Much like love and hate, there's a fine line between celebration and exploitation. I've been thinking about this a lot more, recently, as I continue work on my various vixens. Obviously, most of the cartoons I mention are from an earlier time and all have a degree of sexism apparent in their creation. But as with anyone classified as a vixen, an element of sexuality is required. But at what point does that sexuality stop being a celebration of sexuality and femininity and instead mutate into sexist exploitation for borderline pornographic purposes?
It's such a difficult slope to navigate. I'm a straight male, for one thing, and I like looking at women. While the various vixens with which I work are all very cartoonish, there are enough characteristics of humanity in them to elicit a sexual response. But I'm also an artist. I love art. I contemplate beauty. I appreciate the human form, both male and female, as an amazing product of evolution and of my own perceptions of it. It's a disquieting thought to think about where the line is drawn in my mind. Where does my enjoyment of, and work with, the female figure stop being artistic and just become lascivious?
As a straight male, I'm beginning to come the conclusion that it's impossible to separate the two. And that right there may be one of the most persistent seeds of sexism. Even if artistic drivers are what nurture a love and appreciation of the female figure, my id will always sexualize the work to a great degree. I think that this has the unavoidable result of coloring my perceptions. Coloring how I view, understand, and appreciate the art on which I work.
The above mentioned fine line is no better explored than in genre films. Hell, some filmmakers have built their entire careers on celebrating the exploitation, *cough*Tarantino!*cough*, be it black, asian, or gangster films. And perhaps that evinces a greater depth to the problem. There is, in fact, no line between celebration and exploitation. Exploitation can become celebration, and what was once artistic can become exploitative. People making chop-socky exploitation flicks didn't ever think that, fifty years in the future, people would look back on these films as a celebration of a time and an ideal, however flawed it may have been.
It's hard for me. I want to be artistic, but I'm also a powerfully sexual entity. I actively try and separate my sex from my art, and I suppose I succeed to a degree, but the very existence of this blog shows that I have failed/succumbed at least in part. Namely, you don't see me making a Cartoon Hunks blog. I also assume that Freud was at least somewhat right, that the id does drive behavior. The impetus, the basic psychological fuel to do things arises from the primal drivers inherent to our most basic functions. Architecture from a need for shelter. Clothing from a need to keep warm. Fine cooking from a need to eat. And portraits from a need to connect with humans and have sex.
Still, does all of that result in an inescapable sexism? Is it literally a part of my work? Am I sexualizing these creations to the detriment of the character and creation? I don't think so, and I hope not. While the fact that females are both humans and sexual prospects, at least from the straight male perspective, I must always look at them through two lenses. It's annoying that I must be ever vigilent with myself. Making sure that possible sexual attraction doesn't affect me. Making sure that while my mind may be in conflict, my actions are measured and egalitarian.
So while there is obviously a degree of sex in these images and in the work I do, that my chosen work is sexual is no surprise. That the images I draw are of attractive women is no surprise. I am celebrating what I enjoy, even though that very celebration seems to necessarily require exploitation. I am exploiting the female figure for visual pleasure. I don't think that's inherently sexist, though. My fantasy world is exactly that, a fantasy. And I recognize the difference between the real world and the one banging around between my ears. I also strongly feel that there is little that is pornographic with my images. Pornography implies an artistic creation where almost no thought is given to the elements other than sex. And even there, the raunchiest of internet porn has artistic merit to it; the person making must have at least given some thought to angle, lighting, sound design, etc.
The images are sexual, celebratory, exploitative, and artistic all in one. Sexism may have had a part to play in their creation so many decades ago, but those who were sexist are long-since dead. Much like Quentin Tarantino, the exploitation is over, now it's time for the celebration.