I'd like to address something that I see come up every year around Valentine's Day. Boudoir photography. I'm not talking the pictures of yourself where you're just playing model for the day and dressing up nicely and having beautiful photos taken of yourself. When I'm talking about boudoir photography, I'm referring to the photos of yourself scantily clad and/or in sensuous or provocative poses.
Here's the thing: I believe it takes a measure of courage and self-confidence to have those photos taken of yourself. I applaud that. I applaud the photographers who want to help women to feel confident in their own skin and to emulate all their beauty. I applaud the women who want to give their husbands something that may be difficult for them to do and something they feel is thoughtful and loving.
I worry that it isn't just that though.
I should give full disclosure and say that I once gave something similar to my husband, many many years ago. We were newlyweds with a new baby and we weren't seeing a lot of each other. I thought that taking some pictures of myself in some lingerie would be a nice thing to do because it would demonstrate a vulnerability I was willing to have with him, even in all my post-partumness. I wanted to demonstrate that I still felt sexual even as a new mom and I wanted him to see the photos and thing of the 'good times' between us. I figured that if I took the photos myself, digitally, and printed them at home then there would be no harm. Even as I did these things, for good and valued reasons, I felt.... weird. It was only maybe a month later that I discovered pornography on the computer for the first time in our marriage. My immediate thoughts were that I had caused the problem by giving him those photos. My later understanding was that my feeling a need to give those photos was based upon an undercurrent in our marriage that I was not yet aware of, or did not yet have a label for. I did not cause my husband's problem, but the thought that I may have fed into it, the idea that I did in some way promote the same objectification by doing so to myself.... well, it pretty much left me feeling like scum. That was over ten years ago now, and I've learned a lot and grown a lot. My views are pretty broad and I feel like, even with my experiences, I can still give some objectivity to the subject.
So, to the women who want to take these photos: I would first ask you to deeply consider why you think it a good idea. What are your motives for having these photos taken? Does anything in your relationship seem amiss, even a little bit? Do things, or does he, ever just seem a bit.... 'off'? Are you fully engaged with one another both inside and outside the bedroom? Please don't just go into this because you think it sounds fun or someone else's looks pretty or everyone else seems to be doing it. If you've seen examples of the photographer's other sessions then how does viewing those photos make you feel? Let's not forget that if it makes you feel a bit racy and maybe the same way when you feel suddenly swept away by something your husband does...well, then, sweetie- that's what pornography does. Minus the interaction.
Here are some other points to consider: You are dressing up provocatively, and posing provocatively for these photos. Is what you're doing something that should really involve any person outside of your relationship? Because it is.... it's involving the photographer, the printer and potentially others depending upon the confidentiality and other agreements with the photographer. Even if the photographer doesn't publish any on their website (and I don't believe that most do), are you comfortable knowing that they are on their computer where their spouse (obviously I'm just making assumptions about being married for the sake of the conversation) could possibly view them? If you knew that their spouse, the printer, the photographer, or your spouse had a problem with pornography would that change the way you felt about the photos? What about what you intend to do with them.... hanging them on the wall in your bedroom, keeping them in a drawer, keeping them in a wallet? Do you have no concerns about them being shared with others? I mean, guys do sometimes like to 'show off'. Also, what about children in the home viewing these either because they come across them by accident or because they're on display in the bedroom? Does that change how you feel about them, regardless whether it's a young child or a child going through puberty or a teenager? Do you care about whether the images are photoshopped and does that tell you anything about how you feel about yourself? Do you want a photoshopped image of yourself to compare against your real self? Let's face it, you know you're going to make those comparisons yourself and you will worry that he will too. It's what we do.
My concern is that these photos reduce women to objects to be lusted after. Do we want to feel like an object of our husband's desire, or a person which he desires? Yes, it is important to feel confident in our bodies and to demonstrate that. Might I suggest that a nice piece of lingerie could have that effect? I'm not saying it's not nice to give a little eye candy when we know that men are such visual creatures. There still needs to be the element of interaction and connection between individuals though. Too many relationships, too many individuals' feelings of self-worth, are being damaged because people are being reduced to objects. It's everywhere in the media, it's in the rampant expansion of the porn industry. Do we really want to add to that within our homes? I want that expression of vulnerability, of enticement, of whatever it is in the bedroom... to happen between us and as part of an interaction. I may think that in giving him photos of me dressed a certain way then I will encourage him to 'only have eyes for me', but do I really want him to just whip those out when maybe I'm not in the mood? Is that really healthy sexual behavior? Sure, it's just you....but that's just it... it's not YOU. It's an image of you providing something to him that he should be getting from you as an individual and a living and breathing human being, not as an object. It should be a part of a shared, mutual experience that involves how you both feel.
To my many photographer friends: Please know that if this is a service you offer, I am not attacking you. I would ask that you please encourage your clients to fully think this out. I would ask you to objectively consider what you might be promoting. Be honest with yourself and with your clients about your views. I'm not accusing you of anything less than offering a fun service. I just know that sometimes it's feeding a lurking beast (good grief, 70% of men view pornography multiple times a week!) and that, for me, I felt awful when I considered that I may have even possibly contributed to that. In the end, to each his own. I just wish it was something I had thought more critically about at the time, and so I can only hope to encourage others to do the same.