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.
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to elevate the beauty of the male nude over the female nude. Despite the intrinsic superiority of the female nude over the male nude form, the lack of discussion here about the beauty of the female nude art form is not meant to negate its position as the ultimate barometer of human beauty.
The nude male (image credit: google)
There is no reason that a straight man should appreciate the artistic beauty of another naked man, such as the one pictured immediately above. As a straight man, some of the most annoying experiences I’ve had is when other men have, rather forcefully, attempted to proposition me. One of the most frightening experiences I’ve had is when I threatened to physically fight my way out of a sexual encounter with a much larger male friend of mine when we were both fifteen. I attempt to avoid medical encounters that involve me being undressed in front of a male medical professional, with the full understanding that this is a completely unjustifiable, irrational concern. When it comes to me, the prospect of being naked (not nude) in front of another man is not preferred, at least in a non-artistic context (i.e. figure modeling) or social context (i.e. nude beach, where the playing field is equalled-we are all naked before each other).
Despite my admitted tepidity about being naked (and even nude) around another male (especially in a sexual encounter… hell no), I’ll be the first to talk to you about the inherent beauty of the male nude.
Take for example the man above, who by any rational examination, is a perfect specimen of the male race. Regardless of a person’s personal preferences or non-preferences for the male form, he obviously works hard to maintain his body, as shown in the muscular composition of his chest, shoulders, and ABS. Downstairs, his soft, circumcised penis is larger than average (in fact larger than mine) but not obscene, and the picture has an overall look of sensuality in the revelation of a strong man’s nude strength, not through a pornographic display devoid of artistic value.
There’s a lot to be said about this image here, as well, a perfectly well-dressed model, as well as the same model’s perfect nude body, from behind. He could have broader shoulders, but the muscular definition in his arms, back, hips and buttocks make up the difference. Regardless, he can rock a tux alongside the best of them.
This is actor Josh Duhamel (http://www.fleshandboners.com/josh-duhamel-totally-nude/)… yes, the picture is from a site that’s devoted to gay porn, which unfortunately was one of the first websites on google to yield a picture of what looked like a perfect male butt. I don’t know what others looking at this would think, but in my opinion, this is an artistically beautiful image of a nude from behind, including his butt.
The image above (source: google) depicts another powerful looking male that, through his rear-view nudity, looks like he could be taking charge.
And then, there’s this one, that I think eclipses most pictures (source: google):
Admittedly, the model above has a perfect body, and although his face isn’t visible, his muscular (and probably shaven) buttocks are prominent and really make the picture what it is.
But as with female nudes, male nudes can go too far to the point where they become void of any artistic, sensual value and just become smut:
(Image credit: http://mansex101.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html)
The above image is absolutely disgusting. I think it speaks for itself. This is not a beautiful male nude, this is just plain nasty porn.
At the end of the day, I think that a sexually-straight male should be able to appreciate the visual appeal of another nude male, observing his body head-to-toe, noting the power displayed in his upper-body muscle definition, the fitness telegraphed by his abs/legs/buttocks, the sexual prowess of his manhood (penis), and his overall confidence in allowing himself to be visually examined nude, without doubting the authenticity of his own sexual orientation. Yes, I can admire the beauty of a nude male all day long without ever experiencing a sexual attraction to one. (Recently, a male blogger commented on one of my protected posts that I have a “lovely erection”, which to me, is just as flattering to hear from him as anyone else.) It’s too bad, in my opinion, that society holds the view that appreciating a nude male’s visual appeal is mutually exclusive with heterosexuality. It’s not.
… because unlike photography, which is where your body is shown as it appears through the camera, whereas life drawings depict your body through the perception of the artist (and since there’s no expectation for you to be a sexy model in life drawing, there’s no motivation for an artist to render flattering images of you):
This week, a group called The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society celebrated their cause of normalizing female public toplessness being publicized by the New York Times, which is hardly a minor accomplishment. The article and video can be viewed here.
Another page that addresses in a very well-written fashion is breastsarehealthy.
To be clear, we have anti-nudity laws for a reason. Having practiced nudism to varying extents for the last ten years, I can tell you that there is a time and place for proper public nudity. I break ranks with many other fellow nudists when I argue that the ability to be naked or partially naked shouldn’t be unlimited, and that I shouldn’t have to be forced to sit next to a naked person when I’m on a city bus, restaurant or movie theater (as much as I appreciate nude people, that’d really just be gross). Even European countries that are substantially more tolerant of public nudity place a host of legal restrictions on its exercise. Even as somebody who vehemently argues that we are too uptight about nudity for our own good, and who believes that there should be an increased societal and legal tolerance for certain instances of public nudity, having standards that control the existence of public nudity is part of existing in a civilized society.
Here’s the trick: the Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society and breastsarehealthy authors aren’t in the business of normalizing nudity or partial nudity, rather they are campaigning for equal gender treatment. Their argument that women should be allowed to be topless anywhere a man would otherwise be permitted to be shirtless is an old but valid complaint, and their agenda deserves more support. I’m glad to see such a powerful, landmark paper such as the New York Times lend its weight and might behind the Appreciation Society by publishing their story to such a wide audience.
Here’s another consideration: There isn’t actually a rational reason to prohibit a woman from exposing her breasts in public (at least in settings where a man’s shirtlessness would be considered acceptable… that said, I don’t advocate for women or men to go topless in a courtroom). The author of breastsarehealthy writes exceptional blog entries detailing that our problem is with sexualizing breasts that have a natural, non-sexual, life-sustaining function.
These women, as I understand it, are exercising First Amendment (freedom of expression) rights to advance their ability to bare their breasts in public. I think that this is more of a Fourteenth Amendment matter… the fact that men can generally be shirtless in public, while a female doing so is often criminally punishable, violates (in my humble, slightly uninformed opinion) the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Under the Law stipulations. I don’t claim to know much about the law, but I cannot see how legal standards of dress and conduct, when applied disproportionately to men and women, do not violate the principle of the 14th Amendment’s demand for Equal Protection Under the Law.
The relevant text of the 14th Amendment comes from Section 1:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
I don’t believe in a free-for-all society where anything goes because we’re calling it “freedom”. I hate that logic. But I think that recent legal precedents have revealed that our sacred Constitution generally prohibits (if not expressly forbids) applying the law differently to the diverse portions of our population. Gender discrimination isn’t American, and broadly banning female toplessness in public serves no practical, moral or useful purpose.
Give these women the right to be topless whenever a man can do so.
Life modeling is the term for posing in a still position for a drawing or painting. The model may be clothed or unclothed, but the model is often nude. I love opportunities to be photographed in artistic nudes, but to me, life modeling offers much more.
In a lot of ways, I think that life modeling is significantly more challenging than posing nude in photography. Life modeling has the advantage of not necessarily requiring a sexy, fit, attractive model-in fact, artists tend to prefer thicker, wider models, as they have more “surface” to paint or draw (in other words, there is more of them to depict on paper or a canvas, making them more fun to draw or paint than studs). Life models can be young, old, male, female (although females are MUCH more preferred), etc. The lack of a need to be beautiful or fit, I think, is the only, or at least the biggest, advantage that photography has on life modeling.
Not to say that nude photography modeling doesn’t take skill, sacrifice and commitment-it does, having known several nude models and myself having worked equally with photographers and artists. However, a life model’s pose can’t be shot in an instant and then reset, the model must hold that pose for several minutes (in my experience, from 60 seconds to twenty minutes), which takes more skill than one would imagine.
If you have an itch, then you have to ignore it.
If something visually catches your attention, you have to ignore it. Don’t let your head, or even your eyes, shift in the pose.
If your foot falls asleep three minutes into a twenty-minute post (as mine did in the shot below), then you’re just screwed into holding that pose. Make a better decision next time:
If you realize that a pose is uncomfortable, then you’re still expected to stay in it. The artists expect that you arrive prepared to hold poses that you know you can hold.
(The above pose is one that I often get discouraged by the artists from holding, but apparently the fact that my neck doesn’t hurt after 20 minutes is a real mystery to them.)
There’s also the fact that, as a nude model in a room full of clothed artists, some often chatting in the background while you’re the nude center of attention, you really can feel naked on the platform. (In my personal view, the difference between being nude and naked, is that nude is simply a condition where one is absent of their clothing, whereas naked is a feeling when a person isn’t wearing anything and some type of emotion is involved, often sexual arousal or vulnerability. Artists see me nude, but the few times it’s happened as an adult, my parents have seen me naked.)
Lastly, life modeling can be a brutally honest assessment of your body in the eyes of the person drawing or painting you. Unlike a photographer, their purpose isn’t to make you look or attractive, in fact, they hired you to stand nude in front of them while they observe, and record, every feature and flaw on your body. To be fair, some of the ways your attributes may appear are the result of the varying levels of artistic talent, but their purpose isn’t to flatter you, it’s to recreate you, and they are all doing that according to their perceptions of your unclothed body. This means that their product is a result of their observations of your physical attributes, whether they be bigger or smaller, rounder or flatter than you’d like them to be. It’s not personal, but I think it takes a thicker skin than nude photography work.
I wouldn’t call this drawing flattering, but I do believe that it’s excellent.
All of this is why I believe that the ability to life model, nude, represents one’s complete ownership of both their bodies, their physical vulnerabilities and perceived physical imperfections. I believe that a person who is so confident in themselves that they can donate their nudity for art, for such an extended period in front of a public audience, allowing their nudity and any associated vulnerabilities to be captured through the perspectives of various artists, has the ultimate form of courage. While not for everybody, it’s something that I’d encourage everyone to do once in their lives.
For more reading, Ms. bryn8Baker has written an outstanding piece on nude figure modeling. She really gets to the heart and soul of being a life model:
These artists have done a great job of relaying the general requirements to be a good life model: