A few days ago a blogger of note accused me of “pandering to men.” Keep in mind that “pander,” to be precise, means to “gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire, need, or habit or a person with such a desire).”
When I tweeted my post on boudoir photographer Lori Berkowitz and I included a stunning photo of her over-50 model, the blogger tweeted a barrage of criticism.
She thought women of a certain age should keep their clothes on and find more age-appropriate ways to express their sexuality.
She thought women of a certain age who display photos of themselves only do it for men.
In response to my response that I show boudoir photos of myself and others on my blog primarily because I like it, and if others did, great, she told me I was wrong — apparently, I needed some womansplaining — and that I was seeking male approval.
Then she had a problem that I have a sex blog at all: “You could just write a journal, but you choose the Internet. Why?”
Can you imagine saying this to a food blogger? Stop pandering to foodies and keep your decadent recipes stuffed in your recipe box where they belong?
I understand this blogger’s concerns. Historically, too much value has been placed upon a woman’s looks. Some women — especially young women — dress and behave in ways to get validation from men because they lack self-esteem. Some women spend too much time cultivating sex appeal and not enough time cultivating intellectual pursuits and self-reliance.
But to say that self-respecting women should wear turtlenecks and keep their sexuality cloistered until the eleventh date seems just as extreme as saying a woman’s best assets are her youth and beauty.
Besides being sex-negative, this point-of-view is reductionist and privileges some qualities over others. Some people lead with their intellect. Some lead with their sensuality and sexuality. I lead with both, which should be evident to anyone who spends a minute-and-a-half on my blog.
Although she didn’t come out and say it, this blogger was accusing me of being anti-feminist. Because any “good feminist” would downplay her sexuality in order to be taken seriously.
Well, I call bullshit. Telling a sensual, sexually charged woman that she should compartmentalize this intrinsic quality because it’s inferior to her intellect, or she won’t be taken seriously, is absurd. I am sick of the notion that sexy women aren’t smart. Or they’re not feminists. It’s a form of slut-shaming that is particularly egregious when it comes from other women.
Yes, sex sells, and erotic images of women’s bodies command attention. But boudoir photography, good photography, which constitutes almost every image on my blog, is art. It’s lighting, it’s composition, it’s the ability to capture a look, a feeling, an essence, in a blink. It’s the intersection and alchemy of subject and artist.
I’m 200% straight, but if you gave me the option of looking at photos of semi-nude men or semi-nude women, I would pick the women every time. The female form takes my breath away. Boyish, Rubenesque, small-breasted, large-breasted, muscular, soft, youthful, mature — I am captivated by every shape, size, and glimmer of femininity. I am so captivated, in fact, that I give myself a ten-minute limit on the boudoir time-suck that is Pinterest, where I could spend all day scouring for lush nudes.
Just imagine what the world would have lost if the Body Police had their way? No Venus On The Halfshell…
No Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe…
No Naked Maja…
I would argue that now more than ever, with America going to hell in a handbag, we need beauty to soothe our soul. We need carefully crafted words and artfully composed images. We need sexual, sensual, and aesthetic arousal. So if my blog, or the photos I post, grabs the attention of men OR women, and gets them to think, or fantasize, or smile, or relate, or get turned on, or feel transported for even a moment — if that’s pandering, I’m not going to stop.