If someone tried to exhibit a sculpture showing every piece of anatomy that a man has today, they would be branded a pervert or deemed a controversial or provocative artist. As I saw more and more male and female genitals in these classic works of art, I had to think, “When did we get to be so uptight?”
Modern society has a very strange view towards sex and sexuality. We use sex appeal to sell everything from cars to deodorant in commercials and advertisements, but when it comes to having a frank and open discussion about something that is absolutely essential for the human race to survive, we clam up big time. If we try and display the human body we’re reviled and cursed in society as well. A woman who is nursing her newborn baby, possibly the most natural of things in nature, is seen as awkward and unsettling at best within society. This is to say nothing of male genitalia that is prevalent on many of the sculptures that I was looking at last week.
How did society come to be this way? During the Renaissance it seems that the display of genitals was much more acceptable and I consider that a much more repressive time than today. It is something that baffled and confused me for the past few years.
One thing I have thought of is the look of genitalia. Both male and female genitalia are not nearly as free and aesthetically pleasing as the rest of the human body. We are obsessed with beauty and maybe since these parts aren’t as beautiful as the others, we hide them away? I don’t really believe that this is the case, but find it an interesting theory.
I had a little bit of the same thought when I was a teenager. Once I discovered sex and masturbation I became very well acquainted with my own genitals. As a guy I don’t see the appeal of male genitalia. It just doesn’t look great to me. I’m happy that other people like the look of it, because I certainly don’t. It was similar when I first discovered vaginas.
I never really saw the genitals if my first few girlfriends in high school. We’d make out furtively in my back seat and I would slip my hand down her skirt or pants and begin to touch her but we’d never progress to me undressing her and seeing what her genitals looked like. I liked the feel of them for sure, but was a neophyte to be sure, just learning how a woman’s anatomy was so much different to that of a man’s.
But eventually, I was able to properly view a vagina in person, and I’ll say it is much more attractive than a man’s penis. I was still nervous with how to go about approaching it though, I’d grown so used to my own anatomy that when I tried things that felt good to me, my girlfriend at the time informed me, in no uncertain terms, that wasn’t the proper way to approach her and her vagina. Our bodies are so different that it takes an extended learning curve in order to properly learn what the other person needs in order to feel good and not hurt.
So, the uncomfortable first encounters with both our own and other peoples’ genitals may have shaped our views on genitalia. But I think that the inverse is true in this case. We have more problems and fear in learning how to please our partner because it is not discussed in open society, and the differences in our anatomy are not discussed much beyond the very basics. We are uptight as a society with dealing with our own genitalia because we’re never told that it’s okay to explore it, and to explore others. In fact, we're often told the opposite. And by not having any type of meaningful education in pleasing your partner, everything can be intimidating the first time you encounter it.
But I’m still confused about how open prior generations were with genitalia in art, if not in modern society. Were they just able to appreciate the human form in a more complete way than we, as a society, can today? Or are we so tied up in focusing on sexuality and sexiness that we just choose not to focus on the actual sexual organs from whence all of this sexuality emerges from?
It’s a perplexing question to me, and I have a feeling it’s all tied into our exploration of ourselves and the perception of our bodies through society’s eyes. And that we, as a society, need to be more accepting and open to learning more about our bodies as well.