Monday, June 28, 2010

About Me

This is a repost of a brief bio I had in my flickr profile for quite awhile. I'm taking it off because some people get worked up even by the mere mention of pornography. But I rather like how it was written, so I'm saving it here, for posterity.

About me: I am an unschooled photographer propelled by a singular vision of beauty that inspires me. I have a deep fascination with the symbolism and aesthetics of nudity, and the natural power of eroticism. I am very much pro-sex, but while I support and encourage pornography and its positive effects when produced and consumed responsibly, I also believe strongly that there is a significant distinction to be made between pornography and erotica, the latter which inspires me more greatly. Whereas pornography aims to appeal to the sexual interest (and this is certainly no evil) by whatever means necessary, erotica, on the other hand, represents a more careful, constructed, and artistic appeal to that interest, while simultaneously appealing to other interests such as beauty, romance, longing, desire, mystery, and all of the traditional artistic compositional elements. For this reason, I believe that, though pornography has its uses as well as its values, erotica is altogether a more interesting venue for a more complex expression of everything sexuality encompasses.

My aim is to produce art that both inflames one's primal sexual desire, whilst simultaneously appealing to the subtle and more "civilized" aesthetic of artistic beauty; in short, my goal is to produce an erotic portrait you would be proud to hang on the wall in your living room (provided you have a sex-positive mindset).

As a social outcast (I spurn tradition and have a habit of questioning things most people take for granted), my access to any sort of artistic "community", or the included resources, is limited. I despise paradigms, including that of the modeling industry, as well as the popular notion of what constitutes "beauty". Not to say that I have an altogether "alternative" approach to beauty - from a certain perspective you might even say my approach is "classical" - but that I place considerable importance on "natural", rather than "artificial", beauty.

My resources being limited, I have thus far only had access to myself to use as a model, explaining the exclusive prevalence of self-portraits among my work. However, I hope someday to find a model in tune with my artistic vision, as it is the vision of feminine beauty that inspires me - rendering myself (while somewhat effeminate, ultimately too masculine) as merely an opportunistic substitute for what I truly desire to photograph. To that end, I am rather interested in those women who are sexually empowered, immodest about being seen naked, and mindful of the distinction (previously explained) between pornography and the altogether more fulfilling (and more flattering) avenue of artistic erotica. Should I ever have a chance to work with such a woman, it would be one of my dreams come true.


(Entirely hypothetical)

Girl posts provocative self-portraits online. Claims they are "artsy". Posts anti-pornography disclaimer in her profile.

Guy posts provocative self-portraits online. Claims they are "artsy". Does not openly denounce pornography in his profile.

Guy admires girl's portraits, thinking they have a lot in common. Girl blocks guy in disgust.

Hypocrisy? Double standards?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sexual Compliments...For Dummies

(Giving and Taking) Sexual Compliments on the Internet...For Dummies

I'm assuming that in face-to-face interactions, people tend to have more common sense and courtesy. If not, these rules can apply there too. But it's the anonymity and impersonal interface of the internet that seems to really bring the "perverts" out of the woodwork. There are undoubtedly lots of perverts surfing the internet (just as there are lots of perverts walking the streets - whether you can tell who they are or not), but I am convinced that the vast majority of them are really quite harmless, beyond their ability to offend uptight people's sensibilities. (After all, embracing sexuality does not magically turn one into a psychopath). However, there often occur interactions between the pervs and the prudes that inevitably lead to feelings of distress by one or both parties (whether it's the prudes being grossed out or the pervs feeling discriminated against). By reading and following these quick, easy tips on giving and taking sexual compliments on the internet, we can reduce that distress and make the web a nicer place for both prudes and pervs.

Giving Compliments

1) Don't let anyone make you feel ashamed of your attraction. You are responsible for your behavior (and that includes giving compliments), but you do not have to apologize for what you like.

2) Read the atmosphere. Different sorts of comments are appropriate (or inappropriate) in different contexts, communities, and with different people. Although there are large sections of the internet dedicated to the posting and perving on anonymous pictures, understand that not every place is like this. If you are communicating with the person you are complimenting, try to get a reading on what kind of compliments will be accepted. Even though your compliment may be meant in good will, it may not always be received that way.

3) Be polite. Although there are people who get off on being objectified, insulted, and humiliated, most people are not like this, and I would caution you to make sure you are speaking to one of these people before you engage in such behavior. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution. Impolite perverts give a bad name to the polite perverts that are out there (and they are out there).

Taking Compliments

1) Don't let anyone make you feel uncomfortable. If somebody is bothering you, you have every right to speak up and clarify your boundaries. On the other hand, try not to take it personally, or take it out on every pervert that's out there. You may not like the method of delivery, but lewd comments really are often compliments. It doesn't mean you have to put up with them, but denouncing them too heavily will only widen the gulf between you and your admirers.

2) Understand the medium. You might not like that the internet is a place for pervs to get off on their illicit fantasies, but this is a positive outlet for them. Allow for the fact that quite a lot of them are idiots and don't know the difference between perving on a photo posted anonymously, and the one you put up yourself. Again, you don't have to put up with it, but don't take it personally. A pervy comment on the internet is not tantamount to physical abuse. (Seriously, there's often little correlation in this context between what people say on the internet and what they do in real life.)

3) Avoid overgeneralizing. It's unfortunate that there are a lot of impolite pervs who don't realize (or don't care) that they're offending someone, but don't take this out on sexual expression in general. There are also a lot of polite pervs who wouldn't act in such a rude manner, yet take offense at being lumped in with the others and discriminated against just because they accept, rather than repress, their sexual desires. So the next time you want to make a comment about "pervs", remember that not all pervs are necessarily creeps, and consider instead phrasing it in terms of "creeps" - those who do act impolitely. Focus on the rude behavior, not the sexual nature of it.

Following the above steps is bound to improve relations between pervs and prudes everywhere. Of course, you may feel free to express yourself however you like, but there's a lot to be said about using common sense and showing others courtesy - it goes a long way in encouraging acceptance.

Pervs, don't let the prudes get you down, but don't attack them, either - give consideration to their comfort zones. Prudes, don't feel like you have to take what the pervs give you, but don't denounce them either - they're merely expressing themselves in ways you're not accustomed to.

Ultimately, can we not just all try to get along?

The Erotic Appeal of Nudity

To open up another can of worms, I want you to go back to the two visual exhibits at the end of my last post, Offense: Nudity vs. Sexuality, and tell me which of the two pictures turns you on more. (Of course, this only works if you're attracted to me; if not, then imagine two similar pictures of someone you are attracted to). I have a feeling I know what the answer's going to be.

The erotic appeal of nudity is a concept that every nudist has to come to terms with, one way or another, since it contrasts with the nudist credo that nudity is not sexual. The fact is (and yes, it's a fact) non-sexual nudity can be sexually appealing. But this, of course, is not always the case. That's why it's not contradictory to nudist beliefs to accept this fact. A [rational] nudist doesn't claim that nudity is never sexual, only that it's not always sexual, and that the "nudist" part comes out through the non-sexual applications of nudity.

Still, even when not engaged in anything remotely sexual, the nude body of a person you are physically attracted to can be arousing. And there's nothing wrong with that. My belief is that beauty (including sexual beauty) is meant to be appreciated, not horded. Beauty not appreciated is beauty gone to waste. That's not to say that wasted beauty cannot be tolerated, but given a reasonable choice between exhibiting beauty and hording it, I see no reason not to allow that beauty to be appreciated.

Of course, I'm not talking about guys jacking off in nudist venues - that's simply rude and lewd behavior that should not have to be tolerated in polite company (on the other hand, if the company agrees to it beforehand, then it's fair game - but then it's not a nudist gathering so much as a swingers' orgy). But what I am saying is that if someone comes across a "nudist image" online, for example, and uses it for certain non-nudist purposes, I fail to see how that causes anyone harm. We could talk about society's collective perception of nudism, and our "responsibility" to defend it from misinterpretation, but we can defend it without ignoring the fact that nudity can be erotic. And ultimately, denying a person's freedom of expression to assert their own truth about what they find attractive (I mostly mean in an impersonal, general way - certainly this doesn't include any sort of harassment or otherwise inappropriate behavior) is no less an injustice than allowing nudism to be misunderstood by those who lack subtlety and insight.

Moving in a different direction, let's talk about aesthetics. As a sexual organism, I am aroused by the nudity of attractive persons. But as an artist, I am attracted to the aesthetic beauty of the unclad human form. I'm not sure how much of a connection there is between these two things, but though they appear in some ways distinct, I'm convinced that they are indeed connected - on different ends of a continuum perhaps. Sometimes it confuses me, because as an erotic artist and a photographer of nudes, I see great beauty in a nude portrait, and sometimes I honestly can't tell if that beauty is erotic or something else. This is part of the reason I focus on "pure eroticism" and sensuality over sexuality. I don't think there's any necessary reason to completely separate these aspects when they appear to me to be related. Except to conform to PC-notions that sex is dirty ("this isn't sex, so it's not dirty"), but I don't subscribe to those notions in the first place.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. I happen to find long hair on women attractive. It's pretty, more so than sexy, and I definitely don't get hard from just looking at it. Yet, it's one of the many qualities I am attracted to in a potential mate. This implies that there may be a sexual connection, but there's more to attraction than sex alone. After all, though the biological impetus to procreate is powerful indeed, we don't mate for that reason alone. And yet, something like long hair is a purely physical attribute. I don't know that it has any direct correlation to a personality attribute, or to a certain type of lifestyle (though it may be suggestive of some). It's an aesthetic preference. And yet it's not wholly excluded from sexual attraction, as I am more sexually attracted to women who possess this quality (among others).

So, I see it as a continuum. As Nabokov once penned (and you may notice that I am quite fond of this quote), "it is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art." Aesthetics and sexuality are not wholly distinct - in fact, they are intricately connected. Something like a beautiful sunset, this would probably exist on the end of the continuum farthest from pure sexual attraction. But a naked human body? It can be quite sexual, but it can also be a purer form of attraction than, say, hardcore pornography provides. Why force it to be one or the other - pure or impure? Why not let it be both and neither. Why not just let it be. Aesthetically attractive.

Offense: Nudity vs. Sexuality

I was thinking about the different categories I could divide my art into, and it's clear that the two issues I deal with most frequently are nudity and sexuality - yet they do not always go hand in hand. My treatment of nudity is not always sexual, and the reverse can be said to be true, if we make a distinction between explicit nudity and just implied nudity. That is, I can approach eroticism without including full "exposure".

The question that came to my mind is, though both subjects are generally offensive to prudes, which one, if isolated, would be more offensive? Between a shot that is perfectly asexual, yet contains explicit nudity, and a shot that contains merely implied nudity, yet has obvious sexual overtones, which would be more scandalous? I think this is an interesting question, because my gut instinct is to go with the nudity as being more offensive than the sexuality, when the concepts are completely isolated.

And I think this is telling, because though sex is the obvious topic for taboo, you often see explicit nudity taking the brunt of society's supression of sex - even when the nudity is perfectly asexual. I think part of the reason is that lots of people aren't making the distinction between nudity and sexuality. Sex involves exposure of the sex organs, and thus exposure of the genitals (which have other functions than just sex, by the way) implies a sexual context. This is at least true for people who don't often regard nudity as anything but existing primarily in a sexual context.

Another thing that came to mind is the fact that the scandalousness of sex is often associated with exposure. It's what you see, that you don't normally see (outside of nudist venues), that traumatizes you. Granted, what you do with it counts for context - this is why actual (explicit) sexual intercourse is more "offensive" than nonsexual nudity. Because then you have the sex and the nudity together in a double-whammy. However, you will note that "chaste" sex scenes (in mainstream movies, for example), that involve only implied, and not explicit, nudity, tend not to be quite as scandalous as explicit (though non-sexual) exposure of human genitalia.

But allow me to put the question to you, my enlightened readers. Though I presume you may not actually be offended by either case, between an explicit non-sexual nude, and an erotic implied nude, which of the two seems to you to be more "shocking"?

Exhibit A: non-explicit erotic -

Exhibit B: explicit non-erotic -

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Who Does Porn Hurt?

Although my preferences lean towards softcore/erotica, there is no doubt that some (or much, depending on your perspective) of my work could fall under the label of "pornography". The fact is, I enjoy making what others might call "porn". It's fun. Sex, to me, is recreation. And I enjoy sharing it with people who want to see it. It's a matter of spreading the joy, and sharing with others in a hobby you enjoy.

So who does porn hurt? I like making "porn", and the people I show it to like seeing it (there are reasonable guards in place to prevent people who really don't want to see it from stumbling upon it). As both a photographer and a model, I enjoy shooting porn, and I enjoy modelling for porn. If noone's being hurt, then why should there be any kind of problem with what I do?

I've heard arguments about the "evils" of porn. I've heard about abuse and exploitation. I'm sure it happens. But my own experience alone proves that that's not always the case. And in a free society (which is what this is supposed to be), it's simply not fair to prevent me from doing something because somebody else couldn't do it without hurting anyone. We have laws against abuse and exploitation - punish the crime, don't punish the genre (porn).

What about arguments that porn "degrades" society in any number of ways? Once again, this is supposed to be a free world we're living in. If you don't like porn, then you have every right to speak out against it, and try to persuade others to see your point. What you don't have the right to do is prevent me or anyone else from producing or consuming porn, by passing laws or any other forceful measure, because you don't like it.

Furthermore, where you see evil, other people see good. Just because to you porn is evil doesn't mean that the people who get involved in it do it "for the evil". I see sex as a spiritually pure and fulfilling activity. Spreading my love of sensuality is simply that, spreading my love. I promote positive attitudes and lifestyles. Just because I embrace porn doesn't mean that I embrace abuse and exploitation and objectification and all the other social "evils" normally associated with it. And just because the way others handle porn may contribute to some of these evils, still does not mean that, in a free world, you have any right to prevent me from getting involved in it.

Now what about the stigma of being involved in porn? It's quite true that getting into porn can cause significant strain to your public reputation (provided the public knows about it). But all the problems that result from stigma - fallout from career, family, friends - is external. It is society's negative reaction to porn that creates these problems. It is the ones who speak out against porn that are causing the most stigma-related damage to those who are involved in porn. If you really want to help those who are being abused, exploited, and manipulated, then support the genre while debasing the abuse, exploitation, and manipulation. If a person is automatically "stained" by engaging in porn, and if all porn is evil, then there is less encouragement for those involved to do their job in an ethical and humane manner.

You say that exposing people to porn traumatizes them? This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as you make a big deal about how "evil" porn is, many people are going to have no choice but to be confused and even traumatized - not by the subject itself, but by the fact that it's such a big deal. People respond to the reactions of others. And while there are many like myself who are strong-willed and independently thinking enough not to be swayed by popular public opinion, there are others out there who aren't, and who may be harmed more by your condemnation of porn, were they to find themselves unwittingly involved with it in any way, than their own personal reaction to it.

Stop this madness, for once. Stop the repression and stop the suppression. Defend your freedom of sexual expression!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Erotica and Purity

By nature, erotica, when it is defined as a sort of "softcore" approach to sexuality, takes on a certain quality of purity, in relation to hardcore pornography. It's a "purer" approach to sexuality that doesn't "dirty" itself quite as much as porn [shamelessly] does. Yet, it is still "dirtier" than an asexual approach to beauty, because it doesn't refuse to touch on the subject of sexuality. Of course, it's all on a relative scale.

I find that, as an erotic artist, it's tricky to maintain an image of purity in a culture that lumps erotica in with pornography, as if it were all the same thing. But I value purity. A lot of things in my life I'd consider pure. For one thing, I'm a nudist, and the nudist community [as I know it] is fond of explicitly distancing themselves from a sexual connotation. There are very good reasons for this, which I agree with. But, as any rational-minded person will tell you, nudists have sex, too. It's not part of nudism, but it can be part of a nudist's life - since a nudist is not defined entirely by his practice of nudism: he is first and foremost a human being, who takes on many roles throughout the course of his day and of his life.

So, I don't see a conflict between my love of erotic photography and my interest in nudism. I can see clearly the difference between them (even if, I admit, the distance between them at certain times may not be all that large - think of a nudist couple having private sex in their room during a stay at a nudist resort), but unfortunately, there are others who may have trouble making that distinction. Still, I don't apologize for who I am or what I do. Another's lack of ability to recognize a subtle distinction is not my responsibility. I'm happy to do all I can to prevent or, barring that, correct, any misunderstandings that may crop up, but what I can't do is not allow myself to be just who I am because somebody might make a mistake when judging me.

This issue comes up again in relation to, as a photographer, "scouting" attractive models. Because I'm an erotic photographer, anyone who I single out as attractive - beautiful, pretty, cute, gorgeous, etc. - may unfortunately get the idea that I'm interested in them in primarily an erotic context (which is, of course, not always true). And if they "don't do" erotica, they may well interpret my compliment as a kind of perverted insult. This is the last thing I want to happen: for my expression of appreciation for another person's beauty to be interpreted as negative energy.

Naturally, I often come across people who I find attractive but are not likely to be "into" the erotic scene, for various reasons. Though "pure" I may be in some respect, with relation to hardcore pornography, I am still more open about sexuality than most, from the impression I've gathered, and so it's not unusual for the object of my would-be photographer's eye to count my interest against me, to the effect of thinking, "ew, another perv who just wants to see me naked".

Granted, my approach towards all people, and most especially the ones who I count as beautiful, is characterized by the utmost level of respect and politeness (without being formal to the point of patronizing). And this, I think, puts me a step ahead of the actual pervs who care not (or little) for the feelings of the people they "admire" (or at least either presume or don't care to check whether those people are comfortable with rude, pervy comments (believe it or not, some people do like that sort of thing)). So, if anything, I am a polite, respectable pervert. But still, I at times can't help viewing that quality as if it were a Sword of Damocles hanging above my head, dooming my potential interactions with everyone I might want to compliment.

Even so, I can't - and won't - stop being who I am. If that means there will be some misunderstandings along the way, well, I honestly feel bad about that, but c'est la vie. I can only tell you now, with deepest sincerity, that whatever energy I consciously send out to people, its intention is positive, good, and pure. I can only but hope that it is received as such.

P.S. If you've noticed, a lot of the words in this post have been put in quotation marks. If anything, that should give you an idea of how often things aren't quite what they seem.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

By Decree From On High

Sex feels good. But it can only be permitted between two adults of opposite sex, and only within the confines of marriage, and only for the purpose of procreation. Orgasm is God's reward for continuing His cycle of creation, and helping to bring new life into the world. Any other use for orgasm goes against these plans and is thus an affront to God, and cannot be permitted. Recreational sex is hedonistic, sex outside of marriage is vulgar and disrespectful of the intended bond between man and woman, and any sex engaged between anything other than two adults of opposite sex is an ABOMINATION. Masturbators, adulterers, swingers, perverts, rapists, and child molesters are all equally detestable in the eyes of God and will spend eternity suffering in hellfire. Bear this in mind, all ye who would be loyal soldiers to the glory that is the Almighty God in Heaven: obey, and ye will be rewarded after you die and your immortal spirit has left this torturous mortal coil. Seek not to ease your pain in the here and now, for only through suffering - and encouraging the suffering of others - can you attain the everlasting favor of God. Amen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vladimir Nabokov on "Pornography"

"While it is true that in ancient Europe, and well into the eighteenth century (obvious examples come from France), deliberate lewdness was not inconsistent with flashes of comedy, or vigorous satire, or even the verve of a fine poet in a wanton mood, it is also true that in modern times the term "pornography" connotes mediocrity, commercialism, and certain strict rules of narration. Obscenity must be mated with banality because every kind of aesthetic enjoyment has to be entirely replaced by simple sexual stimulation which demands the traditional word for direct action upon the patient. Old rigid rules must be followed by the pornographer in order to have his patient feel the same security of satisfaction as, for example, fans of detective stories feel - stories where, if you do not watch out, the real murderer may turn out to be, to the fan's disgust, artistic originality (who for instance would want a detective story without a single dialogue in it?). Thus, in pornographic novels, action has to be limited to the copulation of cliches. Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust. The novel must consist of an alternation of sexual scenes. The passages in between must be reduced to sutures of sense, logical bridges of the simplest design, brief expositions and explanations, which the reader will probably skip but must know they exist in order not to feel cheated (a mentality stemming from the routine of "true" fairy tales in childhood). Moreover, the sexual scenes in the book must follow a crescendo line, with new variations, new combinations, new sexes, and a steady increase in the number of participants (in a Sade play they call the gardener in), and therefore the end of the book must be more replete with lewd lore than the first chapters."

- Vladimir Nabokov, from the addendum to his novel Lolita.

The above passage is written in the context of describing how Lolita does not conform to definitions of pornography and obscenity (of which it is neither), with - if I may read between the lines - mild distaste for the trite formulaic composition of pornography thrown in. My personal stance on the issue of pornography is that it has specific uses for which it deserves recognition, and a certain level of respect, but that ultimately, it is a depressingly constrictive medium that reduces sexuality to its fundamental function, at the same time stripping away all the artistic flourishes of sensuality that - in my opinion, at least - make sex so interesting in the first place. So while it may take a simple stimulus to get me "going", what I look for in the sensual realm of the erotic is so much more than that. I desire not simply to indulge my baser senses (although such indulgence is not unwelcome), but to fulfill a deeper, rounder, fuller desire - one that is almost spiritual in nature - to experience the entire realm of sensuality and all its tangential wonders.

It is for this reason that I support lifting the topic of sexuality out of the gutter, and encouraging more sophisticated approaches to it that are not simultaneously afraid to deal with the topic in a frank and honest manner. Such is the basis of my approach towards the erotic photography that I strive to create.