Little kids are happy to prance around naked for all the world to see. They have no inhibitions, no modesty, and no shame. That is until the "civilized" people around them drill it into their innocent little heads that the body is a wicked instrument of sin that should be covered up and hidden from others. I think that this is a travesty. If I had it my way, I'd be running around naked as a jaybird every day of my life.
|In the United States, which was founded by Christian puritans, nakedness is generally considered to be sinful and wrong. It's tolerated in the privacy of one's own home, if exercised for the purposes of hygiene or procreation, but all it takes is one wardrobe malfunction and the entire nation is united against the evil scourge that is the human body.
Christianity's issues with nakedness are addressed right from the get-go. The following passage can be found in the very first pages of the Bible:
Immediately following, God had his first hissy fit and threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden forever. This whole mess, known to theologians as "the temptation and expulsion," forms the basis for the concept of "original sin." Christians believe that as human beings and descendents of Adam and Eve, we all inherit the responsibility for this original sin, and must spend our entire lives in a never-ending attempt to make up for it. In this way, in the Christian view, the "wrongness" of nakedness has been intrinsically linked to the very core of what is sinful in mankind.
I don't mean to turn this essay into a major theological debate, but my opinion of the story of creation is that it was a fable concocted by primitive and superstitious minds to explain why human beings wore clothes and were cognitively advanced beyond ordinary animals. And it was our bad luck that the fable just happened to use shame as the explanation. That little twist of fate, exacerbated by strict tyrants like Leviticus and uptight ninnies like the Apostle Paul, has created a sexually repressed environment for millions of people over thousands of years. Like it or not, Western culture is stuck with a dominant religion that treats the divine beauty of the human body as something dirty and wrong.
There have been times when Christianity loosened up a bit. In 1260, sculptor Nicola Pisano carved a marble pulpit for the Pisa Baptistry. It was remarkable in a number of ways, particularly because it contained the first representation of the "heroic nude" since Roman times. Little by little, pure nudity started to creep into Christian art. When the Renaissance rolled around, where people were a little more enlightened, nudity was common. Michelangelo, responsible for the most famous naked man of all time, crammed as much nudity into his work as he possibly could. Towards the end of his career he painted the "Last Judgment" in the far wall of the Sistine Chapel. There was so much nudity in it that it was compared to a Roman bath.
The earliest nude figure of "modern" times.
Nicola Pisano, Pisa Baptistry pulpit, 1206
Alas, nothing lasts forever. After Michelangelo's death, artists were brought in to paint pieces of cloth over the crotches of the nude figures on his "Last Judgment." Fig leaves were added to male nude statues. Apparently the body was still a thing of beauty, except for the twig and berries, which were wicked, evil, instruments of sin and should not be seen.
Fast-forward to the 20th century. Except for the brief and novel fad of "streaking" in the late 70's, nudity is as repressed as ever. Even in the land where freedom of expression is an inalienable right, indecent exposure laws are ubiquitous. No one under 17 is allowed to see a pair of tits or a bare ass in a movie theater without being accompanied by an adult.
There is, however, the phenomenon of nudism, whereby like minded people share each other's company without the restraint of clothing. Also known as naturalism, it is not about sexuality, but rather about celebrating the glory of the human body in its natural, naked state. It also has a lot to do with freedom and liberation.
Fundamentally it is simply freedom from clothing. There is nothing quite as comfortable as strolling about and engaging in ordinary, everyday activities with the breeze blowing through every nook and cranny of the body. Many people enjoy this freedom in the security of solitude. But when you introduce the group dynamic, it also becomes freedom from classism. There is a strong egalitarian component to nudism. It's hard to tell what class someone falls into when there are no clothes to judge him by. Nudists from all walks of life are a close and tightly knit bunch, united by their love of nudity and their common cause to rise above the restrictive attitudes of society at large.
Finally, nudism is about liberation. It is liberation firstly from those same restrictive attitudes. But in a way, it is really about liberation from oneself. The classic anxiety dream is to venture out into public stark naked. Beyond the overt implications, this symbolizes exposure and vulnerability. These fears and anxieties are not innate. We are embarrassed of our nakedness because we've been told since childhood that we should be. Nudists reject this, and through their strength in numbers and regular reinforcement, they actually free themselves of this deep seeded, core anxiety. Talk about liberating!
But beyond all this, nudism is liberation from the ideals of beauty that society also imposes upon us every day. Have you ever seen pictures or footage from a nudist gathering? Generally speaking, it's not a pretty sight. These are not beautiful people. But I feel that the beauty of the scene comes from these people rising above that prejudice. They're not exposing their bodies because they're under the misguided illusion that they are beautiful, or because they want to otherwise impose the image of their nakedness on others. They're exposing their bodies to liberate themselves from their own feelings of insecurity based on them not looking like the beautiful people. And to those who have experienced it, it is perhaps the most liberating experience they will ever have. It overcomes yet another deep seeded, core anxiety.
Alas, all this freedom and liberation must still take place in a private and segregated environment. While nudists feel free amongst themselves, they are not allowed this freedom among the general population. Nudists remove themselves to "colonies" not because they feel they must hide from the public, but because they and their nakedness is still rejected. And the only reason the repressed conservatives don't put a stop to it is because they can't. There are laws against public nudity, but there's nothing anyone can do about this taking place on private land.
|All this is well and good, but I consider nudism and exhibitionism to be two completely different things. While nudism is natural and pure, exhibitionism definitely has a sexual component to it. I would classify an exhibitionist not only as someone who likes to be naked, but who particularly wants to be seen naked. Nudists want to be naked whether anyone sees them or not. But the exhibitionist not only wants to be seen, he actually derives sexual pleasure through being seen. To put it bluntly, it's a turn-on.
The problem is that people tend to think that this requires the exhibitionist to inflict his nakedness on those who don't want to see it. That is what the definition at the top of this page is predicated on. The classic example is the lecherous flasher, who opens his raincoat to unsuspecting and traumatized victims. While this is clearly exhibitionism, I think that it is immoral and wrong.
But then there is the whole matter of an exhibitionist exposing himself to a willing and eager audience. That is an utterly different dynamic, and there ain't nothin' wrong with it at all. In the heterosexual world this scenario tends to play itself out in strip clubs and porn videos. While those also exist in the homosexual world, there are many more venues available to gay men. Clothing-optional guest houses, resorts, and campgrounds abound. In these places gay exhibitionists can not only parade their nakedness for others to see, they can indulge the arousal that it brings them. Exhibitionists can come together and engage in sexual acts before their audience. In my opinion, it's a win-win scenario.
It's no secret that I am an exhibitionist. Not only do I enjoy being seen naked, it's a huge turn-on to be seen. Being in the showers at the gym is not a particularly arousing experience for me. But if I happen to notice that someone is actually checking me out, my dick instantly starts getting hard. And there is no sex that I enjoy more than that being had while people are watching. The more the better. One fantasy that I have when I'm alone jerking off in the privacy of my house is that I'm in the center of a huge arena where thousands of people are watching me. That usually gets me to come within a few seconds.
This aspect of my personality presents a challenge for my desire to model for art classes. I'd be a liar if I said that there was not an exhibitionistic quality to that activity, but that's not why I do it. I model in art classes firstly because I like to participate in the class itself. I enjoy being in the campus studio space and seeing the young men and women pursuing artistic academic interests and interacting with the professor. After I finish a pose I like to see their work and how they represented my body.
But art modeling is also a meditation for me. Unlike a mental meditation that involves repeating a mantra, this is a physical meditation that involves remaining motionless for twenty minutes at a time or more. On top of this, I am stark naked in a room full of clothed people who are, in fact, studying my very nakedness. Nudists all get naked together and have each other for support. I'm all alone, completely, utterly exposed. But it's still a safe space. I'm supposed to be naked. So those feelings of vulnerability are there, but contained. The energy this creates, combined with the physical meditation, transports me to another place. It's the most energizing, liberating, fulfilling activity I engage in. I'd do it every day if I could.
The arousal factor was an issue the first time I ever modeled. I didn't try again for a couple years after that. But when I did, it wasn't an issue anymore. At least not as much of an issue. There's always the gnawing fear that I could get a raging boner the second I drop my shorts. And there are brief moments while in a pose that things get a little tingly down there. Once in a while I actually consider for a moment where I am and what I'm doing, which gets my juices flowing. But to date I've been able to keep things under control.
This web site, obviously, is a huge outlet for my exhibitionistic nature. While my imagery is more artistic than it is prurient, it is still meant to arouse. And it is arousing to me to know that there are people out there being aroused by it. Originally this site began as nothing more than a page for me to post my nude photographs. But over time I began to augment the content with essays such as this one. Since many of them are intimately personal accounts of my feelings and private life, that became a form of exhibitionism itself. So ultimately, I am exposing not only my body on this site, but my very soul.
Finally, I would like to pay homage to the original media exhibitionist, Peter Berlin. He was making a career of homo-erotic self-portraiture when I was in elementary school. On the surface it would appear that our work is miles apart. He was shooting film in the 70's Warhol era, and I'm shooting digital pix in the web era. His images are about provocative outfits and palpable sexuality, and my images are about full nudity and understated sensuality. But I began to appreciate how much we really did have in common when I had the pleasure of meeting him back in 1999 while I was on vacation in San Francisco. As I explained to him my craft, I mentioned how I had to hide the computer mouse under my heal or toe so that I could click off a frame. Peter laughed. He said he went through the exact same thing years before, only with the old-fashioned shutter release.
Peter has since gone online with his own web site where he is selling his images on CD-ROM
|Counter Culture Index | Next Essay: Pop Culture: Planet of the Apes