Mormon Women Bare

Posted by on December 9, 2013 in Body, body image, feminism, modesty, photo | 71 comments

Despite the inconvenience of an 8 AM Sunstone session this past July, my friend Katrina Barker Anderson delivered a compelling and beautiful presentation about her recent art project, Mormon Women Bare.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out!

Piano

The website features a description of the project and a gallery of images of women who have been photographed completely naked.  These women are of varied shapes and sizes, some post pregnancy, with stretch marks and sagging breasts.

The images show the true nature of her subjects, just living in their skin.  These women are brave and vulnerable, just living in bodies that are not perfect.  In her project description, Katrina explains that modesty culture has become suffocating and because “images can be very powerful tools for change,” she wants this project to help change the way Mormon women and men think of the female body.  Because, “the more we see something, the more normal and less taboo it becomes.” It’s a powerful message and a dramatic foil to the increased modesty rhetoric from the LDS church.

I was excited to learn that Katrina’s work has been praised by international publications, but so far is largely unnoticed in her Utah community.

This Op-Ed in the Salt Lake Tribune speaks to the modesty culture which Katrina is trying expose.  

450px-Auguste_Rodin-The_Kiss-Rodin_Museum,_Paris

Art historian Alexandra Karl explains that Katrina’s work fits in a category with other feminist artists who have also tried to reclaim the body from media distortion and cultural pressure.  What’s unique is how she approaches this topic among Mormons.  And since Mormon’s aren’t known for embracing nude art, I guess we can’t be surprised that BYU isn’t banging down the door to exhibit Mormon Women Bare. Karl cites BYU’s art censoring of Rodin’s The Kiss which was covered with a bed sheet when it came to the Provo campus.

Despite the lukewarm reception Karl sees that Katrina has received in Utah, there is hope that her work will be shared and continue to spread through international press and progressive Mormon communities.

I reached out to Katrina today asking about the response she’s receiving in Utah.

The response here in Utah has been mixed as I expected. There are those who love it and think it is needed and important. There are those who hate it and think I’m creating pornography. There are some who realize that the issues I’m bringing up about modesty and body image are important but don’t agree with my methods. And then there are some people who just don’t “get it”. But for those who do get it, it is doing a lot of good. Last week I went through several of the emails and messages I’ve gotten and compiled them on a page on the website so others could read the positive response to the project. Hearing from those who are moved by this work make all the naysayers worth it.

Also, Katrina is still looking for models for her project. She is particularly excited to photograph women of color and varying generations, although she appreciates any volunteers.  If you are interested, please contact her through her site.

My hope is that her work continues to be shared and appreciated. Katrina is both an advocate and an artist, a winning combination.

 

 

 

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71 Comments

  1. Thank you for this lovely write up, Jess!

  2. You are welcome!
    I loved this quote from your appreciation page, “But your project, Sister Anderson, by being candid, succeeds where modesty fails at promoting respect and love for the body.”

    I especially love that she called you Sister Anderson. It’s just perfect.

  3. Jessawhy,

    Thank you so much for introducing me to this artist and her work! I was hesitant to look at the images– I am not sure why, but in going through the images, I felt at peace. These women are real. They are beautiful. They deal with many of the same issues as me. And they are brave enough to share it. The nudity does make a powerful statement– of sisterhood. Thank you for doing your part to share this important work.

    • Spunky,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the art. Many people (me included) are nervous about looking at the work for the first time, but feeling peace is a beautiful response.

      Thank you for your comment. I was actually worried that I wouldn’t reach anyone who wasn’t already familiar with her work, so I’m glad I did. Even a fellow perma-blogger!

  4. I think that this is such an exciting feminist project. I just love the idea of reclaiming regular women’s bodies and showcasing them in a non-sexualized way, in all their variations, shapes, scars, and wrinkles. Their bodies tell their stories, and I love that. Beautiful, beautiful work, Katrina.

    • Thank you, Caroline. Perhaps it’s good for us to admit to our flaws but not shame ourselves for them.

  5. My figure drawing instructor at BYU Idaho used to complain incessantly about the swimming suits our models wore. While the figure drawing models there were not nude, we studied the same masterpieces of art that you would study elsewhere, including many with nudes. BYU Idaho is where I came to love pieces like the Kiss and I remember how embarrassed I was for my church when BYU censored the Kiss during my college years. When I finally had the privilege of seeing the Kiss in person a few years later, I was even more bewildered at how anyone could hide such a beautiful and important piece of art.

    • Bewildered, indeed. I’m glad that your instructor valued the nude form. How strange that she had to wear a bathing suit.
      I didn’t realize that you studied art! How cool. Thanks for your comment.

  6. This project is so moving. I found myself relating to many of the stories. Katrina has a lot of talent and something important to say, I hope she reaches many people. Thanks for sharing Jessawhy.

    • Thanks, Anissa. I love that each woman tells her story as part of the art. There is so much we can learn about ourselves and each other by reading them.

  7. I love the stories of women claiming the beauty of their bodies in this project so much. When I first looked at Katrina’s art, I realized just how rarely we see women in popular culture portrayed as beautiful without their sexuality being alluded to. That’s so discouraging.

    I wish I had a group of young women to discuss this with. I think that would have been powerful for me when I was a teen and might have alleviated some of the angst I’ve gone through over the years with my own body.

    • Young women would be a good group to discuss this with. I remember showing this site when my friend’s tweenage daughter came in and she covered the screen. I was sad at first, but realized that every person (and child) is at a different place in their comfort with nudity and nude art.

      Since I have sons, I’ve wondered about the benefits of showing them this site and discussing what women’s bodies are about, and what they mean. It’s an important subject, and one I don’t often bring up. I remember thinking that my mother’s body was the default “normal” and that others who were much different than her were strange. I wonder if that is a typical response and if I should talk to my children more openly about the varieties of bodies and how each has beauty.

      Perhaps we can come up with an Exponent body image lesson for children. Are there some out there already?

      • I am sorry, but showing this to your sons is not the greatest idea. If you want to talk to your sons about women’s bodies, I would use images of paintings of nudes. Classical paintings get the point across without being as sexuallized in their brains.

        This kind of image:
        http://mormonwomenbare.com/2013/10/28/amanda/#jp-carousel-289
        is nothing more than soft-core porn. I understand that in context it is an interesting study, but on its own, to a teenage boy, it is porn.

        There are entire porn-sites all over the internet dedicated to this exact kind of image. Again, the more mature of us will not see it as porn when taken in context of the rest of the images, but to most of the world, it also fits nicely into multiple porn niches.

        These images are more revealing and titillating than the ones I routinely used to masturbate to as a teen. Modesty and the arguments about it are one thing. But this is something entirely different.

        Reading these posts, its is clear to me that none of the women posting here have any idea what can influence impulses in a teen boy. It is not environment, at the exposed pubic hair level it is simply biological.

  8. I missed that 8:00 am talk at Sunstone, but did get to see some of the images in the gallery.

    I admire those women with the courage to personally participate. I don’t think I would be that brave.

    • Rachel,
      I can see where you are coming from, those women are very courageous. It’s hard to be so vulnerable, and have your face and body as art for everyone to see.
      Did you see the woman with the newborn twin babies? I think more women would be comfortable doing that, sharing the spotlight, so to speak.

      • I did.

        I even thought that if I were still pregnant it would be easier, somehow. Maybe because I liked my pregnant body better than my post pregnancy body. And then I realize that is part of the point. Even with a soft belly, I am of value.

  9. Thank you for this is a lovely and thoughtful post, Jess. I am one of the people who Katrina describes as agreeing that “issues I’m bringing up about modesty and body image are important but don’t agree with my methods.” Because these women made themselves available for public scrutiny – and that is an incredible risk – part of me wants to join in and offer only praise. But that wouldn’t be honest. Please bear with me as I try to explain my feelings.

    The gift of seeing Woman in her many (non-sexualized) forms is a rare gift indeed. Because I’m a nurse, I have seen every shape, size, age, distorted, tattooed, scarred, diseased, sagging body known to humankind. I profoundly love and honor each one. But I’m still uncomfortable with public nudity.

    I’m also a feminist who believes each woman needs to find her power in the ways that work for her. So, in that way, I applaud this project. For me, the project isn’t about the art at all. Or even about modesty. It’s about the individual women in the photos. Their life experience is what I’m observing. They have chosen to reveal things about themselves, both in the essays and in photos, that are not often revealed publicly. There is beauty and inherent power in vulnerability. Yet, each of us has her own comfort level and group of trusted individuals for those kinds of revelations. I accept that each of us is unique in those ways.

    I personally don’t need to see every part of a woman’s (or man’s) body to understand that she is nude in a photo, that she has bared herself for the artist. I feel the impact without the explicit image. The artist and subjects could argue that to restrict the photos would diminish the impact. That may be true for some people. It wouldn’t be true for me. The essays, accompanied by less explicit photos might have helped me feel more comfortable with the project and allowed me to spend more time viewing the images, soaking in the vital messages and meanings– for the artist, the subjects, and for myself.

    Regardless of anything else, I love and respect all the women associated with this project and wish them abundant blessings for the soulful work represented therein.

    • Melody,
      I’m so glad you shared your perspective here. I think it’s an important one to have as part of the conversation.

    • Melody,
      Thank you for your thoughtful and very positive comment. It really helps me to see the range of responses to this type of art project.

  10. I feel like the project is unfortunately lacking in an understanding of some important truths, and so it seems to me a misguided way to go about what it is ultimately trying to accomplish.

    The human body is good, it is beautiful. Nudity is good, it is beautiful. (And since we’re discussing art, I’ll put aside any conversation about pornography since I think we can all agree that it is of course neither good nor beautiful.) But perhaps in the pursuit of beauty and art, are there some things that may be too beautiful to be put on display in general venues, or too close to the divine to be shared for general public consumption/admiration/viewing? That perhaps if not reserved for sacred spaces set-apart for that purpose, it could and would be demeaning to that level of good and beauty to be displayed in common areas?

    I submit that there are, and that the human body rightly belongs in this category, both male and female. There are of course parts of the body that can be openly revealed that too are divine and portray truth, just as the scriptures are divine and portray truth and are openly revealed and available to all of God’s children. But in the case of the revealed word of God, there are also doctrines or words of heaven that are so sacred and divine that the Lord commands that they should not be openly revealed to the public, and in some cases not even allowed to be written at all. And why should they not be openly revealed, or not even written in some cases? Would they not be merely words written on a page? Why should mere words be commanded not to be written and/or openly revealed? Likewise, a person may suggest that bodies are just bodies, so what’s the big deal? Everybody has one right? But just as words are more than letters on a page, so also the body is more than just flesh, for both have greater meaning than the mere parts that make them. And if we could comprehend it, we would understand that some parts of the body are symbols with great meaning, symbolizing the most sacred parts of human nature, perhaps even the most sacred truths of eternity–and just as some doctrines or words are too beautiful and divine to be openly revealed, these ought rather to be reserved for sacred spaces–most correctly reserved for husband and wife to open and reveal in moments of divine love.

    So while these women may have displayed courage through nudity in the name of beauty and art like so many have before them, and also in an attempt to curb some cultural flaws we face, I think they are also displaying a misunderstanding of their true nature and the body that represents it. If a person truly could understand their nature, and what it really means to be created in the image of God, they would understand why the body is not meant for open display and would have no desire to do so. And that has nothing to do with pornography.

    It is not my desire to condemn those who have not yet come to this understanding, but it is my hope that those who are involved in this project or something like it will eventually come to this knowledge, for I believe with this understanding comes a greater appreciation for the good and the beautiful and with it then offers the potential for even greater love, admiration, and respect of self and of God.

    • Steve,
      I appreciate your tone and comment. Although I don’t agree with your conclusion, I can see where you are coming from and think that “sacredness” is one reason for keeping covered.

      Again, thank you for engaging so politely in this conversation. There is much to be said about how we navigate our relationships with our bodies, each other, and God.

  11. This kind of image:
    http://mormonwomenbare.com/2013/10/28/amanda/#jp-carousel-289
    is nothing more than soft-core porn. I understand that in context it is an interesting study, but on its own, to a teenage boy, it is porn.

    There are entire porn-sites all over the internet dedicated to this exact kind of image. Again, the more mature of us will not see it as porn when taken in context of the rest of the images, but to most of the world, it also fits nicely into multiple porn niches.

    These images are more revealing and titillating than the ones I routinely used to masturbate to as a teen. Modesty and the arguments about it are one thing. But this is something entirely different.

    Reading these posts, its is clear to me that none of the women posting here have any idea what can influence impulses in a teen boy. It is not environment, at the exposed pubic hair level it is simply biological.

    If you are a woman reading this, compare how much hornier you became in your late 20s and early 30s to how it was like when you were 14. Now take that level of your early 30s and amplify it about 10 times. That gives you what it is like to be a adolescent male.

    • is nothing more than soft-core porn. I understand that in context it is an interesting study, but on its own, to a teenage boy, it is porn.

      So what? To a teenage boy, just about everything is porn. To quote the great Joss Whedon:

      Cordelia: Well, does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?
      Xander: I’m seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.

      Thank god and goddess we adults don’t have to let the libidos of male adolescents govern our own utterances, expressions and experiences. We can only pity those who somehow worry about what might arouse a teenage boy before they decide what is good for themselves.

      And we can only condemn those who tell adult women that the comfort level of teenage boys somehow matters more than women’s psychological well-being and spiritual wholeness.

      In other words, badidea, you’re right: yours is a really bad idea.

      • Goodidea, it seems like you may be letting your ideology get in the way of the obvious. The natural male response to pictures of naked women is arousal, particularly when young and immature and contextualizing is not as easy–and as mentioned it’s not even conscious for these young ones, it’s biology.

        Teens in the church are advised to avoid anything that causes arousal, which most naturally includes pictures of naked women, whether it is intended as art or pornography. The question the becomes, is it just to then be promoting that which puts others in a situation they are told to avoid? a situation that would most likely impact them in a negative way?

        I think an argument can definitely be made for naturalizing something like breastfeeding, but are fully nude photos really justified for the purpose of making political statements? Is claimed personal fulfillment a righteous justification for putting others in a likely detrimental situation? Or in other words, am I truly my brother’s keeper? I believe adults are indeed responsible and accountable for influencing the rising generation in positive and not negative ways, and saying “too bad” for the sake of personal fulfillment or some desired political statement comes across to me quite narrow in outlook

      • Goodidea, it seems like you may be letting your ideology get in the way of the obvious. The natural male response to pictures of naked women is arousal, particularly when young and immature and contextualizing is not as easy–and as mentioned it’s not even conscious for these young ones, it’s biology.

        Of course I get that, Steve. Duh. As you say, it’s obvious.

        I just don’t care. I don’t think the problems of teenage boys should trump the needs and concerns of adult women, even if most of our culture says that they should.

        Which, I must say, should be pretty obvious as well.

        Teens in the church are advised to avoid anything that causes arousal, which most naturally includes pictures of naked women, whether it is intended as art or pornography. The question the becomes, is it just to then be promoting that which puts others in a situation they are told to avoid? a situation that would most likely impact them in a negative way?

        The question then becomes–OBVIOUSLY–should the church reconsider the really bad advice it gives young people?

        Again, duh.

        Is claimed personal fulfillment a righteous justification for putting others in a likely detrimental situation?

        Put controls on your computers to protect those fragile young men around you. Read this, and then have the young men you’re so worried about read it too. http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/06/18/men-sex-and-modesty/

        They CAN learn to control their thoughts and their actions, even around scantily-clad and half-nude–and, dare I say, totally nekkid–ladies.

        saying “too bad” for the sake of personal fulfillment or some desired political statement comes across to me quite narrow in outlook

        Well, I guess turn-about is fair play, since saying, “Too bad” for the sake of some ideal you can’t actually explain comes across to me quite narrow–and dishonest–it outlook.

      • Steve,
        I’m also troubled by the idea that we have to protect teen boys from naked women like we would protect our children from some kind of poison.

        I do believe hard core porn is poison, and this type of feminist nude art is the antidote. It takes the fantasy and mystery away from the female body and humanizes it. These are people, not just bodies, we are looking at.

        I like to think that if we had a female Savior, and we worshiped Her body and blood, we would not think as much about how to cover and control the bodies of women. They would mean so much more to us as a culture, as a people.

      • We can’t protect them, nudity is now ubiquitous. Of course men and boys are responsible for their own choices, since temptation has never been a justification for sin. But the question is whether or not it is right to be a willing accomplice in temptation? I don’t think that public exposure in order to feel better about oneself (which I find very misguided in the first place) is a justifiable reason. Imagine a 17 year old girl feels bad about her body, and so decides that to feel better she will build a nude art collection of herself and post these artistic nude photos of herself on a public website she creates. It is my understanding that by doing this she could be convicted for distribution of child pornography, and explaining that it was for the purpose of feeling better about herself or that it was done in the name of art will not be a justifiable defense, even under a secular law. But even if such a thing were not illegal, would you really let a daughter of yours do this? Knowing the viewing and abuse among both peers and strangers that it will be inevitably used for? Is it not degrading?

        To me your suggestion that feminist nude photography is the answer to pornography is like suggesting that the answer to murder or violent crimes is desensitization through violet video games. I don’t believe the answer is to dull the natural senses, but rather to master self-control of these inclination from the beginning to be used at appropriate times (for love and not for selfishness). We don’t need to view the body as something more mundane or less important, but rather as sacred and inextricably linked and representative of the soul, worthy of utmost respect, not an object to be used for selfish lust, neither an object used for a selfish need for public adoration or validation. I agree with your sentiment that these are not just bodies we are looking at, but rather people, and not only that but children of the divine.

      • This:

        Or in other words, am I truly my brother’s keeper?

        That’s always what it comes down to: how do men take care of other men?

        For men like Steve, “How do men take care of other men?” ALWAYS trumps “How do women take care of other women?” And so few men are even capable of asking, “How do men take care of women–not in some patronizing, mansplaining, patriarchal way, but with genuine compassion for women as equals?”

        It’s time for these unenlightened men to find ways to be less of a problem for the rest of humanity. You’ve had a good run of blaming your bad behavior on women and their nekkid body parts. But fewer and fewer people buy that crap anymore. Get whatever therapy you need, and fix whatever truly messed up ideas about bodies exist in your religion and your personal ideology. The world has moved on from your kind of outdated ideas.

      • Steve, blah blah blah, 17-year-old girl, blah blah blah

        Steve, there’s a reason our society has something we have agreed is the age of consent, and there’s a reason MWB participants have to be 21.

        We don’t need to view the body as something more mundane or less important, but rather as sacred and inextricably linked and representative of the soul, worthy of utmost respect, not an object to be used for selfish lust, neither an object used for a selfish need for public adoration or validation.

        Here’s the thing, Steve: the women who participated in the project have said that doing so helped them see how their bodies are sacred.

        And since they didn’t use their last names, participation was NOT about “a selfish need for public adoration or validation.”

        Duh.

    • p.s. You do know, badidea, that if images like that upset you so much, you can always ask your parent/guardian/spouse to put some sort of control on the computer so you can’t look at them, no matter how tempted you are?

    • BadIdea, please don’t assume that all women have the same libido. We have a wide gamut, just as men do, which changes over our lifetime and often increases as we get older.

      Also, if a boy is hyper-sensitive to any nudity as a sexual stimulus, wouldn’t it make sense to not shelter him from non-sexual nudity (art, breastfeeding moms, etc.) to give him opportunities to condition himself into a mature sensitivity? The photos in this project are not about sexuality, at least not as an adolescent male perceives sexuality. But because our culture is often so prudish, many people can’t see beyond their perception that all nudity is sexual.

      I’m pretty sure that these women are fairly knowledgable about adolescent male sexual impulses. As am I. It’s a common theme in our public cultural discourse, and you have to be pretty blind to be ignorant of it. That’s one of the reasons I admire their bravery, to run that gauntlet (and others) to express something about their bodies that gets almost no attention in our public cultural discourse. And even now, with it laid bare (pun intended) before us, so many people can’t see what it means.

    • BadIdea,
      A wise friend of mine once said, “I don’t have teenage boys and have never been a teenage boy, but I get tired of the argument that we have to be careful what we portray because of how it will effect boys. Of course, a naked woman is different from a sleeveless t-shirt, but if the depiction of a naked woman could help a girl feel better about her body and make a boy have lustful thoughts–well, who do we help first?”

  12. I’m curious from the perspective of those who are members of the Church who feel something like this is a morally okay or maybe even good thing to do (those who seem to be admiring the project).

    If I looked at nude art photography, specifically of nude women, and sat there admiring the beauty of their nude bodies, I know my wife would be hurt by these actions. I believe she would feel demeaned by my actions.

    Likewise, if my wife were to view nude male art in admiration, etc. I would likewise be hurt and offended.

    If you are also married, would you be totally fine with your spouse engaging in this behavior? If yes, then why? And if no, then why do you think others should be okay with it? Or in other words, why do you feel it is morally worthy?

    • Steve,
      I appreciate your honest question. I am an active member, and I told my husband about the website. I asked him if he would like to view it — I wanted him to view it. It seemed to me like such a good thing for men to be exposed to female bodies in a non-sexualized way. I wanted him to be able to appreciate their beauty and their bravery and not immediately categorize the nude female body as porn. He declined.

      • Caroline, thanks for the response, it is interesting to see this from another perspective.

        Would it change things at all if instead of you suggesting it to your husband, he rather brought you over to show you what he was viewing, and he proceeded to say how beautiful he found the nude women in the photographs he was looking through? Would it change anything if these women were nude art models, and not just your everyday average body women?

        Would this be any different for you than your husband viewing and admiring photography of nature (mountains, oceans, lakes, etc.)?

        I appreciate your feedback.

      • Would it change anything if these women were nude art models, and not just your everyday average body women?

        Umm…. because nude art models cannot be just your everday average body women? Because it’s OK to look at pictures of naked women if they’re not conventionally attractive, and highly so?

        This is part of your disconnect, Steve: nude art models ARE your everyday average body women.

        Highly made up, photoshopped women are another question, which is the point of this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17j5QzF3kqE#t=16

        Helping young men and women have a realistic sense of what real female bodies look like is pretty darn necessary, and MWB is one way to do that. You clearly know very little about the larger issues involved here, which is a shame, given that you state elsewhere that you have daughters. You really need to learn more about this before you lecture others on it.

      • “Umm…. because nude art models cannot be just your everyday average body women?

        I’m responding just in case my wording was not clear to Caroline. If I thought that I would have simply said, “Would it change anything if these women were nude art models?” But instead I qualified it and specified that I was referring to nude art models that are not your average body women, photoshopped or otherwise, (which to my understanding is probably the majority anyway, so I don’t think I’m out of line here). Asking a question to someone else about what might make a difference to them does not necessitate that there is a difference to me.

        On several occasions now, you have attributed thoughts and intentions to me that I’ve never expressed. I’m not lecturing anyone, I don’t find my opinions to be provable, so I’m not trying to lecture or prove anything to anyone. Rather I have stated my opinions (qualifying statements with “perhaps”, “I think”, “I believe”, etc.), and now I’m trying to understand another paradigm. It might do you good to recognize that your opinions are also not provable nor necessarily right, although I don’t really see that happening.

      • ut instead I qualified it and specified that I was referring to nude art models that are not your average body women, photoshopped or otherwise, (which to my understanding is probably the majority anyway, so I don’t think I’m out of line here).

        Your understanding is wrong and you are out of line. Most “nude art models” ARE “your average body women.”

        Fashion models, models who adorn cars in ads at men, models in music videos–they are women whose bodies meet a fairly narrow range of criteria.

        But women who model for nude art? They’re just women. Some are young, some are old, some are heavier, some some are thinner, some have scars. Today, artists who are interested in depicting the human body as art are typically interested in lots of different body types.

        This is provable. Take a drawing class if you don’t believe me. Or look at the Nu Project. Or the Scar Project. A Beautiful Body Project from Jade Beall. Or this, from Gracie Hagen: http://www.graciehagen.com/gallery/illusions_of_the_body/

        Asking a question to someone else about what might make a difference to them does not necessitate that there is a difference to me.

        Maybe…. But then you go and make that statement above about how “I was referring to nude art models that are not your average body women, photoshopped or otherwise, (which to my understanding is probably the majority anyway,” demonstrating that I was accurate in my inference.

        I’m not lecturing anyone,

        Steve, a lecture is “a speech of warning or reproof as to conduct.” In which case your long comment beginning

        I feel like the project is unfortunately lacking in an understanding of some important truths, and so it seems to me a misguided way to go about what it is ultimately trying to accomplish.

        is a lecture.

        So regardless of what you have tried to do, “lecturing” is what you have succeeded in doing, and you do so from a position of ignorance and error.

      • “Your understanding is wrong and you are out of line. Most ‘nude art models’ ARE ‘your average body women.’ ”

        You do realize that I specifically was referring to photographs, and hence nude art photography (which I named specifically in the start of the chain), right? My question had nothing to do with models who might pose in art or drawing classes. I went to Google and typed in ‘nude art photography’. These were the first 3 links given (I won’t look through these sites, and I don’t recommend others going to them either despite that they are art, so I’m going to attempt to make them not links):
        www dot jiriruzek dot net
        www dot fineartnude dot com/webring
        www dot simonbolz dot com

        If you go there and find even one photograph of a nude woman who has stretchmarks, has saggy breasts, is overweight, or other such “flaws” found in the average woman, I will go ahead and retract my statement. Or perhaps, you simply need to read more carefully.

      • You do realize that I specifically was referring to photographs, and hence nude art photography (which I named specifically in the start of the chain), right?

        The fact that you qualified what type of “nude art models” you were referring ONCE doesn’t mean that the term covers only that specific type. “Nude art models” includes models who pose nude for art classes.

        If you REALLY MEANT “nude glamor art models” or some such thing, you should have said that.

        I went to Google and typed in ‘nude art photography’.

        Oh! Well, that settles the question, because google is infallible.

        These were the first 3 links given (I won’t look through these sites, and I don’t recommend others going to them either despite that they are art, so I’m going to attempt to make them not links):
        www dot jiriruzek dot net
        www dot fineartnude dot com/webring
        www dot simonbolz dot com

        I looked through ‘em. One involves photos of hot women both naked and dressed–the point is to show women in sexually provocative poses, not to explore what it means to be nude. One’s plain old porn–the guy states that he shoots for nudes for magazines, which, frankly, doesn’t qualify as nude art photography, no matter what google says. One is a webring of all sorts of sites and features a fairly scary looking naked dude holding a watermelon. Obviously that isn’t a woman with stretch marks, but it IS a strong indication that your idea of what “nude art photography” necessarily involves is wrong.

        If you go there and find even one photograph of a nude woman who has stretchmarks, has saggy breasts, is overweight, or other such “flaws” found in the average woman, I will go ahead and retract my statement.

        Anyway, when I type in “nude art photography,” after ads from the MOMA and so forth, the first three links I get are

        the webring
        Jim Ruzek (guy who photographs naked and clothed women in sexually provocative poses)
        and
        (!)
        http://www.thenuproject.com/

        Which I recommend above. “The Nu Project is a series of honest nudes of women from all over the world,” and it’s amazing! Check it out! The first thing you see when you click on the site is a woman’s fleshy backside. You can see faint varicose veins on her thighs, moles on her back, and pimples on her ass.

        I think that warrants a retraction. Thanks.

      • Holly, the reason it shows up high for you is because you’ve been to that site before, and your results are personalized. For example, if your using Google Chrome you can use incognito mode to guarantee your results aren’t personalized. The website you gave does not show up on at least on the first 3 pages of results, I didn’t bother to look further. So no, I don’t think it warrants a retraction. If anything, you are proving my point by having to find niche projects to try and make your point, projects that are clearly in the minority.

      • Yep. Google gives better answers for someone who actually knows something about the topic. Thanks for acknowledging that implicitly, even if you’re not honest enough to offer the retraction you promised–not even for the scary guy with the watermelon.

        Anyway, I looked again at the links you found, and I found a photo of a nude woman who seems to be a cancer victim or to suffer from alopecia. She has freckles and skin blemishes.

        The total hair loss isn’t found in the “average woman,” but freckles and skin blemishes are.

        You promised your retraction “If you go there and find even one photograph of a nude woman who has stretchmarks, has saggy breasts, is overweight, or other such ‘flaws’ found in the average woman, I will go ahead and retract my statement.” Having found one such image on one of the pages you yourself provided, I now demand your retraction.

        Once again, thanks.

      • It comes across as if you’re arguing just for the sake of arguing. At any rate, I don’t think this conversation with you is going anywhere, so I’m happy to let you believe what you believe, and I will reserve any further conversation for others whose comments may be directed toward my own. All the best.

      • Steve, I do appreciate your respectful and sincere tone. Because of that, I am happy to engage with you and try to answer your questions.

        If my husband said, “Hey, caroline, have you seen this new website MWB? It’s pretty great. I love how the women are so diverse in body shape and how non-sexualized the images are,” it wouldn’t bother me at all. I might gently tease him a little for looking at nekkid women, but would it really disturb me? No. I trust him. If he found the images erotic and was getting turned on by them, he’d stop looking at them. And he’d also not look at them if he though that that would bother me. If I found him covertly looking at them and masturbating, I’d be more disturbed. So really, for me, it’s all about attitude. If he is genuinely admiring the art and the project (which involves the bodies of real women), no problem. If it were nekkid airbrushed, enhanced, erotically posed women that he was getting turned on by, I would not be as happy. Does that make sense?

      • Caroline, yes that definitely makes sense. I think there is still more of a middle ground I’m trying to get at that I’m still unclear on though. Maybe I can try to be more specific.

        What about nude photos that are not supposed to be erotic in nature, but are still intended to portray a more idealized sense of beauty (i.e. not like the wide variety of normal women that seems to be the aim of something like MWB). So these photos would be every bit as revealing, perhaps even every bit as idealized, but not intended to be sexual. So then your husband is looking at these women and admiring their nude beauty, but not with sexual arousal, just simply an awe and wonderment.

        I’m sure this is not in your husband’s actual interests, but if it were, would you be okay with this? And would this be the same to you as your husband looking at with a sense of awe and wonder, more idealized photographs of nature?

        After you answer those questions (if you want to), what I’m ultimately getting at I think is are you okay with your husband really looking upon (not sexually) another woman’s naked body, not just seeing it?

        (Side note: Why do people keep spelling naked, ‘nekkid’? Am I missing something?)

      • You’re really not going to issue the retraction you made a big show of offering, Steve?

        Wow.

        Let that be a lesson to you: don’t make offers you’re not willing to follow through on.

        I give you permission to reserve your responses for whomever you see fit. Go right ahead! I’m happy to let you. I had, of course, long since noticed that you could find no response at all for my comment comparing your misguided approach to arousal to telling young people they should avoid feeling cold at all costs. I didn’t imagine you would be able to mount much of a counter argument to that.

      • Fair enough, I’m not going to look for what you said, but I’ll take your word for it. I retract my statement of “which to my understanding is probably the majority anyway”. In my mind I thought it was, but I haven’t seen most nude art photography, so my experiences may be somewhat skewed. So whether a majority of nude art photography is of average bodies, or more of a perceived ideal, I’m satisfied that each person can make that call for themselves.

        You’ll notice that the comment you refer to was not the only comment I didn’t respond to, and the reasons for that definitely do not include not having a counter argument. Now that I’ve made the retraction, I’ve fulfilled my obligations, and I don’t think it will be necessary to discuss anything with you further.

      • Steve,
        I would be far less interested in a project that was portraying idealized nude beauty. Part of what is so neat about MWB is that it features real women’s bodies. And it aims to send a message that this is what women really look like. If it was a website dedicated to idealized nude beauty, I’d wonder what the point was. As for my husband looking at such a website, it would again be about context and attitude. Why is he looking at it? Is he doing it to get an erotic charge? Is he going to compare my body to these bodies and think badly of me? Or is he an artist who appreciates the way that particular photographer played off the light from the dark and how she did xyz, to make the photo interesting, etc.? If he was looking at these idealized nude women as an artist, I don’t think I’d care all that much. (never been in the situation, so I don’t know for sure.) Likewise, if he was an ob/gyn and giving breast exams all day long on gorgeous women, it probably wouldn’t bother me a ton. Like I said before, it’s all about context and intent for me. And the fact that I trust him.

        What if your wife was exposed to pictures of nude men as part of her job as an artist or doctor or something else? Would that bother you?

      • I agree on the context and intent thing. I guess that’s where I’m trying to differentiate between “looking upon someone” versus “seeing a body”.

        In medical situations, to relate it back to words on a page, I view this situation as more about seeing the letters on the page, it is mechanical, there is no meaning to it other than to accomplish a given task.

        But I would differentiate this from “looking upon someone” where you are viewing the naked body in more than just a mechanical way. You are looking at meaning, you are looking at a person in whole (as opposed to just body parts), you are seeing more than mere letters, but are looking at the words and paragraphs they form. You are admiring the beauty.

        So for me, nude art is not mechanical, whether it is sexual or not, and looks upon the body to see beauty, to see meaning. I feel like there is a big difference in the intent between artistic nude photography and pornography, as I feel art is trying to celebrate the beauty of the body. That is good, so I don’t condemn it outright, because I don’t feel the intent is bad. Yet despite these good intentions, I feel if we could see as God sees, we would see that it is ultimately demeaning the human body to be on public display like this. I feel like there are some things that are too sacred to be publicly looked upon (not merely mechanically seen out of necessity) without cheapening it. That it should be reserved for select set-apart sacred places due to its great value (not unlike the many things in the temple that would be demeaned by sharing them openly to the public).

        So for me, nude art, whether idealized bodies or not, the body still represents the sacred soul and I feel it is ultimately cheapening it to look upon it in admiration of its beauty outside of the sacred spaces reserved for that purpose.

        So while there has been discussion on not being an accomplice in temptation of others, etc. – for me that is not the primary reason for the principles of modesty (as it pertains to what parts of the body ought to be covered from public view). For me the primary reason is self-respect, having joy in understanding and respecting one’s own divine nature and the body that is inextricably connected with and represents it, created in the image of God.

        So my short answer would be no problem in a doctor setting, but I would have reservations in an artistic setting (save maybe some sort of necessity to learn of the body for non-nude art thereafter). I find it more proper that the only person I truly look upon, sexually or non-sexually, to admire her beauty, is my spouse.

        How does your paradigm differ (if it does)?

      • You’ll notice that the comment you refer to was not the only comment I didn’t respond to, and the reasons for that definitely do not include not having a counter argument.

        I don’t believe you.

        I haven’t seen most nude art photography, so my experiences may be somewhat skewed.

        Yes. That is painfully obvious.

        whether a majority of nude art photography is of average bodies, or more of a perceived ideal, I’m satisfied that each person can make that call for themselves.

        As one of the links I provide elsewhere, it has a great deal to do with the pose.

        Seriously, dude. It really would help your understanding to actually check this stuff out before you dismiss it. As it is, you clearly don’t really know what you’re talking about. If you’re so afraid of it that you can’t even explore it, you shouldn’t make pronouncements about it–just acknowledge that it’s too threatening and scary for you, but don’t lecture–yes, lecture–people who actually do have some experience with it as to what it all means. It’s intellectually and ethically dishonest. So stop.

        I don’t think it will be necessary to discuss anything with you further.

        Fair enough. I can’t compel you to comment, can’t reach through the computer and make you type a reply. But I can still respond to things you write, as in this comment here.

      • the body still represents the sacred soul and I feel it is ultimately cheapening it to look upon it in admiration of its beauty outside of the sacred spaces reserved for that purpose.

        What about faces, Steve? Do faces represent the sacred soul? Do they convey something sacred about who we are? Is it “ultimately cheapening” “to look upon it in admiration of its beauty outside of the sacred spaces reserved for that purpose”? (whatever that means…. I assume it’s a euphemistic reference to sex?)

        In other words, should we all cover our faces?

        If not, why not?

        Yet despite these good intentions, I feel if we could see as God sees, we would see that it is ultimately demeaning the human body to be on public display like this.

        Well, thank God Steve is around to tell us what God thinks.

        Margaret Toscano once said that taking God’s name is vain isn’t saying “G*dd*mn.” Instead, It’s using the name of God to justify your own opinions.

        You can’t see as God sees, Steve, and it’s as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals to somehow suggest that your vision of the human body is closer to god’s than anyone else’s.

      • Holly, I already gave an answer to that question. I compared it to the revealed word of God, and said some parts of the body are okay to be publicly reveal just as the scriptures are publicly available and given freely to all of God’s children. But there is also sacred revealed word that is too sacred to be rightfully shared publicly or even at times even too sacred to be written, that would be comparable in my mind to the more sacred parts of the body. Thus I think it is wisdom to listen to what he living prophets have to say on which may be which, and to also follow the Spirit in the matter.

        I qualified my thoughts with “I feel”, and have not made the presumption that I have authority to speaking for God in this matter. I think it is clear that I am offering my opinion, and have remained open to hearing others’ opinions and alternate paradigms.

        Surely your rude and inconsiderate responses are inappropriate here. Are there any moderators here that can help me out? I am interested in respectful conversation, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so when I keep getting interrupted, and seemingly trolled, when I have already expressed a desire to end all conversation with Holly.

      • In medical situations, to relate it back to words on a page, I view this situation as more about seeing the letters on the page, it is mechanical, there is no meaning to it other than to accomplish a given task.

        I hope you are not a doctor, Steve.

        Having been treated by doctors who saw my body as “mechanical,” and having researched the way sick bodies are depicted in art, literature, and medical discourse, I can tell you that it is PROFOUNDLY damaging to the human psyche and soul for the body to be viewed with “no meaning to it other than to accomplish a given task,” not merely even but especially in a medical setting. Good doctors SEE their patients, SEE their patients’ bodies, including their beauty, their humanity, their vulnerability, their hopes, their fears, and as much as possible of their souls.

      • When I say “mechanical” in this context, I am in no way suggesting that a person should not also be respectful, nor treat the person as anything other than a human being. What I’m talking about has nothing to do with kindness or bedside manner, this is entirely a separate matter. But I suppose you can parse and misinterpret my words as you may, without moderator action I have no real recourse.

      • I qualified my thoughts with “I feel”, and have not made the presumption that I have authority to speaking for God in this matter.

        Sure. Because writing “I feel if we know the mind of God we’ll think such and such” in so way suggests that you “feel” you know what the mind of God contains.

        I have already expressed a desire to end all conversation with Holly.

        And I already acknowledged that you have every right not to engage with comments I make. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get to respond to your comments, does it?

        It’s not my fault you don’t have the willpower to follow through on something you said you would or wouldn’t do.

        When I say “mechanical” in this context, I am in no way suggesting that a person should not also be respectful, nor treat the person as anything other than a human being.

        And yet, something that is “mechanical” is frequently opposed to that which is human. Furthermore, one definition of “mechanical” is “automatic; lacking thought, feeling, etc.” So if you didn’t meant to suggest a lack of respect or humanity, you chose a poor term.

  13. If I looked at nude art photography, specifically of nude women, and sat there admiring the beauty of their nude bodies, I know my wife would be hurt by these actions. I believe she would feel demeaned by my actions.

    Wow. It takes courage to admit that your marriage is so fragile. Thanks for opening up, Steve. I hope the two of you find ways to strengthen your marriage so that it’s not threatened by art.

    Mormons have suck weak spiritual immune systems. Things that actually help more spiritually hardy and healthy people thrive, recognize beauty, create meaning, threaten Mormons so terribly that they can destroy their most important relationships.

    It’s so sad.

    • Actually I guess it’s more that Mormons like Steve have overactive spiritual immune systems. They’re allergic to things like peanuts and shellfish and strawberries that actually nourish normal people, and bring them a lot of pleasure.

      Try not to be so allergic, Steve. Get out a bit more. It will do you good.

      • It is sad that your ego is so weak that you have to insult people anonymously on line. Please try and grow up a bit

      • GoodIdea, please remember #4 of our comment policy, “Try to stick with your personal experiences, ideas, and interpretations…This is not the place…to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.”

      • Emily, I AM speaking from my own experience. it’s from realizing what my own spiritual immune system was like when I was at my most Mormony that I know whereof I speak, and it’s from trying to be less allergic that I learned just how beneficial it is. My statement about overactive spiritual immune systems was no more dismissive of the experience of others than Steve’s claim that ” If a person truly could understand their nature, and what it really means to be created in the image of God, they would understand why the body is not meant for open display and would have no desire to do so.”

        I just chose not to sound like a sacrament meeting sermon when I made my statement. I realize that bugs some people, but the earnest, pompous tones of the standard Mormon patriarch is a real trigger for a lot of people too.

    • Your inability to be respectful is off-putting to say the least. Do you make it a habit to insult people who disagree with you in person as well, or just anonymously on the internet? I hope for your sake it is the second.

      It seems you are either incapable or unwilling to view this from another paradigm than your own, so I don’t think I can do anything at this point that will help you understand what I’m saying. I’d like to believe if you knew me in real life you would not be so quick to insult me, as you would see that my marriage is strong and stable, and that my wife and I are both kind and caring people. You would know that I’ve traveled the world quite a bit, and that I have lived among and am very familiar with many cultures outside that I consider my own. You would be able to see and know that I love my wife and daughters deeply, and that I care about the issues they face every bit or more than I care about male issues in the world. What I described has nothing to do with the nudity alone, because my wife and I would both be fine if either of us were doctors and regularly encountered nudity in that capacity, neither are we phased if nudity is unwillfully thrust upon us through media, etc. it is rather a shared sense of the sacred and a bond of trust that would be broken in the actions I described–looking upon someone else, not just seeing a body. They are quite different in my mind. But I guess I don’t expect you to understand.

      You are free to believe as you wish, and I hope you get what you want out of those beliefs.

      • Your inability to be respectful is off-putting to say the least.

        It’s not an inability, dude. it’s an unwillingness to be respectful to YOU.

        I don’t expect you to understand where the women involved in this project are coming from. You spout a lot of pompous nonsense you can’t even think through well enough to realize how ridiculous it sounds–seriously, reread this

        Teens in the church are advised to avoid anything that causes arousal, which most naturally includes pictures of naked women, whether it is intended as art or pornography. The question the becomes, is it just to then be promoting that which puts others in a situation they are told to avoid? a situation that would most likely impact them in a negative way?

        and expect to be taken seriously because you have no real respect for any position but your own. You think that using a ponderous tone masks the lack of respect you have for others. it doesn’t.

  14. So, up above, Steve writes

    The natural male response to pictures of naked women is arousal, particularly when young and immature and contextualizing is not as easy–and as mentioned it’s not even conscious for these young ones, it’s biology.

    Teens in the church are advised to avoid anything that causes arousal, which most naturally includes pictures of naked women, whether it is intended as art or pornography. The question the becomes, is it just to then be promoting that which puts others in a situation they are told to avoid? a situation that would most likely impact them in a negative way?

    If arousal is simply biology for young men, telling them to avoid it is about as senseless and cruel as telling young men, “Avoid getting cold. Avoid anything that could make you cold: winter, air conditioning, frozen desserts, beverages with ice. These things are invitation to sin. Also swimming–lakes, ponds, oceans and swimming pools can cause hypothermia, which is an extreme form of cold and abhorrent in the eyes of God. If you cannot avoid these things, do everything you can to avoid feeling the natural biological response they prompt in you, because allowing yourself to indulge in being cold is sinful.”

    “If this seems unreasonable, young men, remember that you will be allowed to experience cold after you are married, in the presence of your wife. Cold is something you can share only with her.

    “Remember, young men, that women are not as vulnerable to cold as you are. So if you see a woman who doesn’t have on a coat and could therefore make you think about being cold, tell her to put one on. What matters is that you protect yourself from cold, and you have the right to expect young women to think first not about their comfort, but about yours.”

    And then here’s the message to young women:

    “Young women, wear coats even when you don’t want one, because young men need you too. Don’t drink icy cold beverages even when you are extremely over-heated, because it could tempt a young man. Always place the well-being of young men above your own, because remember: you’re not really vulnerable to cold. We can’t ask young men to learn to accept you as you are, because, well, young male biology! It’s too hard!”

    And if anyone says, “You know, actually, it’s true that being really cold for a really long time can harm human beings, but going swimming on a really hot day feels great! Drinking a glass of lemonade with lots of ice is one of life’s simple, beautiful pleasures! Skiing can be really fun! And sometimes, you simply have to shovel snow off the sidewalk, even when it’s really cold. If you do, it’s really important to understand what being cold feels like and how to respond to and deal with it, so that you can care for yourself in reasonable and appropriate ways. Denying and avoiding cold is actually really unhealthy.”

    then someone like Steve comes along and tells them that they don’t understand their divine nature.

    Which is nonsense.

    Instead, Steve doesn’t understand either our divine nature OR human nature. His rhetoric and his approach to both young men and young women are futile, uninformed, and cruel.

  15. I’m sorry, but this entire discussion is just a massive modern version of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. I am glad however that you did take down the other links you all praised. Those were definitely nothing but straight up porn.

    • For the record, those links were promoted only by the person who posted them, and deserved to be removed.

      Also, your opinion of the discussion isn’t shared by everyone. But you are entitled to post about it.

      • Well, whoever posted them was thanked by the original author, so I would call that praise and promotion.

      • I find it instructive that you clicked on the links and perceived the thanks-for-posting item as agreeing with their content. When I clicked on the links, my conclusion was that the cursory thanks had been given without having seen said content. To be fair, I don’t know for sure that this is the case. But knowing the character of some of the women on this blog, I’m gonna go with my original conclusion.

    • wrong on two counts, Davis. It should be obvious that 1) the ruler in question is not an emperor but an empress, and 2) she ain’t got no clothes on!

  16. Hello everyone.
    I’m glad that we’ve had an exciting conversation about this topic. It’s not our typical Exponent post, certainly not my typical Exponent post, to get so many comments with such intensity. It concerns me that I’ve seen a lack of respect from people whom I agree with on principle, but not in practice.

    That said, I’d just like to remind everyone of the comment policy. No sock puppetry. Be respectful of people with whom disagree. Stick to your own experiences, don’t attack.

    This has been a spirited debate. Certainly there are a lot of strong feelings surrounding this subject.

    I’d like to draw the conversation back to Steve’s question about the overlap of art and pornography. Where does the one end and the other begin?

    The part I love best about this project is seeing every woman’s body as not perfect. We are all flawed.

    But still we see the 1%, the super-model hot women who look like they belong on a magazine. There’s a woman like that in my ward (I’ve seen her in a bikini, but not naked) and if she posed for this project, no matter how relaxed she looked or how casual her environment, I would still probably think her photos looked more like porn than I am comfortable with. It’s not her fault that she looks like society’s expectation for beauty.

    Which makes me question my own motives. Do I just like this project because these women fit my definition of what natural beauty should be? Perhaps my definition of “super-model hot” is the problem in itself and I should feel the same way to each of the women who are currently in the project.

    These are difficult questions to ask ourselves, our spouses, and our children. What does natural beauty mean? What makes a person, or her body, beautiful? How do we show respect? What is sexual attraction? Arousal? How does that impact our consumption of media and art?

    But I think we are all better for having these conversations. My 11 year old son walked in last night while I was responding to a comment and he was surprised by the photo of a naked woman playing the piano. He said, “Mom, why is there an inappropriate photo on the computer?” So we had a discussion and it was really good. I’m still very much against pornography, especially in light of new evidence that it has long-term damage to the brains of young users. (Check this out if you haven’t)

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2432591/Porn-pernicious-threat-facing-children-today-By-ex-lads-mag-editor-MARTIN-DAUBNEY.html

    So I talked to him again about what to do if/when a pornographic image pops up on a screen he is using. He responded, “Call for help and turn off the screen.”

    He is the oldest of my 3 sons, and this is a conversation I’m going to have to get used to having. Hopefully we can keep the dialog open.

  17. Your question of where the line between art and porn is has intrigued me.

    As a test, I have uploaded most of these images to a web page dedicated to normal women posting nude pictures of themselves. I will monitor the comments made by the men that view them, and should get a good feel for what most would consider porn. Of course, the images that they choose to print out and masturbate on will be the highest on that list.

    I will post the results back here in a week or so.

  18. I loved this…being able to see a whole person, their true selves, open and honest, without society’s standards of sexuality getting in the way, was amazing.

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