Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ying & Yang - Double Standards in Erotic Photography

In a comment on our last post, reader V posed the hypothesis that there is a gender factor in how artists are perceived in erotic photography ... an idea that rang true with me and got me to thinking about many aspects of the double standards we encounter.  Some of these benefit me, some of them confound me, and almost all of them piss me off by their very existence!

First, let me say that one of the reasons I was super-excited to undertake this blog with Side B is that we do offer the balance of both male & female perspectives.   Many contrasts between our works reflect this basic difference and the fact that we complement each other so well in many ways is a major strength of these early days of shadowsexposed!  From my perspective, it's not about denying that there are differences between genders, but in embracing them without judgement and not trying to cram someone in a box of our preconceived boundaries of that gender.  I suspect that a consistent reader has already begun to recognize which of us is offering up an image without reading the credit ... but may not always predict correctly.   

The original discussion that led us here pertained to Side B's need for anonymity and his conflicted feelings about reaction to his erotic work were he to claim it in the light of day.   V insightfully perceived that as a male, he might encounter a very different reaction than the one that meets my more open acknowledgement of my life on both sides of the wicked lens.  I think there is undeniably more of a stereotype for men to overcome on the photographer's side ... the genre has been soiled by creepy guys with cameras, predators who promise fame and glory to naive young things and then abuse and use them most horrifically.   They are "dirty old men," "smut peddlers," and "scumbags" exploiting women.   On my side of the gender line, even if I'm perceived as a predatory cougar, luring muscled young studs into my studio with ulterior motive, somehow this is a fantasy fulfilled rather than a nightmare come to life!   I'm reminded of the moment in American Pie when the lead character wakes up  in the morning to find his lover gone and says, "I was used ... I was used!!  COOL!!"  This is a distinctly male perspective, methinks!   I've never heard of a single female model who lies about having slept with a photographer to try to make themselves look good, but it happens all the time with male models in my experience, "Hell yeah, I hit that!"... ummm, no you didn't Junior! 

This idea leads us to the next major element of the double standard which impacts more on the model side.   I call it the SSS ... stupid slut stereotype.   A man who gets naked on camera is a stud, who is right to be proud of the body he works hard for, and is clearly an alpha-male.   A women who does the same is a slut, showing off, and most likely too stupid to know she is being exploited.  Furthermore, she is probably "asking for it" - whatever the hell that is supposed to mean!   It's actually kinda fun to watch conservative, judgemental people try to argue that in my case I am both the stupid slut being exploited AND  the evil mastermind behind my own exploitation!   Whatever my personal opinion of her work or personal life, I'll be the first to admit that Jenna Jameson was a trailblazer in taking advantage of the tendency for society to underestimate a woman's intelligence and business sense simply because she has more than a B-cup bust and isn't afraid to show it!  Simply put, underestimate me, PLEASE!! While you are calling me degrading names, I'll be cashing checks and building an empire.

Finally, I'd like to revisit the objectification question in the double standard debate.   I've worked with models of both genders who will do things for me that they won't do for a male photographer.   They inherently feel more free, more empowered, and less objectified because I am female.   This isn't my guess, it's been explicitly stated.  90% of the time, the shutter is being triggered by a male photographer on set ... but the vision is mine, the vibe is mine, and the trust is directed towards me.  Part of this may be attributed to a solidarity because they know I've been in their shoes.   But I suspect that there is another idea in play that I am truly seeing them instead of a conglomeration of body parts  ... that I am seeking to expose their essence instead of their surface ... that I am validating their sexuality instead of exploiting it.   While it may be true in my case, I don't believe this to be true of every artist with a vagina ... and I believe it to be equally true of Side B.   But how is a model walking in off the street to know this?   We all sometimes rely on our primal, instinctive wiring ... in this case that the female represents the nurturing spirit and the male personifies the predatory.   We must all remember though that nature presents no more ferocious creature than a hungry female with young to feed and no more steadfast creature than an alpha male who has taken responsibility for the pack.     Welcome back to the ill-defined spectrum, where one must actually evaluate each being on their character rather than their genitals!  

Alpha - 042113 - Miz B

I appreciate Miz B's view on this topic and have little to add to it.  I agree that the double standard can come from the predatory nature of men and the bad guys-with-cameras (gwc) out there that hurt us all.  On top of that, I have to admit it also has to do with just history of erotic creation.  Most published erotica of all media over the history of humanity was created by men.  I want to emphasize published because I don't know how much of erotic materials created by women exists that never got to be published.

For centuries, the male gaze has dominated all media due to men controlling the publication of it.  Thanks to all these centuries of it, we have a pretty good idea of what a guy sees in the erotic world.  I want to acknowledge there have been female contributors to this, such as Anais Nin, Ruth Bernhard, and other important creators, but the preponderance of it has been made by men.

This brings us back to the double standard then and one of my thoughts on it.  I am one man, among so many, that has created this stuff.  I think one reason there is more acceptance of women's erotic creations is that these creators are bringing a new voice, new beliefs, and new views into erotica, sexuality, and the art coming from it.

Even though I believe my art is unique and offers something new to view, I must acknowledge that as a male producer of it, my perspective may be overwhelmed by the centuries of the other male creators in the past.  My goal is to continue to create it and get it out there and to also eagerly encourage, promote, anticipate, and celebrate what all others in the genre create.  I am comfortable with losing room so we can learn from new pioneering voices that haven't been heard from, or not heard from enough.

1 comment:

  1. It's just good old fashioned hypocrisy. From time immemorial, guys who are "sexually confident" are "The Man" and women who are sexually confident are "The Slut." I blame the western culture. America was founded by prudes and put women in that box. Maybe an oversimplification, but I can't stand it, and it needs to change. Unfortunately, we're dealing with about 4 centuries' worth of bullshit, so I don't see these attitudes turning the corner. But you never know...


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