Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Whole World's Gone Mad, But The Solution's Not The Obvious Choice

"Public nudity is a crime, and yet pornography and hypersexual advertising is everywhere."

The pull of this statement relies on the assumption that nudity is benign, and that pornography and hypersexual advertising are bad things. Nudity can be benign, but it depends on context. The only thing wrong with hypersexual advertising is the fact that it's advertising, and advertising is inherently evil. But pornography - there is nothing wrong with pornography. Does pornography degrade one's ability to appreciate 'pure', nonsexual nudity? No.

My interest in pornography and sexuality hasn't eliminated my 'pure' and spiritual approach to nudity. As I said, the interpretation of nudity depends on context - but while sometimes it is erotic (and this is a good thing), there are other times when it is something wholly different. The point is, my appreciation of the erotic context has not eroded my appreciation of the other contexts. So no, you can't argue that pornography and hypersexual advertising is eroding our ability to contextualize nudity apart from sexuality. If anything, it is providing us with only one side of the issue. It is only giving us that one context. The solution (for restoring the 'pure' context) is not to eliminate the opposing (erotic) context, but to add more exposure to that missing context. In other words, make public nudity legal, without getting rid of pornography and hypersexual advertising. Who ever said we can only handle one context? We need education. We need to show people that nudity can be both erotic and pure (not necessarily at the same time, although maybe that too). That way, people can get nude unselfconsciously in the locker room (and hopefully elsewhere) without conjuring up their sexual shame (which itself needs to be worked on). Yet it does not rid them of their ability to view nudity in an erotic context, either, which would be an inhumane thing to deny a person of.

What about body image? People complain that attractive models make them feel inadequate. Should we not then seek to use attractive models? Should we use ugly models instead? This goes against the whole point of aesthetics. We choose models because they're attractive. I've argued this before, but the solution is not to ignore aesthetics, and pretend that some people don't look better than others.

I'm more attractive than some people, and less attractive than others. I value the fact that I am moderately attractive, yet I am frequently disappointed that I am not more attractive than I am. None of this ruins my life. Personally, I think I have a healthy body image. I don't trick myself into thinking that I'm the Elephant Man, nor do I trick myself into thinking that I'm Adonis. (Nor do I trick myself into thinking there isn't a difference between the two). The important thing is that I'm honest about my appearance, how others respond to it, and how I tend to react to it. And I don't use my feelings of inadequacy to attack people who are more attractive than I am.

Is there a solution for preventing people (especially women) from having a poor body image? Yes. The solution is obviously not bombarding them with images of nothing but impossibly gorgeous models. But neither is the solution to encourage their convictions that impossibly gorgeous models ought not to be appreciated for their beauty. Telling people that beauty is meaningless does not help their body image, because it's a lie. The goal is to come to terms with the fact that some people are prettier than others, and that you're not the prettiest girl in the world. And that's okay. How do we do this? We be honest about modeling. We tell girls that models are chosen for their aesthetic qualities, but that this is not the only thing that matters in life.

I don't know why this all seems so simple to me, because so many people seem to have trouble with it. Would the world really be a better place if beautiful people did not exist, and nobody ever had sex? Get real.

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