My parents enrolling me in nude figure drawing classes starting when I was fifteen was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I hadn’t kissed a boy or girl, but suddenly I found out how sharp light reflecting off completely bare human skin was utterly different than any kind of light reflecting off any kind of clothed human. The people were of course a range of ages, sizes, and colours, but every one, every time, was transcendently beautiful, and I mean that literally. Every time a model disrobed, I felt like I transcended my bodily existence and I was getting drunk through my eyeballs, without ever getting acutely physically aroused. If you’ll pardon the smugness, I think it spoiled me for mainstream western porn forever.

When I got around to fooling around with people I was attracted to, well, that was even better, in a whole other way.

Which is to say, I like nudity, I like sex, and if a comic can incorporate these elements in a way I dig, that is a big positive for the comic. I would almost go as far as to say that contextually-appropriate nudity and/or sexuality can be to the benefit of any given comic, in the same way that the best stories have a vein of humour, as different as it may be depending on the story.

Tom said that pictures of hot girls could disappear from comics and he wouldn’t care much. I’d put forth that every graphic work I can think of that incorporated nudity or sexuality well would be a lot poorer without that element. In the Night Kitchen would be significantly diminished without Mickey falling out of bed naked. As would be Diary of a Teenage Girl without the oral sex (well, duh), and Dykes to Watch Out For without the tasteful humping.

It’s not an original thought, but I believe sexuality in comics is appropriate in all sorts of cases: for titillation, anti-titillation, pushing a story forward or revealing character. Cerebus would not be Cerebus without the Astoria rape scene, and the girls’-school-ravishment scene was the perfect way to introduce Moore’s Invisible Man (the former I found horrifying and the latter hot, but I’ve heard the opposite from others).

That said, when the sexual element is done badly (by, say, people who come off as having watched a lot more porn than they’ve seen naked people) it’s unbearable, just like the worst parts of the worst novels are often the sex scenes. Given my abovementioned warped formative experiences, I’m most attracted to the bodies that call to mind naturally-occurring human forms and am mystified (at best) by obvious anatomical exaggeration, be it fashion-illustration manga-style or rubbery and brokebacked like the porn Noah praised here (I can get behind (hur hur) Aubrey Beardsley women (though not Aubrey Beardsley penises), because I have seen women who in the actual nude look like they’re wearing invisible corsets, with the wasp ribcages and beer guts).

In conclusion, I am for sexy comics but hate the porn aesthetic. And as a feminist, I get uncomfortable with a lot of the male-gaze-issues (I love-hate Frank Cho, for instance, and some of the straight male jobnik fans I’ve met), but I wouldn’t know where to start with talking about that.

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