You may have noticed that my covers are a little racy. Go on, have a good look at them. MMM saucy. Nice. Take a good proper look, go on. As long as you’re not at work, and your boss isn’t peeping over your shoulder. (Although, if they are, you know that they’re intrigued by the same thing!)
Does one seem more naked to you? You’d better look again to check. Perhaps a third look… anyway.
Book 1 – Guinevere is hanging out half-naked in the woods. It’s sexy, it’s enticing, her look is halfway between “come hither” and “fuck off” and as soon as my publisher sent me this cover idea, I knew I had to have it.
Book 2 – Sexy half-naked Lancelot has been having some kind of sensual swim, and is giving us the eye as he gets out of the water.
Pretty similar, right? Similarly nude, similarly enticing looks, except, I have received three messages from eBook-advertising sites to tell me that poor old Guinevere is NSFW (even though, since she is half-turned from the camera, we actually see less skin than we do in the cover of vol.2) but they’re happy to have the picture of the half-naked man on their site.
I think this is sexist.
Why is a half-naked woman ‘rude’ and a half-naked man OK by them? Part of the problem is that as soon as we see any female flesh we’re socialised to think THIS IS SEXUAL. This woman is a sexual object, because she is naked. A naked man? He’s just… chilling naked? I don’t know. Do they think that men get aroused by pictures of naked women, but women just shrug at pictures of naked men? Is it because there is an implicit bias towards a male heterosexual viewer who goes ‘MMMM naked lady, meh naked man’? I can’t see any other reason why one flash of flesh is more ‘NSFW’ than another.
Nudity isn’t always sexual, but if it is, why should female nudity be more sexual than male? Why is Book 1 NSFW and Book 2 Safe?! I am a woman who supports the No More Page 3 campaign, but the nudity on the book covers is different. Firstly, it’s in the context of a story, secondly, it’s gender-equal and thirdly it’s not put next to the children’s books. Also, I would argue that it’s sensual rather than sexual, though perhaps I’m splitting hairs, and wandering from the point here.
The point is, it’s sexist and childish and small minded to say only female nudity is inappropriate, ‘NSFW’, or not ‘family friendly’. Either they both or, or they’re not. We’re still working on outmoded practices that sexualise female skin by default, and assume a male heterosexual viewpoint. It’s time we grew up.