Friday, February 27, 2009

Why I Draw Nekkid Men

By Helen E. H. Madden

Unlike my esteemed colleagues here at OGG, I will not be reaching back into the golden years of my sexual youth, nor will I look at sex and censorship in our schools and libraries. Instead, I want to talk about recent personal history.

First, let me state two things. One, I am very secure in my heterosexuality. Two, being a heterosexual female, I like looking at naked men. Having said that, let's go aaaaaaaaall the way back to 2007. I had just signed a contract with Mojocastle Press for my first book, Demon By Day, and was looking for a way to promote myself as an erotica writer. There was a local science fiction convention coming up, one that I was quite familiar with, and lo and behold, on their programming schedule was a panel called "Love, Sex, and Romance in Science Fiction." It was scheduled for 10PM, and listed as a closed-door session. It was like that panel was made for me. Seriously, I heard angels singing Hallelujah when I saw it. I immediately e-mailed the convention staff and said I'd like to volunteer for the panel.

Since the convention staff knew me, and knew that I was an erotica writer, they said they'd be happy to have me. Oh, and there was one other guest who would be participating in the discussion panel. Helen, meet Author John Smith. Author John Smith, meet Helen E. H. Madden. Please, e-mail amongst yourselves and be prepared to host a panel together this upcoming weekend.

So I sent an e-mail introducing myself to Author John Smith, explaining who I was, what I wrote, and hey, here's my website at, complete with erotica art gallery! The very next day, I got a response back that was a little... surprising, shall we say?

(All quotes in today's blog post have been rewritten and names have been changed to protect the stupid, just so you know.)

From Author John Smith: "I never, I say I never have been more shocked and offended in all my life! How DARE you draw pictures of naked men?!"

Ooooooooookay. I immediately e-mailed back with an apology, stating it had not been my intent to offend; I was merely showing him my website as a way of offering my credentials for being on this adults-only panel. By the way, I added, I thought that adults-only meant we were going to discuss adults-only topics like erotica and erotic art in science fiction, and did you not see the warnings I put up on thumbnails page of my art gallery stating that there were images of male nudity on the site, so if you don't like that sort of thing, don't look?

Then I immediately e-mailed the convention staff to make sure I hadn't been wrong about the panel entitled "Love, Sex, and Romance in Science Fiction." Was it adults-only? Yes. Were we allowed to discuss sexually explicit topics? That was the general idea. Were we allowed to use sexually explicit terms and language. Oh hell yes! Wasn't that the point?

Relieved by the con staff's response, I e-mailed back to Author John Smith to let him know that I was willing to find some middle ground to work with him if he was uncomfortable discussing certain subjects, but did he understand that we were hosting a talk on sexually explicit material?

From Author John Smith: "Why yes, I did know. However, I saw those pictures of naked men on your website and I got scared. I don't like pictures of naked men. I am straight, so I only like to look at naked women. However, I guess it's okay for you to draw pictures of naked men if you want to. I mean, since you're a woman, I supposed it's only fair..."

Say WHAT? Excuse me? It's only fair that I, a simple female, get to create explicit images of naked men in a world that constantly deluges me with images of naked women? Why, how generous of you, you prick!

Imagine my outrage. Imagine me seething and frothing at the mouth as I read his follow-up e-mail asking if I had any images of a naked woman on her back, legs bent, knees spread, inviting someone to 'enter into a delicious wet treat.' Imagine my husband loading up the tranquilizer gun to keep me from hunting down this jack-ass and tearing him limb from limb. That particular evening was quite interesting, indeed.

I went to the convention, dreading what would happen. The last thing I wanted to deal with was some stupid sexist jerk who thought I had no business writing erotica or drawing male nudes. It would have been perfectly okay in this guy's mind for me to post images of naked and semi-naked women on my website, showing off their 'delicious wet treats,' but it must have seemed abnormal to him that I wanted to create sexual images of naked men, meant to appeal to me. Oh, the horrors he must have felt in being forced to deal with a woman secure in her heterosexuality and artistic freedom.

I got through the panel and dealt with the prick as politely as I could. But all that weekend he continued to repeat his request for me to supply him with images of naked women lewdly displayed. The first 40 or 50 times, I demurred politely. But eventually I got sick of hearing him say, "You know what you need on your website? Naked women doing nasty things! That's what people want to see!" So I turned to him and said, "Well, I'm rather busy right now, but if you care to commission a piece, I could put something together. I charge $50 an hour for digital artwork, and this looks like a 10-15 hour job. Shall I draw up a contract for the work?"

His silence was deafening. When he finally did speak, it was to stammer things along the lines of, "Oh no, I don't mean to bother you with paying work. It's just that if you happen to do any such drawings, maybe you could send them my way, because I certainly shouldn't have to pay for such things as porn customized to my sexual fantasies..."

Here's the thing. If I've got a hot button issue, it's this - women constantly have images of nude and semi-nude oversexed women shoved down their throats. Naked women are in the newspapers, magazines, TV, movies, etc.. But if we want to see a picture of a naked man? We have to search the internet for whatever grungy scraps the gay porn sites throw out to lure in paying customers. Even in the erotica industry, that hotbed of artistic sexual freedom, it's all about the naked girlies. Don't believe me? Check out the Erotica Cover Watch. They'll show you some prime examples of how naked men don't exist in the erotica genre. As for the rest of the world, I don't care how explicit we think things have gotten, for the vast majority, sexy = naked woman. Naked men do not exist, and creating images of naked men -- explicit, sexual images -- is considered so wrong it's ridiculous. Yeah, Justin Timberlake tears off Janet Jackson's top and the main stream media and polite society go nuts, but what do you think would have happened if Janet had reached over and torn off Justin's pants, leaving him standing with his dick hanging out? Can you even conceive that it might have happened? Or is the idea too radical to be imagined?

Last month I received a copy of Imagine FX, a digital art magazine I subscribe too. The cover showcased an image of a buxom blonde in skin tight, revealing clothing, sitting on top of a giant robot, sucking on a lollipop and reading a "Robots for Dummies" book. She was a pin-up girl, pure and simple, complete with pouty lips and nipple marks. I'm not mad that the image was on the cover of the magazine. It was a good image, well rendered, and it told a clear story. What pissed me off was inside that magazine, the female editor claimed that Imagine FX was breaking all the rules by showing a male samurai in full armor the previous issue's cover. Most of Imagine FX's cover images have been of buxom babes, so yeah, the samurai was a change in pace, but did putting a guy covered up in armor really qualify as breaking the rules? I e-mailed the editor with the following:

"I was very surprised to read your introduction to issue 40 of Imagine FX. You stated "We're breaking all the rules again... This time around we've got a beautiful creature on the cover." Well, the pin-up girl on the front cover... certainly was a beautiful creature, but she was hardly an exception to 'the rules' I've come to associate with IFX cover art... if you really do want to break the rules, might I suggest you put a pin-up **boy** on the front cover? Something pretty, pouty, and dressed in revealing clothing, maybe even sucking on something sweet while reading a 'For Dummies' book (because we all know that pin-ups, boy and girl, must be dummies)? Now that would be breaking the rules. But I suspect if you put a beautiful creature like that on the cover, you'd probably get fired."

Imagine FX has reprinted my e-mail in their letters to the editor column this month, and I'm waiting for next month's issue to see if anyone says anything about it. I won't be surprised if I get burned at the stake. But seeing that cover image, reading all that hogwash about breaking the rules, made me feel like I was dealing with Author John Smith all over again. Although I must say, dealing with that jerk did provide me with inspiration to do some new artwork. I went straight home after that convention and turned out this little beauty...

Belleraphon, by Helen E. H. Madden, 2007


  1. I think you're right that images of women are treated in an entirely different way than images of men.

    It does seem strange just how threatening some men find the idea that women actually like looking at men.

    The tide does seem to be turning, very very very slowly though.

    Kim Dare - who's lucky enough to have half naked men on the front of all her covers so far, lol ;)

  2. I agree with Kim. In fact, movies are just as bad. Show women in all manner of undress, but heaven forbid the man should be exposed!

  3. I know. It absolutely kills me, and I've been smacked down on a few occasions for doing male nudes. There are a few forums where I've seen both male nudes and female nudes handled the same way, but those are rare exceptions. I can think of several instances where male nudity in movies raised such a hub-bub in the general public, but the idea of an actress doing a nude scene? Not so much fuss, I think.

  4. Maybe you should have drawn him a nice young boytoy (and by that i mean male) in the position he requested. And if he complained, just apologized, saying, I'm sorry, I thought you said sexy young MAN!

    Don't you find some irony in the images of these skinny young females in the company of huge beer-bellied couch potatoes? AS IF!

    i don't know if it's the homophobia or the threat of competition that makes these frail creatures quake in their boots at the sight of a nude hunk -- Equus, anyone? But i for one am tired of the bullshit.

  5. First, "Belleraphon" is a really beautiful picture. I'm not just being nice to you - I really like it. It has soul. In the unlikely case anybody ever asks me who I want to do book cover art for a book I've written I'm going to point them at you.

    Yeah, like some of the responders here I was thinking of Mr. Smith as oddly homo phobic. I'm not turned on by naked men (that shower image in your Erotica Cover Watch I confess is oddly compelling) but I'm not repulsed by them. I guess that means I'm healthy.

    You didn't say how the panel thing went! What was that like to be on a panel?


  6. Yes, what was it like to be on a panel?

    Helen, I find your post refreshing and a little sad. Mr. Dickhead...err Smith, might have found himself gagged if I'd been there. I'm not even sure if I'm serious, but it's one heck of an idea.

    As a bisexual woman, I enjoy looking at both men and women in the nude. Yet, finding sensual male nudes online is, as you've said, nearly impossible. Finding more raunchy stuff is even harder. (pardon the pun) It's an enormous shame that men are so insecure they won't allow women the same visual treat as they allow themselves. As for Mr. Smith, I think you should have looked mortified and explained that you were completely hetro and couldn't ever draw a woman. It just wasn't in you. LOL

    There's a little town not to far from where I live that has an artists shop. Inside there are amazing carvings of both men and woman, nudes in a variety of positions. The pieces I'd love to have brought home would have paid my house off. I particularly liked a garden chair. The erection at the back was IMPRESSIVE! Maybe we're a little less civilized here. Oh darn.

    Another incredibly entertaining and thought provoking post, Helen. Thank you


  7. How went the panel, you ask? That particular panel went okay, even though Author John Smith had no intentions initially of discussing S-E-X. He wanted to talk only romance, and while romance is great subject, it wouldn't have required an adults-only, closed door panel. That particular panel went well, as Author Smith did not repeat his requests for nudie girl pics in front of the audience. We actually had a lively discussion with the audience, who were quite entertained to see two writers from two different ends of the spectrum on issues of love and sex in science fiction.

    Now as to how panels work in general (I've been on quite a few since that convention, and will do quite a few more this year). Usually, there are at least two panelists/experts there to discuss a subject of interest. I usually end up on panels related to sex and related issues or writing and podcasting. If you've got two panelists, it's sort of a back and forth and maybe a bit of a debate. With three or more, one panelist is usually the facilitator or leader and that person guides the discussion, making sure each panelist gets their two cents in. The panelists frame the discussion, talk about their thoughts on the issue at hand, ask each other questions, ask the audience questions, answer questions from the audience, etc. I usually prepare for a panel by writing up a description of what I think the topic is about, and then I make a list of ten questions to ask about that topic. I usually don't get past question three. By that point, the discussion has taken on a life of its own.

    At EPICon next week, I'm doing a workshop which is a little different. I'll be talking about how to podcast, so I'll be partly lecturing and partly brainstorming and discussing with the audience what the advantages of podcasting are to writers.

    Both panels and workshops require a lot of talking, so it's a good thing I'm not shy about opening my big mouth!!

  8. Go, Helen, go!

    I adore you when you get logical in the face of absurd stupidity.

  9. Sometimes I'm amazed at how illogical people can be. This John Smith guy really didn't get it... despite the fact that you explained things (quite patiently, I'm sure!) again and again and again...

    About naked men, though - the gals who write for Total-E-Bound love them. You should check out the blog (; our contributors regularly post some amazing eye candy. Kaenar Langford's last post was amazing!

    And by the way, I think your post is right on topic, looking at a different facet of how the "new explicitness" turns out to be extremely equivocal.


  10. I think there are a few places, in the real world and on the net, that really do love to disply the male body. is one of my favourites.

    BTW - Not advertising. I have nothing to do with the gallery - but they do have a lot of very nice pictures on sale :)

  11. Ah, see? That's what I like about shunga! Huge cocks, great big cunts...and some very stylish kimonos.
    It's equal opportunity exposure, you gotta love it.

    Great post by the way.


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