Are the benefits of appreciating the beauty of the naked human body worth the costs of exposure in a society riddled with taboo? And is there anything we can do to mitigate these costs, so that open-minded aesthetes can pursue their happiness in peace? I can honestly say without exaggeration, that the very meaning of my life hinges on the answers to these questions.
In a life characterized by disappointment and wasted potential, where I can never be "normal" - loosely defined as having a satisfying and lucrative career, a loving wife and beautiful kids, and a big house in a nice, suburban neighborhood - the one and only thing that consistently puts a spring in my step, that inspires me and inflames my passion to live and to accomplish great works, is the artistic pursuit of naked beauty.
Yet I am surrounded by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Perhaps I am attracted to some extent to the taboo - but I am just happy to pursue a lifestyle that rejects the mainstream perspective that has already failed me. It is not the danger that draws me in, and I have no desire to harm or traumatize or otherwise ruin the lives of others. My creed incorporates no violence, no intolerance, no coercion. Just a shifted paradigm for the way we view our bodies and our sexual natures.
You don't have to follow me. You don't have to support me. You don't even have to agree with me. The most I'll ask from anyone is to simply consider my perspective. And to just let me be - and let others be like me if they choose to do so voluntarily. I don't come into your home and tell you how to live. I don't stop by your workplace and tell you how to do your job. I don't visit your house of worship and tell you what to believe. Why can't we respect each others' differences, and just get along?
What I want to talk about here is the balance between the costs and benefits of exhibitionism. And, as usual, I am talking about exhibitionism and voyeurism, as I view them as being two sides of the same coin - they are not two different activities "committed" against random others, but parallel activities performed for the sake of each other. Voyeurs appreciate the performance of exhibitionists, and exhibitionists perform for the sake of voyeurs (and sometimes these are the same people). But I am not just referring to specifically sexual acts. Unfortunately, when people hear the terms "voyeur" and "exhibitionist", they conjure shadowy mental images of men in trench coats and hidden spy cams. But like everything else, these preferences exist on a wide spectrum; it's limiting to define them only by their most extreme examples.
The truth is, most people have a little bit of a voyeur and exhibitionist inside them, and they often encompass benign, everyday activities - like sitting on a park bench and watching people walk by, or strutting your stuff at the pool in the new bikini you picked out. It's not always sexual. Sometimes it is - but even then, it's not necessarily harmful or obtrusive. What I mean when I talk about the wide spectrum of voyeurism and exhibitionism is simply the act of observing or being observed, that sometimes brings pleasure and excitement to the people who participate in it. I don't know any better word to use, that won't lead people to complain that I'm just talking about voyeurism and exhibitionism "in disguise", and that I'm not being straightforward enough. So for better or worse, I'm opting to own those terms.
Anyway, I was thinking about the balance that exists in people's heads, that determines their approach towards the exhibition of - to pick a meaningful example to me - people's naked bodies. You have to balance what you stand to gain from an act of exhibition, against the potential costs. And I realized that my beam is almost certainly calibrated much differently than most people's. On the one side, I have an acute appreciation for not just the erotic, but the aesthetic beauty of the naked human body. Not all of them, to be sure, but certain ones. In fact, my sense of appreciation for those few is so strong, that it's worth the sight of a hundred, or even a thousand ugly ones. I think that for most people this is not the case. Almost everybody is attracted to nudity to a certain extent, but I think that I am uniquely tuned to appreciate that beauty in a holistic sense, that makes it worth pursuing on a whole different level.
Now, on the other side, there are the potential costs to "exposing" one's naked body. If most people have little to gain from the exhibition of naked bodies (because they're just not that wild about them, or the one they happen to be married to is all they need - lucky stiffs), they sure like to inflate the potential dangers of the exposure. A lot of people worry excessively about getting "found out" - the fear that if somebody who knows you sees a naked picture of you, you will be subjected to e.g., stigma, bullying (especially if you're young and still in school), discrimination at your workplace (possibly including putting your job in jeopardy). Frankly, I think these fears are overstated (so your grandma finds out you post naked pictures on the internet - so what?). But even insofar as they are justified, the solution is to attack the stigma, not encourage it. It's terrible that when these things happen, we pat the bullies on their backs and tell the victims, "that's what you get," instead of asking ourselves, "what's the big deal with taking and sharing naked pictures anyway?"
So while I have lots to gain from naked exhibition (it makes life worth living!), at relatively low cost (I refuse to associate with bigots as a matter of principle), the rest of society probably feels the opposite way - they have little to gain from naked exhibition (Judeo-Christian principles!), while viewing it as a high risk activity (honor killings, anyone?). And that's where a lot of my frustration comes in, because it's like my thinking is backwards compared to the rest of the world. But of course, I think my thinking is right. I'm not going to stop being interested in nudity just because it's unpopular - I couldn't even if I wanted to! I'd feel better if I knew there were pockets of individuals just like me where I could feel like part of a group, and not so alone. But even in nudism I don't feel that - they're so paranoid about cameras it's like, what's the point of being naked, then? And the sexual perverts - I don't feel comfortable among them, either, because they're so single-minded, and don't seem to have any kind of concern for art and aesthetics.
Everywhere I go to try and express my point of view, instead of finding people who are like me, I just get inundated by the masses who probably think I'm touched in the head. It's discouraging. But all I'm trying to do is pursue my own happiness. I'm not trying to hurt anyone or infringe on anyone else's rights in the process - I'm just trying to carve out that little piece of life that everyone is entitled to. Should I have to suffer because the piece I want isn't the piece everyone else is selling? I'm willing to work extra hard for it. Can people just please stop persecuting me for even trying?