I fully expect opinions to be polarised between the sexes on this matter, but it really is natural enough that they should be.
Dr Victoria Bateman, economics fellow at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, most certainly has courage in good measure. To write an article for a national newspaper which includes a painting of her own naked body is not something the average female would contemplate in a thousand years.
Her stated intention for doing this was to “raise questions about the depiction of women and to challenge the blinkered association between the body and sex; to show that the female figure is something that a woman walks around with every moment in her life – that it is not, therefore, purely sexual.”
My own experience indicates that the naked female body is not necessarily sexual – it depends very much on the way it is depicted. It can be posed to deliberately arouse a viewer, or it can be completely neutral.
I remember a camera club shoot with a naked model that left me with a whole bunch of very mixed emotions:-
Embarrassment at sitting in front of a naked lady
Gratitude that I was being given such a priviledge
Admiration for the courage of the model involved
The one thing that was conspicuous by its absence was – Sexual Attraction!
No, I think we have to take a step back and think about the process of attraction between the sexes from a different viewpoint. After all, how often is it that you walk down the street and see a naked lady?
(It has actually happened to me once, but not in the UK. It was quite a shock, I can tell you!).
What is the most immediate source of information about any person, of either sex?
When we walk down the street, we see faces. We assess them as we go along. We separate them into classifications –
Those that we know (or not)
Those that we would like to talk to (or not)
Those that we find attractive (or not)
Those that we would share a bed with (or not)
If we find a face that attracts us, we will turn around to try to see it again – the so-called “Double Take“. If the person of interest has done the same thing, as could well happen, it is a sure sign that we are also of interest to them. After that, it only takes a fleeting lock of glances to establish a rapport between them and us.
Love at first sight? Why yes – of course!
Lust at first sight? Most certainly!
The hard part is to differentiate between the two – love and lust. That requires much more than visual contact.
Then how does a painting or a photograph of a naked lady compare to the real thing?
It doesn’t, it can’t, it is totally inert.
Then why is there such a trade in pornography and pictures of naked ladies at all?
I suspect that such substitutes are used as focal points by people that need them while masturbating, but I am not well informed on this point. Any ideas?
So, while I thank Dr Bateman for her courageous article, and commend the artist on his excellent portrait, I maintain that the point of the matter has been missed entirely:-