Naked Women: Sexy! Naked Men: Eh.

I have been incredibly busy (and some could say lazy) lately. Classes, clubs, reading the entire internet, all of a sudden it’s two weeks later and nary a post in sight.

But fear not! For as an apology, I present to you a post with plenty of nudity…

"Male Nude Known as Patroclus" by Jacques-Louis David

(Couldn't find the title) Robert Mapplethorpe

"Male Nudes" by George Lynes

"Young Nude Man" by Hippolyte Flandrin

And plenty of discussion on the implications of nudity in regards to men and women in art (you thought you would get to just enjoy some attractive naked men and women? Sorry!). First point of discussion: you would not believe how long it took me to find these few good examples of the male nude.

Well, that’s not entirely what I was searching for. I can immediately think of a number of examples of naked men as subject (particularly including contemporary work). For instance, a lot of paintings and statues by Michelangelo, ancient Roman and Greek nudes, work by artists such as Lucian Freud, Robert Mapplethorpe, the list goes on. So let me rephrase.

You would not believe how long it took me to find good examples of the sensual male nude.

More after the jump!

While the sensual female nude has been a staple throughout history, the sensual male nude has been more elusive. This can be attributed to a number of things, including the idea that the audience of all visual work (among other fields) is male, the resulting catering to the male gaze, and, what I plan on focusing on in this post, the idea that women’s bodies can be enjoyed by anyone despite gender or sexuality, while men’s bodies are only for their own enjoyment.

Think about it for a second. How many images of naked or nearly naked people do you see every day? We’re surrounded by nudity in television, advertising, magazines, and so much more! Now what percentage depicts naked men?

I’m going to guess it’s pretty low.

The thing is, men are frequently shown sexy women in the media as objects catering to their desires. Women are shown the same sexy women as objects to aspire to. These fantasy women attract male desire, and are thus supposed to be desirable to us as role models. And if we find these women attractive? That’s good too! Women who are attracted to women are viewed as sexy! You know, so long as it’s only to titillate men. Real lesbians are scary and wear trucker hats or something.

But in a similar scenario with a sexy man? It’s acceptable for women to enjoy this. Of course, we’re supposed to prefer naked men with a side of emotional availability and housecleaning skills, but I digress. The same sexy man? It’s not acceptable for a man to enjoy. Because that would be gay. And being seen as gay is terrifying to a lot of men, as seen in phrases such as “no homo” or in the constant use of “that’s gay” as an insult.

This is really messed up. First of all, the fact that sexuality is seen by many as such a limited thing, where you’re either gay or straight and there is absolutely no in between. And secondly, the fact that people are judged so harshly based on their sexuality. In this day and age we should really be able to accept the fact that heterosexuality is not the only sexuality. Plain and simple, the backwards view that being gay is a sin is just wrong.

Moving away from the sexual dynamics of men and women viewing naked men and women, let’s talk about the aesthetics of the male and female nude.

An argument I hear a lot of from both men and women is that naked men are simply not as interesting to look at as naked women. There aren’t as many dynamic and intriguing curves. The line of movement is too up and down, while breasts and hips lend themselves to more interesting use of the space.

To a certain extent I can understand this. For a long time I though that the female nude was just more interesting. No ifs, ands, or buts (heh, butts.) about it. But after thinking on it for a while, I think that I felt this way through laziness and inexperience. I have more practice drawing naked women than men (most of our models are women. There’s pretty much one man who poses here while there are several women I have seen so far). Because of this, it’s more fun for me to draw women. I understand how women’s bodies tend to function, and after countless class hours of gesture drawing our woman model, can basically draw women in my sleep. Not so with men’s bodies. Less experience leads to more work and less fun for me which leads to me thinking that men’s bodies are not interesting to draw or to view in artwork.

Look again at the examples above. Go ahead, scroll on up and give them a peek.

The poses are dynamic, the eye is led around the page. The pieces are fun to look at. Clearly, nude men can make great subjects, we just need to try (not to say that people aren’t trying. I just find that most of my peers, some men and mainly women, are better and more eager to depict women).

Here’s a good example of our willingness to depict naked women more than naked men. Take Indiesart. They introduce new artists and illustrators with selections of their work. I went through the first ten pages (with approximately five artists on every page, so around fifty artists total) and counted how many artists included naked men or naked women. If they included both I counted them in both groups. Note that I included both women and men depicted without shirts but with pants as part of the nude group (there were some shirtless men and many shirtless women). Here’s what I found:

Naked men: A grand total of four.

Naked women: Twenty-three.

That’s a lot a naked women, with an apparent lack of naked men. A lot of the images included nudity that seemed specifically there for the purpose of being titillating and edgy

"Headache" by Victoria Viray

"Amber" by Jeff Simpson

Not to say that these images are bad. I like depictions of the female nude. The sheer number or female nudes, however, serve as examples of how female nudity is the norm in art while male nudity is uncommon.

It’s very interesting to see how we view and create the nude in art, it’d be more interesting to see some equality in the numbers. Not only would we be expanding a less explored area, we’d be changing the unbalanced ways in which we view the male and female nude.

And as a side note: There’s a national rally and lobby day in DC on April 7th in preparation for congressional votes on funding for Planned Parenthood, Title X, and for access to abortion. If you can go, go! Loudly and publicly supporting women’s reproductive rights is important now more than ever. Planned Parenthood has buses going from a number of cities, I’ve signed up for the one leaving from Rochester and barring unexpected tests or destroyed travel plans, you can expect to see me there!

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2 thoughts on “Naked Women: Sexy! Naked Men: Eh.

  1. Patsy says:

    thank you for broaching this subject, I’m 0ften looking for photos of naked men in tasteful poses, with great difficulty and often the search results in photos of women!

    • I’m glad you liked it! When I was researching images for this post there were too many search results to count including nude women and not nude men, so I feel your pain!

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