The Artistic Ugliness of the Penis

Earlier today, a photographer contacted me on ModelMayhem and asked to see more of my work. I replied with the link to my blog and password to the protected posts… we discussed our mutual views against producing male pornography in the name of artistic virtue and his desire to shoot male models. Our views diverged when he went so far as to say that if he ever did work featuring the male nude, that he wouldn’t show the male’s genitals. In his view, any work he’d produce that showed the male genitalia would be akin to pornography.

I’ve seen and encountered this trepidation to show male genitalia often (see my post Homophobia, and Why the Male Nude is Disgusting). Many art drawings of me show an obvious effort on the part of the artist to avoid drawing or looking at my genitals (if you’re just going to draw my face or skip over my genitals, why the fuck am I standing naked on a platform, probably cold?). As a model, it’s frustrating when artists pretend that my penis just isn’t there.

To be clear and fair, as a professional seeking to broaden his horizons, the photographer described above is in no way wrong to oppose the appearance of male genitalia in his work. When it comes to photography, especially nude photography, you have to love and be comfortable with what you’re doing. Although I’m disappointed that many male and female photographers who shoot nudes refuse to shoot male nudes, or in this case would not display the male genitals, I think that it is completely within the bounds of fairness for them to feel that way. In order for artistic work to be good, its creator has to be passionate in its creation, and if it feels unnatural, that trepidation will be apparent the quality of the product.

In other words, it’s not wrong to set boundaries that avoid the display of body parts, as this gentleman has indicated. As I told him, it won’t look right if it doesn’t feel right, and that he’ll know if the time ever becomes right to include a fully nude male in his portfolio.

HOWEVER, I personally believe that, if the goal is to produce quality fine art photography involving a nude male, that a universal refusal to include the male’s genitals misses the most important part of the male nude. To me, in my strict personal opinion, the appearance of a male’s pubic area, penis and scrotum are the very things that make a male nude viable. As a model, the fact that a photographer will photograph, or that an artist will artistically recreate, one of the most personal, protected, private parts of my body for countless others to see, is exactly what makes me proud of the work in the first place. When an observer has the opportunity to note, among other things about your body, the very essence of what physically defines you a man, as well as everything associated with that revelation that can highlight a man’s vulnerability (i.e. circumsized or not, shaved or not, large or tight scrotum, and of course, average/small/big size of his hardware) is exactly what makes a male nude powerful.

While it is easy-in fact too easy-to focus too much on a man’s genitals… to the point when it quickly becomes disgusting, I think that it’s important to include them, as the male genitalia are the visual essence of what define us as personable, male human beings.

Take for example, the picture below:


(Image source: Google)

The picture above, to me, just doesn’t cut it. The lighting is solid and the model DEFINITELY has an impressive body, and of course, his penis is very large, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s twice my size. But looking at this from the big picture, I don’t see anything particularly beautiful about this picture, and in my opinion, the model’s massive penis works against him, as his massive erect penis draws the viewer’s attention solely to it and sexualizes the picture. I personally don’t see any artistic merit in this picture.

The image below is a different story:


(Source: Robert Mapplethorpe)

As far as I’m concerned, this is a somewhat ugly penis included in a beautiful picture, and is one example of how a penis picture can be done well. It starts with the model, and while I don’t care for uncircumcised penises, the picture is bigger than that. I can imagine it telling a story, i.e. the power and prowess of some male executive behind the power suit… it’s almost as though the large, powerful penis attached to the man underneath the clothes is what drives the outward confidence and prowess of the man in the suit.

We all have our preferences and boundaries of what is artistically valuable and what is just trash. Readers will agree and disagree with my thoughts and examples, but that’s besides the point… in the big picture, the penis itself is not ugly, and when properly included in the context of art nudes, can be beautifully displayed. It shouldn’t be forgotten or deliberately bypassed, since it’s the essence of what makes a man a man.


14 thoughts on “The Artistic Ugliness of the Penis

  1. Well argued opinion, Dark Art Model. I agree with you about the need to include the male genitals in nude art photos or drawing/paintings. As a figure model myself, I consider my genitals as part of my whole being as a human. I’ve notice when artists/students do a great drawing of me but eliminate any indication of genitals or at best just a quick bump to indicate that something is there I feel offended (although I would never vocalize my feelings. It’s the same thing when I’m modeling for an art class and we start with gestures or a long pose, then the instructor wants to do closeup studies of hands and feet and tells me I can keep my robe on. It’s like saying I should be ashamed of being nude in front of clothed people. I usually following the instructors instructions, but if I have a choice I will model my hands and feet sans robe.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, DM, I notice several of your pages on your blog are password protected. I was wondering how I go about getting the password. BTW, you have some great poses. Thanks.


  2. Hi Dark Art Model, I agree and support your position on how the male genitals should be considered as part of the whole and not immediately written off as pornographic if done tastefully. That being said however, I myself admit as a young female artists, I too have struggled with what to do when rendering the penis. This is in part because of my being self-conscious that the model may be too aware of my scrutinization, and because of the general cultural association of the penis with sex and pornography. Its only been from years of consciously making myself dissociate it from those things that I’ve finally been able to see the penis as just a piece of that body like the hand. I think its so culturally ingrained, it would require decades of cultural shift for most people to even consider looking at it in that way. But like you point out, actually ‘seeing’ it in the first place would be the beginning of actually developing the penis as permissible art.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Very well said. As an artist in the very conservative south, I had an inner struggle when I first started painting nudes. My religious background and the overt sexual exploitation of the mass media had my mind in the wrong place. I had to embrace the philosophy that the whole human body is a work of art before I could truly paint it with freedom. At least half of the artists I paint alongside still do portraits of our nude models, and I think that’s a shame. If someone is nice enough to take off their clothes for you, the least you can do is paint them! I don’t get the opportunity to paint male nudes as often as women, but the next time I do I will be reminded of this post. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful reply! Hopefully we, as society, get to the point where we can embrace the human body as part if us that doesn’t need to be feared or shamed. I appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to open your perspective!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. it is interesting that nudity was desires by the artist who contacted you and yet he wanted to exclude the genitalia. Same for the students in the studio. I agree with others who commented, the shame is deep. Maybe one day we as a society can begin to look past this hang up. Thank you for sharing your experiences! Very interesting, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it’s a perplexing concept that a photographer who wanted to shoot nudity specifically wanted to avoid showing genitals, saying that it makes him feel like he’s making porn. And while I really appreciate not wanting to create smut, it’s just another anecdote on how far we have to go if people consider ANY display of the penis to be dirty.

      If I ever get to the point where I’m behind the lens and have the opportunity to work with males in the nude, I’ll definitely take it. Like women (although not to the same extent), men have a natural beauty about their bodies that deserves to be shown.

      Liked by 1 person

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