Art and Erotica and Attitudes About Sex

So this is a risky post. I’m going to talk about naked people. Sort of. The big news today was that Lindsay Lohan has taken part in a photo shoot to re-create the last photo shoot that Marilyn Monroe did. The pictures are in New York magazine. Apparently the pictures are so popular that the magazine’s web site crashed. The Today show showed some of the pictures with a big read "ribbon" in strategic places.

This brings up item number one. Apparently you can show as much of a woman’s breasts as you want as long as the nipples don’t show. This is an advance from the past. The old "I Dream of Jeanie" show was not allowed to show belly buttons. The original Star Trek was not only not allowed to show nipples but could not show the underside of a breast. I had no idea the underside was so much more titillating than the top side. Sigh.

Recently I watched a few minutes of a show on Discovery Channel or Travel Channel (I wasn’t paying much attention) that was chronicling life in an African village. The women wore nothing but jewelry above the waist. The nipples were magically airbrushed into invisibility. I guess if you can’t see them they aren’t there. And if they aren’t there no one will get all excited. I mean really, do they think no one knows what they look like?

Coming back to Ms. Lohan’s photo shoot. I’ve seen some of the images from Marilyn Monroe’s shoot. They have been on display in an fancy art gallery near where my father lives. They’ve been put on display in the windows with no Today style red ribbon. Apparently no one complains. Now I think the images are more artsy than erotic though I’m not sure I’d be comfortable having them on display in my house. They are not quite our style. I suspect that Ms. Lohan’s images are the same. But somehow I doubt that the people whose traffic crashed the web site were looking for art.

Outside the US attitudes about showing the human body are different. Bare breasts, and other body parts, are more common and people tend not to get all worked up about it. I was on a beach, quite unexpectedly I assure you, where a number of young women were topless. Honestly you can get used to it pretty quickly and it need not get one all hot and bothered. I asked a BG student once about a visit a group of them made to a nude beach oversees on a field trip and his comment was that "not everyone looks good naked." No kidding!

But of course in the US we make such a big thing of it that when people do see it they get all bothered because, in part I think, they think they are supposed to. Is this helpful? I’m not so sure it is.

Now I am not advocating a sudden and dramatic change nor am I suggesting that we need more nudity in the world. It just seems that f the way we treat the nude form contributes to the objectification of women. We let or perhaps encourage people to look everywhere but at the face. It becomes all about how a woman looks and not who she is. I think I need do little more than suggest one watch a minute or two of "Deal or No Deal." Does anyone really believe that show would be as popular without "hot women" in short dresses with lots of cleavage holding the suitcases? I don’t think so. Could you recognize any of them by their faces? Somehow I doubt it.

The photographer who took these pictures is an artist to be sure. But it seems like everyone else involved from Ms. Lohan to the magazine are just using her body to make money. And that seems to me a shame.

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