The female nude and the naked guy: declarative and nondeclarative personal culture in aesthetic responses to artistic nude photography

Michaël Berghman*, Thomas Calkins, Koen van Eijck, Yu Chin Her

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

We have studied the operation of the male gaze in the aesthetic evaluation of contemporary artistic photographs containing explicit male and female nudity among heterosexual men and women. Apart from explicit evaluations, we also tracked the time it takes respondents to express their opinion as an indicator of cognitive deliberation, to see to what extent expressed opinions rely on nondeclarative inclinations or rather declarative considerations. We find that both men and women aesthetically prefer female nudity–in line with the male gaze–but men’s preference is more outspoken. Moreover, people’s values affect evaluation as well, with sexual conservativeness lowering the liking of artistic nudity in general and artistic sympathies increasing appreciation of male nudity in particular. Although neither respondent gender, nor sexually conservative values affect response time, people with more sympathetic values towards the arts think longer when assessing the beauty of male nudity. Our findings indicate that both the male gaze and sexual conservativeness operate as nondeclarative frames of reference that lead to routine reactions in aesthetic appreciation of artistic nudity, but values of sympathy for the arts operate as a form of declarative personal culture, which leads to a cognitive effort to overrule the male gaze.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

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