Would You Pose Without Clothes?
Alan Duncan of the nudist magazine Nude Living looks at what brings women to undress in front of the eyes of the public: is it exhibitionism, does it make them a whore, is it a sign of frigidity...or are they simply sexually healthy women?
From the August 1963 issue of Nude Living
"Nude-posing women cannot be compared, however, to people who go to nudist colonies. Most disciples of nudism, Dr. Hoffman believes, have lost their virility and femininity."
This highly controversial statement is tucked away in an article found in the May, 1963 SAGA, "the magazine for men," called "Why Great Ladies Pose Without Clothes" by Thomas Ives. Is it true? Does it just seem a fact to outsiders, of which group Dr. Hoffman is obviously one? Does the nudist attitude affect masculinity and femininity?
Before delving into these questions, let us run quickly through the article full of conclusions by Dr. Richard H. Hoffman of New York, many of whose patients have been theatrical and screen personalities, "amoth them a number of neurotic exhibitionists." He doubts that movie stars expose themselves primarily for publicity, but for deeper motivations. The average American woman undresses in dim light, he says, because she is afraid her physical imperfections will show, but a beautiful actress wants to expose her perfection for cameras to immortalize.
Thus the list of beauties who have appeared nude or semi-nude in movie scenes and magazine pages is growing, including today Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, Anita Ekberg, Romy Schneider, Sophia Loren, and of course Brigitte Bardot. Here are a few of Dr. Hoffman's analytical comments:
"Being photographed in the nude gives an actress a special emotional lift. I suspect many of these women may have sexual problems, perhaps even frigidity...They know they will be seen (in the nude) and this gives them a vicarious thrill which they may not get from the sexual act. In effect, by appearing naked in public, they experience actual physical excitement...The female who poses in the bude gets a bigger kick out of showing than doing. The pleasure comes from an increase in self-esteem (anticipated or real) felt when others look admiringly at her nakedness.
"Most women dress to be attractive. Others undress to be attractive.
"A woman who knows she has a beautiful body doesn't mind displaying it. Bit I can't say this is a sign of an enlightened attitude towards sex. I consider it a vulgarizing attitude -- a cheap vanity."
Dr Hoffman makes many references to the preoccupation of certain actresses with their own physical beauty, their striving for superiority over others by appearing nude on film, their craving for admiration. He equates these qualities with a lack of balanced values in every case. Maybe so. Maybe some of these women are much-married because they are suffering from a narcissistic complex, and get their sexual thrills through vicarious attraction without emotional involvement. Maybe not.
There are obviously a number of motives for the beautiful actress to appear nude for a motion picture or in stills; the answer can't be entirely sexual frustration and blatant exhibitionism. A golfer shows off his stroke, a psychiatrist exhibits his brain power, and a beautiful actress or model displays her body -- and runs automatically into sexual ramifications. It hardly seems fair.
Admittedly the subject of sexual freedom is touchy and open to interpretations. Other authorities, for instance, might find Dr. Hoffman a bit stuffy and pedantic in some of his conclusions, especially that displaying a lovely body is necessarily a "cheap vanity." Appearing in the nude does not always mean that character is cheapened. Along with maturity should come an enlightened attitude about sex. It is sophistry to say that the woman who enjoys for many reasons (among them being admired) appearing in the nude under controlled conditions is perforce cheap, vulgar, or immoral.
As for nudists having lost their virility and femininity, those I've talked to say their nudist friends seem to run the gamut from prudes to libertines -- just about like any cross-section of the population. However, nudists in general may give cause under the pressure of public scrutiny, regulation, and criticism that they have "become chicken" as one nudist put it. They so effectively put on the image that nudism is "pure" and that sex is the farthest thing from the nudist mind, that many now believe it themselves. While trying to avoid criticism, they might have taken on a veneer of deficient masculinity and femininity.
It is my guess that most of those "authorities" who evaluate the nudist do not have first-hand experience with the movement. One make nudist I talked to said that if one is seeking "raw physical stimulation," there is less of it at a nudist resort than on most magazine stands of even at the beach. But he typically does not equate sex with seeing a nude body or a number of them in action or repose. Eroticism is not part of the average nudist's psyche, and he thus may appear de-sexed to the casual observer.
Without doubt Dr. Hoffman also hits the bulls-eye in some of his observations of aberrant actresses. Many do exhibit themselves as a compensation for a normal sex life, or for other psychological reasons. But the law of average says they can't all be disturbed. Some of them must have achieved a balance between their private associations with a mate and their public appearances, from which they could derive a certain healthy joy.
To strengthen this contention I talked at length with a budist/model/actress whose face and figure are familiar not only to NUDE LIVING readers, but to a very large segment of the population: Diane Webber. Diane was trained as a dancer, which also gave her an appreciation of healthy body culture. She was a nudist in her own private surroundings before she was 20, and soon afterwards, when she was married, joined a nudist club. When pictures of her at nudist parks appeared in magazines, a photographer asked her to model in the nude, and thereby she started a career which has made her famous.
"I enjoy being photographed in the nude," she says, "because I have an acting talent and professional pride as a model. But when I am modeling there is no confusion in my mind about sexuality. I'm striving to appear as beautiful as possible, making my poses esthetic on film. I work in a circular flow of my own energy. I project when I feel I am, but I am not thinking what effect the pictures will have on the viewer.
"Modeling in the nude can be thought of on two levels. On mine I try to look my best, which may or may not be 'sexy' according to the eye of the beholder. On another level is the sexpot which I am not. She is usually a stereotype with a wooden expression which is probably supposed to stimulate her audience."
Diane, who has been the subject of many magazine picture stories, has also starred in a movie called "Mermaids of Tiburon," most of which was shot underwater. She makes a quick distinction between the candid photographs of herself as seen in this magazine or NUDE LOOK, and the studied pictures for which she poses. The former are natural, the others professional and requiring special concentration. If both entail a certain amount of exhibitionism, I would say it manifests itself in a healthy and open way with no overtones of the "cheap vulgarity" which Dr. Hoffman seems to apply to any beautiful girl paid to show her body.
Diane explains further, "Being a nudist or modeling nude gives one more feeling of physical freedom, but not less physical discipline. The fact that I am seen nude in publications makes me even more selective about my friends and business associates.
"However, the average American woman might have difficulty understanding my attitude because she is a product of her environment, often influenced by a strict upbringing, and she is taught that nudity is nakedness, and is best suited to darkness. She may be reassured to discover her husband's admiration of her nude body, whether perfect or not. To be seen is not necessarily to be soiled.
A thoughtful adjunct to this whole subject appeared on the newsstands at the same time in the April 2, 1963 SATURDAY EVENING POST. In it famed British author, J. B. Priestly, speaks out on "Eroticism, Sex and Love." Here is a beautifully delineated article which must be read to be appreciated. I can choose only a few statements which augment this theme of posing without clothing.
"Eroticism," says Priestly, "is a shortcut to masculine interest and curiosity...unlike love and sex, (it) apparently offers something for nothing. It is sexual pleasure without sexual responsibility."
He contends that society confuses sex and love with mere eroticism, and points out that the movies have become a "striptease business," that half-nude girls on the covers of many books are symbols of our mixed-up times. In the same breath he disagrees with moralists "who are always telling us there is 'too much sex' in movies, stage shows, or fiction. They are confusing two kinds of things...Ordinary people very sensibly feel that there cannot be all that wrong with sex, that while there may be a lot of sex in movies, on stage, and in fiction, there is just as much sex, if not more, down the nearest street."
Mr. Priestly makes other perceptive points at the public and private debate about the real and erotic continue -- indefinitely. Freedom is a two-way street. "Great Ladies" may undress before cameras for many reasons. It seems a shame to give them a generalized label. If he knew them individually, even Dr. Hoffman might like Jayne Mansfield or Sophia Loren. I'm sure he would be an admirer of Diane Webber, and join the uncritical throng.