An Adventure in Figure Modeling

Reposting:

I used to make quite a bit of money from stripping and from figure modeling when I was young. I can’t imagine anyone wanting me to do a pole dance these days but figure modeling is an option at any age. Art classes are about drawing the human body in all of its conditions, not just the young and the beautiful. I might take it up again. While stripping for a divorce party (they are a thing) calls for a certain lack of inhibition, modeling for an art class requires great control and decorum. It can be quite prudish.

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Maybe this story has nothing to do with the problems of aging. Maybe it’s derelict memories of an almost-old man percolating up. Maybe the figure modeling experience of young-adult-me is TMI. Given the other posts I’ve made, I can’t imagine it would be so.

So this has some nude images in it of me as a much younger man, 1974. (I’m sure someone will see it as a sexual fantasy. If so, feel free to enjoy.) But it is as true as my memory can be. At the time it was a mortifying experience. It turned into a personal triumph, if an odd one.

You’ve been warned. Slightly NSFW.

End of rant.

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As a child, long before puberty, I had always loved nudity. I would have been the kid who wouldn’t keep his clothes on except for the extremely conservative nature of my community and my family. I think it was one of the aspects of my Asperger’s. Or perhaps I hated the feel of textiles on my skin. Or perhaps I was really obsessed with freedom, honesty, and acceptance. We are the freest and most visually honest when we are naked. If you aren’t accepted naked, you really aren’t accepted.

I also knew it was a very serious taboo with some very painful consequences.

I have read that many Aspies dislike the texture of fabric against their skin. I have also read that it is not rare for those whose autism is slightly more pronounced to simply remove all their clothing at inopportune times. OTOH there are a few Aspies who are positively phobic about nudity. If you have met one Aspie, you have met only one Aspie!

Nude-Life-class-for-women,-1893

“My mind was constantly whirring with thoughts, worries, and concerns. The time spent with my obsession was the only time in which I had a clear mind – it gave me that much sought-after relaxation.”
Young person with Asperger syndrome. From https://www.autism.org.uk/

I had two great obsessions in my childhood. One was summertime nudity. That one goes back to my very earliest memories. The other was science, which I discovered in kindergarten. Photography didn’t became an obsession until my teens. They all gave me a clear mind and a relaxed state. Science as a career was lost to me when I found myself psychologically incapable of pursuing the required curriculum at the age when I needed to do it but my interest never abandoned me. Did photography for a while but doing it for money burned me out quickly.

When I got old enough to drive, I became an accomplished streaker. 😉

As an 18-year-old freshman, I went to Oakland U, in Michigan. I failed miserably in the classes I took. I was depressed and unable to focus and even had to fight a bully in the dorm. My very closest brush with suicide was sitting in a window on the 9th floor, debating the idea. I also met a 27-year-old art student. We fell in love with each other and I moved in with her – which may well have saved my life.

I had a lot of “firsts” that year. First time of being completely free of parental control. First science fiction convention. First (and only) time of being chased by cops for streaking. (I got away.) First time smashing drunk, first time used psychedelic drugs stronger than pot. The second semester was my first nude theater in a college production of Hair.

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From BBC Arts – Get Creative No infringement intended.

The first semester, on the very first week, was also my first experience with figure modeling and particularly with nudity in a coed environment. In fact, my first social nudity of any kind outside of a locker room. I didn’t have a clue about the actual practice of nudism and might not even think myself as a nudist, I just had an itch to scratch.

I was due some work-study hours and figure modeling was an option. On my own for the first time, this opportunity seemed heaven-sent. A chance to bring my nudity out of the closet and into the world and I was ecstatic. The very first time I did it, I’ll admit it was worse than a hot mess. There was no harm in what happened – but there was very high anxiety at the time. Now it is just an entertaining memory.

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When I picked art modeling for my work-study, I had imagined a large classroom with a fair amount of separation between (mostly male) students and the model. I think I may have seen a generic scene in a movie or read something in a book, so I was making up expectations out of whole cloth.

My fantasy included heads popping out intermittently from behind easels. A platform with a curtain of some sort beside it into which I’d duck behind to change. A couple of floodlights in my eyes and a space heater to stay warm. Maybe a pole or other props for action poses. Something cushioned to sit on for seated poses and lie down on for reclining poses. (This was autumn in Michigan during the peak of the energy crisis, after all.)

From: Humanity Has Declined

Since then I have posed in many different environments from an outdoor garden to a storage shed behind an art store. Oftentimes it was just an ordinary classroom. One time at a Catholic women’s college (Mount St, Mary’s, IIRC) I was on a stage in an auditorium while the students were many rows back in the audience seating under the close supervision of a nun. Rarely did it look anything like a traditional studio.

This time it was the least private, least supervised, coldest, and most poorly thought out environment of the lot.

The actual classroom’s floor was 2 feet below grade with concrete walls and floors. Windows from there to the 10 ft. ceiling as the primary light. Students wandered by randomly outside, en route to classes, and stopped to stare. Inside, it was maybe 10×20 feet. I was in the center, up against an interior wall surrounded on three sides by a mostly female group of a dozen upper-division students. The closest was an arm’s length away. I could touch the easel.

The platform was bare plywood over a pallet, maybe 3ft. x 3ft.  All poses were standing. The easels were at an angle that didn’t obstruct anyone’s view in the slightest. No changing room or curtain and no robe or towel. No heater either. Just my clothes folded up neatly on the floor at their feet. Nothing to sit on or to use for a prop. Completely visible from the sidewalk outside.

Two-hour classes with a 10-minute long break on the hour and very brief breaks between poses. I felt both claustrophobic and exposed, nervous, and quite vulnerable. It was comfortable only to someone in a thick sweater and I was shivering far more from nerves than the cold.

A situation guaranteed to produce maximum shrinkage, right? I soldiered on.

Being an upper-division class, the Prof was somewhere else most of the time, only showing up at the very end to critique the charcoal sketches.

 I was the very last person to realize it had happened. There was much giggling and whispering and grinning before I realized why. And then I looked down and noticed…

Suddenly I was blushing hotly, despite the cold room. The “problem” immediately maxed out. I closed my eyes, tried to calm myself, bit and chewed on my lips and cheeks for distraction, and thought about homework to try and bring things down. Fail.

Just ignore those giggling and tittering coeds …

Stray thoughts about attractive coeds probably started it and the class’ reaction did nothing to diminish it. I felt that hot blush spread over my entire body. My heart was starting to pound and other things to throb. My stomach was in a knot and I could hardly keep my breath.

At last, I had made it thru to my 10-minute break, the halfway point.

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 The “fight or flight” reflex can be very arousing.

Modeling for life drawing needs a calm and neutral mindset. You are going to be on display for a “serious” reason. It is as asexual as it gets. People will be seeing at you as a figure and artistic subject, not a flesh and blood hormonal human. Might as well be a bowl of fruit. No shock, no awe, no eroticism, no arousal on either side of the easel.

You are expected to be a mannequin during your pose and there will be many poses in every position from a minute to an hour. It is difficult. Humans are not designed to stay perfectly stationary. It takes strength, flexibility, and patience. A complete “Zen” state is ideal. And the ability to keep one’s mind occupied or you’ll be bored to death. _________________________________

It wasn’t going down regardless of vigorous efforts over the break. (LOL!) It was stuck in the fully upright position for takeoff. Never had that happen before. Priapus would have been proud!

My little FTW demon kicked in. That’s a demon inside of me that comes out when all seems lost and the world is shitting upon me and I cease to care about anything. Once you stop caring, anything is possible. Back to class and fuck’em if they couldn’t take a joke.

FTW demon. You figure you have lost everything and you don’t give a damn anymore.

Not caring anymore short-circuited a brewing panic attack and lowered my anxiety. Lowering anxiety lowered something else. The instructor only came in near the end of class, so I lucked out there. He didn’t get a full show.

After class, the instructor grumbled. Can’t have that happening in the class! But he understood it was a combination of nervousness and novelty and not an intentional act of auto-eroticism and let me continue if I promised not to let things get so out of hand again. (He may also not have had another model. Kept me busy all year.)

Next class session I apologized and asked around. None of the students said they’d been offended. (Of course, someone could have been uncomfortable with it but unwilling to say so.)  They reassured me and laughed good-naturedly.

One said I was obviously hyper-nervous and he was glad as hell he wasn’t up there in the altogether. Another joked that I was blushing so red she’d wanted to use red conte instead of charcoal. Artists are the most understanding and compassionate people in the world regarding social nonconformity. (I’m just glad they weren’t first-years!)

I tried to take poses that minimized the view should something come up. Wasn’t needed – well at least not much. (The attractive coeds’ continued giggling wasn’t helping.)

The third time was a charm and my nervousness was gone. Eyes open, lips healing from bites, a natural smile returning to my face, I was even able to walk among the students. I engaged them as human beings, talking about their drawings and asking for posing suggestions posing. Got a couple of drawings from one of them, a 60-year-old woman returning to school for the hell of it. They are posted here. Managed to do some after class private modeling for a little extra money. And making $10/hr. which was not chicken scratch in 1974.

Prof finally set up a couple of lights and pulled the shades. That helped too. I was too new to social nudity not to be affected by students passing by outside stopping to stare.

Both the anxiety and the later anger were a complete waste of energy. All that storm and fury in my head, yet all anyone saw was a funny blip on the radar of life. Their blip = my panic attack. And looking back at it, it was funny!

We so often see ourselves thru other people’s eyes and impute to them the very reaction we are most afraid to encounter. It comes of a lifetime of not being able to read the subtle signals and having to assume the worst. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. This time it wasn’t.

We forget that while we are the center of our own worlds, we are peripheral to everyone else. We can be in crisis over some aspect of our appearance while the casual observer doesn’t really care. Reasonable people are disinterested parties.

To be able to be naked and not worry about other people’s response was lovely. Just wearing the uniform for the job. Wow! The anxiety never returned and now it was just fun. I did a lot more modeling for a decade after that (till I got a real job at Lockheed) for anyone who’d sketch, paint or photograph me, plus the odd stripper gigs. Discovered the LA Nudist/Naturist scene and continued doing long nude hikes in the backcountry.

And at least I was closer to where I wanted to be. Naked and accepted. Not naked and afraid.Fear is the mind killer

I’ll also be dealing with ADD, Asperger’s, and depression as well for the rest of my life and blogging helps a lot.

I guess in some ways I am still searching for worldly acceptance of “me”, yet I know I’ll never completely find it.

7 Comments

    1. Fred (Au Natural)

      You got me thinking, so I removed that paragraph in the post for lack of empirical evidence.

      I’m working on anecdotal evidence, mainly. I have spent much of my adult lifetime in engineering surrounded by people with at least some Aspie traits as well as even longer in nude recreation. And hanging out in Mensa. I’ve also searched blogs and fora and bulletin boards on it and it is not that common a topic. What I have seen (subjectively, I admit) seems to “bare” this out. If you can find any actual empirical data on this, I’ll be ecstatic.

      I also have to suspect that the highest end of the spectrum does not necessarily reflect other areas of the spectrum. Nobody excuses us for things they excuse the more obviously affected for. That can create fear of discovery and even paranoia. The fellowship we find via the internet today used to be loneliness and isolation and self-deprecation.

      I don’t think that it is an aversion to scratchy or constraining fabric that “causes” an Aspie to be prone to enjoy being nude – that is, taking joy in nudity rather than just avoiding the discomfort of textiles. It is likely an introductory and contributing factor. I also doubt that a lack of social awareness is a cause but is also contributory. By kindergarten, every mainstreamed kid knows public nudity is not acceptable. How caregivers react mediates aversion to or an affinity for nudity. Or can be so muddled as to just leave the poor kid confused.

      I cannot remember what might have happened when I was very young but among my earliest *reliable* memories are wanting to be naked and ensuring I’d not be caught when I was. An odd sensation of joy and fear and seasoned with a dash of defiance and a side of forbidden fruit.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. nudistterp

    We seem to have a few things in common… ADD and very def no ‘H’. I’m 2SD below the mean for impulsivity. Never dx’d with Asperger’s but people who have been tend to giggle at the thought that I am NeuroTyp. I’m also in Mensa and have tried to find nudist anything there but have had no luck. Have you since this was first posted? Just curious.

    Pre-Covid I was a member of an all male, all nude drawing group in which we took turns modelling for each other. I modelled long poses on a couch but never did the standing short poses because there’s no way I could hold one position for 10 minutes. Is there any way to train for that? I’ve a whole bunch of orthopedic issues standing in the way so it might be a fool’s errand.

    I’ve done a few nude modelling gigs: Brochure for an exercise group I belonged to, a living frieze, and a naked corpse during the Plague. Yeah, you have to have the expectation you’ll be a mannequin who’ll be made up and manipulated like a prop, which is what you are. I really enjoyed it and would like to do it more often.

    You make a good point about not worrying about other people’s responses. Some of my orthopedic issues are rather obvious and I’ve yet to take my shirt off in a textile environment and not be stared at or have comments made. This was fed by simultaneously being told that I imagine those responses. Years later I found out my ‘psychosomatic’ issues about my body were actually 100% physical. Years after that I was able to bend the ear of a counselor of people with chronic illnesses. I was quite surprised to find I wasn’t alone in this. About 1/4 of her patients have someone in their lives who says, “I understand you feel that way.” . … about things that show up on CT and MRI scans! Parental reality denial is apparently still very much alive.

    Funny, ‘Textiles’ are obsessed with my body differences yet I’ve never had that happen in nudist environments or during any modelling gigs.

    I look at it this way. Keeping my clothes on will not straighten my spine or fix any of the other problems. So I may as well get naked and have fun. Lately I’ve been wondering if I have a bit of an exhibitionist streak and am curious if it’s a subconscious push back against the gaslighting I was subject to for so many years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fred (Au Natural)

      Mensa is a shadow of its former self out here Back in the 70s/80s, The LA regional group had dozens of active SIGs and some of them were focused on a clothing optional lifestyle. There were parties and meetings every weekend.

      Now,,in comparison, it is very slow. I think thet there was a big influx of members in the late 70s and it was heavily influenced by Baby boomers coming of age. Those members have grown old and new members tend to be older as well.

      Light weightlifting with more reps instead of fewer with heavy weights is a good exercise for nude modeling. Work the muscles to exhaustion. Another exercise that works is yoga. Slow improvement over time.

      The nudists I have met are universally accepting of different body types. Without exception they are body positive.It is about the only group I can say this of.Actually, artists are pretty accepting as well but in a different way.

      I know for a fact I have an “exhibitionistic streak” I love to perform and audience approval is like water in the desert to me. There’s nothing wrong with adding sexuality to the mix but its all a matter of appropriateness to the time and place..

      That wasn’t the source of the problem in this blog. I was just 18, very nervous, never been nude in a coed environment before, and there were some very attractive young ladies gazing intently from about 4 feet away.. I learned to relax, got it under control and didn’t lose the job, so all’s well that ends well.

      To be completely comfortable and relaxed in your own skin among any group of people Is an amzinging feeling, something the textile impaired never know.

      Liked by 1 person

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