6 August 2004
The limits of bareability
Evolving Beauty [title page possibly not safe for work, subsequent pages almost certainly NSFW] is a collection of photographs by Eric Boutilier-Brown.
Susanna Cornett is impressed by some of the photos, not impressed by others, and by her own admission somewhat conflicted:
I find myself torn on the issue of these nude photographs. Obviously these are real people, without clothes, and a real person photographed them. Issues of modesty (or the lack thereof) are rampant, and not, in my judgment, unimportant. However, the photos that I like the best are not overtly sexual, but rather positioning the human body as an element of nature, the juxtaposition a celebration of the beauty of the human form and its connection to other parts of nature. The images where the model is the central point, not the blending of the model and nature, I find much less compelling and nothing out of the usual. I find myself philosophically opposed to nude photography, yet aesthetically drawn to the photos of the type I point out above. I don't think nudity in and of itself is wrong, and I think we should all be comfortable with our bodies. However, I agree both theologically and practically with the Biblical strictures of modesty, for exactly the reasons the Bible states that it's important. Our society is too cavalier about both sex and nudity already.
It's a dilemma. And I'm not quite sure how to resolve it.
I think part of the problem is the coupling of "sex and nudity" as a single concept, as many people (though not Susanna, I suspect) do; while nudity certainly facilitates sex, it doesn't imply it, unless you've somehow acquired the notion that apart from bathroom functions, the only reason to take off your clothes is to have sex. Any semi-serious skinnydipper knows better than that.
Still, discerning intention occasionally requires some work. Flashing a barista is very likely an act of exhibitionism, something not to be encouraged officially. (My apologies in advance to baristas.) Camping nude in a national park (which is not generally illegal under Federal law) probably isn't, but it could be. Dressing up with the hope that one's garb will lead to what Helen Gurley Brown once called "getting Dial spelled backwards" likely is.
I'm not going to suggest that everyone shuck his duds for the sheer delight of it. (Of course, if you do, I'm not going to complain, unless you do it in my driveway.) But it might not be a bad idea to create a little Garden of Eden of your own, outdoors if you dare, indoors if you don't provided, of course, you keep in mind what happened in the first one.
(Disclosure: Written while dressed.)