Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How I Became an Erotic Model/Photographer (Redux)

I don't think anyone would have guessed - myself included - that I'd grow up to be a photographer and a model specializing in nude and erotic portraiture. When I was a little schoolboy, what I wanted to be was an astrophysicist - somebody like Albert Einstein, redefining the way we understand the very fabric of reality and the laws of the universe we live in. But all a college education taught me was the difference between my romantic view of science and the cold, hard truth of the discipline.

So I decided that if the secrets of the universe weren't mine to unlock, I might as well follow the creative pursuits that bring me pleasure in life. First in line was my guitar playing. When I picked up a guitar at the too-late age of 18, I wanted to be a rock star. I still do. But while my knowledge and skill at learning to play other people's songs has advanced a great deal, I've come upon the obstacle of not being very gifted at creating original music. So, instead, I've focused on photography.

I can't draw or paint the scenes in my head (though I wish I could), but I can hold a camera and click the shutter. And it turns out that I have a passion - and hopefully some measure of skill - for it. Photography, to me, is not just a way of making beautiful pictures, although I like that about it, but it's also a way to communicate - to interact with people in a non-traditional way (I'm not very social by nature) and to say things about the world that I think bear saying.

I take nude and sexy pictures because it thrills me - I won't lie - but I also have opinions about the human body and human sexuality that I can demonstrate in my photography; opinions that may not be common, but ones that I hold strongly, and think that more people need to be exposed to. I may not be able to change the laws of the universe, but I still maintain hope that I could someday change people's minds about certain things, like the relationship we have with our bodies, and our attitudes toward that fundamental aspect of living, breathing, surviving, and thriving - sex.

We have too much shame and paranoia about an activity that by all rights should be the source of endless pleasure and even the occasional miracle of creation. And we fear our own bodies, refusing to get to know them, willing to abuse them instead of taking good care of them, when in more enlightened ages the nude figure was exalted as a glorious work of art.

Whether or not I can change anyone's mind in the long run, or if I'm just collecting admirers who already believe similar things as I do, my photography is a way of expressing myself - who I am, and what I believe. And for somebody who has difficulty expressing himself in more traditional ways, that is very important. The freedom to do so is what allows me as an individual to participate in and contribute to the global community I am a part of.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Re: Porn Research

Something I don't understand that a lot of researchers on this subject do is presuppose the value of certain lifestyles over others. It's pretty commonly accepted that raising a family is healthier and more respectable than living in your parents' basement. But who is to say that receiving sexual satisfaction from another person is always better than getting it from a magazine? It's a fine ideal, but what about people who don't live perfect lives? People talk about how pornography allegedly "cripples" people's social relationships, but what about people who are already socially crippled for other reasons? Do they not deserve sexual satisfaction?

And all of this ignores people who can and do use porn and still function in society with realistic views on sex and healthy beliefs about how women should be treated (for example). I think this is very similar to the argument that violent media makes people more violent. There may well be some risks in exposing oneself to violent media, but ultimately, the choice of whether or not to engage in violent behaviors is a person's own, and it is their responsibility (not the community's, nor the government's) to avoid materials that might exacerbate the risk, if they know themselves to be easily suggestible or of a naturally violent temperament. The solution just isn't to babyproof the world we live in, restricting the freedoms of all to protect the delicate sensibilities of the few.

Where sex is concerned, if it could be proven conclusively that pornographic materials cause people to develop dangerous antisocial beliefs, then that's one thing (and researchers - and those that fund them - are eager to find evidence to "prove" this, because it would justify their wanting to restrict porn, which is really based on subjective aesthetic or moral grounds). But there are so many problems with that conclusion, starting with the difficulty of defining pornography (I cannot believe all porn is equal, otherwise just watching someone have sex in person should itself be a public health hazard - and way too often these anti-porn arguments conflate so-called violent pornography - which I've seen very little of, to me it seems like a niche interest - with all representations of human sexuality), and ending with the great diversity of individual people who will react to the endless myriad of stimuli in greatly varying ways.

In the end, if a person believes things like monogamy is unnatural, marriage is undesirable, sex doesn't require courtship, or prostitution is a legitimate vocation, they have the right to, and I don't see what's harmful about that.

On a related note, here's a telling question: if violent pornography is "shown" to be harmful, then why does that justify restrictions against porn, as opposed to simply justifying restrictions against violent porn? That should tell you something about the people who want to pass restrictions on porn using that argument. Read more

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Conventional Narrative of Love and Sex

At 8 years of age, boys and girls stay apart, due to superstitious fears of "cooties".

At 12 years of age comes the first sex ed course, and the boys start teasing the girls they like. A few chaste kisses are exchanged, then whispered about and giggled over.

At 16 years of age, hormones are raging, and boys and girls initiate awkward fumblings behind the bleachers and in the backseats of cars. But the good kids don't go all the way, because premarital sex is "bad", and can lead to STDs or teen pregnancy (education about the use of contraceptives can only undermine this important belief, and should be restricted as much as possible).

At 22 years of age or thereabouts, the child becomes an adult, having finished all his schooling. The men get promising jobs, and the women pair off with the men who can afford to raise their families. The family unit is paramount. Premarital sex, adultery, recreational sex, contraception, pornography, prostitution, non-traditional intercourse, and non-heterosexual couplings are all taboo because they (allegedly) threaten the sanctity of the family unit by emphasizing sex for pleasure rather than procreation, and by locating the source of that pleasure outside the marital partnership. Sex occurs only privately, and within marriage, or else it is ridiculed.

Now let me ask you this: Is this narrative objectively good? And is it the best one we can come up with? More importantly, is it necessary that as many people as possible follow it, or is there room for diversity? What about someone who, through no fault of his own, fails to follow the narrative, due to physical, psychological, or environmental factors? If they cannot find satisfaction in the conventional narrative, is it not okay for them to seek their satisfaction elsewhere?

What about people who miss out on the "awkward fumblings" of adolescence? What about those who never find the right partner - the person they want to spend their lives with, whom they are also physically attracted to? What about people who just can't function when confined within a long-term monogamous partnership? What about people who have a requirement for sex and affection like anyone else, but are unable to acquire it by conventional means?

Who's to say they even have a problem - could it not be that they are just different? Why should everyone be the same? Couldn't sex and love be a common human need that is tended to by different people in very different ways? Is there only one way to look at sex and relationships, or can we permit different people to define the parameters of sex and love as they view it in their own way? If, for some reason, you do not have the social skills to "snag" an attractive partner, is it somehow wrong for you to take advantage of pornography or a prostitute, as an aid to help you get what might come more naturally to others?

What if you don't want a family? What if the prospect of raising kids doesn't particularly thrill you? Do you have an obligation to society to live your life a certain way, whether you like it or not, or do you have the freedom to live your life the way you want to, to pursue happiness the way you define it, so long as that does not infringe on the rights of others (including their right to express themselves sexually)? If you want to talk about evolutionary psychology, and the propagation of the species, what's best for society on the whole - evolution functions through diversity. Your lifestyle may be good or bad for the species on the whole, but the only determinant of that value is whether or not you can survive. It is good for all of us to permit the widest array of diversity possible.