# Research

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### Sensualism



#### Sensualism is the persistent or excessive pursuit of sensual pleasures and interests. In philosophy, it refers to the ethical doctrine that feeling is the only criterion for what is good. In epistemology it is a doctrine whereby sensation and perception are the basic and most important form of true cognition. It may oppose abstract ideas.

###### Sensation is the body's detection of external or internal stimulation (e.g., eyes detecting light waves, ears detecting sound waves).

Marc Quinn
Flesh Painting (On Sensualism)

Freud

Pleasure Principle

In Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, the pleasure principle is the driving force of the id that seeks immediate gratification of all needs, wants, and urges. In other words, the pleasure principle strives to fulfill our most basic and primitive urges, including hunger, thirst, anger, and sex. When these needs are not met, the result is a state of anxiety or tension.

Sometimes referred to as the pleasure-pain principle, this motivating force helps drive behavior but it also wants instant satisfaction.

Scopophillia

Scopophilia or scoptophilia (from Greek, skope?, "look to, examine" and philia, "tendency toward"), is deriving pleasure from looking. As an expression of sexuality, it refers to sexual pleasure derived from looking at erotic objects: erotic photographs, pornography, naked bodies, etc.

The Valpincon Bather

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Ingres had earlier painted female nudes, such as his Bathing Woman of 1807, yet this work is widely regarded as his first great treatment of the subject... however The Valpinçon Bather lacks the earlier painting's overt sexuality, instead depicting a calm and measured sensuality.

“The female nude in Western painting was there to feed an appetite of male sexual desire. She existed to be looked at, posed in such a way that her body was displayed to the eye of the viewer”.                _  John Berger

The female nude in Western painting – hairless, buxom, invariably with skin as white and unblemished as a pearl – was there to feed an appetite of male sexual desire. She did not have desires of her own. She existed to be looked at, posed in such a way that her body was displayed to the eye of the viewer, there only to be consumed. Of course, there was hypocrisy in this, too – “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her,” wrote Berger, “Put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting ‘Vanity,’ thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.”

Naturally, the way female bodies were presented culturally as objects to be looked at had an effect on women, on the way they came to see themselves – as a sight, a vision. In the words which opened this article, Berger pins down a feeling which, although perhaps not universal, is familiar to many, many women. It comes with adolescence – maybe the first time a man yells at you from a moving car – and is the sense of living life one step removed, living as your own spectator. You are never yourself, you are yourself as you appear to others. To men, yes, and to the women with whom you are supposed to compete for their attention.

In Ways of Seeing’s final episode, Berger discusses how the goddesses of art became the models of contemporary advertising, and suddenly it was no longer only men looking at images of women lustfully. Advertising tells us that buying a product will transform us by showing pictures of those who have already been transformed by it – these are people we should aspire to be like or be with. An image of an underwear model is desired by men and envied by women. “This state of being envied is what constitutes glamour, and publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour,” Berger says. “Glamour is supposed to go deeper than looks, but it depends upon them, utterly,” he says.

Glamour, envy and the act of looking – these are the foundations on which our current fashion and social media obsession rests. Consider the Victoria’s Secret Angels. A fleet of women so beautiful, so primped and preened that the name bestowed on them is otherworldly. The Angels present the ultimate female fantasy, with one donning the multimillion dollar jewel-encrusted ‘Fantasy Bra’ for her strut down the catwalk – each year held in a different global location. They are living, breathing advertisements, existing for mass consumption – the show, seen by millions of mostly women, is the most watched fashion event in the world. December’s event has generated almost 100,000 Instagram posts alone.

Together, with their breasts lifted, their faces contoured, their bodies waxed and their hair extended, they present a vision of Western female beauty standards so perfect that it is stunning. The Angels – who depict themselves on social media eating healthily and posting workout videos with the phrase #trainlikeanangel, and who we see undergoing pre-show make-overs in pink satin robes – have been transformed. The implication is that, through the purchase of products, the brand’s customers can be transformed too. Bounding down the catwalk, the Angels are less static than the nudes who were passive, coyly regarding their male voyeurs. But the impact remains the same – they exist to incite desire, to embody the ideal

Of course, this is one brand – the Angels are the tip of an iceberg of imagery which makes its way into our brains via social media, television, runway shows, magazine adverts and many other outlets. The fashion industry is built on selling a female ideal, and the Angels are a strong but not singular example of this. Berger didn’t want to put an end to advertising, and he certainly didn’t want us to stop looking at classical art – but with his collaborators and a late night TV slot, he helped to kickstart a quiet revolution in the way we view the world around us. He encouraged us to question the images which have been the foundation of our culture. That is a truly worthy legacy – and one we must continue.

_ DAZED , text by Emma Hope Allwood

Auguste Rodin
The Kiss

"Rodin is perhaps most famous for his ability to convey the feeling of human connection and romantic movement... There’s incredible passion and bonding apparent in his man-and-woman duos, and a clear sense of harmony between the sexes.

For his time – and even for France – some of Rodin’s work was also quite radical in its sexuality, not just sensuality. Putting it bluntly, he felt sex was an ultimate form of art. He was also one frisky Frenchman, by all accounts. So Rodin used sensual contours, the gloss of bronze, and deliberately explicit poses to excite viewers of his work..."

Niccolo Pisano
An Idyll: Daphnis and Chloe

Hokusai

The Dream of The Fisherman's Wife

Octopi and shell diver is the most famous image in Kinoe no Komatsu, published in three volumes from 1814. The book is a work of shunga (erotic art) within the ukiyo-e genre. In the text above the image the woman and the creatures express their mutual sexual pleasure from the encounter.

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