Is the chaste nude an oxymoron?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by landrum_kelly, May 25, 2010.

  1. Is the chaste nude an oxymoron?


    We all know that an oxymoron is a contradiction in terms, and that “chaste” and “chastity” are spiritual and/or religious concepts referring to some kind of ethical or spiritual purity.

    (Please notice in any case that I did not ask whether nudity in the presence of others can be chaste. I am assuming that nudity in real life can be chaste in at least some situations, most obviously in certain medical situations, as well as in at least some sexual relations. The limits and varieties of those situations and relations are not my concern here.)

    My concern here is solely about art: Is the chaste nude in art an oxymoron? (I am assuming some kind of distinction between “art” and “real life” here.) I could have phrased the question in a negative way: Is the nude in art in some way a defilement or desecration of the human form, a profanation of sorts? I have argued that the nude in art need not be such, although I do not doubt that much that is offered in art is indeed quite profane--and decidedly "unchaste." That the viewing of the human form, clothed or unclothed in art or life, can be "unchaste" I do not doubt.

    Why do I ask the question? I ask it because the sub-text of previous discussions in threads dealing with nudity in art seems almost always to be about the very rightness of viewing the nude as an art form. The ethics of nude art was not my intention in framing either of my own two previous posts leading to such discussions. Nonetheless, that (the ethical issue) is what one comes away with if one reads the very long threads that followed from those posts; that is, persons have finally become quite judgmental about the nude itself and about other persons’ motives for viewing the nude. Yes, we have talked psychology and a bit of history and sociology, but the ethical sub-text started speaking louder to my conscious mind.

    In other words, I have some doubts now about my own arguments in prior posts dealing with the artistic nude. The question is thus real and personal. I really want others' honest opinions, regardless of whether or not they think that the views that they express will be popular or well-received.
     
  2. After the last exhausting thread dealing with nude photography, why do I dare post again? Part of the answer is that the question(s) for me remain(s) unanswered. I tried to settle the question by rather grandiloquently concluding in my final comment on a prior post about the nude in art, “AT SOME POINT ESTHETICS MUST GIVE WAY TO ETHICS.” (Yes, I even used capital letters.) It was my way of saying, “Enough! I am out of here.” It was an ambiguous final note, one that no one wanted to challenge or explore. People were tired of the thread. I was tired of the thread. It had started in April and had gone for several weeks.

    Yet, yet, the thread was not even in peaceful repose before I made some photos of a friend in a pantsuit. (She will remain nameless and of course there will be no photos or other clues as to her identity.) She looked quite professional and proper in every sense, showing a very modest amount of cleavage but otherwise absolutely covered from neck to toe. The jacket was not truly becoming in all shots, however, falling straight down in some poses as if to give her a barrel-chested effect. I noted this to her (using other words which I forget) and asked her if she thought that it would be better to remove the jacket. She agreed about the overall effect and took off the jacket. She revealed absolutely no more cleavage than before, but what minimal cleavage had been visible was now placed in the very different context of her bare shoulders and arms. (She was wearing a camisole of the sort that is now commonly worn in public.) The informal, off-the-cuff shoot (of about ten minutes duration) went well. I was pleased with the images. She had been relaxed and comfortable throughout, as had I.

    I sent the photos to her via e-mail. I was shocked at her immediate reaction: “Please destroy these photos [the ones without the jacket].” At first her stated reason was that the ones with the jacket were not flattering to her, but in subsequent e-mails the real truth came out: she was uncomfortable in having the images in existence, for me or for anyone else to view, and the reasons went beyond esthetic considerations. Many factors no doubt entered into her decision, but the overarching theme that came through was that she felt torn between traditional and modern values regarding the display of the body, etc. Her discomfort was ultimately about her religious values and beliefs about the display of the body. I immediately complied with her request, disappointed–keeping only the ones that she was comfortable with, with the jacket on. I liked the pictures. They were not vulgar. I thought that they were flattering and quite modest by contemporary standards. The camisole is, after all, now widely considered to be an outer garment, but it was sufficiently revealing in her eyes that she recoiled at the sight of her own image, embarrassed. It was not a reaction on her part that I expected. The images were not to me all that revealing, but in her mind some line had been crossed. In her own mind she must have looked a bit too naked. (There is that word again that caused such disagreement on a prior thread. . . .)

    Thus was set in motion some true introspection on my part as to whether I had been correct in my assertions in previous threads. Perhaps Julie Heyward and other women were on to something about the “male gaze” that we men were not. Perhaps we really did not, do not, know our own motives.

    Perhaps there were ethical and even spiritual issues about the viewing of the nude that I had not wanted to admit. Perhaps I had been rationalizing. Had not the nude form been a part of art for thousands of years? I found myself asking this and other questions over and over again by way of self-justification for viewing nudes upon occasion. I stopped myself. I was repeating arguments from prior threads. I was sick of reading my own comments about nude photography, and from hearing their echo in my mind. Now the woman’s doubts had become my doubts--and she was in no sense nude! I had a real-life philosophical dilemma–in this case ethical--on my hands, one that did indeed go to the core of ethical and religious and other spiritual considerations. My immediate dilemma was easily resolved: I deleted the images as requested. Even so, the issues kept coming back to me, now with more force because of this lovely woman’s reactions to images that would not make anyone bat an eye on Photo.net or just about anywhere else in this country during the summer months, when tank tops and other even more revealing garments are on abundant display–and it is already summer here in the Carolinas. My easy comments about factoring out esthetics and ethics were no consolation to me. My own final remark from “The Thread” came back to haunt me: “At some point esthetics must give way to ethics.” Well, then, was this to be the end of my foray into figure studies: bare shoulders and a bit (not that much) of cleavage? Or was this simply another subset of the issue previously raised? That is, what makes the nude seem more naked? Here was a situation in which a woman was clothed in what had initially struck me as a very conservative outfit. She was a very, very long way from looking nude, even by Taliban standards. Even so, the shots made her feel uncomfortable. Why? Did she have a better sense of what is really at stake than I did?

    I thought about these issues over and over–and finally I posted the question that starts this thread.
     
  3. Is the chaste human being an oxymoron? If there ever was one, I'm pretty sure it went extinct.
    Lannie, for the ten thousandth time: sex/sexual feelings does/do not = "defilement." Sex is actually quite nice. As stated in the previous thread, it's the violence that shadows sex that I find problematic. I suspect that your friend was uneasy about her pictures because there needs to be an explanation for *why* a woman will take off her clothes for a particular man to a degree that is unusual for that particular woman. It's not the flesh per se, it's the act of removal for ... what? Who? Why? Why, why, why?
    If you *did* find a chaste nude, why would you want a picture of it? It seems to me that a chaste nude would be like a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut-butter and jelly.
    [Assuming that by using the word "chaste" we are talking about those who *could* be unchaste, i.e. not young children.]
     
  4. It seems to me that a chaste nude would be like a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut-butter and jelly.​
    Are you saying that the nude is inherently unchaste, Julie? I cannot believe that you are, but, if you are not, then why do you phrase the above as you have?
    In any case, thank you for yet another food metaphor. The last time it was about chickens in bathing suits (which you said made you think about swimming) v. plucked chickens (which you said made you think of dinner). You seem to be specializing in food nudes: the nude as prey, I suppose. You seem fixated on that theme. Is the nude on display in a gallery "prey" simply by virtue of being "plucked"? Yes, the nude is thereby vulnerable. Is the viewer thereby threatening simply by virtue of viewing? Does one pose with the expectation that no one will ever look or see?
    If we accept your premise that "it's the violence that shadows sex that I find problematic," then what? What I am having trouble with is how you seem to equate "looking" with "violence." This seems like hyperbole of the worst kind. Is the "male gaze" that threatening? Is it ipso facto threatening? More to the point, is it threatening in the context of esthetic appreciation of the nude, such as, say, in an art gallery, including our own on-line art gallery, Photo.net? A stalking stare is one thing. A look of admiration and appreciation is quite another. What does the "male gaze" imply to you? I am really interested in questions of right and wrong here as they relate to sexuality, not violence. Violence is not the issue as I see it.
    I am thus not talking about stalking here, in any case. Are you? Yes, stalking is threatening, but that seems to carry us way off on a tangent. Neither the woman in question nor I were thinking in terms of anything out of the ordinary while the very brief and informal "shoot" was going on. In any case, as I have emphasized, she was a long, long way from being nude, and I had no particular sense of any significant degree of undress until I saw the images on the screen many hours later. Bare shoulders are pretty low on my list of turn-ons.
    Thanks for reminding us that sex can be quite wonderful--not to mention wholesome. Has anyone here ever argued to the contrary? You seem to be trying to defeat a straw man.
    --Lannie
     
  5. Nudity has been and can be used to represent the "ideal". The David comes to mind, Mary breast feeding the infant Jesus, Eve in the garden pre fall, much greek sculpture, etc. Are you saying that such representations automatically make the person depicted unchaste? That's a pretty hard sell, especially when it comes to the Virgin Mary.
     
  6. Lannie,
    we have to define "chaste". Or better, you should tell us what you mean. (sorry, you did)
    From where I sit chastity does not mean asexual.
    Also Roman Catholicism - despite common credence - does not equal chaste and asexual.
    L.
     
  7. From where I sit chastity does not mean asexual.​
    Nor from my perspective either, Luca. As I said, "I am assuming that nudity in real life can be chaste in at least some situations, most obviously in certain medical situations, as well as in at least some sexual relations." Those are in real life, not art, of course.
    The question might better be restated as a question of the limits of chastity in nude art.
    The David comes to mind, Mary breast feeding the infant Jesus, Eve in the garden pre fall, much greek sculpture, etc. Are you saying that such representations automatically make the person depicted unchaste? That's a pretty hard sell, especially when it comes to the Virgin Mary.​
    Those come nowhere near my limits, Allen; i.e., they certainly do not offend my artistic or moral sensibilities. I am not, in any case, saying that nude representations "automatically make the person depicted unchaste." One problem, of course, is that paintings and sculpture are typically nowhere nearly as lifelike as photography, and so in photography one finds oneself searching about for representations that are unambiguously chaste. What comes off as chaste in a painting, that is, will not necessarily come off the same way in photography.
    I am not in fact asserting anything at this point, Allen, simply asking for others' opinions. I almost do not have an opinion at this moment. Art often conveys a message, and that message can imply chastity (purity) or not. The message might even be unintended, or be ambiguous. In the case of Mary with Jesus, the idea being conveyed unambiguously is, I presume, motherly love and motherly nurture. Surely nothing is thought to be more pure than motherly love. Mary nude with Joseph. . . ? Obviously, the message will have changed, and will have become a culturally garbled message, even if the presumption is that they are married and "within their rights." Mary in her bath? The message likewise will have changed. The idea behind both these examples is difficult to conceive of, given what "Mary" usually is thought to signify. Mary as loving wife or as a woman in her bath is not the Mary of faith or legend.
    I am having trouble coming up with generalizations here. Surely context is everything--or almost everything--and yet, even in context, the most innocent nudity in art does trouble some persons, whereas for others nudity is simply nudity and conveys no obvious message.
    --Lannie
     
  8. Can persons link to paintings, for example, that do or do not convey chastity or something like it? For me, Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" comes to mind:
    http://artchive.com/artchive/B/botticelli/venus.jpg.html
    There is surely a chasteness in the representation of the nude form in this painting. Even so, the artist has helped us along a bit with gestures of modesty. She is defending and protecting her modesty with both hands. The message is thus more about modesty than about bodily display. We also have an idealized form in the Botticelli, and we also have once again a mythical character: Venus never existed. Eve never existed, either, or even Mary, for all we know on scientific grounds. The problem seems to come more to the fore as we think about artistic depictions of real women in real (or realistic) situations. The issue becomes even more problematic as we transition from painting to photography, as well as from legendary figures to real women in realistic or familiar contemporary situations.
    Still, back to Allens's comment, the idea of idealization in both artistic genres, painting and photography. does resonate with me to some extent as one of the things that one finds in the "chaste nude." The problem is that even idealizing a figure does not insulate it from the charge of being something besides pure. (At the very least the motives of the artist might be cast into doubt.) If one gives as an example a painting or a photo that is intended to signify merely idealized female beauty, for example, what does one say to those who see in the same nude portrayal a profanation of the body? Does one really have to portray her nude to convey her beauty? That is a question that they might ask. It is a question that we, too, can ask.
    Clearly I am searching about to try to conceptualize a defensible set of guidelines for what one might call "chaste nude photography." Do they exist? Are they totally dependent on cultural norms?
    I am at sea on this one, clearly in over my head.
    --Lannie
     
  9. I found this online:
    Nudity is always disquieting, instigating and surprising. So the artist, both in painting and in sculpture, in dancing or in photography, discovers in the nude a profound link with the pureness of being. Sensuality stimulates creativity in every sense. Sensuality also evokes love, passion and the creation of man. This is why nudity moves us so profoundly.
    (Ariano Cavalcanti de Paula)


    "Art is never pure, we should keep it far away from the innocent ignorant. We should never let people approach. Yes, art is dangerous. If it is pure it is not art."
    (Pablo Picasso)
    http://www.ocaiw.com/galleria_niah/index.php​
    So here we seem to have two very different views on purity, but something is missing, even though the contributor on that web page deliberately juxtaposed two quotes ostensibly dealing with "purity." Here is the core sentence from each of the two perspectives:
    "[T]he artist, both in painting and in sculpture, in dancing or in photography, discovers in the nude a profound link with the pureness of being." --Cavalcanti de Paula (Emphasis supplied.)
    "If it is pure it is not art." --Picasso
    Cavalcanti de Paula's point of view is actually quite interesting, if paradoxical. The nude is "disguieting" even though the artist finds in the nude a link to the very purity ("pureness") of being.
    As I missing something here? Let us look at his statement again: "Nudity is always disquieting, instigating and surprising. So the artist, both in painting and in sculpture, in dancing or in photography, discovers in the nude a profound link with the pureness of being." The "so" seems to function like "thus" or "therefore" in a logical argument. I am having trouble myself finding the logical link between something being "pure" or chaste even as it is "disquieting." He goes on to say, perhaps by way of explanation: "Sensuality stimulates creativity in every sense. Sensuality also evokes love, passion and the creation of man. This is why nudity moves us so profoundly."
    Very well, but in what sense is all this about the very purity or "pureness" of being? I get the sense that "pureness" is not for him really about chastity, but about creativity.
    "Purity" or "chastity," that is, is a moral concept, while sensuality and creativity are esthetic concepts. I get the sense that Cavalcanti de Paula's point would be a little less obscure if he simply replaced "pureness" with "essence" or, even better, with "pure essence": "Nudity is always disquieting, instigating and surprising. So the artist, both in painting and in sculpture, in dancing or in photography, discovers in the nude a profound link with the pure essence of being." (The words in boldface are mine.)
    So, he is not saying anything at all really about "purity" per se, at least in any ethical sense. His concern is purely esthetic: sensuality is the pure essence of Being. (Now we are moving from ethics to esthetics and on into ontology. Who says that this forum is not really about philosophy?)
    Is he ultimately arguing that the key to creativity is not merely sensuality but also sexuality? The two terms, though related, are yet distinct. Nonetheless, is he at least suggesting that sexuality Is the source of inspiration in the nude? If my insertion of "pure essence" is a justified correction, then it can be seen that he is not, in any case, speaking of "purity" at all as a moral concept, even though Picasso is (while still repudiating it).
    What does all of this imply for the possibility of the "chaste nude"? Might we as well go off in search of unicorns?
    --Lannie
     
  10. A non nude will be placed in the context of the clothing. The fashion can be placed in time, place, class etc. The nude is one if not the only way to liberate a representation of a person from such classification, which takes us closer to the ideal.
    Frankly, there are a lot of people who will never be able to look at a nude as anything other than sexual. I view that as their failing, not mine. I prefer not to argue with them as they will never be persuaded otherwise. They will never get it, defensible guidelines or not.
     
  11. Julie Heyward's comment comes back to me: "If you *did* find a chaste nude, why would you want a picture of it? It seems to me that a chaste nude would be like a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut-butter and jelly."
    I would put Julie on Picasso's side regarding purity or chasteness or spiritual chastity, but she can speak for herself. It sounds as if she is saying that the "chaste nude" would not be very interesting (at least not to someone: Julie does not say whether she is speaking for herself or others). Presumably, that is, the whole point of looking at the nude is not to find purity. What makes it interesting (the peanut butter and jelly) would be gone if it were chaste, pure. Therefore (one may surmise) it must be a bit impure or unchaste to be worth viewing as a nude. (Am I reading you correctly, Julie?)
    Food (ahem) for thought, in any case, Julie. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  12. [T]here are a lot of people who will never be able to look at a nude as anything other than sexual. I view that as their failing, not mine.​
    Thank you for your opinion, Allen, as well as for preventing this entire thread from becoming a near monologue.
    To really respond to you I would have to go into the various ways that we interpret the term "sexual." It is certainly true that many nudes that I value have no sexual implications for me. Male nudes come most obviously to mind, such as this excellent work by Fred Goldsmith: http://www.photo.net/photo/11030193
    I love the light and composition of Fred's shot, along with the juxtaposition of human flesh and harsh light, harsh angles, harsh concrete, etc. I get no sexual sense from it, but others will.
    In like manner, if I were to view a painting of the Virgin Mary, with or without the full display of the breast, the result would the same: the Virgin Mary conveys anything but sexuality to me.
    Even so, if the nude in question is a woman, all things being equal, I do get a sense of sexual implications--not overt physical turn-on, but some kind of psychological turn-on or alertness that was not there before. This I attribute to sexuality, although I have to confess that female nudes seem at times to put me to sleep--and it is not because of my age. I have yet to explain that phenomenon. When I say "sleep," I mean that I often do fall asleep in front of the screen when I happen upon a female nude. I wonder what on earth of a psychological nature is going on at such times. Is the image comforting? Does it at times relax me rather than stimulate me? Is God stepping in to protect me from myself? I will leave the question open, while wondering if others have had a similar experience in viewing the nude.
    Perhaps Fred was hinting at all this near the end of the last thread on the nude, in which he raised the issue of lust, since lust is unambiguously and unavoidably a sexual concept. Fred has a way, that is, of forcing us to come to grips with the core issues, as well as with ourselves.
    In any case, Allen, thank you again for keeping this feeble thread alive. As I said, I asked an honest question at the outset, and I really do want some good responses from a lot of very bright people, only three of whom have shown up so far.
    --Lannie
     
  13. "Is the chaste nude an oxymoron?"
    Only if she is a blonde.
    No, no. I'm very sorry for that one, but not sorry enough to delete it.
    --Lannie
     
  14. I can't say I have fallen asleep in front of the screen when I happen upon a female nude. At some point I do get bored with female nudes on the screen. Photographs of nude adult females are either interesting or not, where the first reaction I have is "would I"? It is a question asked and answered quickly, and the answer is yes, no, or maybe, regardless of whether it is Mary or Lot's daughters. I wonder for an instant. Then the fantasy ends. I can't observe anything else until that judgement occurs. After that there is room for abstraction.
    Wow, your excellent description of this woman in pantsuit is compelling!
    I do believe that the things about ourselves that we don't acknowledge are the most troublesome to us, tolerably troublesome when acknowledged.
     
  15. [Geez...I was hoping Lannie would wait at least a year before the sequel....]
    There are plenty of "pseudo-chaste" nudes. However, the chaste nude often amps up its opposite, what Julie referred to as non-chaste feelings. The pictures of the Virgin M. offering her breast, maternally pure as they may be, still have very sensuous connotations.
     
  16. Lannie: I have not ventured into nude photography and, in all likelihood, never will do so. (I hardly even shoot portraits!) Yet, I was quite taken by your assertion that, "At some point esthetics must give way to ethics."
    I have glanced at a few entries in the nude photography forum before posting these comments to gain some perspective. It appears to me that there are ways of photographing the human body without treating the person as nothing but an object, sexual or otherwise. Clearly, we would abhor the use of a child model. We probably would rail at a close-up of a woman's vagina as it is penetrated. On the other hand, photographs involving "the juxtaposition of human flesh and harsh light, harsh angles, harsh concrete, etc." are likely to prompt the viewer to view the human form as form.
    It therefore appears to me that the ethical issue you have raised is from the perspective of the photographer rather than the subject. Yet, there is an additional element in this analysis - the viewer. Although most people would think that it is perverse for a person to become sexually aroused while looking at a painting of Mary, that has nothing to do with the artist or the subject. The artist - the photographer - has no control over a viewer's response.
    I am vehemently opposed to censorship. It sickens me when I hear of protests to the display of certain pieces of art (including photographs) and corresponding demands that such items be removed from public display. Ultimately, this concerns viewers' reactions, and there is no necessary connection between those reactions and the artist's, i.e., photographer's, creation of their work.
     
  17. [Geez...I was hoping Lannie would wait at least a year before the sequel....]​
    Sorry, Luis. The questions remained. . . .
    the chaste nude often amps up its opposite, what Julie referred to as non-chaste feelings.​
    This is so true, Luis, but if women all wore long dresses that buttoned all the way up to the neck and then went all the way down to cover the tops of the shoes, I fear that we would get crazy again over the inadvertent display of the ankle, as they did in the Victorian era.
    --Lannie
     
  18. Wow, your excellent description of this woman in pantsuit is compelling!​
    There you go again, Charles. I tried to describe the shoot in as matter-of-fact a way as possible, trying especially not to make it sound saucy either in the overall context or in my description of her, but there is perhaps something in the idea of a woman undraping to any degree in any context that has power over us--especially when the two are alone, as we were, and even when one knows that she is not disposed to getting involved, as I knew that she was not. (Nor was I.)
    A beautiful woman is still a beautiful woman, and she was and is a beautiful woman.
    I think I smell the toast burning. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  19. I am vehemently opposed to censorship. It sickens me when I hear of protests to the display of certain pieces of art (including photographs) and corresponding demands that such items be removed from public display. Ultimately, this concerns viewers' reactions, and there is no necessary connection between those reactions and the artist's, i.e., photographer's, creation of their work.​
    I hear you, Michael. I am a near absolutist where freedom of expression is concerned, and thus I have cast this entire discussion as a matter of individual ethical choices, not matters of law or public policy.
    In any case, you are surely right that we are not responsible for how others may interpret or respond to our works.
    I have not ventured into nude photography and, in all likelihood, never will do so.​
    Neither have I, Michael, and I likely never will. I know my own limitations--and my own weaknesses. I do not wish to test my own limits in this area of my life.
    I am told that even Billy Graham made it a policy to always have someone else in the room with him when a woman was present. I will not quite go so far as to say "always" in my own case, but I do understand the necessity of staying inside one's comfort zone, which I will define here as that zone in which one feels firmly in command of oneself. If I am at work, however, I go further and think not merely about self-control but also about appearances. If a woman (colleague or student) comes into my office and wants to close the door to talk, I stand up and pull the door to where it almost latches--and I stop there. If it inadvertently (or otherwis) clicks closed, I turn the knob and push it open an inch or so. As a friend of mine from western North Carolina once said to me, "You don't get your honey where you get your money." One does not even want to raise an eyebrow in that realm.
    It finally goes beyond income, livelihoods, and appearances, however. A sign in the clerical area of my doctor's office says it best: "Integrity is what you do when no one is looking." Even if I were never caught, and even if the woman were willing, I would have to live with myself.
    Now we are momentarily discussing eventualities in the real world and not in the world of art, but there are implications for those who do bring women into the studio to shoot nudes. For those persons, the real world is the world of art. I do not live in that world, and so I have not had to think about contingency plans for those situations. I simply do not put myself in those situations. If I were in love with or married to the model, perhaps I would see it differently, but then what would I do with the prints?
    --Lannie
     
  20. I am told that even Billy Graham made it a policy to always have someone else in the room with him when a woman was present.​
    And here I thought that threesome's were the exception rather than the rule, that "someone else" could be a woman too you know. I guess I'm also a guy who loves women ( nope, not all women ), but seriously though, to have the need for a man to have someone with him when with a woman or to have the door leave open and stuff like that as a "safety-mechanism" well...that sounds just a little wee bit strange. In nude photography, the camera is the safety-mechanism, which would be normal.
     
  21. Not all nudity is for unchaste reasons.
     
  22. Let me introduce another dimension here. All of the thoughts posted before, fall into frame set by the dominant western theology around the abhrahamic religions. The dominant idea of that frame is to consider sex to be bad and something that needs to be done with ('lie back and think of england').
    However, in the ancient eastern lifestyle, sex and nudity were never taboo. In many indian temples, one sees nude/erotic sculptures. Most female deities are shown 'topless' or being scantily clothed. The interesting aspect there is, nobody there finds them offensive or questions the 'chastity' of the nudes. Phallus worship is common across the south/south-east asian cultures.
    Have we succumbed to the narrow framework of 'decency' and 'chastity' set by our religious notions, and have imbibed it deep within our psyche?
    regards
    Pierre
     
  23. "All of the thoughts posted before, fall into frame set by the dominant western theology around the abhrahamic religions. The dominant idea of that frame is to consider sex to be bad and something that needs to be done with."​
    Not true. None of the abrahamic religions (and I'm fairly familiar with all three) regard sex as "bad and something that needs to be done with."
    "Sex outside of loving and committed relationships" is condemned by these faiths; but "sex" as a whole is most certainly not.
    The myth Pierre repeats is a common one among those who are not well-versed in those faiths. But many married persons of faith - including in the abrahamic religions - have sex more frequently than nonbelievers do, and they're certainly not doing it out of a sense of duty!

    (Sorry about the diversion; now back to the main theme of the thread.)
     
  24. Not all nudity in either painting, sculpture or photography is sensual, except (perhaps) in the the eye of the beholder.
     
  25. Lannie: Thanks for your response to my post. You put the realities of our society very well. I experienced those realities during my brief tenure teaching philosophy, when a beautiful young woman wearing a loosely fitting halter top visited my office, and bent very conspicuously and deliberately over my desk to ask for my help. My response was, "If you're here for help in philosophy, you came to the right place." I was proud of myself for that, and admittedly upset with myself that this didn't happen before I was married!
    Phylo: I have worked in the public sector for most of my "adult" life. There is, and rightfully so, a concern about sexual harassment in the workplace, regarding which my agency has a zero-tolerance policy. While I regard this policy as poorly drafted and inappropriately administered, I understand the reasons for having such a policy. Unfortunately, I suspect the same applies to a photographer's studio. A model is just as likely as an employee to file a sexual harassment complaint or lawsuit.
     
  26. Yeah, but harassment complaints, lawsuits, sexual paranoia,...from my European perspective it strikes me as mostly an American issue.
     
  27. I think Phylo got it right. Americans are pretty hung up on sex. We went from the 1950's sexual repression, enjoyed a brief period in the late 60's and 70's of relative sexual freedom (and perhaps excess) to more sexual repression from the 80's on, this time in the form of radicalized feminism.
    As someone who has taught art for several years now I can proudly say our drawing classes are very well set up. The model signs a release form when he or she gets hired. Bascially the college owns the artwork, as well as the individual student. The model has little or no say in how the works are used. Bottom line is if you don't want nude reproductions of yourself out there, don't apply for the job! We've never had a model complain.
    And lets face it, chaste, erotic or sexual is ALL in the eye of the Beholder. So I really think your question is framed in a context that only YOU can answer. And we all must make those personal ethical decisions for ourselves.
     
  28. [T]he college owns the artwork, as well as the individual student. The model has little or no say in how the works are used.​
    And so you say that you have it "very well set up." It sounds as if the setup is pretty good for the college (and perhaps for the faculty members), but not so good for the students, much less the models.
    Does the college actually own the student, or are you just being a bit sloppy in your writing?
    --Lannie
     
  29. I think you are dealing with people`s personal beliefs or prejudices, and of course you need to respect them and go along with their wishes on photos. That said the great majority of people look better in clothes than out of them, unless you are young and very fit. Nudity in itself does not involve ethics, it is what you or they make of it. First know yourself and don`t do anything that does not feel "right" to you, we all have prejudices of one type or another. How we deal with them determines how well we sleep at the end of the day.
    Jim
     
  30. This is a dull question. The answer depends on how you define "chaste" and "nude" and "art." It is pretty pointless to debate whether your definitions are better than mine.... and that is the "substance" of all of these "debates".
     
  31. Anthony, I think that we have to define our terms in order to begin a serious discussion. After that, we can get down to serious inquiry, which might even require us to reformulate the question so that it is more meaningful for us as individuals.
    The literature (including that on the web) is loaded with interesting commentary about nude photography. With a bit of digging, surely one may come up with something that one can bring to the discussion so as to enliven it.
    --Lannie
     
  32. Phylo and Russ: I do agree that the "hang-up" on nudity and sex appears at this point in time to be an American problem. However, I must point out that at least some of the original American colonists inherited this from their brethren in England, and from elsewhere in Europe. It is not an American invention.
    Anthony: I apologize in advance if this response seems snooty or overly agressive. If you feel that these "debates" are pointless, why did you bother to post any comments? Indeed, it seems to me that you are wasting your time. So, why don't you snatch up your ball and go home?
     
  33. I would argue that there can be such a thing as a “chaste presentation of a nude”. Many images of well known artists come to mind: one is hardly going to get aroused by viewing Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. And I think the argument that a nude body cannot be viewed without at least some degree of arousal is flawed. That depends on the artist and the viewer.
    If the artist did not deliberately intend to stir up sexual arousal (pornography), then the image could be said to have presented the nude body for its esthetic appeal unrelated to sexual arousal. True, only the viewer knows where the line is crossed from esthetic appreciation to unchaste desire, but that does not depend on clothing alone: even well dressed bodies might stir up someone erotically. Taken to its extreme one might then argue against any representation of the human form whatsoever. But that would amount to blaming the artist for the viewer’s shortcoming.
    I think the presumption should lean towards a viewer who is chaste or at least neutral and not leaning towards deliberate unchastity and an artist whose work is not erotic in its objective. Then we can talk about a “chaste nude”. Why not?
     
  34. [T]o have the need for a man to have someone with him when with a woman or to have the door leave open and stuff like that as a "safety-mechanism" well...that sounds just a little wee bit strange.​
    Phylo, I think that Billy Graham was talking about being on the road on his "gospel crusades." as I recall. I presume that the point was that, while away from his wife for such sustained periods of time, he occasionally did feel tempted and had found a way to deal with those temptations. I might be wrong, but I think that that was the gist of it.
    I imagine that even evangelists have their groupies, and so Graham surely had his--and who knows what kinds of things happened to him or what opportunities he came upon?
    I never watched or heard Graham on television more than once or twice for a very few minutes each time, nor did I follow his life, but I found it refreshing that a person who spoke more or less constantly of ethical and religious matters could at least admit to being tempted. Some persons pass themselves off as being so "chaste" that they are never tempted. I am sixty-five years old now, but I am still not to that point. The monkey is still on my back, and when it leaves it will probably be because I am so weak and decrepit that I am beyond sexual desire.
    So the monkey can just stay on my back, as far as I am concerned, even if that means that I might have to come up with my own novel strategies for dealing with this or that temptation. In my work, it means keeping the door open--just enough to remind myself, not others, that someone could walk in any time. It works very well. Some people have total self-control. The rest of us can benefit from a little help from time to time.
    --Lannie
     
  35. My first thoughts are that I'm in full agreement with Luis G. in his opening statement. Obviously you are extremely conflicted in your thoughts of chastity, nudity, pornography and obscenity.
    It seems we are getting a scripted story board of your mind in your posts. There are those who will always consider any form of nudity as being obscene. Just accept it as you see it. There is no right or wrong , black or white in the issues you bring up. It is the individual's own judgement as to what these issues mean to them.
    I know what I like and what I find disturbing, but that is only my own opionion. Why are other people's opinions so important to you?
     
  36. Don't hide behind Luis. He said nothing of the sort.
    I am not conflicted in the least, and I do get tired of the inevitable sophomoric ad hominem post.
    The point of philosophy is to engage in reasoned argumentation for the sake of a higher level of understanding. That requires interlocutors, those who are willing to engage one in reasoned discussion.
    I see that you have been on Photo.net for many years (since December, 2002), and so far your only comment on a photo has been of someone's naked girlfriend shot:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/1188130
    Yours is not the kind of opinion that I find interesting or helpful. If you must engage in amateur psychologizing, then please psychoanalyze yourself. Trying to read all kinds of things into other persons' motives is not what philosophy is about. It is the very antithesis of philosophy.
    --Lannie
     
  37. Well, you don't surprise me in the least with your reply. What a classic elitist answer. You really took the bait on that one.
    Since you've resorted to insults further comments on your part will only prove how childish you are.
     
  38. You really took the bait on that one.​
    No, you really served yourself up. I have been teaching at the college level since 1974, I am sixty-five years old, and I am familiar with the baiting tactics that persons can introduce into any discussion, whether on the web or in the classroom.
    Sometimes no response is the best response, as in the case of a thirtyish man who was a student in a philosophy class of mine about five or six years ago. I had been talking about the amount of empty space there is in every atom, and I made reference to the wall, which I said likewise was mostly empty space. (We were actually discussing Berkeley's views on perception v. reality, especially ultimate reality.)
    His response? "You guys have got way too much time on your hands."
    Did I try to respond to that? No, there was no point. You are not thirty. You are old enough to know better. You offer me the same kind of nonsense, and I will not insult you but I will talk straight to you---unless and until it is quite clear that there is no point in any further response.
    My guess is that we are at that point. I have not insulted you. You gored yourself, and you did a fine job of it.
    In the spirit of this thread, however, let us look again at the sole picture which you have commented on in your many years on the site:
    http://www.photo.net/photo/1188130
    Maybe you could tell us what this photo means to you in the context of the present thread. I can't wait to hear. (Your comment at the time was that she had a "wonderfully haunting expression," to which Nestor Botta wonderfully replied, "Was she scared?")
    --Lannie
     
  39. Richard Downey's remark was even more to the point:
    Lovely girl but agree that the shirt, in that position, comes off as a "show your boobs" shot. Something from a Fort Lauderdale Spring break.​
    Your remark above makes a little more sense now:
    There are those who will always consider any form of nudity as being obscene. Just accept it as you see it. There is no right or wrong , black or white in the issues you bring up. It is the individual's own judgement as to what these issues mean to them.
    I know what I like and what I find disturbing, but that is only my own opionion.​
    So there is just opinion and opinion--no truth to be found. Well, you are entitled to be an ethical relativist if you want. I myself am having none of that school of thought.
    --Lannie
     
  40. Typical american puritan behavior towards nudity.
     
  41. Typical american puritan behavior towards nudity.​
    "Behavior" is an interesting word choice here, Awao. Perhaps you could elaborate for us. Some of us are pretty slow.
    Now, if what you really mean is "attitude" rather than "behavior," then we have something to discuss. I respect the subjective view about what is indecent or unchaste--up to a point. Leaving the matter at that point, however, suggests that nothing further can be said and that nothing further can be found.
    Notwithstanding American puritanical tendencies, the fact is that all of the great civilizations presently in existence show conflict between traditional and more contemporary mores. I am a great believer in challenging received opinion, especially that of one's own culture. The problem is that persons show many of the same divisions in all of the great existing civilizations. This suggests to me the possibility that there are values that are held to by many persons across cultural divides. This fact proves nothing, but it does raise the question of whether there might be some universal values that are worthy of being affirmed.
    The questions certainly are universally intelligible, even when the answers differ.
    --Lannie
     
  42. One thing that is clear is that what is thought to be indecent keeps changing. Whether or not there are any universal values with regard to the nude that are worth affirming, one cannot help but confess that at times the changes in morals and standards of decency seem to reflect nothing quite so much as changes in fashion:
    http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/05/26/20100526SPTSFASHION.html
    What is considered to be fashionable is often, however, quite arbitrary. What is considered to be decent likewise seems at times to be quite arbitrary as well. One almost despairs of finding any universal values to affirm where the degree of dress or undress is concerned.
    Conventions change, of course. Is there anything that goes beyond mere convention and arbitrariness where standards of decency and purity are at stake? Is there, for example, anything based in human nature that could possibly provide a standard? I have not found it, but sexual modesty surely exists on some level in all cultures. In no culture are the norms so loose and variable that "anything goes." What one makes of that is quite another thing--and I do not quite know what to make of it.
    --Lannie
     
  43. Landrum, I doubt I add anything to your definition gathering or pinning the morality aspect or the comfort factor or anything else that in the discussion. Still..
    If it contributes, I add my own lay people-photographer view. I am not much troubled by the female form, naked or partially clothed. I find it attractive and interesting in the same way I look at a Greco Roman statue as beautiful (even as it expresses an ideal of the unclothed body versus the gravity enhanced reality of most).
    If your subject resists or resents revealing garments that is a choice as much about personal taste as a testament to anything on the subject in abstract.
    Chaste is a religious term, at least to me. (Am not about to google it that would take all the fun away..).
    A gent I met runs a 'naked ladies in paradise' web site.He advertises for models with this line: " Tasteful nudity" $100 per hour for one hour shoot . (That likely means no copulation, simulated copulation,gross display of the genitals, And that would takes it out of the realm of artistic photography altogether, I would submit and breach contemporary standards,well some standards).
    Check out the really well don HBO video boxed set series "Rome." Re nudity and sex and how it fits in to societies older than all of ours ,like Classical Rome.
    Nudity and sex were a part of Roman life without all the interesting overlay that Judaism and Christianity enveloped later on.. I mean tje gods were naked and did stuff why not people?
    Maybe, hey who can say, maybe it is time to put away essentially tribal injunctions and parsings. (Titillating , as always and with a veneer of sophistication better yet:), Eh what? )
     
  44. "Does the college actually own the student, or are you just being a bit sloppy in your writing?"
    Of course you know very well the college doesn't own the student. Students have the rights to reproduce their works. The models may reproduce images of themselves...but the contract they sign states that any images of them are property of the college and students. The concept is if you don't want to give up that right, don't be a model! It's not perfect but it works well enough.
    I hope you find whatever answer or moral imperative you're looking for from this discussion, and aren't just yanking everyone's chain. But I guess that's what internet forums are for....
     
  45. II hope you find whatever answer or moral imperative you're looking for from this discussion, and aren't just yanking everyone's chain. But I guess that's what internet forums are for....​
    Hey, Russ, this is all among consenting adults, (wink).
    Sorry,really am as I could not take a week to read all the past references cited. I did get a peek at the co ed with the boobs. Very nice one that.
    Anthropology makes the female mammary glands fascinating to(some) males. While others, and I notice some other countries seem to have a tendency in that regard, perhaps more primate still, and no offense intended as the apes are our kissin' cousins,- find the bare female buttocks so absolutely delectable.
    A species preserver we all know that. Beyond Psychology and social convention and religon and pre dating same by eons. Even I, an old toothless tiger now, kind of mind leaped when I saw nudity in the title under active discussions forums. happy trails. But so long and winding,phew.
     
  46. Chastity. Purity. Ethics. All of these terms in relation to nudity reflect the general erotophobic attitude of our society. This attitude was historically based on religion, which teaches us to feel shameful about our sexuality. If you can step back and shed this ecclesiastical cloak, you'll see that there's nothing wrong with nudity and there's nothing wrong with nudity in art or photography. Nudity in art need not cross the line into "pornography," although I don't believe there's anything wrong with pornography and erotica, either.
    Just remember, religion creates sexually repressed people. There is nothing inherently shameful about sex and nudity. Young children, naturally, do not feel shame; they are taught to feel shame by their parents/teachers/clerics. And they grow up to be the adults who object to your nude art.
     
  47. Of course you know very well the college doesn't own the student.​
    Russ, I was just playin' wit' ya over your last sentence below:
    The model signs a release form when he or she gets hired. Bascially the college owns the artwork, as well as the individual student. (My emphasis)​
    I guess that I should have made it a little clearer that I was only joking.
    Of course I realize how important it is to get a release from the model so that the students as photographers can then market their work. Apparently you guys work that out with the models up front in an agreement with the college. That sounds reasonable to me--and about as exploitative or non-exploitative as any other kind of deal one makes when one signs on as an employee, any kind of employee. One either accepts the terms or looks elsewhere.
    I hope you find whatever answer or moral imperative you're looking for from this discussion, and aren't just yanking everyone's chain.​
    For me, Russ, the question is whether there are any moral values unique to sexual ethics, including the ethics of nude photography, or whether or not we simply apply our usual moral imperatives (keeping promises, telling the truth, etc.) to those activities. I still do not know the answer to that one and doubt that I will find it on Photo.net or anywhere else in the foreseeable future. The romantic in me still wants to believe in "one right person" (yes, here I am not sixty-five years old and still trying to live the fairy tale), with all of the baggage that goes with that. I suspect that sexual purity, whatever it really means, is really part of the romantic ideal covered up with religious verbiage--but I really don't know.
    I keep these conversations going because I keep hoping that someone will give me some new insight, and once in a while someone really does. Most of the opinions expressed here I have heard before, but not always. Once in a while someone startles me with an observation that had never occurred to me. Mostly, though, I just like to get differing persons' opinions. I think that I am increasingly the empirical sociologist at heart and less the rationalist philosopher--although I don't want to give up on either mode of inquiry.
    I actually am a political theorist/philosopher operating out of a political science department who gets to teach only about three courses in political philosophy in that department. Once in a while I also get to teach ethics, intro. to philosophy, or logic in a philosophy department, but not too often. I do not make any special claims to being a philosopher: I think everyone is in some sense a philosopher, to the extent that they keep asking these questions. I certainly do not think that the degrees and other trappings of academia give me any claims to wisdom--but no, I am not just yanking people's chains. I'm serious about this, even as I know that I will never set the world on fire with anything new of my own.
    Thanks for responding again, in any case. Not many persons would have bothered.
    --Lannie
     
  48. When debating if there is a response, sexual or not, or if there is anything such as "real" or "ideal" anything one needs to argue from a philosophical entomological, neurological or some kind if -ical standpoint .
    If post-modernism has taught the world anything, it's that art truly is decided by the viewer. So it's fairly impossible to have a work of art that "is" anything, beyond its most basic physical components. Yes, a picture can be what appears to a woman, yes that woman can be blond, yes she can have no clothes on. Beyond that, it's up to the viewer, not the artist, to decide if the picture is pure, chaste, or anything in-between. Of course, it's possible to make a photo more, or less, sexual, but still, especially when ambiguity is concerned, the viewer, not the artist, decides.

    Obviously, to the woman, the photos you took were NOT chaste, as they presented her, as an individual, in a potentially unflattering light. Yes, it's showing that there is some social hypocrisy involved in how women dress in our society. One is supposed to show, but not be viewed. If one is viewed as showing with intention, to a specific man, then that behavior is considered reprehensible. However, that goes back to the point that art, is, yes decided by the viewer. So an absolute chastity is rather impossible. Consider the example of a devout muslim woman wearing a burqua - to the American eye she may seem the pure image of chastity, but she could be exposing something, her eye, folding her cloth in a certain way, that would make the more culturally aware eye say "oh, she's not pure, she's not chaste". So it's possible to even cover someone up, entirely in canvas or some heavy fabric, and have it not be chaste.

    However, the problem of the jacket really runs into, is philosophy. You're asking if there is an a priori, perfect, image of a naked human, that is devoid of any sexuality - at least, to a majority of people. Then, you use an example of a very real tangible individualized response, to a photo, of that individual, giving priori, or subsequent, knowledge of that specific image. To sum this up more clearly, you're asking if there is such a thing as an ideal, and then giving an example of a very tangible, real, and identifiable person.
    This is a logical flaw, so to really truly answer your question you need a different example.
    Let us say, you were walking in the forest, and happened upon a person (man or woman doesn't matter), who lived alone, had never had contact with another human being, and went about their daily rituals naked, and unaware that they were naked, further, not caring if they were or not.
    An example such as that, purely hypothetical, might given you a better access to if this pure, chaste, nude can actually exist.
    Granted we live in a real world, and the pure a priori ideals that philosophers have debated for thousands of years do not apply to those who photograph, as our photos cannot exist without the real world of light and objects. In fact, a "pure" photograph is an utter impossibility, all things physical are by nature flawed on some level. So all photographs, rather than showing beauty, show flaws. However, this argument is heading more toward philosophy, etymology, or neurology.
    This debate, which has split into three main threads from which I can see can be summed up as this:
    Philosophical: "Can a perfect or pure physical object exist?"
    Etymological: "What does chaste, or pure, really mean?"
    Neurological: "Is there a specific measurable response when an image is viewed?"
    All three paths will lead you to a different answer (or so I surmise), but to argue one, and then the other, and go in circles will lead you nowhere!
    So, specify what the rules, and the grounds, for your discussion are, and then, approach it (there are far more than three ways to approach this, for example debating the "male gaze", would lead you into a cultural discussion, outside of philosophy, etymology, or neurology).
     
  49. If you can step back and shed this ecclesiastical cloak, you'll see that there's nothing wrong with nudity and there's nothing wrong with nudity in art or photography.​
    Richard, I am more in agreement with you than you know, although I think that you perhaps overstate and oversimplify the case a bit. I do not think that you are wrong-headed so much as pessimistic. I see religious inquiry as an ongoing quest, and I am always open to new insights that challenge received opinion, in religion or in anything else.
    I do happen to think that there is something sacred about sexuality, however, and about the bonds between lovers. That is as much a product of my romanticism as my religious upbringing, however, at least in my opinion.
    --Lannie
     
  50. Landrum,
    One would think, if judging by nothing more than the sheer volume of your own posts, that you might have managed to answer your own question by now. If not, I fear none of us will be able to take you any further down the road toward finding that illusive answer.
     
  51. Simple answer. No.
     
  52. Robert wrote, (in part)
    ........and go in circles will lead you nowhere!​
    Is that not the idea of philosophy of photography forum discussion,or sometimes, dissertation. A journey with no end, leading, ad infinitum, to a fresh thread. If there be a circumscribed discussion, then what .... One might then seek to inquire as to what lies behind the closed doors of ambiguity. A lion or a naked lady?...
    bye. gerald
     
  53. Even I, an old toothless tiger now, kind of mind leaped when I saw nudity in the title under active discussions forums. happy trails. But so long and winding,phew.​
    The fact is, Gerry, that my motives for writing are two-fold: first, I really am puzzled intellectually over many issues (not just sexuality) that invoke the old nature v. nurture dilemma; second, talking about sex has been going on for a long time, and it is a very puzzling and interesting (not to say titillating) thing to talk about. Anyone who does not feel the mystery is missing a lot, in my opinion. We are carrying on a conversation that surely predates all known historical records. The ancients couldn't figure out the full implications of sexuality, and neither can we--but we keep trying.
    I really would like to understand the more mysterious things about sexuality and sexual ethics--nude photography is simply one of many possible entry points into that larger realm of inquiry. There is something mystical and not merely appetitive about sex and things related to sexuality. Many of the most meaningful experiences and memories in our lives are about love and sex. Our literature and music, and not just the visual arts, are permeated with more or less constant sexual allusions. The nude form, stylized in art, intrigues us and fascinates us. It does much, much more than merely excite us or titillate us. It has a power over us that defies explanation.
    Obviously, some wonderful things are at stake here. This is on one level simply interesting to talk about. On another level it goes beyond interesting and fun to being an inquiry into the ultimate questions. If there is a divine component to sexuality, and I think that there is, then we have about as much chance of figuring out these ultimate questions as we have of understanding the fullness of the divine.
    There is a reason that persons are drawn to these threads: something very important is at stake here.
    --Lannie
     
  54. Landrum, one would think, if judging by nothing more than the sheer volume of your own posts, that you might have managed to answer your own question by now. If not, I fear none of us will be able to take you any further down the road toward finding that illusive answer.​
    You never know, Jeff. It is an ongoing quest into what for me are the truly ultimate existential questions, and one never knows from whom the next insight is going to come.
    --Lannie
     
  55. Simple answer. No.​
    Thank you, Bruce. Very concise and to the point. Yes, nudes can be chaste--and why not? Is there something inherently impure in them? The very idea is preposterous to me.
    --Lannie
     
  56. To sum this up more clearly, you're asking if there is such a thing as an ideal, and then giving an example of a very tangible, real, and identifiable person. This is a logical flaw, so to really truly answer your question you need a different example.​
    There is no logical flaw because there is no claimed logical link, John. She was the inspiration for the thread, nothing more. Is she the ideal.? Are you talking about her physical form? Well, first of all, I have never seen her nude or anywhere close to nude, and so I cannot say. I can say that she has one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen, especially her eyes, and she is a very spiritual person. Every thought and every feeling that she has seems to instantly flash across her face, and she smiles spontaneously and often. There is nothing false about her, rather a childlike innocence. She has a certain kind of mystical beauty that seems to go to the heart of her being. She seems like a very spiritual being, but without a lot of the baggage of conventional religion. So, though we are not involved at all in any kind of relationship besides being good friends, she is rather like the ideal woman to me--and I do not have to see her naked to know that. It comes through in her very personhood. She is a truly unique person, unlike anyone I have ever met. She is also, because of the difference in our ages (almost twenty-five years, and I am sixty-five), a paragon of the unattainable. To that extent it becomes easy to idealize her, but none of this was mentioned at the outset. I simply mentioned that she raised all of the old simmering questions anew before they had completely quieted down on a previous thread--and it was her modesty that raised the question for this thread, none of the attributes that I have just described.
    So. . . she is simply the muse for this thread, nothing more--but that is enough. We will never be lovers, but even her friendship is like a divine gift, and I revere it.
    You're asking if there is an a priori, perfect, image of a naked human, that is devoid of any sexuality - at least, to a majority of people.​
    No, John, I never defined "chaste" as any of that. You are obviously arguing with yourself, not me. Have at it.
    --Lannie
     
  57. On another level it goes beyond interesting and fun to being an inquiry into the ultimate questions.
    There is nothing false about her, rather a childlike innocence. She has a certain kind of mystical beauty that seems to go to the heart of her being.​
    Well, it does seem this is another aspect of men's perception of femininity, a certain purity that is mysterious, intriguing and hard to describe, but certainly transcends sexuality in some way that seems essential to us, if we are lucky enough to be so confronted by something so utterly 'other'. It is spiritually nutritive. I think she does have many of the qualities you describe and yet I do think that the mystical beauty comes from the heart of your own being.
     
  58. Sexual union could be described as an exchange whereby two individuals make a mutual gift of themselves to each other. It becomes impure, or unchaste, when one is treated as an object of satisfaction to be consumed for self gratification.
    This tendency of debasing the other as an object of self-gratification is manifest everywhere in all cultures, in all societies, in all time periods. It is not anything taught or culturally conditioned: it is a fact of life: an inherent weakness of human nature, just like greed, theft, dishonesty, injustice, and any other vice. People kid themselves if they think that they can cast off their religion or cultural upbringing and be free of their selfish weaknesses. It takes some muscle to grow up and mature. The irony is that those who think that they are free of all inhibitions tend to be the most frustrated individuals.
     
  59. People kid themselves if they think that they can cast off their religion or cultural upbringing and be free of their selfish weaknesses.​
    Andrew, that is a very profound statement, and I shall have to think about the fuller implications of it.
    Charles, others have commented on the person who is the muse of this thread. Many of them say the same things that I have said. Her physical beauty could be seen in a photo, but the spiritual beauty that I have described surely comes only from within her, or else only I could see it. It is pretty obvious to most or all who interact with her on a day-to-day basis.
    Photography does have its limitations. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  60. Yes, but then the women who interact with her daily may well see something of what you see in her and yet still be less engaged. I suppose we will have to take your word on the limitations of photography with respect to the pictures where her jacket is on? :)
     
  61. Yes, Charles. There will be absolutely no photos on this site--or any site. Many persons whom I interact with on a regular basis have their photos taken by me and allow me to post on Photo.net. Others request not to be on the web, and I have to respect their requests. I'm sorry.
    The pictures are quite chaste, and she is quite beautifu
    l, but there is beauty and then there is beauty. The camera can capture the outer beauty. I do not believe that it can capture the inner beauty. We err greatly if we presume that, because someone is externally beautiful, they are spiritually beautiful. I have never seen any correlation between inner beauty and outer beauty. Those who have both types of beauty are beautiful indeed. She is one of those people.

    --Lannie
     
  62. The underlying "moralistic" quandary of this thread is certainly an example of the neurotic character of modern western society, and of course the mid-eastern religions that gave rise to such nonsense. "Modesty" in this case has little to do with actually being modest. If a woman has very small breasts and goes nude from the waist up, is she being "immodest"? What does she have special that she is showing off and bragging about? It is not about modesty, but is about the freedom of being nude, and the beautious variety of the human form.
    Sex just for the pleasure of it is seen as somehow immoral. Nonsense. We are born as sexual beings, and like other animal species, have visual and other sensual attractions to other people. Every time an attractive female or male gets eyed by others, he or she is the "object" of their (sexual) attention. This is natural, and will go on being so. It is not evil, and does not obviate or detract from the deeper relationships that sometimes develop with sexual expression as part of that. Sexuality is multi-faceted, not one dimensional.
    The nude human form in art, including photography, always seen relative to human sexual attraction is not being in touch with reality. Anyone having experienced a day nude at a nude beach knows better. There is a modern trend, especially in the US, to view mere, simple nudity as lewd. Hell, many young people these days won't even take a shower in a public shower room! Beyond ridiculous. When I grew up, we boys swam nude in the public schools and the YMCA pools, as well as in the military service. Thought nothing of it. Everyone showered. It had nothing to do with "immodesty" or "chastity". We were trained in cleanliness from an early age, and I believe this gave us a healthier lack of self-consciousness regarding our bodies, compared to today's co-ed programmed athletic curriculum.
    Of course, a female or male with a great body can elicit sexual feelings. That is not "wrong" or to be avoided, but to be embraced. To me, it is natural and good, not evil. Since they have worked to achieve a splendid body, they can be proud of it and be "immodest" enough to show off their achievement and inspire others.
    As to children, naked children playing have been an art subject forever. It has no sexual connotation. But the simple beauty of the child's body can still be admired. Nowdays if a parent takes a photo of their kids nude, it is considered "porn"!! Kids are dehumanized too. We are born as sexual beings. The idea that they have no sexuality at all is untrue. They do not normally have sexual appeal for adults, as they are immature. Adult people who are sexually aroused by viewing small kid's bodies have a mental problem, but that does not mean the beauty of children should be hidden.
    All depictions of nudity are certainly not connected to sexual attraction, and so what if some depictions are?
     
  63. I define chaste as what is appropriate for a given situation. In photography (and less so in painting and sculpture) there is clearly a dichotomy (some would say a range) comprising sexual invitation and portrayal of the body as a pure abstract design statement. The former, in a public medium available to children and adolescents, is rightly to be frowned upon, whereas the body as a beautiful form (with a modest erotic element) is surely to be praised.
    As for this site, there are, alas, too many pictures that are overtly erotic and of minimum aesthetic value, and few accomplished expression of lighting and composition that define the body, male or female, as a design masterpiece.
     
  64. http://www.ldssdf.org/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1011
     
  65. Lannie,
    to me you seem a little bit obsessed by this nude issue.
    Whether a nude is socially acceptable or not depends on the general culture, the morals and the individual sensitivity. Chaste has a very clear meaning: in the end it seems that it is related to purity.
    As I posted before, chastity does not mean asexual. In Roman Catholicism sexual intercourse between married couple is considered chaste and it is absolutely encouraged. Actually it is human cooperation in a divine act.
    As to nude pictures, it depends.
    There are some "art" works which are more like a gynaecological depiction.
    Some are thrilled by these, and it's a free world, you know.
    I personally don't like these. I believe that nudes are more "aesthetic" when they are not too explicit or blatant. A bit of mystery is a positive feature in my view. Gynaecological shots which leave nothing to be imagined are to me visually less attractive.
    In general, here on photo.net nudes lack originality. Many of them are done very, very well.
    But they tend to look all alike (with some exception, such as J.P., where a study process can be recognised looking at the entire body of work.
    In the end I would restate what I posted in the "power and glory".
    The visual effect intended by the author very much depends on the viewer: what's chaste for a New Yorker could be considered indecent by somebody living in the inner parts of the US.
    It depends.
    A scientific philosophical approach would require to establish a relationship to certain groups or clusters of authors and/or viewers, rather than an undifferentiated consideration of the matter.
    L.
     
  66. The underlying "moralistic" quandary of this thread is certainly an example of the neurotic character of modern western society, and of course the mid-eastern religions that gave rise to such nonsense.​
    Michael, I have deliberately cast the issue as an ethical issue this time. If that is what you mean by "moralistic," so be it. I do get tired of those who say that there are no ethical issues at stake. There are ethical issues at stake, from those who are quite liberal to those who are very conservative. The thread itself is open to all opinions.
    --Lannie
     
  67. I define chaste as what is appropriate for a given situation.​
    Well, Tom, if we define it that way we are defining it in a more or less ethically neutral way. There are, of course, those who look at it other ways, including the woman who inspired the thread. I believe that such persons' views deserve to be taken seriously, and I am not entirely sure that they are wrong. There might well be something sacred at stake here, something that transcends matters of social convention, as such persons suggest or sometimes explicitly say. At the very least, it is not a point of view that I casually dismiss out of hand.
    --Lannie
     
  68. Can a nude be chaste? By "chaste," I assume you mean, not sexy, not erotic and certainly not pornographic.
    *
    "Chaste"?
    I think chaste might be the wrong adjective. As Luca Remotti already noted, the Roman Catholic church does not equate chastity and asexuality. But "chastity," in the understanding of the Church, is about behavior, about the things you do—including, I suppose I should add, the things you do with your mind. It's not about intrinsic qualities. After Eve ate the apple and Adam did, too, they realized they were naked. Nothing had changed objectively. They had been naked before. But now their nakedness caused them to be aware of themselves, aware of their bodies. Photography before the Fall would have been easy: Adam and Eve were comfortable and at ease. After the Fall, not so much. The camera would have no doubt made Eve blush. Adam would have felt the need to stick out his chin, perhaps.
    So I'd prefer not to ask if a photo of a nude woman can be chaste. The woman can be chaste; the photo of her, well, chastity, in my own view, simply isn't a property of things or photos. So I'd prefer to ask, is it possible for a photo of a woman to be asexual? unsexy? unerotic? not pornographic?
    NOTE: I'm going to skip a whole range of other appetitive and/or emotional and/or spiritual responses to the appearance of other human beings, like "beauty" or "attractiveness" or the nebulous yet powerful appeal of a vibrant human personality. I do think sexy, erotic and pornographic are qualities that either never are found in pure forms, or if they are ever found in pure form, they're found only in people who are strangers to us. Men don't go to strip clubs to make friends.
    *
    Asexual?
    Asexual? Probably not. Sexuality is part of human nature. I recently heard a description of a psychologist (somebody from Harvard, I think) who was noting that sex is one of the few things we always remember about a person. We're troubled when we get email from somebody whose unfamiliar name doesn't reveal their sex. A nun in a habit is a woman and therefore sexual. A photo of a naked, dead old lady is sexual. A photo of a naked little girl or boy is sexual.
    So sexuality, in the most basic sense of an awareness of sex, strikes me as a sort of absolute. But sexy, erotic, arousing, pornographic—these seem to me points on a kind of continuum. And the location of the points changes not just from era to era ("In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking...") but from place to place (say, Mecca vs Los Angeles) and ultimately from person to person.
    *
    Unsexy?
    Now, photos of the dead and photos of little children, while sexual, certainly need not be sexy or erotic and thus a fortiori aren't pornographic; indeed, photos of the naked dead or of naked little children are almost never perceived as sexy or erotic except by people with, shall we say, unusual proclivities. Nude bodies need not be sexy.
    By the same token, the converse seems to be true: sexy bodies need not be nude. It's pretty clear that sexiness isn't a matter simply of dress or undress. I taught college for almost twenty years and attended more than a few graduations. I don't think I'm saying anything improper if I note that some young (and not so young) women can be very sexy, even wearing a full-length graduation robe and a mortar board.
    In fact, clothing as cover can be very sexy. Think of the cliché of the woman wrapped in an ankle-length fur—wearing nothing but a bra and stockings underneath. And clothing, as a form of behavior, also has a meaning, that signals an openness to sexual activity and that turns even unattractive bodies into bodies with sex appeal.
    And aside from clothing as cover, there is also clothing as, well, costume. I'm not thinking of the nurse fantasy, the secretary fantasy, or (yikes!) the nun fantasy (which I have never understood, probably because I've actually known too many nuns). I'm just thinking of the disco girl, I'm-sexy-for-you-honey, dress-like-a-starlet costume, now almost universal in its appeal. Nowadays, a certain kind of clothing—high heels, etc.—seems for many men to be an important, if not essential aspect of sexiness. Christie Brinkley (to take an example from the past) could be very sexy in jeans, tee shirt and tennis shoes. But she was even sexier in high heels and a short skirt.
    *
    Where's the line?
    If a naked body can be unsexy, it follows that it can be unerotic and not pornographic, so I don't think I need to go any further along the continuum. The interesting question now is, if we put, say, dead bodies of unattractive old women on this side of the scale, and some nude hottie from the pages of Playboy on the other, what's in the middle? Is there a line somewhere that marks the boundary between sexy and not?
    I suspect that's not the right question to be asking.
    For starters, dead people aren't absolutely unsexy. There's a taboo against seeing dead people as sexy and it's pretty strong, like the taboo against seeing children (or your sister) as sexy. But taboos are taboos for a reason. There's no need to have a taboo against thinking of your refrigerator as a sex object! Anyway, there certainly are sexy dead people—nude or not. I was about to say that I can imagine..., but I don't think I have to imagine, because I am pretty sure I have actually SEEN a photo of a naked women, in a movie or somewhere else, a naked stripper or movie starlet, who was dead. (Doesn't have to be a photo of a real person.) Sexy is edgy, death is even edgier: sexy and dead is dynamite.
    I might add that, sadly, pre-pubescent children aren't absolutely unsexy, either. I don't mean in reality, I mean in photos, in the way their presented. Who was it, Calvin Klein? who proved that recently (and stirred up some controversy in so doing).
    So you can start way over on the left side of the scale, with a dead body or a young child, and I think fairly easy achieve "sexiness". NO doubt some bodies are pretty unpromising: the morbidly obese or the shockingly malnourished, and a baby in a bra and stockings wouldn't even strike one as grotesque (the way Jean-Benet Ramsey struck most sane people), it would, I think, seem either very sick or (maybe) simply funny.
    *
    Back to the question
    So as I said, I think "where's the line?" may be the wrong question. What is the right question? I rephrased Lannie's question as, Can a nude be unsexy or at least unerotic or at least unpornographic? Is that the right question?
    The problem with the question is, it seems to use "the nude" in a loaded way. When I think of "the nude," I don't have a definite idea in mind, and the words "the nude" connote something arty, so I don't think of, I dunno, Playboy centerfolds. Actually I think of Rubens first, for some reason. What I never think of is, say, Grandma Moses or Golda Meir. No offense meant to two great women. I'm just pointing out that, when we ask if "the nude can be unsexy (or unerotic)," as Lannie acknowledged, well, if instead of spending too much time trying to define sexy or erotic or chaste, we instead think about "the nude," the question almost answers itself: Not really, not completely. If the nude is completely without sex appeal, well, it's boring. OK, maybe it's possible. But nobody attempts it. If a completely non-sexy nude exists out there (and I'll stipulate that one or more do exist), they're accidents, artistic failures.
    *
    Really?
    Can that really be right? I mean, nudes by Rubens hang in the Vatican museum. Am I saying that the lonely cardinals are slipping into the museum to arouse their imaginations? No, I'm not saying that.
    What makes the classic nude work is the way that the sexiness is, um, contained, controlled, disciplined, kept in check. And here I think Lannie's use of the term oxymoron is right on the money. The classic nude is irrepressibly sexual, but repressibly sexy—or almost repressibly sexy. The lighting, the disciplined and dignified treatment, etc., the artfulness of the picture, trap the sexiness and put it behind bars, as it were. You don't fantasize about having sex with a Rubens nude, not because she's fat, but because if you did, it would kill you. You do fantasize about having sex with a Playboy centerfold, and it doesn't kill you, because a month later—or a few minutes later—you can fantasize about another woman.
    In short, the subtext of the pornographic (which slops down a little to the erotic, which slops down a wee bit to the merely sexy) is let's have lots of sex! But the subtext of the classic nude is, this is not attainable, not now, not ever. The great great, classic nude inspires a very low-level yearning that can never find release. That's why we can look at those pictures over and over again. And the nature of pornography, like the nature of pop music, explains why you need an endless supply of it. It must be consumed, not contemplated.
    *
    The Jane Austen analogy
    Compare the old BBC/Grenada 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, starring the wonderful Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett, with the more recent 2005 abomination starring the much more beautiful Keira Knightly in the same role. You can't cast Keira Knightly in the role of Elizabeth Bennett without ruining everything about the novel that made it worthwhile. Keira Knightly is simply too sexy. Well, maybe you could, but they didn't want to and certainly didn't try. The power of those novels arises from all that sexual energy, that ocean of sexuality that expresses itself obliquely as matrimonial longing, being held in check. In the 1995 movie, as in the novel itself, when Mr D'Arcy has the courage to propose to Elizabeth that one last time, fearing that she will refuse him but feeling too overpowered by passion not to give it a try, and she responds by, well, she almost explodes in return. I mean, the only thing that keeps them from copulating in the road is, well, a couple decades of civilizing education.
    Now that ending isn't sexy, quite, not for the reader or viewer. For one thing, there's so much more than sexual yearning here. It's clear that here we are in the company of those emotions that I banished from my discussion at the start—love, passion, attractiveness, beauty, devotion, caring. But sexiness is just under the surface. Remember D'Arcy's repeated comments on Elizabeth Bennett's extraordinary beauty. And of course, D'Arcy and Miss Bennett marry, and do conjugate, and they are fruitful. We just don't see it and it's a darn good thing for us that we don't. That's not the interesting part of the story for a spectator.
    Anyway, the classic nude is, if I can put it this way, a picture of Elizabeth Bennett just before the end of the novel. It's all there, that sexiness, that ripeness, and it's ready to burst, but it's not bursting yet.
    *
    The classic nude as something dangerous
    Some form of the classic nude is found in nearly all cultures, but not all. It is, I think, generally, a civilizing genre. If you don't know what I mean here when I say "civilizing," in the interest of brevity, just let me say, read Freud (starting with Civilization and its Discontents). This was where Freud was on pretty solid ground.
    But even in sophisticated societies, the nude is inevitably, almost necessarily semi-scandalous. There are degrees, of course. A view of a bather from behind, as she towels herself off, with little fauns and bunnies running around her, is a good deal less provocative—and less powerful—than Ingres' Odalisque.
    Still, because not everybody understands the containing power of art, and because most people know intuitively that it's not safe for people to run around naked all the time, some people will always be scandalized by nakedness.
    Sensible, sober women know this, I dare say, intuitively. Well, I don't mean to imply that a woman who does a boudoir session for her husband is not sensible or not sober. But these are generally not the kind of photos that the women will share with her parents, siblings and coworkers.
    Will
     
  69. Kelly, yes, there are Mormons as well as other Christians (among other religious groups) who have no problems with nudity in a variety of social contexts. There are also those who insist that something ethical is at stake, or even something sacred.
    In any case, we shall not answer the underlying ethical issues by simply citing differing social practices and belief systems.
    I begin by conceding that cultural relativism is a fact: persons do disagree across cultures and even within cultures. That can be verified empirically, as many sociologists and anthopologists have shown. I am among those who recognize a distinction between cultural relativism and ethical relativism, however, and I believe that it is vitally important not to conflate the two usages of the term "relative" and "relativism." I am not an ethical relativist on such issues. I think that there are issues of right and wrong at stake, and I do believe that there might be some over-arching truth about such matters that is independent of what persons believe to be true, and regardless of what prevailing practices might be deemed acceptable across cultures.
    In any case, I personally am in seach of universal moral imperatives, at the same time that I am not particularly interested in cataloging varying cultural differences.
    Whether there are any universal moral imperatives, as opposed to differing social practices, is not in any case within the province of the empirical social sciences, but is instead part of the field of normative inquiry typically done by ethicists, moral philosophers--of which group I am one. This is as much as to say that the philosophical and even theological issues will not be resolved by any amount of empirical evidence. The "is" does not prove anything about the "ought," in any case, as even the empiricist David Hume conceded.
    This is complicated philosophical territory, in any case, and the underlying ethical issues involved will not go away simply because we find differing points of view and differing social practices, whether in our own culture or across cultures.
    I will say it another way yet another time: the "is" does not settle questions of "ought." We will not resolve the ethical ("ought") questions, that is, by any amount of empirical data about what persons do in fact believe or practice.
    --Lannie
     
  70. [T]o me you seem a little bit obsessed by this nude issue.
    Whether a nude is socially acceptable or not depends on the general culture, the morals and the individual sensitivity. Chaste has a very clear meaning: in the end it seems that it is related to purity.​
    Luca, you make two different assertions above. Let us examine them one by one:
    [T]o me you seem a little bit obsessed by this nude issue.​
    Luca, you disappoint me on this one. This is not a philosophical argument on your part, or, if it is being advanced as a type of philosophical argument, then it is a fallacy based on an ad hominem claim. I have worked very hard on this forum in the past to try to encourage persons not to make ad hominem assertions. I have encouraged them, that is, to avoid the personal attacks and to stick to the arguments and issues as stated. I am really not interested in persons' assessments of me as a person, in any case. I am interested in philosophical argumentation, and the ad hominem is certanly not a valid form of philosophical argumentation.
    I will say this about ad hominem remarks: they are destructive in at least three ways. First of all, they tend to damage persons or their reputations. Second, they take us far afield from the substantive philosophical issues at stake. They are thus distracting at best, and there is no place for them on a philosophical forum. Third, they tend to discourage serious philosophical argumentation, and many persons are simply going to retreat from the forum rather than to continue to be subjected to such. (I should add that I have no intention of retreating simply because I occasionally get the stray ad hominem remark.) If we are serious about having a philosophy of photography forum, then we ought to be sure that we establish a hospitable climate on that forum, a climate that is free of personal attacks or observations.
    I will not in any case be deterred from posting on these issues simply because I am occasionally subject to ad hominem attacks of this nature. I am pretty thick-skinned after teaching in this area since the 1970s. I have had to put up with quite a bit to get my ideas voiced, and to get them published. http://www.philosophicalquestions.org (Yes, I am published both in print and on the web, and I do have a long-term publishing agenda on the topics in this and related threads.) I do have a certain intensity and single-mindedness which I bring to bear on issues in moral and political philosophy. Whether it borders on being obsessional or not is not even of interest to me. In any case, I worked on my book on pacifism for seven years before I finished it and got it published it in 1994. I have likewise been working on the issues on these various forum threads for some years. When I get "into" a topic I pursue it with a very focused intensity.
    As for your second point:
    Whether a nude is socially acceptable or not depends on the general culture, the morals and the individual sensitivity.​
    Luca, this is a very nearly tautological claim, in that you have said nothing in the predicate ("depends on the general culture, the morals and the individual sensitivity") that was not already implicit in the subject ("Whether a nude is socially acceptable or not ").
    You conclude your thread by offering the following:
    A scientific philosophical approach would require to establish a relationship to certain groups or clusters of authors and/or viewers, rather than an undifferentiated consideration of the matter.​
    As I have just pointed out above in my response to Kelly Flanigan, my approach to an ethical quandary is not a scientifiic approach befitting sociology or anthroplogy. I am also not a logical positivist, and I thus do not agree with A.J. Ayer that "Values are nothing more than emotional preferences." We can documetn the varieties of emotional and cultural preferences scientifically. We cannot prove philosophical arguments by the introduction of new data, and I have cast the issue in this particular thread as an explicitly ethical issue, and my presumption throughout is that is right or wrong is independent of what persons believe to be right or wrong.
    In other words, I assume some objective truth about such matters, and I am dedicated to trying to find that truth. Perhaps the ultimate standard of truth exists only in the mind of God. In any case, that issue takes us even deeper into philosophy, into the realm of ethical epistemology, and is almost bound to be misunderstood in a forum on a photography website.
    You have given us your own esthetic preferences, and I tend to agree with you. Even so, our views as stated have been overwhelmingly about esthetics in the past. This time I thought that I would cast the thread in the language of morals, ethics.
    It was good to hear from you again, Luca, and I appreciate your comments in spite of my own critical responses above.
    --Lannie
     
  71. Anyway, the classic nude is, if I can put it this way, a picture of Elizabeth Bennett just before the end of the novel. It's all there, that sexiness, that ripeness, and it's ready to burst, but it's not bursting yet.
    Wiliam, what a wonderful statement! I have known, do know, one or two women like that. . . .
    I regret that I cannot respond line by line to everything that you have said. It was well worth the read, although you, too, are doomed to being misunderstood. But you knew that. . . .
    I can truly relate to one thing that you have said as much as to anything else you might have writen:
    But even in sophisticated societies, the nude is inevitably, almost necessarily semi-scandalous.​
    Yes, and this is part of the problem. In the most repressive societies, one cannot even speak of such things. They are truly "unmentionable." Thank you for having the courage to speak your mind so freely.
    Even in our culture, to speak of such things can mean to subject oneself to ridicule. That is all the more reason to applaud those who can and will say what is on their minds--regardless of whether we personally agree with them or not.
    --Lannie
     
  72. Lannie,
    I have missed your earlier discussions (forgive me) but from what you'd written earlier, I was pretty sure you'd understand what I was trying to say. I am grateful to you for asking this interesting question and prompting me to think about it.
    One addendum to my comment that The Nude is always, must always be "semi-scandalous." This simply HAS to be the case, and God forbid it should ever cease to be. There is nothing less sexy than a nudist colony!!
    Will
     
  73. Lannie,
    Luca, you disappoint me on this one. This is not a philosophical argument on your part, or, if it is being advanced as a type of philosophical argument, then it is a fallacy based on an ad hominem claim.
    You are right and I apologise, I did not mean to attack you personally.
    But I have some feeling of frustration due to the difficulty I see to make statements which have a least some general validity.
    In my post I also try to give you my opinion (btw, J.P. is NOT John Peri) on certain nude depictions. But I see this as a limit, a very strong limit to any philosophical discussion, which - as I see it - needs at least some general validity.
    In other words, I assume some objective truth about such matters, and I am dedicated to trying to find that truth. Perhaps the ultimate standard of truth exists only in the mind of God. In any case, that issue takes us even deeper into philosophy, into the realm of ethical epistemology, and is almost bound to be misunderstood in a forum on a photography website.​
    Thank you, because this gives me some point for argumentation.
    If we consider the creation and the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were naked, but they initially were not aware of this. As a starting point, nudity is pure and chaste.
    They become aware of their nudity at the moment they are able to distinguish between the good and the evil. I think this is very valid consideration and - in this case - I would not consider any reasoning on mythology of the story.
    Adam and Eve are ashamed of their nudity at the moment when they obtain the knowledge on the dividing line between good and evil.
    Knowing the difference between the good and the evil could therefore inform on the relationship between nudity and chastity.
    In some way the whole media and communication system, at least in Italy (where I know it best) largely builds on the exposure of the (female) human body. You can see scantily clad women everywhere: until recently also news magazines used nudes on cover pages to sell.
    This has two opposite effects: first of all, immunity. All this exposed flesh creates indifference. But at the same time it raises the threshold of reaction. On the other hand it sends extremely strong messages to the more unstructured subjects, kids for example, causing uncontrolled behavioural reactions.
    There is a conscious play with sensual reactions, and the behaviour of developing kids shows that this strategy is extremely successful.
    Ethically, society should aim at protecting the weaker and less structured individuals.
    To this end, and looking around, this does not happen.
    In this context I'm inclined to support that chaste nude is an oxymoron.
     
  74. Thank you, Will and Luca. Although the answers are not clear, perhaps the questions are a bit more clear than when we started. Let us look at the original question one more time: "Is the chaste nude an oxymoron?"
    That is, is the "chaste nude" a contradiction in terms? I think that we could say that the "chaste nude" would more likely be a truism than a contradiction in terms; i.e., "Nudes are chaste," although hardly universally true, is probably more true than to say that "Nudes are unchaste," if one had to choose between such stark (no pun intended) choices. The choice is not quite so stark, of course, and the issue cannot be resolved quite so easily. Even so, if one had to choose between such stark choices, I would certainly go with "Nudes are [categorically] chaste" over "Nudes are [categorically] unchaste."
    Luca, I do not believe that the biblical story of Eden ever happened as a matter of historical fact, but it is nonetheless an interesting "allegory" (for lack of a better term) that reminds us of the paradoxes about nudity and sexuality. The point of that story is ultimately (for me) not about nudity but about reflexive rationality qua self-consciousness; i.e., awareness of good and evil (or, if you are a woman, awareness that someone has his eye on you, and it is not because of your well-developed quads and triceps).
    In "Eden," that is, "nudity is chaste," as you say. Perhaps it still is, or can be. This is not to say that the nude form cannot be used or portrayed in an "unchaste" way. Given Will's remark about nudist camps ("There is nothing less sexy than a nudist colony!"), one may perhaps even argue that clothing is more easily used to provoke sexual attention and even lust than is nudity.
    I am not saying that such is the case categorically, simply that clothing is typically (not always) more successfully used to provoke sexual attention and lust than is nudity, as Will seems to have suggested. Here are some "photographic essays" in support of that proposition:
    http://www.nairaland.com/nigeria/topic-20490.128.html
    http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-207_162-10003534.html?tag=galleryBottomArea;galleryMostPop
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20005718-10391698.html
    http://www.strangecelebrities.com/content/category/100082_1.html
    This one in particular stays with me:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-207_162-10003534-4.html?tag=page
    Well, I am more or less out of words after that "read." Perhaps I can simply say that I am "speechless," so that I may now leave. Responding to all these comments can get to be a full-time job. It has been an interesting fifty-four hours or so. Thanks to all who participated, and please feel free to carry on from here without me.
    --Lannie
     
  75. Dredging an old thread, I know...
    Let us say, you were walking in the forest, and happened upon a person (man or woman doesn't matter), who lived alone, had never had contact with another human being, and went about their daily rituals naked, and unaware that they were naked, further, not caring if they were or not.​
    I would extend the analogy, and have this "pure" uneffected and unaffected (used in the psychological sense) person find another, and take pictures.
    No prurient interest, no lascivious intent. (I would have to assume some prior exposure to the image-making process on the part of the taker.)
    This gives us a different spectrum: from the most blatant of naked-dead-child-in-lingerie pornography to the nude-without-concept-of-sex. Where do most fall in reality? Almost all would be somewhere in the middle, edging to one side or the other, a few going further one way or the other, and almost none reaching the ends. Typical gaussian curve, but the elements defined are the intent, practice and scope of both the taker and subject.
    Back to an earlier response--these are defined culturally as well. If you need examples they are easily found.
    So, yes, of course a chaste nude is possible. Not common, but possible. And my chaste nude will probably not be everyone's...
     

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