Beauty can be such a sensuous, wonderful thing. I love beauty. I love beautiful things. The nexus of beauty and eroticism is also intoxicating for me. All around us we are surrounded by beauty, but feminine beauty is perhaps the most powerful, but also the most rare.
One thing I despise are the neo-Puritans, or the lingering Puritanical elements in our own society. The madness on college campuses regarding official sexual rules, as demonstrated in an article I found on Ferd’s other site, In Bona Fide, http://www.inbonafide.com/ is another manifestation of that. Sexual fanaticism exists both on the right and on the left and they are both cut from the same cloth: human sexuality must be molded to fit a preexisting ideology of sexual purity, whether religious or secular. But it is all the same, a stern, harsh, dogmatic view of sensuality and sexuality, whether it is a Bible thumping preacher, or a humorless feminist. I equally despite both.
For us, nudity can be such a terrible thing. We are schizophrenic in this, sometimes enjoying the vision of the human nude, and sometimes prohibiting it. Good artistic nudes, even those displayed in such publications as Playboy or Penthouse, are considered porn. They are considered evil and degenerate. Religious people crusade against them. The argument, among other things, is that they will lead to worse forms of porn for the viewer. Perhaps this is true for some. Feminists hate them as well because they consider them “demeaning” to women. For me, a good erotic photo is art. A well depicted human form, whether in a photo, painting, or sculpture, even if it conveys a certain degree of eroticism, has the power to be ennobling. I have always enjoyed the vision of a beautiful nude. It gives me pleasure to see. Nor has it lead to more “hard core” forms of porn. Nope, a lifetime of appreciating beautiful female nudes has not lead to more and more bizarre forms of eroticism, such as bestiality or even worse things. Rather, seeing good nudes has actually helped me discriminate between good and poor erotic photos. I developed a certain taste that I like in a good nude. Most porn out there is trash, but there are lots of good erotic photos too, photos done in good taste, if you want to find them.
Depicting beautiful nudes is nothing new. The ancient Greeks did not have a problem with nudity: their cities and society were replete with statues depicting the beauty of the human body, usually male, but nude nevertheless. They performed their Olympic games in the nude. In general, they were more relaxed about artistic depictions of human nudity. The Romans adopted this too, and it was not until the Italian Renaissance, a thousand years after the fall of Rome, that these ideals were once again embraced by a society. Even then they were still controversial, as they are today. To those artists in the Renaissance, beauty was something divine, a spiritual reflection of the world God created.
I often feel the same way. Beauty is a powerful thing, something from the divine, and something I more than enjoy immersing myself in. The photos I post on here, for the most part (I do post some more explicit erotic photos on occasion) I hope convey that sense of erotic beauty, but an erotic beauty which is more than simply carnal, but also spiritual as well, an erotic beauty that somehow reflects something of the divine nature of beauty itself.
wow. thank god for woman
//The ancient Greeks did not have a problem with nudity: their cities and society were replete with statues depicting the beauty of the human body…//
So, Racer, when you wrote this, the first thing that occurred to me was: OK, let’s see if the guy is right.
Remember that book, Mythology of Sex? Well, here’s what it says about the Greeks and nudity:
“We do know that the Greeks were great lovers of beauty and that women were at this period basically held in contempt. A beautiful boy would therefore at the very least be seen as an asset, enhancing the status of he man accompanying him.” p. 64
So. So much for beautiful nude women. As you noted, the statues are mostly men. The Greek’s would not have shared your or elmer’s gratitude for nude women.
Later, on page 68, we get the following:
“Unfortunately, Plato’s introduction of the idea of dualism between body and soul was to have profound and devastating effect on the later Christian attitude towards sexuality. Essentially, the body was, in his view, a hindrance to the soul. Because people were so easily enslaved by sensual pleasures, the body, he reasoned, must be a source of evil. Plato’s advice to a man seeking truth was to “…cut himself off as much as possible from his eyes and ears and virtually all the rest of his body as impediment which by its presence prevents the soul from attaining to truth and clear thinking. (…) Subsequent Greek philosophers developed this essentially pessimistic view of the world which, almost by definition, involved a poor opinion both of women and the state of matrimony.”
After this, Racer, the picture which the book paints of ancient Greece and women becomes bleaker and bleaker. Women were considered nothing more than “child bearers”, I quote. On the upside, the book relates that Greek attitudes, as reflected in art and religion, seemed to change around the 4th century.
“Sometime during the fourth century BC attitudes began to change. Nude female statues began to appear where previously it had been only the masculine body which was glorified. Women were, in some mysterious way, evidently becoming more interesting to men. The nature of marriage seems not to have undergone a revolution however, which indicates that wives did not benefit from changing attitudes…”
Interesting stuff, isn’t it.
Beauty is an incentive to live.
Through my experience in life, I found that I had always a need for beauty whenever my life was at its darkest moment. Nay, beauty is a daily need.
Racer X said:
Yes, it is interesting stuff. Let me however give a fuller description of nudity in the Greek world. As far a good art, the Greek world needs to be divided into two distinct periods: the Classical period, (480-323 BC) which was roughly from the time of the end of the Persian wars to the death of Alexander the Great, and the Hellenistic period (323-146 BC), which ends with the Roman conquest of Greece. Even after the Roman conquest of Greece, the culture of Hellenism was the predominant one in the Mediterranean Roman world, and Rome itself was highly influence by Hellenistic culture, especially in art and literature. Greece conquered Rome artistically. So as far as art is concerned, the Hellenistic period can broadly be traced from roughly 323 BC to the end of the Roman Empire, and rise of Byzantine society, roughly around 450 AD.
It is true, that when we speak of nudity in the Greek world, I am referring to a world that was highly misogynist, and exclusively masculine, especially in the Classical period. So virtually all of the great statues, in the Classical period, are male nudes. It was a society in which male homosexuality was quite common, usually between and older man and a younger lover. The male nude was the ideal of physical beauty, even erotic beauty. However, as you point out, female nudity becomes more and more accepted in the Hellenistic period, as do other forms of artistic expression. In general, the statues of Hellenistic Greece are more personal, expressive and dynamic, than the more refined and distant but harmoniously restrained statues of the Classical period. In the Roman period female nudity was much more common and accepted, as evidenced by the many erotic wall paintings of female nudes in Pompeii. Women in general had more freedom in the Roman world than in the Greek world, although it was nothing compared to today’s world.
What is important is the idea of nudity, and the freedom of that artistic expression, whether it be male or female, which separates the Greek world, or Hellenism in general, from the world around it at the time. There was a desire to create beauty for the sake of beauty in art, and the Greek sculptures at the time did this with exquisite genius, unlike anything that had come before, and, at the end of the Roman empire, something that was lost and not recovered again until the Renaissance. For the growing Christian influence in the formerly Classical world, nudity was something to be avoided, and so many of these beautiful art works were lost, and the skill needed to create them was lost as well.
The female nude as an example of erotic beauty is something that has only recently, within the past few hundred years, become more accepted. For most societies, women are hidden and controlled and not allowed to experience much sexual pleasure outside of marriage. The modern West is different from other societies in our openness and freedom to explore sexual issues, and I think that is owed, in part, to what happened in antiquity with the Greek love for beauty for the sake of beauty, even nude or sexual beauty. This was lost at the end of antiquity, but our renewed appreciation of this begins with the Italian Renaissance. Yes, the Greek love of artistic nudes in sculpture was quite different from what we have today, but the openness to artistic depictions of beautiful nudes is what is similar with us today, or with what I am trying to express through this blog.
I definitely need to read that book though, it sounds quite interesting!
//What is important is the idea of nudity, and the freedom of that artistic expression, whether it be male or female, which separates the Greek world, or Hellenism in general, from the world around it at the time. //
Really? 🙂 I wonder if that’s true. I’m not an art historian so I couldn’t say. I think that India was probably comparable.
Racer X said:
I don’t know a whole lot about Indian art, but India certainly had nude images, although they were for the most part unknown to Greek society. I believe most Indian nudes were usually found on temple friezes. Also, I think Greek sculpture reached a level of harmonious, naturalistic expression of the human form, seeking beauty for the sake of beauty, that India did not achieve, nor anyone else at the time. There is something very unique, and great, about what Greek culture achieved. I attribute this in part to the relative freedom that many writers and artists had at the time to create great art. It was not perfect, but it was more than most other societies had at the time.