It has become an act of resilience in isolation, a way to seduce without touch.
Before face-touching became potentially lethal, my friend Dave had a lot of lovers. Now he makes do with nude selfies. He doesn’t even request them, he said. They appear as if by magic: “I wake up and they are just there.”
Matthew, an artist in Providence, R.I., said, “I keep getting explicit photos from people I thought were just my friends.” He added, “It’s nice to know they’re thinking of me.”
Since the pandemic began, sex has changed: It’s imagined, monogamous, Zoomed or Skyped. And nude selfies have become one symbol of resilience, a refusal to let social distancing render us sexless. Nude selfies are no longer foreplay, a whetting of a lover’s appetite, but the whole meal.
Though the debate about art versus pornography has never been settled, a case can be made that quarantine nude selfies are art. Some of us finally have time to make art, and this is the art we are making: carefully posed, cast in shadows, expertly filtered. These aren’t garish below-the-belt shots under fluorescent lighting, a half-used roll of toilet paper in the background. They are solicited or spontaneous. They are gifts to partners in separate quarantines, friends who aren’t exactly friends, unmet Hinge matches and exes. (Exes are popping up like whack-a-moles these days.)
“Before the quarantine, I navigated under a ‘nudes are for boyfriends’ rule,” said Zoe, a marketing assistant in Los Angeles. “Something special for someone I trust. But in times of loneliness I turn to serial dating and now that plays out via virtual connections.”
Kat, an artist in Arizona who just lost her uncle to Covid-19, has been enjoying the creative process of making and sending sexy selfies over a secure app called Wire to a bartender she met overseas just before the coronavirus ended nonessential travel. “Not to distract from feeling my feelings,” she said. “This is just the human experience, isn’t it? Love. Death. Sex.”
If historically the nude form in art suggested power in men (think ancient Greek sculptures of athletes) and sexuality in women (think Goya’s “La Maja Desnuda” and every other painting of a woman by a man), nude selfies, especially now, imbue the subject with both. The sexuality component is obvious, the power component contextual: the power to seduce without touch, to connect when physical contact is life-threatening, to impress while we’re home and unemployed (and sweat-suited) and to stir up a strong reaction miles away.
Source: New York Times
Original publication 24 April, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 30th March 2021
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