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Erotic Photos: A Holiday Gift Both You and Your Partner will Appreciate?

Looking for the perfect Holiday gift for a romantic partner or lover? Our research suggests that having an erotic photo taken could turn out to be a great gift for both you and your partner!

In recent years, a growing number of women (and some men and couples too!) have been visiting professional photographers to have sexy photos taken. Recently, myself and my colleagues conducted two studies about erotic photography and learned that there is more to this experience than meets the eye.1,2

First, let’s define what we are taking about when we say erotic photography. Erotic photos are nude or boudoir (pin-up) photos taken by a professional photographer. Of course, people could also take their own “amateur” erotic photos (remember Weinergate?) but we focused on professional photographs in our research. Erotic photography is typically considered more sensual and less sexually explicit than pornography. From interviews with erotic photographers we learned that, although it is mostly women, there is no “typical” client who partakes in this experience– clients are diverse in terms age, body size, relationship type, and parenting status.1

Of the women we spoke to about their erotic photography experiences, many told us that they originally had these photos taken as a gift for their partner, but in the end the photos ended up being a gift for themselves. The women in our study reported positive and unexpected outcomes from their erotic photo shoots – they came away feeling more confident and happy with their bodies. One participant said she was never able to have sex with the lights on, but after the photo shoot she became much more comfortable with her partner seeing her body.2 This is an important outcome; comfort with being naked in front of a partner is associated with higher sexual self-esteem3 and with more pleasurable and satisfying sexual experiences.4 In fact, how a woman feels about her body is more important for her sexual functioning than how her body actually looks.5

Women also felt empowered by this erotic photo experience because it allowed them to create a sexual image on their own terms. Most of the images we see of women’s bodies are of women who meet cultural standards of beauty – young, thin – and are often altered or airbrushed. With their own photos, women participants felt that they were contributing to more realistic images of women’s bodies and sexuality.2

So this holiday season consider getting yourself an erotic photo shoot. Of course, you can also share your photos with that special person in your life….if you are so inclined.

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1Wentland, J. J., & Muise, A. (2010). Stepping out from behind the lens: A qualitative investigation of erotic photographers. Sexuality & Culture, 14(2), 97-125.

2Muise, A., Herold, E., & Gillis, M. (2010). Bare’ing it all for the camera: Women’s experience of having erotic photographs taken. Sexuality & Culture, 14(2), 126-143

3 Wentland, J. J., Herold, E. S., Desmarais, S., & Milhausen, R. R. (2010). Differentiating highly sexual women from less sexual women. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 18(4), 169-182.

4Snell, W. E., & Papini, D. R. (1989). The sexuality scale: An instrument to measure sexual-esteem, sexual-depression, and sexual-preoccupation. Journal of Sex Research, 26, 256–263.

5Weaver, A. D., & Byers, E. S. (2006). The relationships among body image, body mass index, exercise, and sexual functioning in heterosexual women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 333–339.

Dr. Amy Muise - Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.

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