Nudity in art: I have touched on this subject a few times but never really delved into my feelings about the subject. I know it to be a sore subject for many Christians and non-Christians alike. The body offends people. Some say nude art is nothing more than pornography. I don’t normally shy away from taboo subjects but I have avoided this one for quite some time because it can be quite misunderstood.
I enjoy drawing and painting the human figure. The human body is a beautifully designed and crafted object. I can think of no other thing in creation as beautiful.
But I don’t share most of that work.
Because too many people get antsy about the body. If I said I enjoyed going to life drawing sessions the response from many of the people (men) I know would be something like “Well yeah, you get to look at naked chicks.” In fact I had a whole conversation with an Uber passenger about it and all he wanted to know was if there were any “hot” ones.
Yeah. There are “hot” models. There are models of all shapes and sizes. And dudes too. All I see is a person. A beautifully crafted person, and I hope to maybe capture even a miniscule portion of that beautiful creation with my untrained eye and my shaky hands.
The other big reason is that many in my circles (Facebook groups) consider any level of nudity to be pornographic. Hands down, no debate. All those old masters? Porn. The Sistine Chapel? Porn. Anything with a little bit of skin must be porn.
But nude art is not pornography. While some art is by nature offensive, and some consider porn “art” (it is not), pornography is offensive on a different level. Pornography is not offensive because it shows the human form. Pornography is offensive because it cheapens an act of love, turning it into something consumable, and in doing so degrades the human figure and form. Sex is beautiful precisely because it is intimate and vulnerable. Porn makes sex ugly, and with it: the human body.
What about lust? Surely all that flesh is just there to titillate.
For me, nude art is my anti-porn. When one has to break down the body into curves and shapes and lines, the body becomes an intimate and familiar thing. One has to respect the body when examining it this closely. The body is no longer an object to covet, it is an object to capture and recreate.
There is no time for lust in a life drawing class, the mind is preoccupied with details and geometry. To an extent all bodies becomes less interesting sexually, the eye is trained to see them much differently now. Does this mean I can’t lust or think sexually? Of course not! But I don’t default to it like many of the men I know. My default is to see shapes and shades, not a sex object.
I tell men this and they can’t believe it. I must be lying. I can assure you that I am not. When you have trained your mind to think one way about a thing it takes an act of the will to see things differently.
What about your wife?
She gets it. And she is fine with it. Especially since she knows it is such a stress relief to draw and paint. She understands my intent and supports me.
What do you, my readers, think about this subject? Is nude art just porn and I am being too loose with my morals? Is it something entirely different? Is it ugly or is it beautiful?
What do you think?
If you like my blogs/paintings/photography, please like and follow me!
If you read Wednesday’s post, you might have also discovered that The Transformed Wife has many cringe worthy articles, way too many to respond to. But one post has got me particularly heated up.
It wasn’t the “risqué” image she chose, or the standard nonsense about how men are so visual and women are not. It wasn’t the usual “women need to be ashamed of their bodies and cover them completely so that men can’t be enticed by them” lines that got me riled.
That stuff is old hat. I have addressed the Modesty stuff before. The main points of the post were not at all shocking or new to me.
What was shocking was the very first comment:
“…Lori that picture for this blog post is one that could cause a brother to stumble. She is an example of what not to do. Would you please consider changing the image for one of a Godly-attired sister whose dress and shoes and pose will not lead a man who comes here seeking guidance for his wife astray? My husband Jeb is so thoughtful in finding materials that will help me grow (your book!) But he was a little shocked and surprised, and asked me to share his thoughts.”
If the image above gets you off, I sincerely hope you never leave your house or browse through any website. The amount of skin and shapeliness I see on a daily basis would send you running for the nearest restroom. Sorry to be a bit crude, but really dude?
If you can’t handle high heels and a little bit of calf, you probably aren’t taking every thought captive. You’re thinking with your penis, not your brain.
We need to stop this nonsense about how women are just a bunch of enticing objects that we can’t help but covet and lust after. We need to quit telling women that God made them a little too good and that we just can’t stop ogling them and making them into objects.
I thought the men going to her site seeking guidance for their wives were the Godly ones? These are supposedly the most self-controlled, upright, and good men out there. These are no men of the streets. And yet apparently they crumble at the site of some legs.
I am not saying that men don’t stumble. Men stumble over all sorts of things, sexually and otherwise. Men can literally make anything into something sinful. If women knew what could possibly make a man stumble she would never leave her bed (although even that in some men’s imagination can be twisted into something depraved).
What I am saying is that men need to grow up. Men need to stop whining about every good looking woman being a stumbling block to them. We need to stop seeing women as objects and start seeing them as beautiful image-bearers of God. We need to stop the limp-wristed weaker brother nonsense and start holding ourselves and others to a higher standard. We should expect men not to lust instead of assuming that they just do. No man has to sin, he chooses it because of wickedness.
So, Jeb, stop being weak, stop thinking with your penis, take your thoughts captive, and kill your sins.
Last week, I discussed the fact that porn is a drug and corrected some common misconceptions about it. This week I intend to give a couple of methods that I see as useful in preventing and fighting porn addiction.
I recommended last time that those who are hooked should stop right now, cold turkey. But while the behavior can be stopped immediately, I think it’s important to examine the root of this addiction and slavery to sexual sin. What makes so many men (and women) vulnerable?
Part of the allure is wiring. Illicit sex is a very enticing sin to many. We are wired with a strong need for intimacy and human touch, and sex is the strongest expression of both. We are often so needy of intimacy that we will settle for even the cheapest of imitations.
Sex is such a strong desire in our lives, many have over-focused on it and made sexual sin out to be the worst possible sin one can commit. While scripture certainly tells us that sexual sin is especially heinous to the point where one sins against his own body, it is certainly not the unpardonable sin. We need to extend grace to those who have genuinely repented of sexual sins.
It is an understatement to say that we live in a sex-saturated culture. While some of the discussion about sex are healthy and much preferable to the prudishness of previous generations, much if not most of what’s floating around out there is anything but helpful. Most of the sexual discussions out there do not promote healthy sexuality.
What is the root of this porn obsessed culture?
Within the church a large part of it is the “modesty culture.” This sub – culture of Christianity has placed undo sexual meaning to the word “modest” and has created an entire generation of sons who can’t even look around at the mall.
This group of people have so over obsessed with the sexual attractiveness of the female body that even breastfeeding is shameful and should be kept in bathrooms or in one’s own home.
Both the church and the secular culture at large have bought into the Freudian lie that sex is the most basic motivator for all human behavior. Our sexuality and sexual appetites define us now. It has become the biggest definer of our self-worth and self-image.
In the sex-obsessed world we live in it may seem impossible to prevent and kill porn addiction. How do I recommend we do it?
Short answer: we change our perspective of the human body and sex. Instead of adopting the culture’s pornographic view of the body and sex or the modern church’s prude view of the body and sex, we need to instead adopt a proper and Biblical view.
The human body:
Much of what attracts young men to porn is the allure of the forbidden. Growing up many if not most Christian boys are constantly told that the allure of the female body is so strong that they have no choice but to lust when exposed to any part of it.
I believe many young men get into porn as an innocent desire to see what has been hidden. They are told growing up that the sight of a bare breast (thigh, midriff, ankle, etc) will set them into wild fits of lust. They are told to avert their eyes every time a girl walks by in a bikini. This kind of indoctrination creates a curiosity in the young mind. Will the sight of female flesh really make them feel great? What’s under there that is so powerful it must be hidden at all times?
Naturally these boys will look for what is most accessible. Unfortunately, most of what is readily available is highky sexual in nature. The media reinforces the teaching that men can only view women as sex objects by portraying them primarily as sex objects. And, just as prohibiting and limiting alcohol consumption until older and older ages leads many into binge drinking and unhealthy alcohol abuse, limiting healthy exposure to the normal human body leads to unhealthy binge consumption of unhealthily sexualized bodies. What started as a curiosity easily turns into an addiction.
When you are constantly told “don’t look don’t look don’t look” your mind is being trained to view women’s bodies (and women in general) as stumbling blocks, not as people.
I knew guys in college who were proud of the fact that they stared at the sand or the sky every time they went to the beach. They avoided even the slightest sight of flesh. That is not something to be proud of. That’s actually a great sign that you need an adjusted mind. One should be able to see a nude woman (or any part of a woman) without flying into fits of sexual rage.
We should not confuse attraction with lust. Attraction is normal, wild covetousness of women is not. Men who grow up being told that this is how they will react to the sight of women are in a sense conditioned into lust. Well-meaning “bounce your eyes” teachers tell them that even just one lingering glance is lust. If merely looking is lust, why not continue on to do the real thing?
Many of the “bounce your eyes” porn-fighters make avoiding the sight of the female body the cornerstone of their method. I recommend the opposite approach. I recommend seeing it more, specifically in an artistic, non-sexual setting.
This serves two purposes. First, it removes much of the “forbidden fruit” aspect of the body that increases unhealthy interest in it. Second, it trains the mind to view the body as on object of symmetry and beauty, not as a purely sexual object. If the non-sexualized nude body was a normalized sight in our culture this “body = sex” association would be much more difficult to plant in the minds of young men (and women).
If you can train your mind to “not lust” by averting your eyes you are also training your mind to lust when your gaze lingers. A much better approach is to learn a proper perspective of the body not as a pornographic object but as an object made in the image of God and worthy of our respect and admiration.
I found that when I started painting and drawing the human figure, much of the sexual aspects of the body faded into the background. It’s not that the body is not attractive, it just becomes attractive in a different way. When viewed as art, the body becomes lines, curves, and symmetry. The body becomes an object of great beauty, not an object of sexual appetite.
If you think that the body uncovered is sin in itself just stick around for my next CRAS post.
My last posts got called out for being “repressive” and “puritanical”. I hope I did not come across as prude to my mainly Christian audience. My intent is not to make sex taboo or make people think it is dirty and couples can’t have fun with it. Quite the contrary, I encourage married couples to experiment and try new things to keep their sex lives spicy.
Key word there is “married”. That is the box I place sex into. I don’t think it is repressive or “puritanical” (not in the sense most use it anyway) to claim that truly healthy sex is found only within the bounds of committed heterosexual monogamy. Marriage is God’s gift to us and allows us the ability to channel our sexual appetites into a productive and beautiful place, rather than into degrading and harmful places.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to take the steam out of the pornographic culture we live in is to teach a healthy ethic of sex. This needs to be done early and often in our children’s lives. Start with basic biology well before puberty begins and slowly introduce them to the fact that sex feels good and has many positive and wonderful effects within a committed and monogamous relationship.
We need to teach our kids, boys and girls, that attraction is a normal thing. As they grow, they are going to find themselves feeling inclined to look and linger at the bodies of others. We need to teach them that this is normal and healthy and that they shouldn’t be ashamed of it. They should not obsess over or feed these thoughts too much either as they can lead to lust.We shouldn’t be teaching them that this attraction is lust or that every time they notice another person they will lust. They can have these thoughts and feelings and not be mastered by them.
We then need to teach them that marriage is the channel God intended us to put our sexual thoughts and desires into. Teach them that passionate marriages are a good and blessed thing, and that there is nothing shameful at all about sex within that boundary.
To fight porn’s temptation our children need to understand that sex is not a tool for self-gratification. Sex is a building block of intimacy with another person. It is one way we share ourselves with the one person we will (should) spend the bulk of our lives with. It is a powerful part of building intimacy and as such should be reserved for one person alone.
There are many more things I could say, but I hope you get the idea. Perhaps one day I’ll get deeper into these discussions as I’m sure some of you will find tons of holes in this that I simply don’t have the ability to fill in so few words.
But for now, I’ll leave it at this: if you want to keep your self or your kids off porn, work on changing your and/or your children’s understanding of the body and of sex.
Before I talk about ways to fight a porn obsessed culture, I’d like to be frank about a couple misconceptions men and women have about the subject.
Marriage and Porn Addiction
Women, before you get serious about a man, you need to have a frank and honest discussion about this topic. He needs to know you’re serious about this topic, and you need to know whether you can trust him. It’s that simple.
Don’t necessarily come out and directly ask “So, do you watch porn?” on your first date. Look for ways to bring it up. Maybe discuss human trafficking or your opinion on transgender bathrooms, there are no shortage of current topics floating around the internet that have a direct or indirect relation to the topic of sex.
Many of you are probably creative enough to breech the subject well enough to gauge his opinion of porn without directly asking if he’s addicted.
When you do get serious make it a point that there is no marriage until he commits to quitting this habit if you find out he has one. Don’t give a timetable. If he asks how long he has to go without ask him how frequently he would like you to text out sexual pictures of yourself to “friends”, it’s just about the equivalent.
Man, don’t think that just because you get married your problems are going to go away. If anything marriage just magnifies your porn addiction. Just because you’re having sex does not mean your appetite for the drug of porn is going to go away. In fact it may even increase.
Men, don’t think that you can just quit for a couple of months and be rid of the urge. Eventually it is going to come back. You’ll have withdrawal. You will still have the desire and the urges for quite some time. They may not be as strong as they were in the midst of the addiction period but they will still be there. I recommend that you be very honest with your wife-to-be or your wife about your problem. Let her know that you really want to kill it and it is not more important to you than she is. Ask for her help and accountability while fighting your urges.
What is Porn?
Some define porn as anything depicting anyone (attractive) in a state of undress. This is a rather awful definition. Porn is porn in the eye of the beholder. Pretty much anything can and has been used as porn.
Inversely, many things that are commonly seen as porn may not be to all all who perceive it. So don’t automatically assume all men are lusting at Victoria’s Secret posters in the mall.
Don’t assume every artistic nude is an automatic turn-on. But also, don’t be naive and assume that just because a woman (or man) is covered up that she (or he) can’t be the object of lustful thoughts.
Who watches this smut?
People from all walks of life ingest pornography. It’s not just a teenage male problem. It’s not just a male problem. In fact, there is a fair amount of push in our culture to encourage women to watch it so they can somehow be equal to men. Women can now share their addiction with their husbands, because that’s healthy.
Pastors watch it. Your children’s teachers watch it. Young kids are watching it. Even older people are watching it. If there was ever a “everybody’s doing it” excuse, it certainly belongs to porn.
What makes it bad?
I won’t go through the litany again, but I will tell you the worst part of porn addiction is the numbness it produces in normal sexual interactions. In order to maintain healthy sex, porn addicts often have to resort to sex toys or fantasy. They no longer simply enjoy sex, they must do something more provocative to get off.
Perhaps with some of these things out of the way, next week’s posts will make more sense. Check back Wednesday for an unconventional porn fighting idea that you may not have heard of before.
This one word has many definitions, many connotations, and many reactions.
I will not start by telling you why it is evil.
I will not tell you that it give you a false sense of what sex is like, there is quite a bit of realistic porn out there. This is not your father’s unrealistic porn; this is often real people having real sex.
I will not tell you that it gives you a false impression of what women should look like, though it might, but again, this is not your father’s porn. Often these are real women, no photoshop or plastic surgery involved.
I will not tell you that porn is bad because you are lusting for women that are not your wife. It might be, but I dare say chances are you do not want that woman on your screen, you just want the pleasure that you are seeing portrayed on that screen. You covet the sex, probably not the women.
I will not tell you that porn makes you a violent lover or practice “unnatural acts” as a result of seeing it. Sex has been done in many ways for many millennia, porn is probably just capturing what is already out there.
I will not tell you that it’s degrading to women and the women in it are always victims of rape or sexual slavery. While that may be largely true, it is not completely honest. Some are; many are not.
Porn is a scourge on your life. While you think it is increasing your pleasure in life, it’s secretly in the back of your brain robbing you of your libido and desire for normal relationships. It stunts you sexually and makes you weak in the bedroom.
If you haven’t gotten hooked, don’t. If you have just dipped a toe in the waters, get out. Don’t let this refuse infuse into your mind.
If you are currently hooked on it, stop. Quit. Cold-turkey.
If you are a Christian, you are no longer slaves to sin. It’s this simple: you don’t have to. So much of our culture tells men they will. Culture tells men they have to, if they don’t it’s assumed there is something wrong with them. Maybe this is true for the unregenerate, but Christian, you don’t have to. You have a choice. You can stop.
Culture tries to tell us that “boys will be boys” and that men are nothing but insatiable animals unable to control baser instincts and that the must lust for the flesh of women or there is something wrong with them. This is the great lie of our day. Men are not mere animals. Men have minds and consciences and are able to make moral choices.
There are many options out there for men wanting to quit their addiction, from accountability software to men’s support groups. There is even a group called “NoFap” which has a secular spin.
I won’t recommend the “bounce your eyes” option. I don’t recommend you shame yourself (or your sons for that matter) about noticing attractive women. You will be faced with beautiful women your entire life. Avoiding them is simply not an option.
First, we have to stop confusing attraction with lust. There is something about attraction to women that makes many Christian men freak out. But attraction is not lust. Arousal itself isn’t even lust. Was Christ aroused by the thought of bread while fasting in the desert? I would venture a “yes” otherwise it could not very well have been called a “temptation”. Attraction and arousal may play into lust, but they are not themselves lust. Lust involves a coveting or strong desiring to have something that does not rightfully belong to us as our own.
When we lust after a woman, we are objectifying her and desiring to have her for our own pleasure. Attraction is an entirely different animal. Attraction to someone of the opposite sex is merely a natural reaction to the beauty and desirability of the opposite sex. We are made to find the opposite sex attractive.
Arousal happens. Attraction happens. Lust is a choice.
I love luxury cars. I can look at beautiful cars all day. I would love to have an Austen Martin DB9 in my driveway. One could say I am attracted to the lines and symmetry of this particular vehicle. I can imagine myself driving it. But am I coveting it? No. At the end of the day I do not want that car badly enough to steal it or kill for it. It’s just a nice thought. I can admire it from afar and not think, “I must have that!”
We can do the same thing for nice houses, or clothes, or any number of attractive things. Is the attraction to these things covetous? I don’t believe so. I can find these things attractive and even desirable without lusting for them. Lust involves the conscious choice to be overwhelmed with desire to the point that all I can think of is having the object of my lust at all costs.
As I said before, I do not think men lust for the women in porn as much as they lust for the passion and sensation of the sex itself. They may covet the exotic idea of sex with women who are not theirs, but I do not think deep down they actually want the woman. They want that passion so badly that they are willing to endanger their real sex lives in favor of the addiction to a fake one.
We need to teach men to properly channel sexual urges into their spouse or into productive endeavors. We need to also train them to see women as people, more than just their bodies, and not as sexual objects. While they should be taught it’s normal and good to admire the beauty of a woman as a part of God’s creation they should not be taught that those women are objects for their covetous desires.
We ought not focus so much on lust and telling men not to have contact with women lest they stumble. We ought to be teaching what Paul teaches in Timothy: