On 8 March 2012 International Women’s Day, the Nude Photo Revolutionaries Calendar was launched in homage to Egyptian atheist, student and blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy who posted a nude photo of herself, announcing the post on Twitter under the hashtag, #NudePhotoRevolutionary.
The calendar is the idea of campaigner Maryam Namazie to support Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and join her ‘screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy’.
Namazie says: ‘What with Islamism and the religious right being obsessed with women’s bodies and demanding that we be veiled, bound, and gagged, nudity breaks taboos and is an important form of resistance.’
For this I feel the need to use a Diagram. A Venn Diagram.
Remember these bad boys? They were a teachers best friend in elementary school. This triangle is red, so it goes in one circle, this square is blue so it goes in another circle. BUT THIS BLUE TRIANGLE?! It has no place so it goes in between, as the genetic spawn of the Red Triangle and the Blue Circle. So many kinds of awesome.
This is going to be a two portion post. And like the Venn Diagram, they will have a connecting trait.
PART ONE – AROUSAL
Now, in regards to Venn Diagraming it up, take yourself. Are you a powerful, aggressive person who takes charge of situations and is often leading people – but frequently enjoys the concept of the rape fantasy?
Are you a shy wallflower that usually just goes with the flow of the crowd – but frequently likes to tie people to bed posts and whip them a little?
Each of your separate qualities go into different circles on the Venn Diagram. What’s connecting them is the stable and steady, physically unchanging You (and by this I mean that you are going to be YOU until you die – you might get a scrape on your knee or go from being ‘Bob’ to ‘Barbara’ – but you are still you. Just to clarify).
Your personality will change. Your ideals, values and morals might change. Your sexuality might change. This is without question as you barge into the world to experience the board game called Life (except this board game is way more fun because the actual spin-the-wheel game doesn’t involve sex: You give your partner a mind-altering orgasm – move ten places ahead!).
People change. People are versatile, multi-layered creatures with color, depth and symbolic meaning.
And this is ever more present in regards to sexuality.
There is a two-fold that really needs to be understood. How does arousal work?
The approach I find to be the most beneficial to all of humanity stems from Michael J. Bader’s “Arousal; The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies”.
“[…] my theoretical and clinical approach to sexuality is an affirmative one, viewing sexual fantasy and arousal as resulting from an unconscious attempt to solve problems, and not, as many psychoanalysts would have, recreate them.”
Bader argues that our sexuality offers us an opportunity to transform the helplessness we felt as children into a powerhouse. If Sophie was abused in childhood, she may take pleasure in being a dominant sexual partner – to take the helplessness she felt as a child, not being able to fight back, and alter it into a pleasurable power.
If Adam had an alcoholic mother who he always had to take care of and babysit, he may find comfort in playing a more submissive role in the bedroom. Always HAVING to be the support and leader without any option might have been a painful experience. Releasing the chains of his childhood to let go of being in charge and take PLEASURE in being the one told what to do.
Everything we do is to alter the way we feel – either to turn pain into pleasure or to enhance the pleasure we already have.
This view of sexuality offers a safe way experience resolutions to your pain. So when Sophie and Adam engage in sexual activity, they are using each other objectively to reach their own place of pleasure. Sophie knows that her handcuffing Adam to the bed is not an reaction to him as a human with a kind, warm personality (the subjective), but as a means for him, as well as her to safely experience pleasure (the objective).
PART TWO – WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH BODY PRIDE?
I cannot make nudity non-sexual. Ever. Fact.
Even a goofy picture of me being silly whilst naked will not take away the sexuality of my body. For this, I am proud. I am proud and happy and gleeful to be a voracious sexual creature.
What I can do, is change the object into a subject.
There is much too much weight on young girls (and boys) to always see themselves in the objective lighting of the ‘other’.
(You can watch the documentary “Sext-Up Kids” by CBC to learn more about the pressures put on girls to look ‘sexy’.)
We are priming these young children to believe that they should be constantly aware that their appearance (body, hair, makeup, personality) should be appealing to the opposite sex. We are teaching them that they are, and always will be, the object of someone else’s needs and desires.
But this is nothing new, and I put strong emphasis on how not new this is – even the significant youth of the toddlers in the vogue magazine. In Ancient China, many girls became ‘mooi-jais’ – slaves abandoned or by destitute parents and often recruited into brothels or street prostitution before being trained and sold as concubines (“A History of Mistresses”, E. Abbott). They were displayed as merchandise: required to parade in front of potential buyers in the nude, to speak, to show her unbound feet and allow the men to explore her body scent (teeth, armpits, and sometimes, vaginal odor).
Of course, with the waves of feminism, this is happening much less often (and child slavery/prostitution is a different post).
The main point here is that this is the generation where girls get to decide when they want to become objects and when they want to become subjects. This is the generation when girls can experience pleasure and power in the same way men have been doing so for years. This is the generation when women can safely explore the carnality of their sexuality, and turn men into sexual objects, without feeling shame or guilt.
I was on the streetcar a few days ago when I was thinking about Shannon Bell (author of Fast Feminism) and how she described the vagina not as a receptacle for a penis, but as an inverted penis in its very nature – containing the ability to get hard, grow, and ejaculate. And I thought back to my adolescence and my first boyfriend, and the only way I understood sex was that I had something that boys wanted– I was a receptacle for their sexuality. Which, is still true, in a sense. But NOW, the first thing that comes to mind is that boys have something I want. Rawr.
I cannot de-sexualize the intense voluptuous sensuality of a naked women, but I can reclaim my body as my own. And hopefully, aid other women in reclaiming theirs.
“Historically, women’s sexuality and intellect have never been integrated. Women’s bodies were controlled, and their sexuality was contained in order to avert their corrupting impact on men’s virtue. Femininity, associated with purity, sacrifice, and frailty, was a characteristic of the morally successful woman. Her evil twin, the succubus (whore, slut, concubine, witch) was the earthy, sensual, and frankly lusty woman who had traded respectability for sexual exuberance. Vigorous sexuality was the exclusive domain of men. Women have continuously sought to disentangle themselves from the patriarchal split between virtue and lust, and are still fighting this injustice.”