Thursday, April 24, 2003

Going Topless For Art's Sake

Broke and not body-shy, my future wife and I both modeled nude at Bard College in the early nineties (no, we didn't pose together). I thought Darcie had it relatively easy, if terribly boring, posing mostly in sitting positions for hour-long sculpture classes; as my attention span and ADHD preclude such long immobility, I ended up posing mostly for short open sketch sessions in the evenings, cold in a bare room filled with brown paper and scratchy charcoal, five minutes a pose, maybe ten a night. I remember being surprised at how hard it was to hold a stable pose for even that short a time; looking back, I continue to be impressed at my wife's ability to stay immobile for so long when she wants or needs to.

I was thinking about being naked in public, of course, because Fark was, too. The headline they link to, Communications College may prohibit nude student modeling, sounds severe -- after all, not only is nude student modelling one of the best-paying jobs on most campuses, it's also one of the best ways to ensure that students learning to draw the human form have a full and diverse set of models to draw from (pun intended, but apologies anyway). But as we read on, we find that the modeling session which prompted a ban was in no way typical or even safe by normal, common-sense standards.

Senior Becky Humes, a VisCom major, based her complaint on a September photo shoot in which she posed topless for Nighswander [director of OU's School of Visual Communication]. The two were alone during the shoot.

First, the photo shoot was private; second, the photographer was the head of the school said student was attending. A comprehensive ban on nude modelling would be silly, given these two atypical aspects. But sure enough, it turns out the headline is misleadingly broad. According to the college Dean's published statement, the real ban being considered is both narrow and logical; it would prohibit only the use of students as models in nude or semi-nude photo shoots by [the] college's faculty.

Personally, though, I think there's no need for such a narrow ban. Any student who volunteers to pose for their own professor, in private, should recognize that teachers will naturally see such occasions as a clumsy attempt by said student to trade sexual experience for grades or other academic success, and act accordingly; certainly, had Darcie been offered an "opportunity" to model nude in private sessions for her own professors, I would have insisted on chaperoning. Although Nighswander may have acted inappropriately, as an experienced nude model myself, I don't think it's blaming the victim to say that Becky Humes clearly needed to learn that you just don't go into unchaperoned nude photo shoots with your professors unless you plan on sleeping with them. Given that, as a teaching institution, it would be irresponsible for Ohio University to ban such behavior, as the proposed ban would keep students like Becky Humes from getting the good lesson in common sense such harassment necessarily teaches.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:21 PM |

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