That's one of the pitfalls of working in erotic art. You run the risk that people judge it superficially for its erotic qualities, and then not give it a chance to demonstrate its artistic potential.
My art has two levels. The top level is that it consists mostly of sexy pictures - and I've never been too pretentious to accept that, and to welcome the attention that it brings. But there's another level, where I use my erotic pictures to make statements about things I care about, especially topics related to culture and sexuality.
And the thing is, I've noticed that my pictures draw in a particular audience. There are exceptions for which I am grateful, but mostly they are gay (or bisexual) men interested in feminine men, gender benders, guys with long hair, etc. Since the start I've lamented the fact that I'm not shooting pretty girls - not just because that's what I'd prefer to shoot, but because I figure the pool of heterosexual men in the world is a much bigger one to draw my audience from.
But that's not all. I've also lamented that more women don't view my pics (and have chalked it up to the - admittedly sexist - notion that women prefer nonvisual erotica), but this isn't simply a case of wanting specific demographics (straight men, women) to view my art. The ultimate goal, for me, is to produce art that anyone can appreciate, regardless of their sexual interests.
Now, that's kinda tricky if the kind of art I want to produce is specifically erotic art. And maybe I'm being a bit selfish and/or overly ambitious (it wouldn't be the first time). But I want to make art that speaks to cultural issues about sexuality, and I want to do it in a way that people can get something from it (and not be instantly turned off from it), even if they don't specifically view the subject of the photograph as a sexually appealing subject.
(Digression on Homophobia)
I think part of the problem involves the phenomenon whereby a person is typically disgusted by sexual triggers that they don't have. Homophobia is one of the most obvious examples of that. People who aren't gay frequently find homoerotica distasteful (or, perhaps more accurately in the case of people who don't have an ideological stance against homosexuality, men who aren't attracted to men will find sexual images of men (especially with other men) distasteful - seeing as so many men (understandably) find lesbian erotica a turn-on).
(Not all my photos are intended to be "artsy")
I used to feel that way, myself, but over time, I've discovered that my aversion to homoerotic imagery is as much a result of lack of confidence in my sexuality and fear of finding out that I might be turned on by it than it is an expression of taste. As far as disgust goes, there are certain acts or depictions of acts that I find disgusting - but this isn't limited to homoerotic imagery, as much hardcore straight pornography turns me off because of its excessive focus on reproductive anatomy and biological functions.
As I've expanded my understanding and experience of the great diversity of human sexuality, and come to the conclusion that there is nothing distasteful about homosexuality, I've learned to recognize that even if I were to find myself being turned on by homoerotic imagery, it wouldn't be anything to be alarmed about. And so it doesn't scare me anymore (or, to be honest, as much). And the accompanying realization I have is that people who make a big deal about homophobia are [not necessarily repressed homosexuals, but] people who still have internalized the belief that there is something distasteful about homosexuality.
And that, I think, is something that it would be beneficial for society to fight against. Even if one were capable of being turned on by homoerotic imagery, it doesn't indicate anything beyond that simple fact. I've discovered that I can be turned on by depictions (or descriptions) of sex acts I wouldn't have imagined I'd be interested in - and it doesn't mean I particularly have an interest in those acts, especially.
One thing I've maintained for a long time is that the realm of sexual fantasy is distinct from one's sexual activities in the real world, and while sometimes there are absolute overlaps, there are other times where that is absolutely not the case.
So we should really not be concerned about what happens to get us turned on, because we are still in a position to make a decision about what kinds of acts we feel comfortable engaging in. And in the long run, whether we discover proclivities we never had before, or simply expand upon a rich fantasy life, the result is that we find ways to better please ourselves, and, hopefully, become more accepting of the diverse range of sexuality that exists in humans.
The result of that being that more people will be comfortable to view images of naked girly men even if they aren't into that sort of thing, for the benefit of being able to evaluate those works as the culturally relevant and potentially fascinating pieces of art that they are.
That's not the only solution, of course, and it's probably not immediately applicable. Another possibility is that I can simply shoot a broader range of subjects, so as to pick up audiences within each demographic, almost like a sniper. That might be a little tricky, given that the quality of my work output is dependent on my inspiration. But I could certainly be inspired to shoot pretty girls, and that alone would vastly increase my audience base.
Another possibility is to maybe sanitize a subsection of my work, so that, without excising the erotic component completely, I can make it relatively safe to view for a broader audience (much like the effect of using implied nudity in place of explicit nudity, or the greater art world acceptance that tamer erotica gets when compared to hardcore pornography). But I do already do this to some extent, as I like to create some variety in my portfolio. Though I will admit that I am heavily biased toward a certain type of output, as it is my nature.
I wonder if my goal is realistic. I've already stated that one of my primary goals as an erotic photographer is to create an erotic work of art that is so (artistically) good that it transcends society's taboo against sex and encourages people to share it and display it in places that erotic works normally aren't expected to be found. But I guess part of that relies on the enthusiast's own transcendent opinions on sexuality in culture (that he'd be willing to risk being responsible for that kind of exposure).
Similarly, my ambitious goal to create erotic art that can be appreciated by persons who don't primarily view it erotically, may actually depend on the person in question's ability to recognize the erotic quality of a work of art outside of his own specific erotic response, which may require an unusual level of sexual tolerance and sophistication.
But then, in the end, if I am asking people to be radically tolerant and sophisticated and transcendent about their ideas of sexuality and culture in order to properly appreciate my work, then ambitious though it is, it's not a bad requirement to ask people to aspire to, after all.