up a kiosk offering to take portraits immortalizing all that style on display (I'm a firm believer that wherever you are, local talent is every bit as stunning as the professional models). I just don't know how profitable that would be - not that I'd be doing it for the money, as opposed to the great picture opportunities, but I can't exactly afford to blow all my savings on a pipe dream.

Needless to say, there's a certain amount of pressure to step up your fashion game at the mall (seeing as I've kind of grown accustomed to being the one who turns heads). On the other hand, when you're dressing to play sports, you don't want to wear anything too fancy. It has to be practical, because you're going to be moving around, and sweating in the hot sun. (Naturally, playing sports after a trip to the mall works a lot better than the reverse, without having a shower break in between). So I compromised with this really cute silver-sequined volleyball shirt I bought at Justice (because it's really not fair that girls are expected to outgrow their "sparkles and unicorns" phase - I never will) a while back, since it was volleyball I was going to be practicing. I coupled it with my usual shorts (barely visible below the hem of this long shirt), and a simple but stylish pair of flip flops that I could easily remove before stepping out onto the sand.

I have to say it was an enjoyable success, culminating in a refreshing ice cream run! That is, even if I'm still a little sore on account of my inadvisable decision to perform some impromptu gymnastics without proper spotting (or training, along with the fact that I'm not as young as I feel on the inside)... Still, I wouldn't take it back for the world!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nudism's Appeal to Nature

It is not surprising, but nudists are often guilty (and I am no exception) of using the "appeal to nature" in justifying the validity of their lifestyle - surely, you've heard the mantra "nude is natural" at some point or other. This, however, is a logical fallacy in which one equates that which is natural with being good (and, on the other hand, that which is unnatural with being bad). To illustrate why this constitutes an error of reasoning, one need only imagine something natural that is bad (e.g., disease), or something unnatural that is good (e.g., modern medicine).

Of course, it's possible to get caught up in a web of circular logic, and start defining anything that is good as being natural ("it's natural to put marshmallows in your hot cocoa!"), or anything that is bad as being unnatural ("the way he leered at me was just unnatural!"). At this point, it becomes increasingly apparent that all of this depends upon our subjective definition of what "natural" means. After all, man is a part of nature, so what separates his cities from the tunnels of an ant colony? From a certain perspective, there is nothing in this world that is truly unnatural, except perhaps that which is supernatural (if there is such a thing).

Colloquially speaking, if we are not concerned with splitting hairs, most people have a rough understanding of what is natural versus what is, shall we say, man-made. And much of the appeal of nudism, it is argued, rests on the fact that it is the natural state of affairs to be naked (as you were born), as opposed to wearing clothes (which have been meticulously designed by man). Instinctively, I feel that this is good reasoning, but at the same time, I know that it constitutes a logical fallacy. If "natural" is not a synonym for "good", then nudism can't be good because it's natural. If you're having trouble swallowing this point, don't be concerned - unfortunately, our brains are not wired to prioritize logic over emotion. Just think of the many things we do that are not natural, that we nevertheless prefer over the natural alternatives.

For example, if the natural state of dress (i.e., nudity) is ideal, then what about the state of our bodies? Is it natural to pursue a fitness regimen? How about basic hygiene? You could argue that even animals exercise (especially when they're not leading unnaturally sedentary lifestyles) and bathe (albeit without soap), but what about personal grooming habits? Is it natural to trim a beard, or shave the hair underneath our arms, or should we just let it grow out? What about a simple haircut? Consider our living environment. Tent camping is pretty close to the land (despite involving conspicuously man-made materials), but can it really be considered natural to inhabit an RV, or a trailer, let alone a house? And what about food? Is all the food we eat perfectly natural, or is much of it heavily processed? Do we cook it all over campfires, or is it more convenient to use a grill or stove? For that matter, could anything that uses electricity, or takes advantage of indoor plumbing, be considered "natural"?

If we were to adopt the philosophy that natural means better, then we'd quickly find ourselves reverting to the Stone Age. And nudism is not a euphemism for "Stone Age camping". Granted, there are people out there - undoubtedly including some that are among the nudist community - that argue for a natural approach in all things. But this is not most of us, nor even most of the people arguing that nudism is good because it's natural. And while a greener, more environmentalist-friendly approach may be desirable in many contexts, it is not because everything that is natural is intrinsically good. Or that anything that is unnatural is intrinsically bad. An approach that is too naturalistic carries problems of its own - just consider the anti-vaxxers. So, if we can't credibly argue that being naked is good because it's our natural state of dress, then what are we left with?

Let me say this: I can't deny that part of the appeal of being naked - especially outdoors - is that it gives me a sense of being "closer" to nature. But, interestingly, it's a feeling that's not mitigated by my freshly shaven armpits. And while I would rather shower under a waterfall than in a bathroom, I have no strong desire to defecate under a bush, especially without toilet paper or soap of some kind. And believe me, I could go my entire life without having to kill my own dinner. I guess I'm not really wild. But I like being naked. (And, it's interesting to note, few of the people I know that I would call wild regularly practice nudism). Call me a "tourist", but I could live peacefully in the boundary between worlds, frolicking happily in nature, but with civilization never too far away. A manifestation of that, perhaps, is my desire for more reasonable nudity laws, that would allow a person to enjoy public parks and city streets (or at least people's private yards) "au naturale", instead of having to drive out to the middle of nowhere to enjoy nudism in glorified trailer parks (that, nevertheless, often have many of the amenities of modern society).

If the reason that the appeal to nature speaks to us is because it tugs at our feelings, then I suppose nudism could be considered good because it allows us to feel natural, without any of the harmful side-effects of truly roughing it. I mean, there is some validity to the naturalistic perspective; provided that being naked is no more harmful than wearing clothes, it seems kind of silly for us to go so far out of our way, culturally, to deny a simple fact of nature. In other words, being natural doesn't make nudism a good thing, per se, but it doesn't hurt its case, either. And if there are plenty of other advantages to going nude (both physically and mentally), which could themselves be emphasized above and beyond the natural argument, then all the better!

When I really think about it, "nude is natural" seems more like an excuse for why it's okay, than a reason for anyone to pursue it. I don't actually like nudity because it's natural, even if that's how I feel sometimes. I like nudity because it's beautiful. And when it's not beautiful (because it's not always beautiful), I like it because it's comfortable. Does there need to be anything more to it than that? I think it's when people start questioning whether being naked is really sane or appropriate (on account of what they've been taught), in spite of whatever advantages a person might derive from it, that we start to become defensive, and emphasize its natural nature. Which I think is okay. We all have bodies. We were born with them, and it's not healthy to be ashamed of them. Why should they be considered "inappropriate"? Anyone can undress in front of a mirror and see one for themselves. You think nudism is crazy? I think going out of our way to hide our bodies from each other - and ourselves - is what's insane.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Installing an Air Conditioner

(A nudist documentary)

Now that summer is in full force, I can no longer put off installing the second air conditioning unit in our apartment.

video

See, it didn't take long for me to start experimenting with my newfound video editing skills. This is still a pretty basic project - a straightforward combination of three videos - but the ability to combine shots allows me to tell a more complete visual story (like one with a beginning, middle, and end). It also still runs a bit long - although this is a documentary, and it really took that long to dig the a/c out of the closet, install it, and then put the closet back in order. On the plus side, the production was a lot simpler than my recent swimsuit session, since I was dealing with single takes ("take it or leave it") this time.

Who knows what I'll come up with next!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

In Defense of Sexy Cosplay

In spite of my status as an internet sex icon (albeit a pretty niche one), I'm a nerd. Don't believe me? While I've never watched much Star Trek, or participated in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, I do own copies of the Despecialized Edition of the original Star Wars trilogy, have read The Silmarillion cover to cover, recently reviewed all 200+ episodes of the original run of The X-Files, am currently developing a VG RPG in tribute to SNES-era (that is, pre-3D) Final Fantasy, and I consider my annual attendance to an anime convention (for which I always dress up) one of the highlights of my year.

So, as a nerd, I'd like to make what should be a non-controversial statement about cosplay culture. One of the great joys of cosplay - to me, and to many other people - is seeing people dressed up (or down) in sexy, skimpy outfits. (And this includes both men and women, even if, due to cultural and statistical reasons, it's more often women - although I'm working, as much as one person can, towards leveling that playing field). It should be no secret that this is part of the fun. For some of us. You may or may not be one of those people, or particularly appreciate this aspect of the culture, but I'd like to ask you to refrain from shaming other people for engaging in it, please.

If somebody cosplays a character you don't like, or a character from a show you don't like, you may not appreciate it, but they're not doing anything wrong. Nor are the people who do appreciate that cosplay. It doesn't hurt you in any way. But, of course, we're not just talking about choosing specific characters or franchises here (unless it's one of the many characters already depicted in a "sexualized" manner in its original media), we're talking about a particular approach to a character. Maybe you like the show, and even the character, but you don't appreciate it being "sexed up". Fine, that's your opinion. But what makes sex shaming okay when other forms of harassment are rightly vilified?

Think about it. If this were any other subject than sex appeal, this wouldn't be an issue. Black man cosplaying a white character? Call him out and you're racist. Woman cosplaying a male character? Call her out and that's sexist. But call someone out for making a character look sexy, and you're "fighting the good fight". Tell me I'm wrong to blame feminism for making prudishness part of the social justice curriculum. Sex is a fundamental and pervasive part of the human experience. I get that it makes some people uncomfortable. You don't have to participate if you don't want to. But can you let us have our fun? Tell me how acknowledging the fact that people are wired to find bodies sexually appealing harms you in such a way that we're better off pretending this part of us doesn't exist. That keeping it locked away behind closed doors and facilitating a societal program of self-denial and hypocrisy is in service to the greater public good.

I suppose that by legitimizing what you might call a culture of "perviness", we are fostering an environment where sexual harassment can flourish. I'm not naive. But let me stop you right there. Our brains are sophisticated enough to see the world in more shades than just black and white. You can be pro-sex, and still be anti-harassment. The dialogue on what constitutes harassment should certainly remain open. But who's harassing who when you call someone "creepy" for thinking that somebody in a crowd looks sexually appealing, or for wanting to create a photographic memory of that moment in an environment where taking pictures to remember costumes by is not only permitted, but encouraged?

Are you afraid of what someone might do with that picture in the privacy of their own home? What does it matter? How can you even predict that, when I can guarantee you that there are surreptitious perverts walking amongst us whose private behaviors you would never guess by their outward demeanor? I'm sorry to be so blunt (I'd hate to discourage anyone from taking this chance to step outside their comfort zone, but I have to draw the line here), but if you don't want anyone seeing you in an outfit, don't wear it in public. And if you want to reduce the possibility of anybody taking a picture of you in it, don't wear it to a convention where cameras are snapping fast and loose. The last thing I'd want to see is the convention environment - which is already, in my experience, an exceptionally welcoming atmosphere, just the way it is - become a "no photography" zone like every nudist property (I presume) in this country.

I want you to feel comfortable at a convention. Comfortable to stretch your nerdy wings in an atmosphere of mutual fandom. I want to feel comfortable, too. And part of stretching your wings, in a cosplay context, might include wearing something outrageous that you'd never wear (or could never wear) out there in the "default" world. Maybe you think the presence of cameras threatens your ability to do that. As a photographer, that saddens me, because I see photography as a mainly harmless pursuit, and one that can bring great pleasure to a great many people. Much of the fear is overblown, and fostered by sensationalist news media, who love to run stories about how pictures can ruin lives. That's an exaggeration, at the very least. I have pictures of myself (in sexually compromising positions, no less) plastered all over the internet, admired by adoring fans (not vindictive bullies, whose power relies on your complicity in hanging your head in shame, instead of owning up to your behaviors), and it hasn't ruined my life. A picture of you in a costume that was impressive enough that somebody wanted to take your picture (whether it's because of the work you put into the costume, the work you put into your body, or both) isn't going to ruin yours, no matter what might be done with it in private.

And if it's just the attention you receive at a convention that makes you feel like you're being "ogled", and singled out in the crowd, that makes you uncomfortable, then let's focus on teaching people how to observe basic manners, even in the presence of overwhelming beauty (whether of an erotic nature or otherwise). I fully support campaigns to encourage potential "creeps" to treat others with respect, regardless of their level of arousal. We can police the way people behave - but not how they feel. And we can't restrict certain behaviors that are otherwise perfectly permissible only because we perceive them to be stemming from an "impure" motivation. How, for example, can you justify criticizing a "creep" for even wanting a picture of a skimpy cosplayer, if there is nothing wrong, on principle, with asking people for photos? The issue is how a person approaches (and treats) a cosplayer, not whether or why they want a picture. We cannot shame human beings for their instinctual sexual impulse, only certain ways they may choose to respond to it that are destructive or antisocial in nature. But society must provide alternative outlets that are deemed appropriate. Because denying this fact of nature, or trying to prevent it from happening at all, is a recipe for failure. And it leads to a sex-negative, misandrist culture of shaming men for having involuntary sexual thoughts about women they are not legally or socially binded to.

---

I'd like to believe this is an over-inflated issue. On the one hand, you can find a lot of "con horror stories" online about cosplayers being "creeped" on at conventions. Personally, I've never encountered this behavior in all the years I've been wearing skimpy cosplays*, but I understand that that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Maybe I'm lucky. Maybe it's because I go to a relatively small convention in a relatively nice city. Or maybe it's because I'm not a girl (although I'm sure I've fooled a few people). But I can't help feeling like the right attitude goes a long way. When I wear a skimpy cosplay, I expect people to look. I also expect people to want pictures even when they don't know jack about the character I'm cosplaying**, and I don't mind. I don't interpret every sideways glance as a soul-crushing expression of sexual objectification. Rather, it flatters me.

(On the contrary, I have anxiety, so I'm more likely to interpret those glances as people judging me, but I have the maturity and self-awareness to know that in the vast majority of cases, that's probably not true, and the few in which it is don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. If I can recognize this about my own feelings of anxiety, then why can't others who are afraid of people "checking them out" - which, again, in most cases, is really a harmless and even complimentary gesture - do it, too?).

Now, maybe a lot of cosplayers are young and inexperienced and don't know how to handle this kind of attention, but that's a failure of our [conservative, fundamentalist] education system to prepare them for the reality of life as a sexual organism (which does not follow social standards of propriety - like never finding anyone under the age of 18 attractive - no matter how much we might want it to). None of this excuses the truly creepy behavior that (I'm sure) goes on (although I'd hope it's not as common as it is remarkable, leading to it being talked about more often than it actually happens), but this isn't an indictment of sexy cosplayers or the fans who admire them on the whole.

*The closest thing I've experienced to "sexual harassment" at a con is when I was wearing a cosplay that basically consists of a speedo, and a woman that was visibly drunk asked me if she could see what was underneath. But I wasn't offended. Why on earth would I be? I was actually on the verge of showing her before her friend apologized and dragged her away. If that kind of thing bothered me, I wouldn't attend conventions dressed as if I were headed to the beach.

(I'm not saying I - or anyone dressed like I was that night - was "asking for it". Although we should clarify what "it" is that is being asked for. If you dress in an eye-catching outfit, you are asking for attention - don't be surprised when you get some. That does not, however, mean that you are asking for harassment or assault, or giving your consent to be touched or anything like that. At the same time, you don't have the right to not be photographed in public. Looking and touching - we really need to keep these things separate).

It occurs to me that this anecdote could contribute to the notion that men can't be sexually harassed, because, unlike women, they enjoy it by default. I understand (and agree) that this is a toxic notion. I've been catcalled on the street, even propositioned once by a man who mistook me for a prostitute. And while I don't think it constitutes a major problem (you think it's scary when a burly man thinks you're attractive? Try being the "faggot" that walks into his field of vision), it is an offensive display of rudeness that I could live without. I'm not inhuman - I have boundaries. I agree that there are lines that people shouldn't cross. I was once cornered in the men's bathroom at a nudist camp, by someone who clearly had an interest in me. I don't know if it was intentional, but he was body-blocking the exit, and that's not okay. He turned out to be pretty harmless, but that's beside the point, isn't it? What I'm saying is, I don't believe that anything goes. But I do believe that we should take a reasonable and objective stance on this issue, and not let our emotions cloud our vision. Simply put, not every expression of sexual admiration constitutes harassment. The devil is in the details, and those details are what we should be focusing on - not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

**Although something that's surprised me is how few people want to take my picture when I do a sexy cosplay of an obscure character, which doesn't really mesh with the view that there are tons of photographers just taking pictures of every sexy cosplayer they come across. I actually want to be that photographer, but I've never had the guts to do it because I'm concerned about making people feel self-conscious (see, "pervs" can be considerate, too; it's just that you only ever hear about the few who misbehave), even though I've never experienced anything other than gratitude for admiring a cosplayer's outfit and asking for a picture, no matter how tame or wild the outfit happens to be. This shouldn't be a revelation, but people really don't wear these outfits because they want to be ignored.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Swimsuit Session

a.k.a. Behind the Scenes and Outtakes!


Both of my shoots (photo and video) for Swimsuit Season were long and involved. I must have shot almost a hundred test shots for the photoshoot before I was even ready to begin the shoot proper. Things like testing different angles, changing the mirror placement, setting up the curtain, and picking an outfit for pre- and post-fitting. And that's after I moved half the stuff out of my closet and that corner of the room, in order to get a clean shot!

I thought the video shoot (which I did on a different day) would go faster, since I could just shoot each take and not have to obsess over every little detail, but I clearly underestimated my perfectionism. Still, I couldn't work on it forever, so I had to settle for what I could get in a reasonable amount of time. Choreographing the pink outfit was the worst. I had this brilliant/terrible idea to untie the strings at the end (because what's the fun of a string bikini if not the suggestion that just a little tug can undo all your efforts at maintaining that last shred of modesty?).

Great for the viewer, but a nightmare to pull off. The strings didn't always cooperate, and I didn't want to look like a dork tugging at them in vain. Plus I had to retie them after every take (and the way my anatomy is makes it extra difficult - I usually leave them tied and just slip them on and off). And, naturally, this had to occur at the end of the take, so I wouldn't know if it was a wash until I'd done everything else in the take first...


Anyway, this is one of my test shots, with me standing in place to get a feel for the angle of the light and the framing (plus the position of the mirror - behind me, which obviously didn't work out). The starkness of my nudity (which is my usual household attire, whenever possible and practical), especially in contrast to the clothing I'd be wearing for the shoot, stood out to me in this shot. Call me crazy, but it still gets to me, after all these years.

Without so much as a hint of clothing (if you can forgive my corrective lenses :p), it's just so raw. I love it. Of course, it helps that I've cultivated a rather attractive appearance, if I may say so. I don't mean to contribute to anyone's anxiety about how their bodies look, but I just can't deny the sensational effect that a fit and trim body has on my aesthetic sensibilities. The truth about beauty and all that.


And here I am modeling the "proper" way to wear a grass skirt - sans any undergarments. I hope that's not offensive to any tribal/tropical cultures - I say this only in jest, as a play on the common trope of wearing Scottish kilts and Japanese kimonos "commando" style, coupled with the suggestive implication that grass skirts are far less opaque a covering. Sadly, many cultures take offense to anything that could be construed as "sexualization" (and even nonsexual nudity is often dragged in to this), considering it disrespectful - as most cultures, and particularly the religions they're influenced by, include many sex-negative doctrines.

Well, I simply don't feel that way. Adding an element of eroticism to anything is a celebration of life - literally, a celebration of the fundamental process that has the power to create life. And even if that is not the goal of any particular act of eroticism (as for many of them it's not), it's still a celebration of pleasure - i.e., feeling good. I don't care how sadistic your god is, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I had considered including a hula outfit in my bikini fashion shoot, but I don't have any coconut tops to pair it with, and I actually forgot about it until the end, at which point I was exhausted and eager to finish up the shoot already.


Out of all the outfits I put together for the shoot, something about the flag bikini just happened to get me excited. It's not necessarily my favorite swimsuit, or even the sexiest (although there's not one in the group that I don't like, or think is sexy). It could just have been a matter of timing, or the fact that, out of the whole group, that outfit involved the most undressing (which, sue me, is a titillatingly suggestive action); or, you know, it could just have been the pressure of the shorts and the friction caused by peeling them off over the course of several takes. I would have expected to have gotten this excited over the pink string bikini (which would have been problematic, given how precarious it holds together as is), but the frustration I was feeling at trying to get the strings to behave precluded that for sure.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Swimsuit Season

I had a blast at the pool this past weekend, admiring all the swimsuits on display. I caught myself wishing I could hand out awards - cutest, most daring, most flattering, who wore it better, etc. Is "swimsuit reviewer" a thing? Lol. It's June and the kids are out of school, camping season has begun - we're fully into the summer season now! I had the idea to do a photoshoot modeling all the bikinis I've bought over the years that I hardly ever get a chance to wear. I redecorated my closet to look like a fitting room a while ago (I might be a little obsessed), but I don't think I've ever really done anything with it.

Problem is, I took a bunch of shots before it occurred to me that this is the sort of thing that would flow a lot better in the form of a video. I've always wanted to do a "fashion shoot" video. Of course, it would require a lot of cuts, and I don't have much experience with video editing. But, I recently fired up Movie Maker again and successfully managed to edit a clip (without it crashing my computer), so I thought it might be worth a try. After all, I've seen videos of girls modeling leotards on YouTube - surely, I could figure it out. So I gave it a shot.

Working in motion is tough. I'm used to micromanaging every part of my body to look perfect (or as close as I can get) in an image. And while I may have mastered posing for still frames, I don't know squat about moving around. Plus, the files have the potential to be much larger, and they take more time to review. And you've gotta get a whole take down from start to finish - there's less freedom to cherry pick elements you like here and there. I tell you, I have loads more respect for actors now.

So what I came up with is far from perfect (I think it runs a little long, the fades are rudimentary, and I don't have any sound to go with it), but it's just a tentative first step. I mean, I've recorded videos before, but the possibility of cutting between scenes opens up a whole new world of storytelling potential. Not that I have actors to work with any more than I have models, and cloning in a video is far beyond my skills, but I'm a creative individual. I could probably come up with something. In the meantime, enjoy this:

video

So, this video reflects something of a fantasy I have, which involves a trip to the mall with a group of hypothetical girl friends (not to be confused with "girlfriends"), to shop for swimsuits. We would visit one or more stores, and at each one, we'd all pick out a handful of swimsuits we think we might like, and then we'd head to the fitting room and try them on, modeling each one for the group, before making our final decisions and purchases. And then, of course, we'd all go to the pool or beach and strut our stuff. Although, personally, I think I'd have more fun trying suits on with the girls than I would showing them off for the boys - but that's just me.


Anyway, in this fantasy, my sex isn't really specified. Ideally, I'd be a girl, because that would be more realistic, and the swimsuits would be more likely to fit the shape of my body (men's swimsuits - at least the kind you can buy in stores - do not hold my interest whatsoever). In my fantasy, I'm not a boy parading around in front of girls; I'm just one of the girls. However, I don't think it would change my enjoyment of the fantasy significantly if I were in fact still biologically male, provided the girls were supportive of my gender identity (which would be a requirement for friendship). I wouldn't mind a little playful teasing at the sometimes comical way the suits fit my body, so long as the girls have some level of appreciation for the look of feminine/androgynous men in women's clothing.


I've tried on women's swimsuits in real life. It's fun. I've even bought a few, because - as impractical as they are - I can't seem to resist them. But it doesn't quite live up to my fantasy because I don't really have anyone to model them for, and I'm never perfectly comfortable in that situation because I've been made by society to feel a bit like a wolf in sheep's clothing, solely on account of my physical anatomy. There's always a background level of anxiety tied to the fear of getting "caught". Which is sad, because I'm not doing anything that a girl wouldn't be totally justified in doing - which is try on a piece of clothing to see how it fits on her body, and, ideally, find something that makes her feel sexy and/or good about herself, so she can add it to her wardrobe.


It's hard being a minority - especially one that experiences a lot of discrimination from society. What I really need is for someone to tell me it's okay. That it's okay for me to be the way I am. That I'm not going to be reviled for it, if I don't hide it well enough. Because I know I'd rather just relax and be me than have to constantly worry about conforming to other people's stereotypes (whether it's for one gender or the other). None of us is 100% masculine or feminine, but a biological woman doesn't have to worry about being treated like an infiltrator and possibly a sex pervert if she forgets to shave one day, or properly modify her voice, or let someone get a peek from the wrong angle.


Don't get me wrong, I have people in my life who support me - one of them, at the very least. But I need more. I don't want to feel like we're a few candles against the wind. I need to know that there are others out there like me - and not just "allies" - fighting for me, for the freedom to be me, and to pursue happiness on my terms - not violating the standards of law or common human decency, but just in ways that maybe the majority of the population has been socialized to think is strange. Is that really so bad? That some people delight in being different from everyone else? Who are we hurting?


I'm not threatening your way of life. At least not any more than your conservative views are threatening my liberty and my safety. What makes your views better than mine? That yours are shared by many? That's antithetical to the concept of equality. Your life is no more valuable than mine, just because you stand in solidarity with a majority of the population, any more than my life is more valuable than yours, because I dare to stand apart from the masses. Neither one of us is better than the other. We stand as equals. That's my perspective. Prove that yours is superior.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Chasing Inspiration

Part of my daily routine involves browsing art (I like to do it in the morning over a bowl of cereal) - whether it's on flickr (back in the day), deviantART, tumblr, or anywhere else. Most of this art constitutes female nudes, just because that's what I'm interested in. I call this activity "research"; it would be easy to joke that I use this as an excuse to surf porn (even though very little of the imagery I browse is actually sexually explicit - although much of it may be suggestive), but, you know, it's actually true. I am much more creative, and more productive as a photographer, when I constantly surround myself with inspiration. As it was in the beginning, so shall it be forevermore. I'd love to work with an in-the-flesh muse (one that I can see all those times I'm not standing in front of the mirror), but since I live like a recluse, there's not much chance of that happening any time soon.


From the beginning of my photo/modeling journey, I've endeavored to mimic the female nudes I've admired - because, again, that is the kind of art I like, and the kind of art I want to produce. It has even contributed in no small part to my transformation from a somewhat stereotypical male appearance to regularly passing as female with little effort. To be sure, I had harbored curiosity about and an affinity towards the female gender for a long time, and would never have come so far in so short a time without the enthusiastic support of a close friend, but it could be said that to some extent, I began to transition as the result of a desire to create a particular kind of art, having only myself as a model to work with - much like some amphibians can change sex due to environmental triggers, based on the needs of the species (as popularized in Jurassic Park).


Nevertheless - and as I have explained before - I've learned that two bodies won't necessarily look the same posed in the same way, and that there are certain positions that just aren't as effective for one sex as the other. I've minimized this discrepancy by cultivating the appearance of a female, but, barring certain extreme measures I'm not prepared to undertake at this time, there are some limitations to what I can pull off. Now, when I make determinations of this sort, I have to keep in mind the subjective nature of aesthetics - and if you are, unlike me, naturally disposed toward finding the male form intrinsically attractive, you may reach a different conclusion - but while it's absolutely true that a man can look appealing, for example, with his legs spread wide open (case in point), that pose just has a completely different meaning for a man than it does for a woman. And it really boils down to how the genitals appear, and how they are designed to function.

A woman with open legs is exposed and vulnerable. She's revealing her normally hidden anatomy in submissive invitation. With a man, it's different. You're not seeing all that much more of the anatomy, and you're not so much drawn into it as it just seems to be hanging there - if anything, itching to jump out at you and take on a more dominant role. Not to contribute to sexist stereotypes, but it's a purely functional contrast. Now, one thing that the woman can't imitate is a man's erection. I find it telling (and not a little bit irritating), however, that in a lot of cases where erections are outlawed as being pornographic, women with spread legs may still be viewed (if slimly) within the bounds of nude art. This demonstrates a discriminatory double standard between expressions of male and female sexuality, likely a symptom of the heteronormative, male-dominant culture that glorifies female sex appeal while vilifying the male equivalent.

All this is to say (and yeah, I know - I can be wordy sometimes) that I set out to imitate a typical spread-eagle shot, but it wasn't having the effect I wanted, so I ended up with something a bit different instead.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Don't Dream It, Be It

I recently saw a picture in Entertainment Weekly (of the cast of Okja, taken at the Cannes Film Festival), and I was struck by an overwhelming thought. Now, I have the benefit of calling myself transgender (despite having no interest in surgery), but let's put aside the notion of gender identity for a moment, and the idea that men wear this and women wear that. How could anyone look at this picture and not think, "forget all those boring guys in identical suits, I want to be Lily Collins in that elegant dress and dazzling heels!" Is it just me?

Photo credit: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock,
as published in Entertainment Weekly (June 2/9, 2017)