Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Naked Bodies and Nasty Pictures: Decoding Sex Scripts in Preadolescence, Re-Examining Normative Nudity through Art Education

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Naked Bodies and Nasty Pictures: Decoding Sex Scripts in Preadolescence, Re-Examining Normative Nudity through Art Education

Article excerpt

In a scene from the 2007 comedy, Superbad (Apatow, 2007), the teenage Seth reluctantly reflects on his childhood obsession for drawing male genitalia. "For some reason, I don't know why, I'd just kinda sit around all day and draw pictures of dicks. . . I couldn't touch the pen to a piece of paper without it drawing the shape of a penis." Seth obsessively created images of penises and various contexts in which he could imaginatively explore interpretations of the penis. In his private practices of drawing, he personified and repetitiously arranged phallic images. Because of the extremely personal nature of these drawings, Seth carefully hid them away in his lunchbox. As with this characterization of a curious boy, Thome and Luria (1986) point out that drawing can serve a specific developmental need for young people who wish to explore their understandings about sex and gender on their own terms. Drawing can assist children in navigating gender constructs and serve to counter the repression of sexual curiosities, an experience common to many youth (Ivashkevlc 2009; Gagnon & Simon, 1984; Wilson, 1976). The two writers of Superbad, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, supposedly wrote this screenplay when they were only 13 years old and apparently drew on personal knowledge to parody this experience of many young boys (Koltnow, 2007). Young people may engage In a variety of artistic activities in order to relieve tensions generated by boredom, repression, and unfulfilled curiosities (Wilson & Wilson, 1981). Ivashkevlc (2009) suggests that image making is a practice "Interwoven with social and cultural discourses of childhood and gender, and embedded In children's peer interactions, daily activities and participation in popular culture" (p. 51).

I was not as discreet, nor was I as adventurous as Seth, but from about age 10 and throughout my middle school years, I created and exchanged dozens of secret sketches. Through sharing drawings of naked classmates and even teachers, I earned the favor of an elite group of boys. I imagine that my boyhood exposure to sexually explicit figures drawn onto park benches, picnic tables, school desks, and lockers informed my drawings and also gave me the opportunity to unofficially compare notes with anonymous yet equally curious youngsters who were more inclined to graffiti than to passing notes. It is apparent that young learners utilize drawing as a means of processing and organizing thoughts and representing the environment. As their perceptual awareness increases, they may venture to a great variety of subject matter (Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1987). In this case, as in many cases thereafter, I used drawing as a vehicle for negotiating notions of sex, sexuality, gender, and (social) power.

I knowingly created these drawings for several reasons. I sought to initiate an exchange about sex and the body with my peers; therefore, I created drawings in response to the drawings of my peers. On the other hand, I intended to earn the favor of friends who also suffered from boredom and seemingly felt empowered by sharing these images. According to Duncum and Smith-Shank (2001 ) sexualized nude images hold significance to préadolescent children for their"power to arouse sexually" but also for their "power to offend" (p. 1 00). While préadolescents may not find comfort in discussing with parents or other adults some of their assumptions, beliefs, or curiosities about sex, they playfully share their perceptions with each other through various forms (Duncum & Smith-5hanfe, 2001). Unfortunately, préadolescent children are also often not yet aware of the intention and power behind some images of the body they encounter and to which they respond.'

My younger brother and I discovered pornography when we were around 9 or 10 years old. We found a few hardcore magazines in an abandoned car in a nearby alleyway on our walk to the neighborhood park. I was awestruck by the photographs and additionally excited by the idea that I was experiencing that which I knew my parents would never approve. …

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