Today's society has blurred the lines between nude, fully nude, and pornography. TV, movies, and media advertising use nudity to sell their products. Looking at celebrity stars at various events show them baring more and more of their bodies. We are tantalized and inundated by the media with headlines about fashion fails that bare certain parts of a star's anatomy. So-called "Nip Slips" are given front-page attention, and the paparazzi styled photography show these peeks as a star's prized possessions.
These stars themselves often stage these types of exposures. There is a great deal of controversy whether Janet Jackson intentionally exposed herself on a nationally televised sporting event or not. Kim Kardashian's career could be argued to have started after a supposed leak of a private sex tape on the Internet. This followed a similar leak by Pamela Andersen's estranged lover. So where do we draw the line and what are the differences between the three types of nudity?
The church and religious teachings seem to hold no sway anymore. Except in one religion where exposure of any skin is a punishable crime. For an artist, photographer, and media creator, the line is difficult to see, let alone find the rules that correctly portray your subjects. Let's try to sort it all out, shall we?
Art in the form of statues, paintings, and now photography has always used the female form in various stages of undress. You only have to go the various art institutes, museums, and religious shrines around the world to see examples of this. Michelangelo's David is a prime example and is considered an outstanding work of art and a treasured piece of fine art. Rodin's famous statue "The Kiss" and he was famous for the way you see flesh in stone, as his work was so realistic. Bernini's "Rape of Persephone" as well shows nudity and none call it in bad taste, and yet rape is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. However, here it is, and it is a listed work of art that is in the world-class of art pieces. In fact, historical people in the nude hold a special fascination to us.
Cleopatra, it could be argued is the first Kim Kardashian as she made love to many powerful and historically significant men. She has been depicted countless time in the nude or partially nude for hundreds of years in sculpture, paintings, and in the film as media goes into the digital realm so do Cleopatra's breasts bared for all to see.
So, what are our definitions of Nude, Full Nude, and Pornography?
Nude, as defined by most, is anything that depicts a male or female form in the case of a woman from the waist up and exposing her full breast. The top of the breast is not considered nude if it doesn’t show the nipple or areola. For a man, it is considered nude if he is shown Au naturel or in his birthday suit. Nude art consists of paintings, sculpture, or any likeness, whether in a photo or digital of real or imagined human or human-like characters. This expansion of what is nude is due to the popularity of Anime characters who a part human and animal, such as the famous "Cat Girls," who often appear nude or semi-nude in videos. In Japan, it is considered ok to show this as they are technically not human, and the censors let it by. This includes pictures that depict things up to and including sexual intercourse as it isn't a human being involved. Western censors are a lot more critical, and if it looks like a human breast, it is considered nude.
Full nudity is defined as where both the breast and genitalia are exposed. The male penis, testicles, and scrotum are allowed as long as it is not erect and is in its natural state. In the female, the pubic mound may be shown either trimmed, shaved or Au Natural. The vulva and labia must not be exposed or visible in the final work of art. Also, the erect phallus is verboten as well. Strangely, erect nipples, which in the female are a sign of sexual arousal, are ignored by most critics and censors.
Pornography is where most people are concerned, and religious groups get the most enraged. While the Catholic Church is the owner of the record for many famous works of art, which feature nudity. Even to the point of showing the suckling of a child at its mother's breast, these are not considered pornographic in nature. However, pieces of art, which show the sexual organs in their aroused state or anything, that displays the: vagina, vaginal opening, clitoris, labia major or minor engorged, or anus. These parts of the female anatomy are deemed offensive and obscene. Though many others consider them a beautiful part of the female form. In fact, a whole vocabulary has sprung up to describe pornographic works of art. Words like: rude, lewd, filthy, X-Rated, XXX, porn, dirty, raw, bareback, perverted, degenerate, disgusting, vulgar, and indecent. This is only a small sampling of the verbiage with negative impact.
In contrast, words that describe eroticism, which is accepted in most cultures. The words that describe this are: sexy, erotic, disrobe, naked, sensual, voluptuous, and risqué. These words serve to tease the senses and are used in the news, advertising for many products and haven't any negative connotations when applied to the artwork.
There is even a third group of words that allows you to talk about the vulva, penis, and vagina and no one lifts an eyebrow if you use the words sexual organs or even testes in polite conversation. This third group is called clinical English and allows us to talk about things that, in another context, would be forbidden or go against cultural morals. Medical art can depict almost anything imaginable without fear of ridicule. The context may be the single factor that separates allowed and taboo topics in the art that gets them labeled as pornographic or nude.
What do you mean by context?
The reason something is considered pornographic is if it intends to arouse sexual feelings in a person. Both the church and the state both want to control our lives. Making sex is a sin unless it is through a sanctioned relationship as defined by society and religious tenets is forbidden. Sex is one of humanities strongest urges, and society wants to ration it and meter it out as a reward for obedience to social norms.
Porn is considered by those who are involved in its production consider it an art form equal with the others, and there is nothing wrong depicting the sex act, which is the main sticking point with religion as looking at what is considered porn allows one to give vent to sexual frustration.
The control of sexual release is what society and religion are attempting to control or prevent. If this issue were removed from the equation, there would be no difference between any of the various types of art today involving the clothed or unclothed body. This simple observation shows us the hypocrisy of the whole system. If people don't like a certain picture, they don't look at it no matter what the topic is.
But, because of ancient beliefs and cultural retractions that decide for us what is proper to view and think about individual paintings, statues, and photographs are not on display and in the case of many artworks are locked away. An entire generation of German paintings, sculpture, and other artwork has been warehoused and locked away from view since WWII in Germany, as it is considered pornographic by some even though in many cases there is no nudity involved.
For the artist who is attempting to create their art. They must toe the line if they want to get their work accepted nowadays. Society, law, cultural beliefs, and the law dictates what you can paint, sculpt or take a picture of and be able to put on display without fear of ridicule or even defamation and destruction.
A few years back, a painting of Mayor Washington was shown in a woman's negligee. This raises a furrow not seen since the days of booking in Germany. Alderman rushed down a torn the picture down from an art exhibition. Similar malice happened in France over the depiction of a religious figure in a news periodical. Mayor Washington was not nude, and at worst, it could be considered political satire. Yet it illustrates how many feel about the images that are seen in art today.
A woman may be put to death in some countries if she models for a photo shoot. One famous music star showed her ankle in front of a holy site and was castigated in public forums. This prompted a quick retraction of the photo and a public apology. A comic book was banned in one of America's biggest allies in the Middle East during the Kuwait liberation from Iraq. The comic was for the consumption of the servicemen that protected Saudi Arabia from a possible invasion, and the magazines were intended for their use only. In fact, a reference to this ban is not even available via search engines. This shows how far censorship has progressed on the net in some countries.
Wonder Woman is a symbol of Woman's rights, and she is fully clothed, yet many feel even the amount of skin she shows is too much. Barbie, another cultural icon is banned in many nations, and a Burka Barbie was released during her 50th anniversary. The clothing was tastefully done by a famous designer. This prompted cries of outrage on this side of the Atlantic as it was said it was a sign of oppression of women for not exposing her face or any skin.
You see most of the world wants to control what you will see in art whether it is paintings, art that appears in the newspaper, or what you see in movies today. Nudity is just a convenient ploy used by those in power to show they are doing something while larger issues are remaining unresolved.
So how far do you think your full frontal painting of a nude of a woman would be taken as part of cultural exchange between Riyadh and New York's Guggenheim Museum? What would happen to a Van Gogh nude sent to Israel? Israel is a country that whites out women’s pictures from newspapers, magazines, TV and replaces them with men. Hilary Clinton was removed from pictures in Israeli newspapers after the Osama Bin Laden hunt reached its conclusion.
It's not the terminology or the subject matter
Nude, Full Nudity, and Pornographic are just linguistic constructs that hide the true issues today. It is not a picture of a woman having evil intercourse. On the contrary, it is the most significant activity two people can engage in. So why is a depiction of it rejected by the art world and society? It is all related to the arousal of emotions involved with sex.
Implied nudity is everywhere. Look at the Met Gala and Kim Kardashian where she wore a gown that was implied nudity at the very least and totally over the wall into the pornographic depending on who you ask.
Bathing suits today all imply nudity and any event that Hollywood hosts show more skin that you could possibly imagine. JLO has started a trend of showing the underside of the breast, which has traditionally been forbidden territory for pictures and media art. It is not only implied nudity that comes into question. It's the proximity that genitalia comes in close contact, which is the danger sign for art in the west.
An erect penis is considered a precursor to intercourse, and thus you can't paint it or photograph it unless you want to be thought to be in league with Larry Flint of Hustler fame (or notorious depending on your point of view.) Yet in Japan, a fully erect Penis statue is put on display and women touch it in public and rub it for good luck and to invoke its ability to promote fertility. Ancient customs in Europe show the Maypole as a symbol of male potency.
The Cerne Abbas Giant is a giant with a club, and an erect penis cared into the English countryside, and it is a cultural treasure and landmark. It is not considered obscene or pornographic.
In Beijing in the White Temple, there are Buddhist statues that depict Buddhas and demons having intercourse with women with full penetration of the penis and vagina, and it is on display for all to see.
Finally, there are the Tantric temples of Khajuraho India Where various forms of sexual congress are carved in graphic detail showing sexual contact between men and often multiple partners simultaneously. No one would say these are pornographic in India. They depict various animals portrayed as Gods having sex with human beings as well.
The Arabian Nights tales as translated by Sir Richard Burton are art in written form, and some editions show the various acts between men and woman in graphic detail with color illustrations, and this was written during the Victorian Era, which was one of the most sexually repressed periods in English History. These editions are highly prized and considered art treasures.
Not to be outdone the Indian Kama Sutra is considered a classic and is hundreds of years old. Japan's pillow books and silkscreen paintings are also considered works of art and not pornography. These date from the 12th and 18th century. One of the most famous is the "Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon." Similar Books are to be found in China as well.
One could argue that what is considered hardcore XXX Rated magazines, videos, and films is just the current age’s version of these classic art forms. Which brings us to the Internet where many experts believe that over 40% and as high as 70% of all Internet traffic is pornographic by nature. Here every form of sex act imaginable can be acted out by those who care to indulge their wildest fantasies. Live action and with any race or ethnic background one could desire along with everything in between.
Many of the suppliers of these websites consider themselves performance artists and have as much right to practice their arts as a painter or photographer, and sculptor. Since no real contact occurs between performer and client is not considered a crime as no physical touching of genitalia or penetration is possible.
However, in Japan, this is changing as well. Types of "art forms" have taken on new meaning. Electronic virtual reality skinsuits transmit stimulation during a computer simulation between an Amine Character or real live sex partner that you feel their touch, and you can even be brought to orgasm. The Japanese are billing this as the next form of computer graphics technology that will replace reality. There is now a 1st generation of sculpted lifelike female sexbots that not only look like a woman but are fully functional as well. There is also a cheaper model that performs sexual stimulation on the male via a robotic hand that is modeled after a woman's. This, too, can be argued as an outgrowth of sculpture.
In all these cases mentioned it is being considered by the creators that even there is full nudity and by western standards pornographic in nature, all of it is deemed to be normal and is only an extension of current art being practiced with the use and help of technology.
In America, there have been experiments where tiny wires are embedded in a person's brain that can stimulate the pleasure centers directly. Who is to say this would not develop into a new art form where a virtual world may be created that looks and all your senses tell you is real. Here a nudist would be typical as everyone you would see in the raw and unclothed state. Computer graphically sculpted perfect forms would be tantalizing, and their very touch would induce sensations in your brain that you wouldn't know the difference from the real thing. Would this be considered, nudity, full nudity, or pornography? Only time will tell when it comes to the future of the arts.
You can see the theme of this article believes that there really is no difference between all three terms. It is just a semantic sorting device that society uses to restrict our activities and control us. Other nations on earth do not understand Western man's hang-ups about nudity, full nudity, and porn. In many societies, all three areas are accepted as a natural human activity and have no stigmata attached to them.
America had reached a milestone when it accepted same-sex marriages. Perhaps the next hurdle is to remove the vocabulary that divides art into various categories that restrict its expression and how it is treated by society. If we are a truly free society, should we not be able to exercise our artistic talents and have them be appreciated as art and not have them called lewd or pornographic?
Japanese and Chinese courtesans were skilled in erotic art, poetry, and music. In China, ancient schools taught women how to pleasure and be pleasured by men. They were recorded by word, sculpture, and in graphic form as well. These activities were considered art, and a practitioner was honored. The same holds true in India, where the skills of dance and love went hand in hand with sculpture and painting. These arts are the forerunners of our own photography and computer graphics arts as well.
So perhaps ultimately you will have to make the final determination as to what your definitions are. What goes on inside someone's home is their private business and the type of art they choose to enjoy is not something that no government or societal judgment should regulate, and it should be up to the individual to make their own choices in this matter.
Perhaps if this were true today, there would be fewer problems in the world.
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