28 April, 2010

Pretty & Sexy

There are a lot of things in my mind that I'd love to discuss but I refrain from on account of avoiding controversy. Like, for example, the feminist implications of The Runaways' short career (specifically, the politics of sexuality as it relates to the different approaches to feminism). And I love controversy. But while I love to revel in it when it's produced by others, I'm more hesitant to produce it myself, because of the risk of attracting negative attention from others (something I'm not too fond of). And yet, a lot of what I do is already pretty controversial. You'd think I'd be immune to those fears by now.

The dilemma I face at this moment involves the potential (imagined?) conflict between my admiration of pretty girls, and my interest in the sensual, erotic side of life. And this has implications that go beyond me being afraid to add a pretty girl as a contact on flickr, for fear of scaring her away when (if) she finds out I am an erotic/nude photographer. This is the curse of every softcore pornographer - too tainted to charm the more sophisticated elements of society, yet too pure to be satisfied consorting with only the perverted bottomfeeders (I refer to this dilemma more generally as "The Unhappy Medium", which haunts my life). Here the impact of sex negativism can be felt clearly. If we had a healthy, positive attitude towards sex, then sensual individuals would more readily be judged based on their character, rather than on the simple fact that they embrace sensuality (as opposed to shunning and shaming it, as any decent person would do).

Maybe I am, once again, overreacting. My approach to sensuality is very clearly unique, and distinct from (and more sophisticated than) the usual, basic one that is most often assumed (that is, insensitive animal lust). And yet, from a glance or two - a first impression - how easy is that to glean? In fact, the "purest" and most "innocent" elements of society don't even make the distinction between tasteful sensuality and perverted filth - it's one and the same. Are these, then, people that I have no business associating with, in the first place? Ah yes, that's the easy answer. But what if they're pretty? What if they're beautiful? As an aesthetic artist, I cannot simply ignore such a thing. And the rarer and prettier the pearl, the stronger the desire to shine it. How does a nude photographer approach a pretty girl and ask her to pose for him (not necessarily nude)? While I'd enjoy taking sexy photographs of sexy girls, and pretty photographs of pretty girls, I want more than anything else to take sexy photographs of pretty girls.

On a related topic, I've been very interested in Lolita fashion lately (ever since the con). And I say "related" because any self-respecting Lolita would be appalled to find their fashion mentioned in the context of a post containing the word "sexy" in its title (barring the all-too-common ironic exceptions in the form of public denial). And no, I'm not backing out on my support of the tenet that Lolita fashion is nonsexual. In fact, it's the modesty that, perhaps in some twisted way, attracts me to it. (Not like that, jeez). But the issue comes up that some people might be offended by my interest in Lolita fashion, on account of the fact that I actually thought Nabokov's Lolita (in no way affiliated with the fashion, except in name only) was a brilliant - and even partly sexy - novel. And the fact that, while I don't exactly broadcast it (at least not in direct terms), I'm not actually offended by animated lolicon. (And if you don't know what that means, you probably don't want to). Or even just the simple fact that I am a man, and thus my interest in women's fashion is suspect (of perverted motives), by default (because if a man has an interest in girly things, it must be because he gets a sick sexual thrill out of it (by the way, are there any healthy sexual thrills?), and not because he might actually identify with girly things (then again, a man who identifies with girly things is abnormal anyway)). Yes, I am a pervert, and I am not ashamed to admit it, but not everything I do is perverted. I'm capable of keeping separate things separate, I'm just not so certain that others are capable of seeing it that way.

Even so, the question of attraction comes up. Are [heterosexual] males normally attracted to prettiness in girls? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think so. Are they sexually attracted to prettiness, or is that a different aspect of the attraction? Regardless, it is an aspect of the overall attraction. So why should pretty things not be sexual? Not to say that we should eliminate the line between them - pretty is pretty and sexy is sexy and they each have a distinct appeal. But can they not be combined favorably in some instances? I would say certainly! Observe:

Meet sexy (Yoko), and pretty (Nia). Now certainly, pretty girls can be sexy, and sexy girls can be pretty, but the best girls are the ones who are sexy & pretty, simultaneously:

Chii is, in my opinion, the epitome of the pretty + sexy girl. Of course, some may argue that Chii is simply pretty + lots of exposed skin, and not the sexy archetype - which might well be true. But "sexy" means different things to different people, and exposed skin is sexy to me (very sexy), provided the skin being exposed belongs to a pretty girl. :3 I don't hate T&A, but the stereotypical way they are presented almost seems to me a "masculine" presentation of sexuality. I'm turned on by a more delicate, feminine presentation of sexuality. Which is why Chii's pretty face, beautiful hair, soft skin, and long legs (frequently bared), attract me more than the lumps on the front or back of her body (not that I don't like them, mind you). And her gentle personality completes the package, turning her into an object of love, not simply lust, for me.

We've been skirting around the very similar issue of cute vs. sexy, here, and I know someone who will certainly say that cute = sexy. There is truth to that statement. I think, much like the feminine vs. "masculine" presentation of sexuality discussed above, it's a matter of taste. I've always been more attracted to cute features than outright "sexy" features. And, as it turns out, cuteness is more often associated with youthfulness, while sexiness is considered an "adult" trait. I believe that a lot of this has to do with social constructs - the fact that sex is an "adult" activity, and thus only adults are allowed to be sexy, and saying that a non-adult is sexy is politically incorrect - but it's also true that there is a physical quality to youthfulness that has a specific appeal, unrivaled by the appeals of age (subjectively speaking, at least).

The problem with saying that youthfulness is sexy, is that people will start asking, well, how young is too young? There is a too young, right? Right? All I can say about that is, different people have different preferences. And as long as we are talking about appreciating beauty (whether it's cuteness, prettiness, or sexiness), there's no logic behind labeling what sort of objects (I'm sorry, subjects) are allowed (or ought) to be appreciated, and which aren't. Aesthetic admiration is an involuntary emotional reaction, and policing it means putting restriction on thought - especially spontaneous thought that can't really be controlled. Not only is this a gross miscarriage of justice and basic liberty, but, thankfully, it's impossible to enforce (at least for the time being).

Where I'm going with this is, I don't see any point in punishing somebody for admiring beauty in another person. When I look at a pretty girl on flickr who places a clear statement against "perverts" in her profile, it makes me feel bad for being a sensual being that happens to find her to be attractive. Again, maybe I don't fit that profile of the run-of-the-mill "pervert", but I'm not exactly Mother Mary, either. This is exactly like the old pseudo-feminist ploy of trying to convince the world that when a man finds a woman attractive, it's a form of rape. Hopefully, anyone with reason will agree that this is ridiculous, but it doesn't eliminate the conflict between the sexually "tainted" and the attractively "pure". And when I say that, I don't mean that these girls are attractive because they're "pure" (I don't define real purity based on sexual experience), but that they happen to be attractive and "pure", thus making that attraction some kind of assault against their "purity".

So I'm probably making a big deal about this, but the bottom line is that I don't want to feel guilty for thinking a girl is pretty. There are sexy things in life that I enjoy, and there are pretty things in life that I enjoy, and I don't want to feel like I can't enjoy them both, whether combined or separate (as the individual occasion merits). Yet I don't want to offend the sensibilities of one or the other. Of course, if I was not suffering from social anxiety, I could just send this girl (who is old enough to drink, and is married, by the way) a friendly flickr mail, proving that I am a gentleman and not just another of the countless creepy perverts that are allegedly out there, and then wait for a response instead of agonizing over how I might be judged, and assuming the worst case scenario. But then, you wouldn't have gotten the chance to read this post about my winding thoughts regarding aesthetics and sexual politics. You see, I suffer for you!

(On the other hand, I like talking about pretty girls, because it makes me feel good inside. Almost as good as when I get to look at them. Have another picture of Chii:)


  1. I see very much where you're coming from in regards to the mere appreciation of individuals of any age. There should be a distinction between appreciating beauty and having sinister intentions, but most people don't see it that way. I mean, I'm someone who is very attracted to young people (among many groups, young people not being cheif among them) but I'm also someone who doesn't even intend to ever have a girlfriend or have sex in his entire life, so what's wrong with whomever I happen to find attractive? People hear that I'm attracted to young girls and they immediately think that I'm someone who would try to abuse the vulnerabilities of a young person, manipulate them, pursue them as a predator. Just because I find someone attractive?

    'Course that wasn't what your post was about. I don't even know what to say about feeling bad for finding an of-age girl to be pretty. Except that "no perverts" is shorthand for "non-normies need not apply." Either that, or it means "don't sexually proposition me." Could go either way.

  2. Here's a follow-up to what I wrote in the blog entry above:

    I did actually send that friendly flickr mail that I mentioned. When I wrote that, I thought to myself, "well this is good, even if I can't do it, I can at least envision what I would do if I weren't inhibited." And then, the next day, I was feeling kind of defeated and listless, and I actually got up and sent the mail. And instead of being stressed about how it would be received, I just felt relieved, and really happy about doing it.

    Although it wouldn't have made a difference to me at that point, I did eventually receive a friendly reply. And now I've reached a point where I can be honest about the photos I like on flickr, and the photographers I admire on there, and I'm currently on a binge of expressing that admiration (if still relatively passively). I need to stop worrying about what people will think about me and just let myself be myself. How people will react is not my responsibility.