When is an image of a naked man erotic, sexy and let’s say ‘stimulating’ for the female gaze, and when is it absolutely not? This is a question I frequently ask myself and the photographers involved in the Naked Men, Happy Women erotic book project. Due to individual preferences and cultural influences there is no easy answer. With your opinions and arguments, though, I would like to find out if it is more or less possible to formulate a general standard erotic image of a man that most women would enjoy. To kickstart this discussion, I will share my ideas on male nude photography.
EROTIC VERSUS PORNOGRAPHIC
First it needs to be clear what the difference is between an erotic and a pornographic image. For me an erotic image leaves something for the imagination. An erotic image of a man raises questions that end up in a fantasy or a story. What is going on in the image? What is he doing? What does his skin feel like? Where did he get this scar from? How does he smell? What would happen if I’d crawl next to him? Is he going to put his hand in his pants or not?
His whole body can be shown, but there is no direct sexual suggestion. Preferably the man is not aware of the camera.
In a pornograhic image the man is either having sex or is indicating that is ready to have sex right now. He looks in the camera, at me. He has an erect penis. There is no room for creative thought in my head, the image simply says ‘fuck’.
I do not have anything against pornographic photographes of men, but they do not have the little-stars-in-my-eyes-effect. In fact, explicit pornographic photography of men never turns me on. Eventhough I do not have any bi-sexual desires, a pornographic photo of a naked woman somehow ‘works’ better. But then I have to admit I have a thing for breasts ;)
When it comes to images and films with erotic or pornographic content, I do not like the following distractions:
- The environment is more prominent than the naked man.
- There are objects surrounding the male body.
- Costumes and obvious make-up.
- Additionally when it comes to movies: music, talking, exaggerated/fake moaning and screaming.
All this takes me away from the goal: to observe male nudity, to lose myself in the image and in my lustful fantasies.
For me authenticity is the key to the perfect erotic image. No obvious posing or showing each and every muscle and vein in his body. No fitness bodies. No fake. I want to see the man acting naturally in a natural environment, and have the idea that he is not aware that he is being photographed or filmed. He is asleep or dreaming. He is walking around in his flat, or staring out of the window. He reads the paper on the couch. He is taking a shower and maybe considers to masturbate. He is observing his girlfriend and getting in the mood. He is swimming in the ocean, or just coming out of the water. It is the voyeuristic feeling that makes the image exciting.
FACE ON, FACE OFF
Last but not least there is the question of the face. For me the face influences everything. The man can have the most amazingly hot body, but if I don’t find his face sympathetic or consider his facial expression silly or vacuous – to create a natural erotic facial expression in front of the camera is extremely difficult – the image does not do anything for me anymore.
The face makes the image about the model. The face makes it personal. The face is what can or can’t make me fall in love. This is not what I want when I look at male nudity other than my boyfriend’s. The male nude on the picture needs to have its anonymity so that I can create my fantasy. Therefore I prefer not to see the face at all, or just a part of it. Unless he is absolutely stunning. But that of course lies in the eye of the beholder.