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Feminspire | April 24, 2014

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Why Nude Modeling Shouldn’t Ruin My Life

Why Nude Modeling Shouldn’t Ruin My Life

| On 29, Apr 2013

Last week, I did a photo shoot with a very talented photographer/stylist couple. I’ve worked with them many times before, and I trust them completely. After we were finished shooting for the day, I spent some time discussing concepts that the photographer and I had envisioned that involved partial or complete nudity. I should preface this anecdote with the fact that up until very recently, I had been completely against taking my clothes off in front of a camera, though not because of any moral opposition on my own part. I had been with a man for two years who had been extremely anti-nudity, likening it to prostitution, saying that it was dirty to allow someone to photograph the curvature of my own body. My parents had told me when my modelling career first began that I should never do anything “inappropriate,” such as nude work. The constant shame that celebrities receive for ‘nip-slips’ and other accidental nakedness reminded me that my body was humiliating and needed to be constantly and unfailingly hidden, or I would face severe repercussions. However, once my romantic relationship came to a much-needed halt, I took a couple of women’s studies classes at my university and came to the personal revelation that I didn’t see anything wrong with my body: I felt that it was beautiful and could see no problem with revealing more of my skin.

To return to the original anecdote, my photographer told me that he was more than happy to work on concepts that involved a steeper dermis-to-cotton ratio. However, somehow the conversation took a turn to another model who had done some nude work for him. Incredibly beautiful, the woman in question is also a phenomenally talented gamer; so gifted, in fact, that she wound up winning a popular new reality show that targets the geek in all of us. When she was filling out paperwork prior to her participation on the show, there were a number of pre-screening questions that needed to be answered: had she ever been arrested, had she ever committed a felony, had she ever taken illegal drugs, had she ever done nude photography (as if nude photography is even on the same level as being arrested for any sort of felony, but I digress momentarily). She called the photographer in a panic to make sure that her art had never been shared publicly, which it hadn’t; a true professional doesn’t share work without consent. Her work never made its way into the black hole that is the Internet, and she ended up winning the show and the $100,000 prize that came with it. Nonetheless, had she confessed to nude work, she would never have even made it through the screening.

I was floored when I heard this story. Why would a photograph of a nipple be considered grounds on which to disqualify an intelligent, talented, capable young woman from a contest? By the same token, why should I have to avoid nude shoots for fear that it may ruin my chances at a future in law? Why is a woman’s body ‘dirty laundry’ that could break a career in seconds, regardless of the ability and promise shown? We all have bodies, and some of us permit that those bodies are photographed as artwork. How does that diminish any sense of worth?

Our society’s general fear of nakedness, regardless of the genitalia between one’s legs, allows for constant body shaming. Nudity, whether it be accidental or intentional, tends to be considered horrifying, ‘slutty’, or demeaning in some sense. Some European societies seem to embrace nudity: people, regardless of gender, can go to the beach and lounge topless, because nipples are nipples no matter the swelling beneath them. Bodies are considered beautiful in some parts of the world, so why not here in America?

I think that it’s a complete sham that one has to constantly be wary to avoid doing something ‘shameful’, like turning one’s body into art, to stop things from becoming skeletons in one’s proverbial closet. My sexuality, my face, my curves, my genitalia, my breasts: my body is not dirty. It is that which I was given, that which I was born with, and the way that I use it, whether it be tattoos, piercings, shaving, exercise, or nude photographs, should have no bearing on who I am as a person. It should not keep me from success. We are all born into bodies, and we live our lives within their accompanying limitations. The way in which we utilize our own physicality should have no bearing on the way that we are viewed. A photograph of a woman’s nipples should not bar her from success at whatever she is passionate about. The only thing that should get in her way should be a lack of talent or will, something that directly relates to her ability to achieve.

The naked body has been appreciated in artwork from the Renaissance to the Baroque era to the photography of today and everything in between. Posing as a model for artwork is not demeaning: it is simply art. It should not ruin anyone’s life, and it should not bar those who participate from having a future of their choosing.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Written by Emily Hill
Follow her on Tumblr and Twitter!

  • Sara H.

    When I started modelling in 2006, I focused primarily on nude modelling, because I wanted to feel beautiful and empowered. Really, there was only one or two shoots that enabled me to feel this way, both by the same photographer, and about 4 years apart. The others left me feeling dirty and degraded; likely due to the photographer and his sexual innuendos, and taking advantage of my newness to the scene (as well as my fear of people not liking me). He took advantage of me in a completely sexual way, and it ruined the idea of nude modelling for me. Or at least, it did, until I went back to the first photographer I worked with for my maternity photos. My husband at the time was against the nude shots, but I wanted to feel that same feeling of beauty and empowerment again, as I knew I would never experience pregnancy again.

    So in the end, I say be careful who you work with, and make sure that your photographer isn’t a sleaze-ball who’s only trying to sleep with you. Oh, and that he or she is talented. :) I’m going to get one of my nude photos on canvas and put it right in my livingroom! HA! Take THAT, ex husband! ;)

  • Kiana

    Nude photography and art can be absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I love looking at the various ways that artists capture the diversity and natural beauty of the human figure. Some of the greatest works of art in history involve nude or semi-nude figures, male and female. Its a shame that nudity is such a taboo subject, especially with women.

  • Alice A

    I’m gonna enter a lingerie competition in July this year and I’m entering under my mum’s maiden name so my future employers will have less chances of finding the images. It kind of sucks that I have to worry about these things! :/

    • Sunny

      Right? This is 2013, not 1950! Why should an employer care if you did nude modeling or sex work (I’m not equating the two, but a former porn star was fired from her teaching job for this reason)? How does it affect your current ability to do the job you’re applying for? People need to get over their prudishness.

  • Sean

    “Some European societies seem to embrace nudity: people, regardless of gender, can go to the beach and lounge topless, because nipples are nipples no matter the swelling beneath them. Bodies are considered beautiful in some parts of the world, so why not here in America?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_nudity_places_in_North_America#United_States

  • punkasaurusjess

    I absolutely agree. Why should having nude photos taken EVER ruin someone’s life? You hear so much in the media about how what you put online remains there forever — often using sexting/naked photos as the example saying that it could ruin your life/make getting a job very difficult. I think it’s ridiculous — so you took a few naked pictures, what should it matter if you’re qualified for the position?

    I think a lot of the problem we have is caused by the fact that American culture views nudity as automatically sexual and, despite the fact that “sex sells”, sexual things are dirty/shameful/should be hidden. It causes this really, really messed up view of our bodies as disgusting things that we should never, ever show because they’ll ruin us. I can’t think of a better way to encourage self-loathing and hatred of one’s body.

  • :3

    Yes. Photos of me are out there, some taken by unscrupulous people and some who are trustworthy. It doesn’t need to be art. It could be straight-up-hardcore-not-pretending-to-be-anything-else-but-porn-porn. I could be the Goatse man. That does not affect my ability to perform the job I do. Me being documented and seen by the public naked does not suddenly make me incapable of performing the tasks that my career requires.

  • xxbluejay21

    I totally agree. I also think that porn is not shameful at all. I think porn is absolutely beautiful! And so is masturbating in public.

  • Kylie

    I’m a hard core feminist and a Playboy Model. I love posing for Playboy especially since they give you complete control over how much if your body you want to show and what ends up in the magazine. It makes me sad that there are “feminist” who think what I do is degrading because,” Only my man should see me naked and not the whole world. Have some self respect!” My body belongs to me and I will show it off to whoever I want and me being comfortable in my own skin and celebrating it does not mean I don’t have self respect!