Ain’t that a shame

by Molly Moore

I have spent the last couple of days thinking over the topic of shame. Despite the modern times we live in where a woman can vote, own a property, work, even become Prime Ministers there still seems to be a huge amount of shame surrounding the female body and in particular female sexuality. It seems that it is OK for us to be confident, independent women when it comes to work but when you put those words together with female sexuality sadly it still often feels like this is something society still finds challenging.

For many of us who write about sex or sex related topics either for a living or for enjoyment we find ourselves amongst a community that is tolerant, supportive, accepting and positive. We are able to explore and learn within that community. Not everything is perfect mind you but for me, I have found a place, or carved one out, I am not sure which, where I can be open about my desires, relationships and my body. Even if my kink is not for everyone I know that within this community it will at least be treated with respect. The wider world though, is not so accepting.

I think I have been lucky here, I have had a few trolls in my time but to be honest they have been few and far between and on the whole so moronic that they just make me laugh before I move on and ignore them. Yes, people are entitled to a different opinion than I, in fact I want to hear it, but if the only way you can deliver it is with vicious spiteful words that attempt to shame me for my opinion then I will block your sorry arse and ignore you.

The same is said for my sexuality and my freedom of erotic expression. When someone uses shame to try to control, censor or dismiss someone then in my eyes they have already lost the argument as they have nothing to actually say that counts. However, shaming of female sexual expression is, in my opinion, on the rise and not just from the pathetic trolls who have naff all else to busy themselves with but from organisations.

Yesterday on Facebook I found a link to a piece on Leena McCalls blog reporting that her painting,

Ruby Mae, standing by Leena McCall‘Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing’ had removed by The Mall Gallery, London, despite being selected by the Society for Women Artists (SWA) for their 153rd annual exhibition. The reason for its removal; ‘too pornographic and disgusting’. I will pause here a moment while you go visit the link and read what Leena wrote herself about this…

#eroticcensorship: Is expressing the female sense of erotic still taboo?

Back with me?

So what do you think; Pornographic and disgusting or captivating and original?

I am utterly confused myself, what on earth could there be about that painting that someone could find pornographic? Her breasts are covered, her genitals are covered, there is a little hint of pubic hair, but really is that so challenging to people? Or could it be something completely different? Could it be that the painting shows a confident woman, displaying her sexuality in an almost male fashion, the clothes, the pipe and maybe most of all, the look on her face. The direct gaze at the viewer suggests she is contemplating them rather than vice versa. Could it be this, that makes the image ‘ Pornographic and disgusting’? I can’t help but wonder if the painting had shown a male subject in exactly the same way if it would have been given the same treatment. My gut feeling is that it wouldn’t because men confident in their bodies and sexual expression is totally acceptable even desirable male behaviour, but the same is not true for woman. Unless you are a women being used to sell something, then it is fine, because it is not really about a women expressing her sexuality anymore it is about a company using her sexuality to sell you something you probably don’t even want or need.

The Mall galleries, who claim to be…

Mall Galleries twitter bannerwhich clearly is nonsense because it should say ‘National Focal Point for Contemporary Figurative art, just not images that show female sexuality’, seem to be absolutely fine with male nudes

ben Hendy This image (Ben Hendy, Self Portrait, Linocut) was displayed in gallery in 2012 and even won a prize, although the version on their website only shows the image from the waist up…

But what about this one? (Dr Victoria Bateman by Anthony Connolly)

She is completely nude, there are nipples and pubic hair so why was this OK to displayed in May of this year and Leena’s painting is not? Well for a start one has wonder if it is more acceptable if the artist is male and in my opinion this one is OK because she is nude, just how women should be depicted in art, naked, vulnerable, with a softness that enhances their gentle feminine qualities.  To be honest, despite this painting being beautiful, I find myself looking at it and going, ‘nice nude’ and that is it. It really says nothing else to the viewer. It doesn’t challenge your idea of female sexuality or even the female form. It doesn’t make you question what you know about women, if anything it cements a standard acceptable view of the female body, she doesn’t have any tattoos, make-up, piercing, she is nice and clean and fresh and there is even a random little flower in the corner of the painting just to give you something else to look at if breasts and nipples are just too much for you. Leena’s painting doesn’t have that. For want of a better phrase, her painting has balls. It depicts a different view of the female form, there are no flower, no soft pastel colours, instead there is a pipe, bright red lipstick, masculine clothes, high heels and that direct confident gaze. It grabs your attention and makes you look, this is not a painting you can wander past and go ‘ahhh nice nude’ and I believe it is for that reason that it has effectively been censored by the Mall Galleries.

Women are not supposed to be like this, they are not supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, they are meant to be either sexless or feminine and vulnerable in their sexuality. By using words like ‘pornographic and disgusting’ Mall Galleries have used that age-old weapon of shame to further the idea that female sexuality is something to be scared of and controlled and ultimately censored rather than discussed.


Ps… In response to this inequitable act of suppression, McCall has asked supporters to join in the conversation #eroticcensorship on Twitter @MsMccall @mallgalleries and on Facebook Leena McCall.

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John July 2, 2014 - 12:50 pm

It is a shame that prudish and outdated attitudes persist but I am not surprised. We live in a culture where it seems to be OK for magazines to airbrush people to within an inch of their lives to perpetrate an absurd and dangerous myth but not OK for “real” and unmodified people to create the same images. Is there anything in either of those pictures that hasn’t been shown on Vogue, FHM or even Beth Ditto?

Hell, even social media from the World Cup is full of football players tweeting dressing room pictures that in the background include their teammates half-naked. No-one cares. The vast majority of the world doesn’t care about nudity; it’s normal, natural and fine. But persisting with body shame and censoring normality will only lead to a regressive, repressive society.

And I for one, don’t like the idea that someone else can decide what’s good for me to consume. Fortunately, the world is catching up and I have every confidence that the future will be free of this outdated shackling. Alas, I am not confident that I will be alive to see it. So my, and our generation’s responsibility is surely to instil values of tolerance, body-positive and freedom into our children so society can move forward – with or without us.

Great post! 😉

John July 2, 2014 - 1:02 pm

One thing I forgot to add …

I say it often to the pro-censorship brigade I count amongst my friends; when did broad censorship ever, ever work in the long run?

The Victorians were not prudish. They were outwardly very prim and proper but behind closed doors they were driven to consume sexual entertainment like never before. Lots of it. Hundreds of books, magazines, pictures et al. Spanking dens, rife prostitution: the outwardly prudishness was lie and hid a highly sexualised society: like never before.

Perhaps, we could look towards BetaMax that discouraged porn distributors from producing BetaMax adult films. People choose the inferior (and cheaper) VHS that could give them the titles they wanted and BetaMax died.

Or maybe the Sex Pistols. Banned, reached number one.

History is littered with tales of censorship backfiring as it often does. Ideas, words, art: will not die. Suppress it, and it goes underground. And if a corporation does it, then they lose trade.

Perhaps Mall Galleries will go the same way as the BetaMax? Or will they realise that patronising their customers and artists is a bad business plan.

Reply July 2, 2014 - 1:25 pm

What can we do? This world is full of hypocratic ‘moralists’ who view an exposed woman’s body as something immoral. I’m sure you also have heard that even some public places don’t even allow mums to breastfeed their babies !

Marie Rebelle July 2, 2014 - 4:07 pm

I’ve seen the painting when you posted the link yesterday and I fail to see just why it’s labelled ‘pornographic and disgusting’. The painting is stunning. I found myself studying it for quite some time and feeling my fingers itch as it has been more than a year since they held a paint brush. It seems that The Mall galleries work with a double set of values, or indeed that you are right: they want women portrayed as helpless and not as strong. It’s sad that stunning art has to be judged negatively and removed like happened to this painting.

Rebel xox

Penny July 2, 2014 - 8:36 pm

I read the article when I saw you tweet about it yesterday, & I can’t believe (or sadly I can, but don’t want to) that people find that beautiful, provocative painting pornographic.

“Women are not supposed to be like this, they are not supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, they are meant to be either sexless or feminine and vulnerable in their sexuality. ”

–So true. According to society, women are expected to be “modest” or they are expected to exist for men’s sexual pleasure and are NOT supposed to take control of their own sexuality & be confident in it.

I am appalled by Mall Galleries’ stance on this painting, and I am glad you spoke out.

Modesty Ablaze July 2, 2014 - 10:57 pm

Marie’s prompt last week had me smiling, giggling and even laughing out aloud as I browsed. This week I’ve been brought back down to earth (no pun intended I promise!!!) by yours and several of the other posts. Not smiling, nor giggling . . . and certainly not laughing.
Instead they’ve left me thinking, nodding my head, pondering, wondering . . . and I suppose that is what we all should do more often isn’t it. Not taking ourselves for granted in some sort of self-congratulatory way.
So I am thankful for your post . . . as almost always . . . thankful for Marie’s prompt, and thankful for all the words from those who can express the right things in such a thought-provoking way.
I’m off to those Twitter and Facebook links!!!

Mia Sinclair July 3, 2014 - 9:09 pm

I comment with the tweet that I have just sent to Leena McCall:-

“@MsMccall I have just read a post from @Mollysdailykiss about your painting! I am incensed #eroticcensorship gone mad! @malgalleries”

Unfuckingbelievable!!! It is a beautiful painting that even my mother would appreicate!!!

~Mia~ xx

Stranded July 5, 2014 - 1:47 pm

Shame is another of those guilt words…at least, as we continue to evolve, it does get taken out over time.


Holly July 21, 2014 - 11:33 am

I think it’s absurd that they have removed the art work. It’s disappointing too. I feel the same as you when viewing it. I am drawn to the picture. I love that the woman is looking so sexual and confident without even being naked not even remotely and yet the paintings we are so used to seeing as above are are sweet innocent they may look sexual but the painting removed screams sexuality and confidence. I like it and I can’t even begin to understand why it was removed or why those comments were made

Jo July 21, 2014 - 8:23 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t your blog a disinhibitor? Why do you need to share images of your private parts with the general public? Keep it within your relationship where it belongs. There has to be something rather tacky about a middle aged mother who flaunts her sexual behaviour online. No doubt your family would be very embarrassed if they knew. All very self indulgent and cringeworthy. Exhibitionism at its worst.

Molly Moore July 22, 2014 - 12:50 am

Thank you for taking your time to look at so much of my blog. Your dedication to your mission is truly impressive. As for my family, they do all know because I don’t feel any need to hide or be ashamed of my work.


@KatieButterfly July 22, 2014 - 10:52 am

There are so many double standards around nudity in our society. I wrote about an experience I had with Facebook in my vanilla blog where my posting on behalf of my fundraising for Breast Cancer UK was removed and my account temporarily suspended because it was deemed to be pornographic. OK so I did use a photo of my boobs to promote it, but actually that’s my point. Had I promoted it with a pic of hubby’s firm and hairy chest, it would have been fine, but because I used a pic of my own soft, smooth and bulbous one, it’s pornographic.

Now I think human bodies, both male and female are beautiful but why is it a naked male chest, however unattractive it may be is deemed socially acceptable, but a naked female chest, however shapely and attractive is deemed likely to offend public decency? It’s not our fault we developed two prominent mounds of subcutaneous fat and guys, generally, don’t, but it’s those extra amounts of fatty tissue that mean the difference between acceptable and offensive.


Katie xx


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