In the last day I have looked at the work of two very good professional male photographers. In their online galleries, they included at least one series of women either in the buff, or wearing minimal clothing. Although I liked their work, these particular series left me bored. Why?
Paying homage to the beauty of the female body as nature made her has been a mainstay in visual art forever. Since the first fertility statues to the present day versions of them, there’s never been a question that for straight men anyway, there’s a biological reason for that attraction. So I think to myself, alright, I’m ok with that. But the problem is, you see, that there isn’t a prominent female visual interpretation of her own sexuality really ever showing up as an alternative take, with equal coverage in all the visual expressions of sexuality we encounter every day. At least, I’m not seeing that these days. We’re bombarded with predictability, and it ain’t a female take on the situation. Point in case: all the women in these men’s photos were posed for men. Stark naked full frontals lighted harshly or softly, crouching over to show what’s in between one’s legs, squashing together one’s breasts to push them into the face of the viewer, sitting on a bed with legs slightly open, oh so many poses which, if I were a guy, would be a guarantee for an erection. Fine. But the thing is, I’m not.
For getting that erection ready and willing, of course it’s good to know what guys typically respond to. They’re quite good at responding actually, they’re built for that. And actually, you don’t really have to go that far to get the response, they have a VERY good instinctual imagination with a hair trigger that can lead all over the globe in a split second. Maybe if you’re a guy, you just KNOW certain things about women, so it’s easy to keep repeating those things because well, that’s all you know. Do you want to know more? Of course you do. Do you want women to come up with their own narrative to intrigue you, to lead you to them in a way that you never thought of but is equally engaging? Would it be boring to just spit back to you what they already know how to master so well? Perhaps, that’s acceptable. But, maybe a little inferior. Robot-like. Brainless. Demonstrating a lack of understanding of what makes them intriguing, even to themselves. Which is after all, something vital about being alive – that life is unpredictable, unknowable to a degree in all its aspects, and therefore ALWAYS territory for discovery, and ALWAYS territory for a change in an unanticipated direction. This is something that men AND women should enjoy in their sexual life, the use of their individual and particular imaginations, the telling of a tale of bonding, creation, which no one really understands that well because it is an animal instinct and it is mysterious.
So, this is the thing. If you are a woman, contribute to the damned conversation as a woman, and if you are a woman who is a visual artist – contribute to it VISUALLY. Add something that is really you, and stop parroting men. You’d be surprised how they enjoy having a conversation and for once, it’s an excuse to treat you like an equal, a human being and not a statue, a doll, a thing to be possessed and then forgotten, or worse, mistreated due to the perception that you’re passive, stupid, unknowable, and therefore frustrating – that always, always leads to abuse. All people have it within them to combine their minds, hearts and bodies in any communication, even a sexual one. If women could just push to create this visual communication in a way that is original, compelling and on equal footing display-wise (billboards, ads, movies, etc etc etc) with the usual fare already out there – instead of accepting the same old poses for the same old sessions of masturbation – maybe we’d finally get somewhere with respect and even, a little joy.