Saturday, June 23, 2018

Helpless

I was chatting with an art aficionado over at deviantART, and he introduced me to a new fetish - something that seems to be referred to as "lift and carry". It's something I'd seen before, browsing through other people's favorites, but this was the first time I'd had a chance to actually talk to someone who has the fetish.


As an amateur sexologist, I find the mechanisms and diversity of human sexual desire to be fascinating. I'll be the first one to admit that some of those fringe desires seem downright weird to me, but I know this is all subjective, and as a sex-positive activist, one of my goals as an erotic artist is to make people feel more comfortable with their potentially weird desires.


As such, I like to be nonjudgmental, and occasionally enjoy exploring new avenues of erotic expression if it doesn't take me too far outside of my comfort zone. And as far as fetishes go, lift and carry is pretty benign. I don't have any real strong attraction to these particular sorts of poses, but I could certainly see the appeal in them, the same way I am sympathetic to the BDSM scene (in all its diversity), while not necessarily considering myself a true practitioner.


In this case, I think the appeal of the fetish has something to do with helplessness - being carried limp in another person's arms (I had to shoot these "draped" over a chair because my photography is a solitary craft). There's a power dynamic - dominant/submissive, strong/weak, alive/dead. But it could be viewed in sympathetic terms - one person taking care of another. Power imbalances are not intrinsically negative, or abusive. They place a lot of responsibility on the one with more power, but it makes the relationship all the sweeter when that person cares enough about the other not to abuse that dynamic, but to use it instead to protect and guide them. (Of course, power abuse is its own kind of fetish, but I don't believe that should be the default assumption in these cases).


Then again, there could just be some aesthetic appeal to these poses. I, for one, already appreciate the way the body looks when it's all stretched out - back arched, arms above the head. It emphasizes the bone structure - which not everybody likes, but I find appealing (when not taken to unnatural extremes).


Anyway, I have to admit to a curiosity about what it is - in our psychology or whatever - that makes us drawn to certain types of things. People with fetishes can often (although not necessarily always) recall experiences early in their lives related to the subject of their fetish - e.g., watching some old horror movie where the monster lifts the damsel in distress.

But what makes me wonder is whether it's the experience that molds the fetish (imprinting on a person's mind in their formative years), or if it's the dormant fetish that's actually responsible for a person finding themselves drawn to these moments in the first place. Kind of a nature vs. nurture question, I guess.

But if you can have two kids watch the same cartoon where the villain ties some girl to the train tracks, and one of them grows up to have a bondage fetish, and the other one doesn't, that seems to suggest to me that there's something already there in the psychology that's merely being triggered, and not entirely manufactured by the stimulus. As I said, human sexuality is a fascinating thing.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Filtering

I'd been sitting on this theme for a long time, but I wanted to shoot it last (yes, this is the last planned shot in the Why Nudism? series - I managed to complete it within a year!) because it stands out in the sense that, while every other shot highlights a reason to practice nudism, this one emphasizes the importance of a nudist to be able to overcome the hangups that prevent textiles from practicing nudism.


I knew I wanted it to be a play on the black censor bar cliché; the only question was where to shoot it. I picked this spot because it provides a nice, clean background (plus, I think nudity has slightly more oomph when it's outdoors), but it turned out to be a great complement to the theme of the shot, because the lines behind me kind of look like the backdrop to a police lineup, even down to me holding a black board in front of me! A little nod, perhaps, to all the legal issues that are involved when it comes to nudity.


Anyway, I was thinking about the subject of censorship in preparation for this shoot, and I came across an article arguing that censorship is good for photography. Basically, because it maintains the "shock value" of controversial images. I don't necessarily agree that the need for censorship is good for photography (i.e., that art wouldn't flourish in a more liberated culture) - although I cannot deny that there is some satisfaction in violating taboos - but I'm inclined to agree that artists should not be so quick to decry the censoring of photography (e.g., adding black bars to a nude photograph), at least insofar as it enables controversial (albeit modified) images to reach wider audiences, who then still have the option of accessing the original work. Certainly, though frustrating it may sometimes be, I feel like I have only grown as an artist by catering to the slightly less liberated audience of deviantART (provided I still have other outlets for my more risqué works).

But that, really, is a pretty narrow context for censorship, and what I would argue constitutes something closer to a form of filtering, than the active suppression of speech that the term "censorship" is usually linked to. Censorship, in its truest form, is somebody (whether it's the government or not) dictating what you're allowed to see/read/consume. It may involve actual destruction of information - as in the iconic example of book-burning - or, more commonly, a destructive modification to the source material (e.g., applying the black marker). Even the simple act of a gatekeeper preventing certain materials from reaching an audience can be considered censorship. The common theme in all of these cases is that somebody else is making a decision for you about what kind of information you're allowed to be exposed to, whether or not you have knowingly and willingly granted them this authority.

Filtering, by contrast - while sometimes having the superficial appearance of censorship - distinguishes itself from that practice by preserving the individual's choice. It recognizes that some subjects are contentious and potentially offensive, and that a significant portion of the population may prefer not to be exposed to them without warning. It makes no moral or ethical judgments about the effects certain kinds of information may have on people. It merely lets the individual decide for themself what they're comfortable with. For this to be possible, there must always be some kind of click-through enabling the viewer to consciously choose, if they so desire, to view the original, uncensored work.


I feel a bit like I'm taking the devil's advocate position here, as I am not a fan of trigger warnings and "safe spaces" - and I still think the marginalization of sexual speech does the subject a severe disfavor - but as I've said in the past, I'm willing to make reasonable compromises, and though I consider myself to be somewhat radical in terms of some of my beliefs, I still believe that the moderate position is usually the sanest and most advisable one. So as an alternative to "hard-line" censorship, I'm willing to live with a filtering system (as I did, mostly happily, during my flickr years) as an acceptable compromise, if not the ideal situation (which would be a more tolerant and open-minded culture).

Now, when I say that there must be a click-through to the uncensored work, I will allow that this may involve cooperation between separate sites/companies. A website needn't permit the hosting of information it deems objectionable, as long as there exists an alternative host, and the filtering site does not actively obstruct access to it. A site that prohibits linking to the original, on the other hand (as deviantART not only prohibits the hosting of "pornographic" content, but also the posting of links to sites that include pornographic content), is engaging in active censorship. The crucial difference is the preservation of choice. You may place the controversial materials behind a curtain, but not a locked door. Because you still have the freedom to pull back the curtain if you wish.


Unfortunately, what makes sexuality (and also nudity, insofar as our culture links it with sexuality) different from other forms of speech - such as crude language and violence - is the fact that there are laws with potentially severe penalties for anyone responsible for allowing minors to access such content. Choice has been removed from the equation, and the government has unilaterally (and in opposition to science and reality) deemed such speech a public menace. You may be criticized by your peers for letting your preteen watch an R-rated movie, but nobody's going to jail or losing custody of their children over it. For those of us, however, who recognize that the human body is not synonymous with sexual activity, and, to go even further, that knowledge of the carnal act is not toxic in the same way that other forms of potentially offensive speech (e.g., hate speech) may be, this is a distinctly frustrating state of affairs.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why Nudism? (Part 25)



There are a lot of practical reasons to go naked in specific situations (which I hope this project has underlined), but pragmatism isn't always the only or the most important factor in a person's decision on what to wear. You could be hot, you could be uncomfortable, you could be inconvenienced, but all of these could be worthwhile costs if you place some kind of metaphysical importance on covering your nakedness. So it's important to acknowledge that not only may nudists have good reason to go naked, but that they also lack significant reason not to.

I think this is what spooks a lot of people about nudists - that they lack the common "decency" to cover up. But a nudist would argue that this is an arbitrary taboo, and that there is really nothing indecent, threatening, or "sinful" about uncovering one's nakedness in front of others. In fact, it can be very healthy - not just physically, but also psychologically. And whatever justifications you can come up with for keeping yourself covered, there are justifications for not hiding who you are under your clothes that are no less legitimate. In the end, it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Skywalker



I've been wanting to take a shot like this since my original 365 Daily Nudes project, believe it or not.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Outdoor Shower



Social nudism has me totally spoiled on taking showers outdoors. I'm not sure I can describe the appeal any better than that of just being naked outdoors, or skinny dipping - it's more than just some exhibitionist thrill (although, as a voyeur, I will say that a person with an attractive body rubbing themselves down in the shower - especially surrounded by nature - is one of the great aesthetic pleasures in this life, and I wish there were more opportunities to witness it); it's a primal sensation, of being naked among the elements, with the addition of water providing another tactile dimension. I'd love to stand naked under a waterfall someday.

P.S. The best way to dry off is not with a towel, but open air and sunshine. -_^

Monday, June 18, 2018

Peeking Over The Fence



"Did I hear something?"


"Who's that?"

"Sorry, I just wanted to see if you had a rake I could borrow."

And here's a light test for each of the clones in this shot. Usually these test shots are not very interesting because they're just that: test shots - I haven't put much effort into posing. But they do sometimes have a candid, behind-the-scenes appeal to them, and every once in awhile, by pure serendipity, they come out looking quite striking themselves.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Backyard Camping


Popping a Tent

I had to set up my tent in the backyard because, sadly, I'm not allowed to set up my camera in nudist venues. (Even putting aside the nudism issue, privacy concerns are really killing candid photography these days - god forbid you should take a picture of someone without getting their permission first...). This is pretty much what it looks like, though:


I'm pretty diligent with my sunscreen. I'm actually a little bit self-conscious about it, because I don't see a lot of other people being this diligent with it, and of course in the nudist culture a dark, all-over tan is something of a status symbol. But I like my pale skin, for aesthetic reasons even beyond the health benefits of avoiding too much sun exposure (although a moderate amount of sun is certainly healthy). And this is how I keep my pearlescent sheen:


I had to edit the video down for time constraints, but I think it's probably even better this way - lean 'n' mean. If you're taking notes, you should know that I also apply sunscreen to my face and scalp, but that isn't shown here.