Yesterday I took a naked photograph of myself – from behind – to use as the accompanying picture for my review of David Shields’ Reality Hunger. In the end I didn’t use it. I uploaded it, but then demurred. So it is somewhere within the logs of WordPress, but nowhere else. As someone who is naked in almost all of his YouTube videos*, this sudden shyness took me aback.
Where did it come from, I asked myself? I added the picture featuring my buttocks next to Shields’ book four times, each time hovering over “Publish” but then deleting the image instead. This nervousness, this reticence to be exhibitionist troubled me. It’s not like me. And by not including the picture in my final review, I felt I had chickened out somewhat, that I had become more shy and even more (if it were possible) repressed. I spent the day thinking about what had happened.
As I sat nursing one, two, three, negronis in the evening, staring at a photograph of my own arse, I realised what was wrong. The image wasn’t funny. The image was, dare I say it, flattering.
Maybe it was the light, maybe it was the way I was stood, the way I was holding myself, the way my arse was clenched, my legs were stretched, my back was twisted, I don’t know… but the image looked GOOD. It seemed – to my critical male gaze – to be an almost attractive image of a nude man. And that nude man was me.
By all means go and look at the nudity in my YouTube videos, and you will see the difference I mean – there my nudity is comical, is inappropriate, is sexless – there my body becomes a figure of fun – something to be repulsed by and laughed at. I’m happy with that – I am happy to, nay, pleased to cause laughter with my arse. But here… here was a nudey pic of myself where there was nothing to laugh at. So what was the point of it?
I realised that publishing a flattering, rather than a comical, image of myself naked was crossing a line that I felt very, very uncomfortable crossing. This wasn’t me becoming more repressed, it was me staying as repressed as I was before. I don’t want to think of myself as an attractive figure – urgh, I think to myself, that sounds so horrendously grown up. I don’t want to be eroticised – I don’t want to give people the opportunity to be repulsed by my body, because I want to present it as something that is funny and nothing more.
By uploading a flattering photograph of my taut, youngish, buttocks, slim legs and tight back next to the cover of a book, I would not have got any laughs, I would instead have been offering the internet the chance to aesthetically judge my body as about as pleasant a sight as it can get. Which is definitely NOT the kind of thing I’m looking to do.
So laugh at my nudity, internet, is what I’m saying, laugh at it. Just please, please, please, don’t eroticise it.
Tell me I’m ugly, to reiterate, but only when I know that I’m being so.
* See: http://www.youtube.com/MalariaColon – particular ones to look out for are ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, ‘Scott Hadley Breaks Down the London Riots’ and most of my rap (Hip-Scott) videos.