Once upon a time, during my college days, I was out on a day trip with some of my classmates, including two girls with whom I was acquainted, both of which were notably attractive. This was before I had acquired any lofty notions of being an "artiste". I was simply taking pictures (with a disposable camera) to document our day.
Alright, so "documenting our day" wasn't so much my motivation for taking pictures as it was my excuse to document these beauties I was so graciously being accompanied by. Is that so wrong? It wasn't formal, and they weren't strangers, and I didn't make a big deal of it. I had no intentions beyond the age old photographer's instinct to capture beauty when and where he sees it. No expectations whatsoever.
And there wasn't a problem. But there was an incident that proves a point I've made in the past (and will make again in the future). At one point, the two girls were sitting on a bench, and I snapped a shot of their legs, as they dragged their feet through the gravel. In all fairness, both girls had very photogenic legs. But noticing the focus of the picture I had just taken, one of them remarked at how it seemed "creepy". This may have been said in jest, but even so, the seed of doubt is planted.
And this, I tell you, is what someone like me has to deal with. Someone who sees beauty, and feels compelled to examine it, to capture it if possible, and in the best case scenario, to share it with the world, but whose intentions are commonly misunderstood. Are we so uptight about sex (clearly the fear underlying "creepiness" is that of unwanted sexual attention - or worse yet (and less likely), sexual aggression) that we have to put a chain on beauty?
This is not prevention, this is terrorism. This is fear of an unlikely scenario preventing not that unwanted scenario, but other scenarios besides, that are not a danger. The reaction to this fear is perceived by the artists and creative talents in our population (often the sensitive individuals), and, to protect their own hides, speech is chilled. Meanwhile, by granting our fears legitimacy, we all slide backward into a less liberated existence. Yesterday's reaction to rape - a real horror - is today's reaction to the mere suggestion of unprompted sexual attention (which may be a bother, but its total harm is equivalent to the psychological weight one assigns to it - something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, you'll notice).
Furthermore, what of the question of objectification? I happen to think there are parts of the female anatomy (or anatomy in general) that are particularly attractive. By focusing on these parts, or emphasizing them, am I neglecting the whole person they belong to? Maybe it's a possibility, but it's not a necessity. Are we never allowed to focus on one part of a whole? Can we not switch focus from one thing to another, from part to whole, so as not to give our attention exclusively to one? Can we not even keep in the back of our mind, the concept of the whole, while we focus on this or that part? I believe all of this is possible. Behold:
This is a photo of my legs. I think they are attractive. You can't see any more of me. You can't tell anything, really, about the whole person that these legs belong to. Do I care? Do I care that people who view this image will think (hopefully), "nice legs", and not pay me - the whole me - any mind? No! This is just a photo - it's just one photo, and it's a very small part of the whole that I am. And I want people to appreciate it - not ignore it - because it's a part of me! And I'm proud of it!