Big Question: Celebrating Beauty/Exploiting Nudity

Nudity/partial nudity is always a charged topic. If portrayed well it can make a scene in a film or a photo all the more powerful. Often, however, it is used simply to attract the viewers eye and is neither artistic nor necessary. Because of the sheer amount of nudity, partial nudity, and near nudity in media and art it can be hard to find the line between this celebratory use of nudity and the exploitive aspect of nudity. How then can this trend change? The sad truth is that people will always take nudity out of context in order to exploit the person in the image. Whether it is on a website, magazine, or a persons personal computer. Part of the problem is that there is no conversation of nudity in the media in any positive way, however one person has seemed to stand out to me in recent months as being in a position to change this. Emily Ratajkowski is a model who has appeared in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” music video and more recently in a video for treats magazine. In this second video the camera moves over Ratajkowski’s naked body, seeming to explore her figure and form. Is this porn? I don’t think so. It is beautiful in a way porn can never be. Is it exploitive? If anyone has benefited from Emily’s nudity in blurred lines and this most recent video it has been her. So is she exploiting the viewers who she know will simply watch because she is naked? Perhaps but that speaks more to her ability to capitalize on an opportunity than anything else. But more importantly if this video can be viewed as art and her nudity as acceptable and as a celebration of beauty and the female form, can this start a dialogue that takes back the power of the nude form from those who wish to exploit it in an insincere way? Can she, if she continues to appear nude in media in celebratory way, change the way we think about nudity?
Treats! is described as “a limited edition, quarterly, fine art periodical. Treats! features luxurious, sensual and exclusive content by some of the most revered photographers, models, stylists, writers and artists in the world.”
Can this sort of magazine truly change the way we view nudity? Probably not but it may help start the conversation.

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One thought on “Big Question: Celebrating Beauty/Exploiting Nudity

  1. jessmcphillips

    I agree that it depends on who is looking, who is being looked at, and the ultimate purpose of a particular piece of nakedness in media whether it can be considered degrading, porn, or beauty. If a woman chooses to be naked in media, then her nakedness could be considered a form a beauty and positive sexual expression. The viewers’ perception of her statement, however, can vary. Although she may be expressing nakedness, that is “to be oneself,” onlookers may only be seeing her as nude, or “to be seen naked…and yet not recognized for oneself” (Berger, 39). Women can portray themselves as positively as they want through nakedness in media, but unless the onlookers can recognize and appreciate her form as beauty, not pornography, her intentions may not matter.

    A discussion, then, should not just be on what women in media can do to promote positive nakedness, but what can be done to help alter the mindset society has about female (and male, in some cases) nudity? If we can find ways to change societal opinions (a daunting task, I know), then we may begin to better appreciate the naked body as more than just a means to an end of sexual gratification.

    Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. London: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

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