Naked Men Cause a Stir with Museum’s New Exhibit
An article recently came out in the Wall Street Journal, “Why Naked Men Get Short Shrift” and started off with the question, “Why does the male nude get no respect?”
Indeed. The article came out because of a new exhibit in the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria called “Naked Men.” Well now, aren’t they just asking for trouble with a title like that? The museum promoted the exhibit by putting up posters around the city of three male soccer players, naked aside from their knee-high socks and cleats. It wasn’t long before they were met with a surge of complaints about the male nudity.
Let’s face it: the sight of naked men upsets people…even in Europe! And this was a poster. Imagine if it were live men, like in San Francisco.
The museum had posted images of full-frontal female nudity with no problem, so this backlash was supposedly unanticipated. The WSJ reported, “Some are complaining the images remind them of sex or sexually traumatic experiences.” Wait, reminded them of sex? They’re genitals. And I am completely sympathetic with people who have suffered sexual abuse or trauma but still, I do think it’s a pretty extreme reaction.
Yet this comment from another report is more revealing (no pun intended): “Museum officials say they received a flood of complaints by last week, mostly from outlying districts heavily populated by new immigrants from Muslim countries.” Oh. That makes sense. This is why they are also quoted on saying the intolerance toward male nudity is “partially religious based.”
But is that any reason to give in and censor the posters? Must they appease people who don’t want to see male genitals on a poster “because of their religious beliefs”?
In my opinion, the museum shouldn’t have capitulated and covered the genitals in red tape! Austria is not a Muslim country, and this is art as well as freedom of expression. Why not let people complain or protest? It’s simply depicting the human body as part of an art exhibit. By covering it up, the museum is actually saying that the complaints were justified. It is also sending a signal that the human body and / or genitals are obscene, always pornographic, shameful, inappropriate, bad, and every other negative adjective you can think of. In my world view, the penis is no more obscene than the elbow. Since the museum had previously posted images of naked women with no backlash, are they saying that the vagina is okay but the penis is bad? In my book, that is a double standard since a naked body is a naked body. The red tape is also marring the original artwork which is a slap in the face to the artist who created it.
I think it is time for people to protest the censorship! Here is a little note I prepared that people can simply copy and paste (but personalize) and email to the curator of the exhibit at [email protected]:
Dear Tobias Natter,
It has been called to my attention that you decided to cave to public pressure and are now covering up the posters for your exhibit “Naked Men”. If this is true then I find it personally upsetting and offensive. This is an art exhibit – would you cover Michelangelo’s David if enough people complained? Since you had previously posted posters of nude females, are you trying to say that a naked man is something that is shameful?
I cannot in good faith support such policies and would like you to email me back explaining your actions. Please note, that public opinion and pressure is not justification for this action.
Is there anything healthy in continually censoring the human body? Telling everyone, adults and children, that there’s something wrong with that part of our bodies? They are only perpetuating the idea of body shame; a part of American, and I guess Austrian, culture that is harmful and time to do away with. By capitulating, and censoring the nudity, the museum acknowledges that there is a problem with nudity and that the naked human form is shameful and should be covered up.
The WSJ piece tells stories of when art featuring male nudes was censored by the Catholic Church or society. Centuries later, we still censoring them – does that sound logical to you?
What do you think? Should the museum have left the posters uncovered? Or were they right when they chose to cover them up?
About the Author (Author Profile)I'm Felicity, author of Felicity's Blog and co-founder of Young Naturists America. I write about nudism and naturism in today's world along with issues like top-freedom and body acceptance, and various naked topics. Enjoy, and leave a comment when you've got something to say! :)
I appreciate your response, Melissa. But I really doubt the pubes were the problem–presence or lack thereof. Male penis and scrotum...that's the problem.
It's like the "public" press can't stand an areola!!
Oh, well. THE day is coming!!
You know, one difference that I see between the two pictures you've shown- that of the 3 men and that of the woman- was the presence of pubic hair. Do you think that might be a factor? Many people associate no pubic hair with being young/ a child (outside of the nudist community, that is) and most people would be ok with kids being nude, so I'm wondering if this factors in at all. Just a different slant. Either way, covering up the 3 men is an insult to the artist and if I were the artist I'd remove that exhibit from that museum and have it in a museum that treasures ART not OPINION of closed/ clothes-minded people.
@melissastarr I can tell you for a fact it has nothing to do with the pubic hair. It's the penis. This is from a photographer who has a hard time showing her work because I do full frontal male nudes. I knew it would be a bit harder in the US to get recognition/exhibition but now Europe?
@abigailwrites @melissastarr I see what you're saying Melissa but I agree with the others- it's the penis. Liberty showed me another common poster around Vienna of a full-grown woman with pubic hair, and this one hasn't been a problem either. Some people have said that the disparity lies in the fact that male genitals are "all out there" so to speak, while a female's are usually shown all tucked in (even if they're not, because even vaginas get photoshopped these days!) or covered in pubic hair.