I recently had a shoot on an undeclared nude beach in the South Bay area. I found a couple of things very striking. Mainly that there were probably at the height of beach-goer traffic there were probably 50-75 people at most throughout the day, which the most at once was probably around 40 people, of which two thirds or more were men, OF THE MEN ABOUT HALF WERE NUDE, WHILE THERE WAS ONLY ONE NUDE LADY THE ENTIRE DAY, all the other women were in shirts and shorts or bathing suits…Well besides myself, and she was only nude for about an hour and had her gentleman at her side at all times….. It immediately struck me: “Have we gotten to such a point within our society that we are so freaked out by the female form? Has it truly come back to a point that female nudity is taboo and sexualized?”
The beach was fairly long- around half to three quarters of a mile in length. In little time I noticed that the men all slowly started occupying mainly the area closest to where we were shooting, while the other three quarters of the beach lay pretty much empty. Sadly I can say ‘of course’ many of them focused on and tried to interact with myself and the photographer, much off the time fixing their eyes on my body….though some of it I believe may have been more curiosity about the shooting itself, the majority seemed less interested in anything other than the ‘NAKED GIRL’….I became fascinated and frustrated all mixed together. Why have we reverted to the female form being such a big deal? Why is it that the average person in our society sees a naked or topless woman and the immediately can only associate it with sex, domination, entitlement, and porn?
I remember growing up in the backwoods and mountains of Northern California. In the summer the temperature would get into the 100s and most would swim in the river naked- men, women, teens, children…It seemed a more even playing field….here I am 20 or so years later and women’s bodies are not respected enough to allow the majority to feel comfortable literally just in our skin….I am not sure that if it is maturity, a matter of general comfortability, or a response to the reversion in the status quo response to women’s bodies; I have found that I am more comfortable either nude or dressed semi-conservatively with minimal: cleavage/form fitting/short clothing. Sometimes I think it is just my own insecurities, but then I go out in a form fitting, low cut or short dress and am overwhelmed by inundation of sexual and negative attention. So I generally try not to ‘advertise’ my body by letting it be too visible.
I believe as women we need to re-claim our hold on our sexuality and the manner in which our bodies are viewed. We need more media portraying sex positive, non-exploitative, and under-sexualized femininity… We need to own and take pride in our breasts, thighs, asses, with pride and love; to remind the world that the beauty and mystery of the female form are to be revered and accepted as they are. I find it uncanny how much more comfortable I am nude than in a cocktail dress. I also think that it has to start in small strides. I am going to reclaim my sense of security despite negative attention and make more of an effort not to cover myself outside of my art…The more regular it is to see unapologetic beauty and practicalities, the less shock value it will hold. We need to educate our sons, brothers, friends, boyfriends, husbands, etc. that the female form (while being an incredibly powerful sexual form) is not mainly a sexual instrument, that no one is entitled to strictly sexualizing us, and that just because a girl decides to show more skin does NOT mean she deserves to be ogled, hassled, or used/viewed in solely a sexual manner.. Bodies are just bodies, we ALL have them, they ALL are different…We are all humans and thus deserve to be treated with respect and humanity.
(are we in the reverse pendulum from the 70s/80s bra-burners?)