OK, I was serious when I said how I did not want this newsletter to turn into a religious discussion forum. :) But I got an interesting letter that I wanted to answer, and I wanted to share it, and the answers. And after all, Christianity is a huge influence culturally in many of the industrialized countries, so many of us feel the influence, especially if you were brought up in a Christian environment (and obviously if you are a Christian). I also feel that many of the issues can be brought over to the other big religions too, for example that the taboo about nudity seems in many cases to be much more a directive coming down from church leaders rather than actually anything said in the holy texts themselves.
So I wrote a detailed answer to the letter. To ease your reading, I quote the relevant sections of the letter in my answer.
Letters to Domai
Dear Mr. Stobblehouse
I have visited your website a number of times now and have read with interest the newsletter archive. I was intrigued by the many letters extolling the virtues of the naked female form, and the views of those who felt that looking at images of naked females was perfectly OK and even to be recommended. I was especially surprised to see letters from Christians among these. I am a Christian, and so initially I saw these letters as a way to feel OK about looking at pictures of naked females. But I never felt totally at peace about this and, after considering this for a while, decided to put in writing some of my thoughts on this. The article highlighted on the beauty of the day page, about Christian Fundamentalists banning nudity, just clinched my decision to write.
The proponents of nude PYGs talk about enjoying the sight of a naked young girl as being something magical and non-sexual. I would challenge that assertion. Being a man myself, I have a pretty fair idea how a man's mind works, and I know that the sight of a naked girl is not entirely without a sexual context. We men are wired that way, we are visual creatures and are aroused by the sight of naked female flesh. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is no longer the ideal paradise that God created for Adam and Eve. Your site extols the virtues of God's creation, putting the young naked girl at the top of all that is beautiful in this world, but you seem to have forgotten that God made clothing for Adam and Eve when He banished them from the garden of Eden. Yes, prior to man's disobedience, everything was fine and sweet and Adam and Eve enjoyed each other's company without clothes and without shame. But they felt shame after they disobeyed God by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Wanting to be like God (to know good and evil) they got more than they anticipated, and now they and their offspring would no longer be innocent but capable of evil thoughts and acts. So God clothed them to cover their nakedness. Sorry for the bible lecture, but it's important to understand how sin got into the world in the first place.
So to look at naked young women is to place one's self in a hugely tempting situation. Jesus said that if you even look at a woman with lust in your heart it is the same as having committed adultery with her. I doubt that any man (unless perhaps he was a eunuch) can look at a beautiful naked young woman without it affecting him in various ways. Maybe he doesn't mentally fondle and kiss her breasts or touch her genitals, so he thinks he doesn't sin. But is that the extent of it? Or are there other less immediate and more subtle effects? And here is where the article on freedom comes in. How much freedom should a person have? Should everyone be able to do whatever he likes? Should a person's freedom end at the point where it tramples on the rights of others? Or should a person's freedom end at the point where it causes harm to others? These last two sound like very good standards by which to set laws. Unfortunately, one requires that we first define what rights others have (or don't have), and the other requires that we understand how and where harm might be caused by someone's actions - or else to decide on the level of harm that society would tolerate for one person to inflict on another in the pursuit of life's pleasures. Both are in error because they rely on man to decide what is right and wrong, and history shows all too clearly that man is rather fallible and often wrong.
Since your site readily acknowledges God as the creator of beautiful girls (and yes, I agree God did a wonderful job!) shouldn't you also acknowledge God as the ultimate authority on what is right and wrong? He knows the full extent of what harm our actions can cause, and has set appropriate limits for our freedom much like a loving parent sets safe limits for their toddler. I'm sure many people would assume that there's no harm in looking at naked girls. Is that really true? If a man looks at these perfectly formed beautiful young girls, will his own wife or girlfriend not become less desirable to him? How does she feel about him wanting to look at these naked girls? Does she even know he does this? I am single but even I notice that looking at these beautiful girls creates desires in me that, as a single, I have no proper use for. I doubt that I am unique in this respect. Research also shows that pornography is a common factor among men who commit crimes like rape and child abuse. A vicious serial killer by the name of Bundy gave an interview with Dr James Dobson hours before his execution. Bundy was guilty of the brutal rape and murder of numerous women. Bundy warned other men in this interview that pornography (soft porn) was the lure that drove him further and further into a life of immorality and crime. You may not define the "Domai style" as pornography, but your definition of it and its actual effect on people are two quite distinct things. The effects may be subtle but I suspect they will be there nonetheless. Have you done extensive research to determine any possible long-term harmful effects to those who visit your site and to the people your visitors in turn interact with?
I notice your site's advice to photographers is to not "hide the breasts and buttocks with other body parts or anything else". Why is it important not to hide the buttocks or breasts? Are those the only parts of a woman's body that are considered beautiful? Surely, if we truly admire beautiful girls, this can be done even if parts of her body are covered by clothing or obscured some other way? Personally, the two pictures on your site that I find most beautiful are those of Kinga in the grain field. The grain is high enough to hide most of her genitals and her buttocks. OK, her breasts are exposed, but if she wore a bikini I would not find it any less beautiful. I noticed that some of the photos on your site have a distinct focus on the genitals. While perhaps a case could be made for pure beauty for beauty's sake, those that focus on the genitals are obviously pornographic in nature. Why would we want to look at *those* particular parts of a woman, except to satisfy our own lust? Isn't that a special part of her that is private, a modest part of her body, something that only she and her (future) husband ought to enjoy?
The writer of the article about Christian Fundamentalists limiting freedom accuses fundamentalists of believing that certain parts of the body are inherently indecent and evil. In the next sentence he accuses fundamentalists of believing the entire body is evil and that God is a pornographer. This is of course a straw-man argument, because that is not what most Christian Fundamentalists believe. So he is knocking us for something we are not even guilty of. Fundamental Christians believe the bible (all of it) is the word of God and that we should live according to its dictates. (Unfortunately "fundamentalists" have been given a negative connotation, when in reality it just refers to people who accept the bible as it is, instead of wanting to dilute it with man's fallible ideas and whatever is popular at the time.) The bible teaches that the body is God's temple, so it is not an evil thing but something to be honored. Some parts of the body are to be treated with special modesty, and to not do so is described as shameful. Using a water-well as a metaphor for the husband-wife relationship, the bible speaks of not letting your streams of water overflow in the streets and public squares, and never sharing them with strangers. How many of us would be happy to have other men (the reference to streets and public squares) look at our nude wives? To have other men lust after our wives? How many would be happy to have other men look at our daughters' nude bodies? The previous passage in the bible goes on to say: (Prov 5:16-20) Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?
So, it is right to be captivated by a woman who is not one's wife? Your site says it's OK, but God's word says it is wrong. Even king David, a "man after God's own heart" was led astray when he saw a beautiful woman bathing. A few seconds of seeing her naked beauty and his life went off-course and followed a path of adultery, murder (he murdered the woman's husband so he himself could marry her), the grief and sorrow of a child's death, a public disgrace and humiliation, and perpetual discord in his household. And don't forget that the bible says of its many characters that these things happened and were recorded so that we can learn from them. So if looking at a nude woman caused so much harm to king David, the woman and her husband, and king David's own family, is it therefore possible that harm in various subtle and not-so-subtle ways may come to those men who like to look at naked young girls, and to their families?
To be so captivated by youthful beauty is also a form of idolatry. Sure, a man may tell himself he is enjoying God's handiwork. But in doing so he is not worshiping the God who made beautiful women, but the beautiful women themselves. The created, instead of the Creator. And to be captivated by a woman's beauty also implies some loss of control, to be held captive and becoming enslaved by one's lust for beauty. So instead of spending one's time doing some good in the world, the time is wasted feasting on the beauty of nude girls. A man should desire only his wife's beauty, so that he will remain faithful to her instead of desiring more beautiful younger women.
Anyway Mr Stobblehouse, I doubt that my one letter would make any difference to the content of your site, or that you would even publish it. (I don't recall seeing any other "negative" letters in your weekly newsletter archive.) I do think you ought remove any references to God as justification for enjoying beauty *in nude form*, because the bible makes it clear God is not on your side on this particular issue. I think you also ought to remove incorrect references to sin in your articles because it is dishonest to say that it is a sin NOT to look at a beautiful woman, because God does not define sin that way, and to actually look is more likely to be sinful depending on the circumstances.
Have you considered making pictures available of the girls on your website wearing bikinis, summer dresses, or other suitably feminine clothing?
Sincerely, Henry V
Henry, Thank you for your nice letter. You make many interesting points, which I will attempt to address directly. Some readers may wonder why I bother address a letter like this at all, after all it is my web site and I don't have to. Well, firstly I find the questions to be interesting, and I know many people struggle with them. Secondly, I liked the intellectual challenge of it.
First to note, I am not a Christian. In fact I do not belong to any organized religion. I do believe in god and in spirits, (I believe that the universe was created and that we all contribute to that creation) but I have found no religion with which I agree with everything. So obviously, while I find a great deal of wisdom in the Veda Hymns, the Koran, the Bible, Scientology, etc, I don't regard any of them as the Law. I do not live my life or make my web sites according to laws of any single religion. I do it according to the laws of ethics of my own judgement.
Okay, so you changed your mind. Fine, that is anybody's prerogative, and I respect that. Only an insane person can't change his viewpoint.
I agree with that. "Not entirely" being the key words. Sometimes a lot, sometimes not at all. How much it is present depends upon the situation and the person, his education, his attitude, and his level of spiritual position.
I would argue with that. I think it is clothes which make nudity special. If everybody were nude all the time, would we all be excited 24 hours a day? I think not. In other words if being excited is bad, you might as well claim that it is the clothes that are the devil, since without clothes there would be no "naked".
That is debatable. Allow me to quote from the source:
So it is clear that the lord did not cover up Adam and Eve. They did so themselves after they acquired shame. (God did indeed later in Gen3.21 make garments of skin for them. That seems to me to be the good father saying 'if they wish to be clothed, so be it. They decide. I will at least make them some better clothes than those dang leaves.')
Why knowledge would make one ashamed, I don't know. Perhaps it was a special kind of knowledge they were not ready for. In any case, it looks to me like the lord did not regard being ashamed of nudity as something natural or desirable, and he got very angry about it. So perhaps we should take the hint and not be ashamed.
In any case, the bible takes a lot of thought to get straight for yourself. Example: the old testament tells us "an eye for an eye". The new testament tells us to "turn the other cheek". They are mutually exclusive. Some people choose one, some choose the other. It would be nice if we could be free of the responsibility to decide what is right and wrong, but there is no way that'll happen.
If one does not interpret the bible from a personal and modern viewpoint, one must accept some pretty horrific things. Here is a quote from the excellent TV show The West Wing. President Bartlett, who is a Christian, argues with Dr. Jacobs, a media personality...
I think this is very good writing which illustrates how anybody takes from a text what they can use.
Indeed it is. And a lot of harm has come from temptation of any kind. However a lot of harm has come from automobiles. Still does, every day, and we don't make those illegal. It is simply that the good can sometimes outweigh the harm, even when the harm is death.
It is up to every man to decide how much temptation is too much for him. Me, I can look at a nice Porsche and never decide to steal it. For some people, that is impossible, they have to have it.
Ah, did he say that? Some people say it is a translation error or a late revision of the bible. It seems to me to be inconsistent with the the ordinarily laid-back nature I see Jesus to have. If he did indeed say it, see my point above about literal interpretations.
I think it is a big error to make mere thoughts be sins. Sins are actions. If thoughts were sins, then self-discipline would be unnecessary, since you have already sinned by just fantasizing about the sin, so why not do it in reality as well?
Ah. God gave us self-determinism and minds of our own. Wouldn't the ultimate sin be not to use that?
Does god not want us to stand on our own feet?
I don't see why that would happen. Does he not love his wife?
Jealousy is not a sane state of mind. I know many couples in good and trusting relationships where the woman is not only fine with the man (and herself) looking at girls, she will even point them out to him. Why not, unless she is afraid she is not good enough for him?
I can see that. If this bothers you, by all means don't look. For me, the joy of the beauty outweighs the occasional discomfort of desire.
This is not research, this is anecdotal evidence. I find it likely that Bundy, who was of course severely antisocial, would just make this up to mess with people and be interesting. What did he have to lose after all?
And Bundy was not into soft porn mags like you say. No Playboy. He was into, and I quote himself: "those that involve violence and sexual violence". A totally different thing. And there is no evidence of an "sliding slope" either.
Not to mention that James Dobson clearly goaded him along. Dobson is an extremist anti-porn crusader. He is the one who recently attacked SpongeBob SquarePants for being a gay icon!
Studies show that almost all rapists come from homes were nudity and porn were strictly taboo, giving them an obsessive relationship with it. Homes with a relaxed attitude to nudity and to sex do not produce rapists.
Thanks to Rich W for this info:
And from the above mentioned book, page 268:
No, we don't focus on genitals. On the other hand, we don't go out of our way to *hide* them. That would only be another way of focusing on them, wouldn't it!?
I can't help but wonder: if he had been used to seeing nude people all his life, perhaps he would not freak out like this when he saw one?
I fail to see how admiration and joy is the same as worshipping. If you admire and enjoy a good painting, that is the same as worshipping it? I don't think so.
I get very few "negative" letters. Less than one in a thousand. And they are usually not very bright or interesting, unlike yours.