Beautiful nudes made it possible for us to contemplate our sexuality in safety. -Martha Mayer Erlebacher
I’ve gotten that request often from models since social media became prominent, and not always in regard to nudity. There have been times when the request came simply because the person feared her family’s response to her modeling. Other times because the clothing was so very different from what they normally wore. And at least one time because the model feared her family would think she wasn’t taking her college courses seriously. Social media’s ability to expose our “secrets” to the rest of the world has had a dramatic effect in how people behave, or at least choose to present themselves, when they’re online.
Not that such concerns are entirely new, mind you. Horst P. Horst related the story of one instance where a husband became very upset that Horst had taken pictures of his wife and threatened to kill both the photographer and the wife. This was back before professional models existed, forcing photographers to pull from their social contacts for subjects. Horst had photographed the young woman unaware that her husband had any concerns. Once the photo showed up in Vogue magazine, however, the husband was outraged and accused his spouse of having an affair with the photographer. What made that accusation all the more outlandish was the fact that Horst was unapologetically gay and everyone knew it. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and no one was harmed.
Still, public reaction to anything remotely resembling nudity is surprisingly severe given how we’re supposed to be so incredibly “enlightened” now. Just this past week, I observed a comment under the photo of a young woman in a relatively modest bikini chastising the girl for “lowering” herself by posing in such a way. The model was, understandably, offended and quickly corrected the commenter. Other friends have had pictures of them nursing their newborn reported to the morality police. Instagram even removed fashion week runway photos if there was a hint of nipple exposed. Social media has become the arbiter of a false morality that works against the very idea of an open and well-educated society. We find it much easier to respond from ignorance than to seek understanding.
We are afraid of ourselves. We’re not really afraid of gays as much as we are afraid we might be gay. We’re not really afraid of those who are sexually open as much as we are afraid of our own rampant promiscuity being let loose. We’re not nearly as offended by public displays of affection as much as we struggle to control our own desires to do the kissing. How many dozens of times over the past ten years have we seen instances where legislators who have been most boisterous in their railing against gays and lesbians are later caught in a same-gender relationship? How many hundreds of times have those who preach against promiscuity been caught having affairs? We understand so little about our sexuality that it frightens us to violence against it.
America needs to get itself to a therapist. What we fear in ourselves ultimately does harm to others. In fighting against what we refuse to honestly confront we oppress others who have a need and a desire to learn. When we prevent people from understanding more about themselves we limit their potential in all areas of their lives. While one might make the argument that they have the right to screw up their own lives, one absolutely does not, under any circumstances, have the right to screw up the lives of others.
Get a grip, America. Face your fears. The world is tacitly naked and that’s a good thing.