The naked truth about social media and drinking coffee in the buff

The human body is—and always has been—an art form. People have made up many of the subjects of the world’s greatest art. Some people have bodies suitable for da Vinci; others have bodies by Picasso.

A common theme in many works of art is nudity. Whether it’s a marble sculpture of an athlete or a painting of a gorgeous stallion (I’m talking the human variety), we’ve always been fascinated by art that shows some skin.

In the world of photography, nude shots have become much more prevalent with the advent of both digital technology and social media. In many cases, you don’t have to hire a photographer to develop your own boudoir shots, and with a little practice, you can develop your own works of art.

Of course, if you get that one tasteful nude shot that will showcase the beauty of your body without looking like the start of some really bad porn, there is one place that it will not be welcome. Facebook is on a crusade to make sure that everything within its domain is wearing clothing.

I bring it up because one of my friends from Chino Valley dared to post a beautiful photo of him and his boyfriend in the buff on Valentine’s Day—a charming portrait of love—and Facebook’s prude police decided it was in poor taste. Gregory Patterson, who currently resides in New York, set up a self-photograph where he and his sweetheart, Brad, enjoyed some coffee in his kitchen and just happened to forget to put some clothes on.

You’ll never look at drinking coffee the same way again, but is this photo really too offensive to go on Facebook? (Photo courtesy Gregory Patterson)

If Gregory looks familiar, picture him with his clothes on, a blow dryer in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. He’s a celebrity stylist, he’s sold hair products on the Home Shopping Network and has also been on Project Runway and Under the Gunn. Not a bad resume for growing in a small town in Arizona.

Besides his skills with hair, Gregory also has a penchant for coming up with some amazing photographs, mostly of himself. It’s always interesting to see the ones he comes up with. Some of his cooler shots of late include one of him meditating in front of a statue of Buddha and another one where he’s walking along a street in New York City with grocery bags in hand.

On Valentine’s Day, I hopped on Facebook and scrolled through my news feed like I usually do when I saw a post from Gregory saying “I know who you are” followed by the hashtag #chilloutitsart and accompanied by an image of a Facebook alert regarding the possibility that one of his photos contained nudity and, if so, it likely violated Facebook’s community standards. At that point, the journalist in me kicked in, and like coming upon a bad car accident on the highway, I had to take a closer look.

It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t actually driving when I found the photo, because it would have captured my attention just long enough for me to veer into a ditch. My first thought was about how brave he was to put himself out there like that. My second thought was that maybe I should try that with my sweetheart, although any successful image would not be put on the Internet for all to see. That’s just me, though.

The one thought that never entered my mind was that it was in poor taste. The juxtaposition of the French press right in front of certain anatomy, along with some really nice cups, makes for a beautiful photo. Making it a black-and-white image was also a nice touch that added some class to it. Granted, you can see the boyfriend’s tushy. However, you can see butts a lot scarier than that sticking out at your neighborhood Walmart. If you can’t cover those up, I don’t see why the nice ones have to be covered, too.

We no longer live in a society where every piece of skin has to be covered up. Granted, you can’t walk the streets in your birthday suit, but some outfits are skimpy enough to leave very little to the imagination. The puritanical standards of 100 years ago no longer apply, and we live in a world where more people are baring it all—proudly, I might add.

A few hours after I saw the photo, true to its word, Facebook took it down. If this standard on nudity was prevalent on all social media, it would be one thing. However, the photo is still up in all its naked glory on Gregory’s Instagram photo. Apparently, Instagram has found the 21st century without getting lost on some side road.

The whole affair reminded me of an episode of “Designing Women” where an artist took certain liberties and painted a nude portrait of one of the main characters. Upon its discovery, there was a mad scramble to cover up the “exposed areas.” It was silly then, and the whole issue with Gregory’s photo is just as silly 20 years later.

Plenty of folks have flown to Gregory’s defense, feeling the same way I do, that the photo is art. He was not mounting his boyfriend in some sexual climax. They were not showing off their penises, and I have a hard time seeing why someone would find it so offensive—unless the offense was not on the fact that two guys were naked, but that they were naked together in a romantic scene. I’m not saying that’s definitely the reason, but it seems suspicious.

Here are a few comments posted to Facebook regarding the censorship of Gregory’s photo:

“If you know who’s doing it, perhaps block them? They clearly have bad taste and can’t appreciate good photography. It really irks me that people would report that.”

“Seriously, who are these ppl?! That’s art and I enjoy it and hope to see more!”

“This is art! Breastfeeding is natural, and people on fb need to find something better to do then be stupid prudes! Keep the photo you both look amazing!!”

The reality is that there is no sanctuary from finding something that offends you on Facebook. With the presidential election season in full swing, surfing Facebook has become like navigating a minefield. Seeing a romantic home photo of two naked men drinking coffee does not fall into the category of explosive offensiveness. The reporting party should get a life, and Facebook should get a clue. When it’s art, it should not be censored.


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