Gender identity and reactions to art

I still remember the experience I had, many, many decades ago in my apartment as an undergraduate at Berkeley, reading Kenneth Clark.  In The Nude, on page 8, he says “…no nude, however abstract, should fail  to arouse in the  spectator some vestige of erotic feeling… .”  If it doesn’t, then it’s bad art and false morality.  And that’s because of the fundamental desire we have to grasp and be conjoined with another body.

These were the days of the free speech movement and really feminist consciousness was pretty exiguous.  I remember reflecting, however, on my growing sense that academic culture had an intended audience  that probably didn’t include women.   Or that I would have to be  ‘unnatural’ in some way to flourish in it.  (That was an adolescent conception of natural, I should say.)

What is going on today and are there ways in which gender identity influences ones reaction to art?  Thanks to a comment elsewhere on this blog, from a reader who might not want to be cited, the following picture might provide an interesting spread of reactions. 

It’s not clear exactly how one should ask about gender identity, but I hope the following are ok and will include everyone who visits the blog:  (1) gender identify as male; (2) gender identify as female; (3) other gender identity.  So now the picture and then the poll which asks for your gender identity and your “erotic or not” reaction.  Do be assured that we have no way of identifying who provides a particular reactions.



About the pole:  please try to distinguish between something like the sensual and the erotic; if you think the distinction is bogus, of course, then ignore it.   But perhaps one can feel some desire to stroke a cat on its back with little feet stretching toward one  or to hug a vulnerable and  messy child  without feeling it as erotic.  Comments on why you gave the answer you did could be very illuminating.

Project GAYDAR identifies sexual preference from friends lists

Two MIT students who were taking a course in Ethics and Law undertook a project to write a program that predicts sexual preference from facebook friends and interests, the Boston Globe reports.

They took a sample of approximately 2500 men from facebook of profiles that joined the MIT network and were in their cohort. First they trained their program on profiles of people who had filled in their sexual preference and then they had their program predict sexual preference for a sample of almost 1000 who had not filled it in. They took their personal knowledge of 10 people in the network that are gay but hadn’t filled it in on the profile as a simple check for the predictions and those were all predicted to be gay.  It doesn’t seem to work so well with predicting the sexual preference of women.

They apparently had approval for this project from the ethical review board at MIT, whom I think might want to review their criteria.