Monday, March 1, 2021

Are Nude Selfies Art?

How many liberated women, wanting to be respected for their minds, not their genitalia, are down with sending nude selfies? Fair enough, some of the practitioners of this new art form-- that’s what they are calling it now-- are of the male persuasion, but, in truth, the new postmodern practice cares far more about exposing the female body than about the aesthetics of the dick pic.

Now, we have a book all about Nude Selfies, and we have a Guardian review of said book.

I have not read the book. I have no interest in reading it. But I will happily point out two facts that the review does not mention. The first involves the ubiquity of pornography. In truth, we might happily extol the erotics and the aesthetics of the naked female body, but, truth be told, most of these pictures are very likely closer to porn than to great art. 

Naturally, those who practice this art form would be seriously aggrieved by the notion that they are emulating porn stars, but such seems largely to be the case. After all, didn’t Jennifer Lawrence send nude selfies to a boyfriend because he told her that he would rather masturbate to her naked image than to that of a porn star? 

Obviously, the pictures eventually found their way into the public domain, to Lawrence’s mortification. For reasons that completely escape me, she decided to take back her body by going nude in a movie.

Strange thought, but in defiance of the obvious point. If you want people to respect you for your achievements, keep your clothes on. The rest distracts. If you have been caught with your pants down-- so to speak-- the solution is to pull your pants back up and to walk on as though nothing were. To counter involuntary exposure with voluntary exposure is  grievous error. Whoever suggested as much to Lawrence should be fired.

The second observation, unmentioned in the article, is that our very own therapy culture, led by our psycho overlords, has effectively been selling the idea that going naked is healthy. It is especially healthy because it demonstrates convincingly that you have overcome shame. You are showing off your nakedness because you have attained to peak mental health.

And besides, your gesture means what you want it to mean, doesn’t it? In truth, it does not. It takes a high quota of stupidity to fail to understand that the meanings of words and gestures depend on social codes, not personal intention. Regardless of what you are thinking when you are sending nude selfies, the truth remains, that people who see them will think less of you. And that you will be tasked with the challenge of living them down.

As for the notion that words mean what the speaker wants them to mean, we owe that piece of wisdom to a character in a fiction. The character’s name was Humpty Dumpty. And we know what happened to Humpty Dumpty.

Apparently, a generational divide separates those who find it normal to send out nude selfies and a generation that finds the practice horrifying-- and dangerous.

Claire Armistead opens her article thusly:

Have you ever sent a nude selfie? The question draws a thick red line between generations, throwing one side into a panic while the other just laughs.

I am not sure why the red line is thick? Wouldn't a thin red line work just as well?

A New York Times columnist tut-tuts the risk to young people and decides that we should not condemn the practice out of hand. She is apparently ignorant of the fact that a thirteen year old girl who is induced to send such pictures will suffer extreme emotional distress and will make herself vulnerable to all manner of abuse. 

The risk to young people is very real. And we ought not to dismiss it because adults have the right to emulate porn stars. If condemning the practice will protect young people, then perhaps we should not be so cavalier about defending it-- and making it feel like a normal part of adult living:

But for all the worries about the vulnerability of underage senders, it would be wrong to condemn the practice out of hand, according to New York Times columnist Diana Spechler, who argued that, in lockdown, nude selfies had become a symbol of resilience, “a refusal to let social distancing render us sexless”. The selfies she and her friends were exchanging, she wrote, weren’t “garish below-the-belt shots” but pictures that were “carefully posed, cast in shadows, expertly filtered”. In short, they were works of art and deserved to be considered as such.

If her friends were so proud of their exhibitionism they would not be pretending that what they are doing is art, not pornography. Besides, do you believe that porn is not “carefully posed” and “expertly filtered.”

Naturally, some women come to understand that sending out nude pictures is maybe not such a good idea. Heck, it is not even liberating. As for the notion that a woman will be more loveable because the hockey team is ogling her nakedness, keep in mind, these women want to be respected for their minds:

“When I sent nudes to men in my early adulthood,” says contributor Ellie Nova, “there was a mismatch between the sender and the receiver. For the men, I think, it was a brief thrill. But for me, it was an attempt to find connection and reassurance that, despite my darkest beliefs, I was lovable after all.” Her freeform memoir describes a student life in which the selfie becomes an act of ritualised self-sacrifice to the casualness of male desire, a ritual that is tangled up with self-harm.

And then, one Claire Askew sees it all from a more positive angle. She thinks it’s all liberating. I imagine that she feels liberated from the repressive constraints involved in wearing clothing. As for the gift of her vulnerability, does that make it any the less vulgar. Why does she think it’s alright to give away her vulnerability? And why does she think it’s alright to encourage teenage girls to do the same?

Poet and crime novelist Claire Askew is more positive: “Sending nudes is a new form of intimacy that can feel liberating, but it also makes a gift of our vulnerability,” she says. In her poem 8 Ways to Lie in a Hotel Bed Alone, she imagines herself in a cheap hotel, accidentally sending a picture to a lover before checking where the recipient is: perhaps in the pub or standing in a chip shop queue, while she tries to settle on a hard hotel mattress.


Sam L. said...

"A New York Times columnist tut-tuts the risk to young people and decides that we should not condemn the practice out of hand. She is apparently ignorant of the fact that a thirteen year old girl who is induced to send such pictures will suffer extreme emotional distress and will make herself vulnerable to all manner of abuse." Just ONE MORE reason for me to despise, detest, and TOTALLY distrust the NYT! (Not that I needed another.)

Tell me; is there a I know od dearth of nudist clubs and "free beaches"? (Inquiring minds want to know.) I know of none in my area, but I'm old, and don't much care.

urbane legend said...


Anonymous said...

Let me see if I understand this. A prepubescent child can choose to change their gender and that is OK but if a girl/woman of any age seeks attention by sending revealing photos to men that is terrible and people should be punished. Do I have that right?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Not even close-- no one around here has ever condoned gender change, ever. And no one ever suggested that women who send nudes of themselves should be punished. So, you got them both wrong. Congratulations.

Webutante said...

Stuart you are correct on both counts. However when girls and women send nude selfies it might seem harmless in the short-term, but it turns out to be self-defeating and self-punishing in the longer term. It's the law of reality of unintended consequences. It beyond appalling.

Tilcut Hassayampa said...

These girls do not realize that their future middle school and high school aged sons are going to be shown those pictures by their class mates.

I am very glad that we boomers did our stupid crap before the internet.

Worst of all, what happens when her dad goes to a nursing home, and her 13 year old selfie on the left behind cell phone turns up. Daddy's gonna get a child pornography charge.

KCFleming said...

Funny how declaring that one is resilient does not erase the inevitable consequences.

“And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire”