Thursday, October 13, 2011

Redefining Voyeurism/Exhibitionism

Voyeurism and exhibitionism seem like the same thing to me. They're just two sides of the same coin. After all, you can't have exhibitionism without someone watching, and you can't have voyeurism without someone being watched. In any given act of voyeurism/exhibitionism, one or more persons is the voyeur(s), and one or more persons is the exhibitionist(s).

I suppose consent may be an issue. A man who exposes himself to strangers in the park is engaging in exhibitionism with nonconsenting "voyeurs" (if we can even call them that). And a man who peeks through the keyhole of a bedroom door is engaging in voyeurism of nonconsenting "exhibitionists" (again, if we can even call them that).

But it seems to me that a person who likes to watch (or be watched) would, purely out of politeness, prefer to watch (or be watched by) someone who likes to be watched (or who likes to watch). Yet there is this stereotypical assumption that voyeurs get off on invading the privacy of others, and that exhibitionists get off on shocking and offending people.

I am sure there are fetishists out there that are like that, but what about the rest of us who like to watch or be watched preferably in a consensual context, given the opportunity? Is there a different word for us? Frankly, I think it's discriminatory to assume, by definition, that voyeurs and exhibitionists are persons who are aroused by intrinsically nonconsensual sexual activity!

Personally, I think there should be more of a distinction between consensual and nonconsensual voyeurism/exhibitionism, than there is between voyeurism and exhibitionism itself. Perhaps we need a new concept to describe voyeurism and exhibitionism as they occur in a consensual context - Mutual Voyeurism/Exhibitionism (MVE) perhaps? Or maybe something that emphasizes the importance of observation, without signaling one or the other side of it: as nonconsensual voyeurs engage in voyeurism against non-exhibitionists, and nonconsensual exhibitionists engage in exhibitionism against non-voyeurs, and only mutual voyeurs/exhibitionists engage in consensual voyeurism/exhibitionism (simultaneously).

Note also, that if a person engages in nonconsensual voyeurism or exhibitionism, it does not necessarily preclude them from being a mutual voyeur/exhibitionist. It may simply be the case that, due to an inability to find a consenting partner (not hard to believe in a society that discourages, even stigmatizes, voyeurism and exhibitionism), they may, perhaps in desperation, or purely out of convenience, have taken risks or made decisions resulting in a less than optimal outcome. Given the right opportunity, they may prefer a consensual experience to a nonconsensual one, and should thus not be stigmatized as the type who thrives on the nonconsent of their "partners" (or victims, if you will).

Furthermore, even a mutual voyeur/exhibitionist may prefer one over the other, due to his tastes and personality, just like some people in the BDSM community prefer to be doms or subs, while others can enjoy both sides. I would designate these persons either mutual voyeurs or mutual exhibitionists, depending, with the "mutual" prefix indicating that they prefer consenting partners to nonconsenting ones (contrary to what the public casually assumes about voyeurs and exhibitionists - much like they have, in the past, stereotypically assumed that members of the BDSM community are rapists and committers of violent sexual abuse).

Myself, I would describe as a mutual voyeur/exhibitionist, as I enjoy both sides, and prefer to engage with consenting "partners". (In the case of voyeurism and exhibitionism, the term "partners" may refer not only to people you are engaging with in sexual contact or intercourse, but also to persons you are watching - "performers" - or persons who are watching you - "observers"). Lastly, because of the hands-off nature of voyeurism and exhibitionism, as well as the immediacy of sight, it stands to reason that allegedly "nonconsenting" acts of voyeurism and exhibitionism can often be very minor invasions of privacy or offenses against decency - indeed, if at all - and should thus be considered accordingly, and not treated like serious crimes when they clearly do not constitute such.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Art or Sex

The difference between myself, as an artist, and an ordinary pervert is that I am devoted to beauty, not sexual conquest. My interest in girls is not to possess them sexually - that is not my goal. I merely desire to have their permission to honor and admire their beauty; and in the best-case scenario, to be permitted to immortalize it in my photography.

Now, that's not to say that eroticism isn't a part of the beauty I admire. I wish it were as simple as separating my sexual interests from the aesthetic qualities I appreciate. Then I could just be a regular photographer taking pictures of beautiful people, without having to deal with the stigma of being labeled a "pervert".

And certainly, the experience of spotting a pretty girl on the street is qualitatively different from the experience of spotting a sexy girl on the street. But I'm too honest to pretend that there isn't some relationship between the two, and that the two never overlap.

Most people politely avoid sexual connotations in order to defend their reputation (because sex, in this society, is vilified). I'm not willing to do that, because I'm dedicated to exploring the world as it is, and that means not sweeping inconvenient truths under the rug.

But even accepting the potential sexual connotations of my work, the fact remains that there is a distinction between erotic beauty and sexual activity. One is a transient act that brings intense pleasure usually to no more than a few people at a time. The other is a romantic concept, the realm of dreams and desires, often inspired by a physical quality that is possible to preserve, through art.

Both of these have their virtues, and their drawbacks. But they should not be mistaken for one another, though they may be related. And my dedication is not to sexual activity (not that I am asexual, either), but to beauty, even as it approaches the erotic.

It is possible that, in my mind, I have eroticized aesthetic beauty to an unusual extent. But if part of my admiration of those qualities is erotic in nature, I don't feel comfortable denying that. Yet if, on the other hand, I were to tell someone that my interest in photographing models (especially nude) is artistic or spiritual, and not at all sexual in nature, they will be suspicious if they have any reason to suspect otherwise. They will not trust me unless I am 100% clean. And because I have so far embraced sexuality to the extent that I have, I am not only not 100% clean, but blatantly unclean, in the eyes of the chaste.

So my honesty is punished, where more deceptive men may be able to get away with it - men who, I emphasize, may have less noble goals than I do. After all, if they've deceived you about their sexual interest, they may also have deceived you about their devotion to art, and only be interested in exploiting and taking advantage of their models. This is cause for much distrust in the artistic community (see: GWC - Guy With Camera), toward those who express an unverifiable "artistic interest", as if this were a badge of honest intent, entitling the bearer to special privileges.

Well, as a token of my honesty, I'm telling you that I do have a sexual interest in the models I'd like to photograph. But my devotion to art is likewise sincere.