I suppose nearly everyone has ideas now and then that at first seem crazy to them, but later, downright sane. Twenty minutes ago, I had an idea I laughed at. At first. Now I’m wishing it could happen.
It started with me wondering what was going on over at Eolake Stobblehouse’s blog, which I haven’t visited in a while. Yet, instead of just clicking through to his blog, I sat thinking about Eolake’s outlook on life.
Eolake is the Danish artist and writer who some time ago fired up the DOMAI website and launched the “simple nudes movement”.
“Simple nudes” are neither art nudes nor porn. Some people might call them erotica, but the term “erotica” covers a lot of territory simple nudes do not. I think of simple nudes as a distinct movement or style. If naturists — that is, nudists — took art photos of themselves, the effect would be pretty close to the simple nudes movement.
As Eolake puts it, “The pictures may be sexy, but they are not sexual.” I suspect people in the simple nudes movement have slightly varying descriptions of precisely what a simple nude is. It would only be human nature for there to be differences of opinion. But Eolake describes simple nudes as “nude art (usually photographic) which focuses on the beauty of the model, and where the more esoteric artistic qualities of the picture are secondary, and where any sexuality is also secondary.” What does that mean in practice? Well, in selecting photos for his website, he states he looks for “the beauty of the woman, simplicity, innocence, and joy and happiness”.
Although Eolake is downright fond of Americans, he does take issue with a certain peculiar American tendency or custom:
When I was interviewed by Playboy TV, the producer told me that it was so different coming to Europe, because the models in American productions involving nudity or sex are always so made up. He’s not kidding. As an experiment, I bought an all-girl DVD from Vivid Entertainment, apparently one of the more high class outfits in the erotica business. And it’s true, it’s chock-full of women with tall hairdos which are mostly hair extensions, thick makeup, lingerie, stilletto heels, and faces and breasts badly marred by surgery. I really wonder what it is about America which encourages this phenomenon, this affection for fakeness.
In contrast, the simple nudes movement emphasizes the natural beauty of the model.
With simple nudes, the model’s face and expression are usually as important as her body. She typically looks directly into the camera, seems confident, unashamed, and enjoying herself, and thus confronts you as a person in her own right, rather than as merely an object.
She is a direct challenge to the strange notion that nudity = sex. And that is very much intentional on Eolake’s part. He is an adamant opponent of that notion. Each week, he publishes a free email that includes a letter to him from one or another of DOMAI’s viewers, and most every week the letter he’s selected challenges that notion. As the most recent letter states, “the Domai newsletters have struck a nerve in regard to ‘unshackling’ – specifically the newfound joy of finally removing one’s clothes in nature in a non-sexual way.”
At times, Eolake adopts a curious tone towards sex:
In my experience and that of others I have talked to, for an artist or a photographer who is genuinely interested in the pictures he is making, there’s no talk about getting aroused in a session. Making good pictures or drawings is an intense and complex mental activity which takes a lot of concentration, and it just does not allow for baser instincts to let themselves be heard, and this even tends to include things like hunger and sleepiness, which sometimes let themselves be felt only later.
I know what he’s saying there because I sketch nudes as one of my hobbies. Once you start sketching, you easily become absorbed in the process and forgetful of everything else. Yet, I find it deeply curious he refers to sex as a baser instinct. There, and on a few other occasions, Eolake almost, but not quite, expresses a distaste for sex, and I believe I know why.
A few years ago, I was into watching erotic dancers while meditating, and because of my experiences with that, I learned how the sex drive focuses us on ourselves in much the same way that pain makes us primarily concerned with ourselves. So, in a strange way, horniness closes us off from the world — except, perhaps, from the direct object of our horniness (although that is problematic). On the other hand, beauty can do the exact opposite. It can open us to the world. It can lower our psychological defenses, weaken our sense of self, and create an innocence, awareness, and openness that are quite refreshing. Sex is thrilling, but beauty is renewing.
I suspect Eolake’s occasionally curious remarks about sex reflect that conflict between the way the sex drive narrows us and the way beauty opens us. That, at least, is my hunch.
If beauty is indeed renewing, then it is life-giving, and that might go a long way towards explaining why the simple nudes movement appears to have been born of a spiritual path. That spiritual path is distinctly Eolake’s creation, and it might be best summed up by “the DOMAI Pledge“, which he wrote:
I hereby promise myself:
- never to my willful knowledge let a beautiful girl pass without enjoying the sight.
- never to speak slightingly of or underestimate the importance of beauty and grace, and always support it in conversation when needed.
- to keep beauty near my heart and always be aware that it is what is keeping us happy and content, and much of what makes life worth living.
- never to let merely intellectual pursuits, important as they may be, distract me for any undue length of time.
- to keep in mind that beauty is a spiritual thing, no more and no less.
- to always keep a pure mind when seeing beauty, or, failing that, at least take pleasure thinking what I am thinking.
- to remember that seeing is the only form of having that is actual. Thus, what you can see you can have. The reason for possessing anything is to prevent others from having it too, a pointless exercise.
- to not be bothered when they go away. There will always be more.
- to enjoy life and what it has given me, and in return to support life and be constructive.
Eolake is far too polite and considerate of others to be rabid in his proselytizing, but he is nevertheless out to change the world:
The philosophy of DOMAI, the joy and innocence and beauty, is an ideal. You can call it a fantasy if you will. But: twenty years ago the amazing world of the World Wide Web was a fantasy. And pocket-sized and ubiquitous cell phones were a fantasy. But the world changed. A few hundred years ago it was fantasy to travel between cities wihout meeting highway robbers. A world having decent plumbing and schools was a fantasy. But the world changed.
Without dreams and ideals the world doesn’t change. With them, it does.
It would be foolish to entirely write off Eolake’s ambitions. For one thing, his weekly newsletter goes out to almost a quarter million subscribers. For another thing, a surprising number of heterosexual women enjoy his website. He has not only managed to gain a substantial following — mainly through word of mouth — but his following crosses gender lines. I strongly suspect the later happens because the women are attracted to the spiritual path Eolake’s blazed for them. Whether he ever changes the whole world, Eolake doubtlessly has changed some lives.
If you go now to view the free photo page of the DOMAI site, you will notice his models come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It might strike you, as it does me, that Eolake’s taste in feminine beauty embraces a much broader range of body types than are to be easily found in today’s fashion, advertising, and entertainment industries. I’m not suggesting Eolake must think every woman in the world is beautiful, but his tastes are far more inclusive than those of many people — especially people in the fashion, advertising, and entertainment industries. On the other hand, I have never seen on the DOMAI site an anorexic model.
And that brings me to the silly thought I had much earlier. I was thinking about Eolake and his outlook on life when it popped into my head, “Some days I wish Eolake Stobblehouse ran the entertainment and fashion industries.” I don’t think he would run things perfectly, but I think he’d see to it that a wider range of body types were represented. And that could only be a good thing in a world that has gone nuts in how it upholds just one look as the ideal for all women.
References and Further Reading:
Some similar ideas about art and sexuality are developed in Danielle Goes to an Erotic Dance Club.