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.