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A History of Sexual Depictions in Art - Paper Example

6 pages
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Wesleyan University
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Slimy Contacts is an illustration of the history of race and racial identities. The work presents race as one of the most challenging legacies of illumination, just as historiography frames it. The first part of the illustration sets the stage by painting race as a biological trait. Thus, it takes a clear position from the onset that the European anthropologists who discovered race in 1735 had the most accurate view of it. All the styles and elements used in work are unified to paint race as a biological distinction between mankind and not as a discontinuous social trait.

The second part picks up the narrative at the end of World War II when the world began to see race as a symbol of human diversity (Kosmala, 2014). The work demonstrates how people would leave out the subject of race in proper rational discussions because they thought it was outdated to talk about it- the widespread perception of responsibility for the limited literature on the history of the race. It uses color to symbolize race on the skins of characters whose traits suggest other social themes that many a writer would bring in to add substance to their discussions (Muller-Wille, 2015). The conflict between themes represented by the skins and discourses tells the history of race as that of false thought, and as such conceals the stories of the phenomena that comprise and shape it. Philosophically, many think that race is an empty concept because sociologists and historians have failed to present its object. Therefore, communicative elements of the work insinuate that the generation considered race a misconception of identity in the minds of people. The evidence is drawn for how depicting race as a wholly social concept undermines some intuitions that underlie beliefs about it. The narrative graphically lets the audience see the rationale for Constructivists coming up with, race*. The artists pencil endeavors to distinguish meanings and usage of the word race based on contexts (Sally, 2009).

The last part of the illustrations emphasizes the traditional pattern of thought about race concepts as the accurate outlook. The art, at this point, focuses on objects of race as mental tools instead of looking at it wholly as a mental representation. It canvases the view of Linnaeus (1738), which physical traits in humans like skin color comprise outright malformations and variations determined by age, environment, and diet (Kosmala, 2014). Accordingly, by portraying of race-based distinctions as mental tools, it ceases to focus on identifying discrete types. Outwardly, the identification of tools may give a sense of ambiguity, unless one keeps in mind that a broad concept such as culture can be applied in diverse contexts and uses. The drawings lead to the conclusion that race is a historical category and not a strictly physical distinction. As in molecular biology and population genetics, it portrays race a historical category, and not a strictly physical distinction. Differences in socioeconomic status, political allegiance, and genealogical descent are illustrated to symbolize human history and not natural variations.

The Gender Pun?

The Gender Pun? is a caricature compilation that illustrates how classic concepts such as beauty, genius, and fashion are gendered because they carry presumptions about social roles and qualities that societies desire to attribute to women and men. For instance, it comically models beauty as female and genius as male. The drawings portray beauty regarding physical appearance that can only be found in women such as body curves, gentle contours, softness, and smallness. Similarly, it relies on the traditional perception of genius as the superiority of intelligence and independence, which are associated with men. The cartoons use nudity to represent beauty in women and intellectual prowess to represent genius in men. The grotesque impression of the work is that women are intellectually inferior and men as aesthetically disinterested (Kosmala, 2014). The objective of the artwork is to demonstrate the opposing viewpoints that characterize gender stereotypes. Its representations express objective and rational thoughts towards men, but subjective, imaginative, and intuitive ideas about women.

One of the reasons behind the gender inequity portrayed in art is the male dominance of intellectual practices. The work shows some of the barriers women face in intellectual contribution and recognition. It uses words like Justice and Lady Justice to show how the society uses gender sensitive titles to distinguish women from men even if they have similar qualifications. The work also shows the assumption that women cannot be good in professions such as engineering, mechanics, surgery, and medicine. Such assumptions exist in reality because in most parts of the world, for many years, men have had more opportunities to perform and pursue professional training than women. Similarly, it took a long time for women to get accepted and celebrated in the art industry. As a result, women did not have the chance to depict themselves in their perspectives. The illustrations also use some common stereotypes about women, which sound like the ordinary jokes in many societies but in reality, are gender insensitive. For example, it paints a situation where two men are in a plane, and one tells the other that he wants to throw up, but he responds, "Come on, don't be a woman."

Comparatively, the work then takes the approach of the feminist artists who have come in strongly to change gender portrayal in art. Hence, in the rest of the illustrations, I drop the classic gender representation styles such as a depiction of the body and usage of non-standard materials for women. The art in this part of the illustration goes beyond the usual patriarchal views to focus on the right characteristics of women. Consequently, they make attractive, some feminine characteristics that formerly, were considered disgusting. I use the insights from my analysis of the traditional concepts to gender-sensitivity in this part of the illustration. I recognize that women are not comfortable with the traditional gender paintings of women in art. Therefore, I depart from it without necessarily breaking away from the mainstream art to develop new medium and material for illustrating gender.

Paintings of Sexuality

Paintings of Sexuality is an illustration that narrates the history of sexuality in art. It begins the narration from the days of ancient civilizations when many cultures considered it a taboo to discuss sex openly to the time when sexuality began to be depicted openly in art. The first part of the illustration shows depictions of sexuality in the ancient Greece, where artists made statues and decorations of people having sex (Dina, 2017). It is then followed by the work of the Roman artists, who began to depict unnatural sexual relations such as bestiality and homosexuality alongside paintings of the conventional human sexuality (Dina, 2017). Notably, the ancient Roman arts were done a later time in human civilization, so most of their artists were of the renaissance generation, who were more liberal thinkers than the Greek artists.

Evidently, as civilization increases, humans have been becoming more and more comfortable to express their views on sex. Due to industrialization and urbanization, contemporary art digressed from classical works, shifting its themes from those of antiquity. Hence, illustrations began to represent modern figures instead of the ancient ones. Nudity and sex suddenly lost taste and became inappropriate. Therefore, modern artists had to come up with creative ways to overcome this response. They began to depict sex more covertly by showing intimacy through embrace, holding hands, and kissing. It is through such hidden representations of sex that contemporary artists have included depictions of the current views about sexuality. Depictions of emerging sexualities such as transgender and bisexuality in the art are thus more covert than those painted in the ancient times.

Instead, what has become more open in modern sexuality depictions is female nudity. Nudity is popular because it represents class, power, and gender. The dialogue about nudity in modern art has been recurring in the West since the Neoclassical and the Renaissance periods. However, the manner in which an artist represents nude should be consistent with the current sexual and social relations of their society. Art must appeal to the prevailing social ideals and expectations for it to be accepted. Female nudity in art developed as a result of objectification of women by societies, which perceived them as objects of sexual fulfillment. Objectification in art is signified by the emphasis on the physical appearance of women without regard for their other attributes and personalities. Modern feminists level sharp criticisms against works of art that paint women as if they only exist to gratify viewers. Therefore, nudity should never be used without consideration of the factors such as the relationship with the model, engagement with the intended viewer, and the presumed audience.

Despite negative depictions of nude, sexuality in art is an important source of information about sex beliefs in society. Sexuality can represent perceptions of national identities, gender ideals, beauty standards, morality, and fertility in a society. People of color and women developed new approaches of using art for race, sex, and gender in their self-determination. This development was inspired by the activities of the feminist movement.



Dina, A. (2017, December 5). Hump Day: A history of sexual depictions in art. Retrieved from

In Kosmala, K. (2014). Sexing the border: Gender, art and new media in central and Eastern Europe.

Muller-Wille, S. (2015). Race and History: Comments from an Epistemological Point of View. PubMed.

Sally, H. (2009). DSpace@MIT: Exploring Race in Life, in Speech, and in Philosophy: Comments on Joshua Glasgows A Theory of Race. Retrieved from


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