Nude Art or Is It Porn?

| February 27, 2011 | 5 Comments

Nude Art & Photography Or Pornography

The Issues Pertaining to Nude Art vs Porn:

Nude Art – So as a nudist organization with a social network on our website, we recently were faced with an interesting issue. Once you have a profile in our community, you can upload photos and share them. For us, nude pictures in this context are more about the natural form and tasteful nude art. We are not nor aim to be a Pornography site or “picture-peddler” website. Thus we have to monitor the photos people share and do something about any images we might deem sexually inappropriate or pornographic.

Now what I’ve come to realize is that judging these pictures is totally subjective. When does a photo go from being artistic to being sexual or pornographic? It’s not as easy a judgment as you might think! A nude figure could be posing a certain way that can be slightly sexual, but one little change of posture, and it can become completely innocent. We certainly want to let people express themselves freely. The question is where to draw the line..

A good example to contemplate this question is by looking at the paintings of Modigliani, an early 20th century painter whose artwork was only shared in a gallery for one day, as it was deemed too scandalous to be shown! Looking at the nude photos below, this artwork was considered porn back in the day. Here the sexuality seems to come from the pose, the direction and feeling of the woman’s gaze..It’s all so subtle!

Amedeo Modigliani Reclining Nude Art / Painting

Amedeo Modigliani Reclining Nude Art / Painting

A potential advertiser for our site offered these guidelines, which are still very subjective:

“If you would not want a nudist child to see it, it probably is sexual and not just simple nudity or art. If it looks like they are just in a bathroom or sitting on a bed with their legs spread and they are looking at their crotch and their crotch is the focal point of the photo, it is probably meant to be sexual. If it is done with nice scenery, nice lighting and beautiful, it is probably art. It is all about the intent of the photo.”

What do you think about these guidelines? Would they work in judging a nude photo? Would a painting like Modigliani’s belong on a naturist website?

Nudism and Naturism by YNA

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Category: Social Nudity Blogs, Felicity's Nudist Blog, Art

About the Author ()

Author of Felicity's Blog. Co-founder of Young Naturists America. 3rd-generation nudie. Avid reader. Feminist. 70% vegan, 30% vegetarian. When I'm not busy eating, I'm writing about naturism, censorship, topfree equality, body image and other fun topics. I like feedback, so plz leave a comment when you've got something to say!
  • libertarian5150

    Not to go off topic here, but I’ve found the hard way to be careful of joining nudist web groups as well. I can’t remember the name of it, but last week, I joined one on Google+, and it was nothing but porn, masking as a nudist site. It’s hard enough keeping the lifestyle pure, without that garbage. I’m not sure if there’s a way to report to Google or not. Sorry for going off topic. I just had to add that. Thanks.

  • Kirill

    Felicity, good points! And I love the comments. I totally agree that it is merely subjective, it must be quite annoying to confine with rules to please the sponsor.
    I've posted my thoughts about it on my blog too, and here is the summary.

    I am sure there are photos with naked people that no one would call art or porn, there are pieces of art with nudes that do not refer to naturist lifestyle and are not sexually stimulating, and pornography that is neither artistic nor naturist. But some imagery is much more difficult to classify.

    The paintings you show here, might depict a naturist woman, perhaps stretching after a nap. It is a painting, a pretty one, so it must be art :-) But some people might find her pose somewhat too inviting and arousing, there is certainly a focus on the crotch, so I can imagine they would see it as porn…

    I also like the reference to foot fetish in the comments by Eric. And I think it is in the core of naturist philosophy that genitals are not more immoral than say a hand; then there shouldn't be an issue with imagery specifically showing the former. But in any case, a web site depicting only genitals would not be able to show naturist lifestyle, not more than the one with only photos of arms or ears, so as long as the holistic aspect of naturism is shown, why bother that some members of the network show their particular body parts? And actually there are also underwear, leather, rubber, jeans, nurse, flight-attendent – you name it – fetishes, so being clothed in a particular form may be more sexually arousing for some people than being naked… Should it be censored?

    Probably there is more consensus on the imagery with hard penises, but on my blogspot I've posted two photos that in my opinion look casual naturist and artistic, have a look at my blog

  • Eric

    As a nudist and nude photographer I've often contemplated on the distinction between artistic nudity, a depiction of nudism, and erotica/porn.

    At the end of the day I believe that there isn't any – any distinction you try to make won't find broad agreement, and ultimately miscategorize content.

    For example, you can have sexually explicit photography which is nicely composed and under good lighting – it would be "artistic" but also "erotic".

    You can have simple nude portraits, well composed with good lighting, and most people call them art. But after a while you notice that they're almost entirely young 18-22 year old women with a skinny body type. Can you really argue there's no sexual component to that? (There are numerous pay sites devoted to this)

    The conventional understanding is that spread shots and/or hard penises are porn, anything else isn't. That's the understanding most models have, in my experience.

    But this just brings you into eye of the beholder type arguments. Maybe a photo that focuses on a female crotch is porn. But what about the feet? A good fraction of people have a foot fetish, and that image will be sexual to them. Conversely, if the viewer is a straight woman or gay man, then that crotch shot won't seem sexual at all.

    And then there's the nudist perspective. In the textile world, these parts are kept covered because they're seen as innately sexual and sexuality is innately wrong. Nudists at least don't see anything innately sexual about it, at least so we claim. So why maintain that this part of the body mustn't be visible when depicting nudism in photographs?

    And then there's the "should kids see it" standard alluded to above which just flat out isn't one. Personally I'm a lot more concerned with the exposure that kids get to violent imagery and marketing/advertising than I am with them seeing sexual imagery.

    Etc. Etc. I could go on. The main point is that for any given image you can argue both sides. Which says to me that it's completely subjective and thus a silly argument to have.

  • Angie

    Lovely as the paitings are, I think we need to ask why they would be on a naturist site?

    Would they be used to illustrate a point in an article (such as here), or displayed as 'art'? If art, what does it have to do with naturism? Art could just as easily be a painting of a cat, but that has no relevance to naturism. Simply because Modigliani's model is nude does not make her a nudist, nor is she in a nudist environment and thus is also irrelevent to naturism.

    The whole idea of nude pictures on a naturist site walks a thin line between demonstration and exploitation. Why do people want to look at naked people when our lifestyle emphasizes not looking at nude persons just for the sake of seeing naked people?

    Seeing others enjoying life in the nude reinforces our own feelings of the correctness of social nudity, but how many pictures do we need to see to accomplish that?

    Perhaps we(Steve & I) are a bit old fashioned but feel that some sites purporting to be 'naturist' yet carrying hundreds of (mostly) pretty nude people (even with special catagories for children), and selling videos of them, have crossed the line. They may also offer useful content to the serious nudist or wannabe, but the atraction and most obvious aspect of them is naked pictures.

    On the subject of the 'guidelines', they attemt to quantify the difference between art and porn using subjective criteria. Lighting, angle, pose can certainly affect mood and perception, but cannot alone be used to define quality.

    As you suggested in the title, porn does indeed lie in the eye of the beholder. A simple nude can arouse some, so can a photo of a pile of dog droppings. People are strange and unpredictable.

    Justice Potter Stewart probably came as close as anyone in difining pornography in 1964 when he said he couldn's describe it, but knew it when he saw it.

    Unfortunately, what he 'sees' as porn is not necessarily the same as you or I.

  • allwiredup8001

    I think it would be considered nudism art. It was a natural form. Now a days, nude photos are considered porno no matter what. You find a few in true art form.