Sex in Art: Manifesting Creative Power

As adults, most of us are aware of how much sex is connected to pleasure and intimacy. There is no shying away from the fact that this basic human act feels amazing and can be used as a tool to deepen bonds between humans.

"Interlude" by Matthew R. Paden

However, there is more to sex than just bodies entangled with each other, and the warmth radiating out of the union. Over the years, people have tapped into their sexual centers, deriving powerful sources of motivation, inspiration, and unique energy.

The Strength and Freedom to Create

Your sexual center acts as a fountain. You can choose to take knowledge and information from it before putting it into a canvas or paper. Yes, sex is the only means of reproduction, bringing new life into this world, but we might be limiting the potential carries it offers. When books talked about how sex holds the power to reproduce, they did not solely mean making another tiny human, but also the ability to birth something much greater into the world.

Whether it be a project, community, business, or relationship, the sexual energy from within us grants us the power to create larger things. All we must do is harness the energy to transform ideas into reality.

The Creative Treasure Trove

One of the key reasons that sex serves as a great source of inspiration is probably because when we are engaging in the act, we have borne everything. The guard is down, your mind is drowning in hormones that take over your thoughts and your emotions are running wild. When you are getting rid of inhibitions, that is when you can come up with the best work ever. You can pour your vulnerability and passion into the work you create, unburdened by stress and worries.

Sex is related to the art of creating something. Regardless of the gender dynamic, engaging in sexual activities results in the creation of a particular force field due to the presence and intensity of two minds.

It takes strength to become vulnerable in front of another person.

These moments of vulnerability help us travel to one of the most delicate parts of our minds. This is the place where creativity pours out from. We are not censoring our thoughts, ideas, and concepts.

Pinup Art: The Long and Rich History

Burlesque came into being during the mid-1800s during theatre and musical performances. Women were put on stage in revealing costumes. The audience had mixed reactions to this topic – some loved it, some felt scandalized.

In his 1869 article titled "Age of Burlesque", Richard Grant Wright penned his definition of Burlesque. He implied that the strength of burlesque lied in how it defied conventional and natural behavior of the time. It was forcing these two states to co-exist, and the result was horrendous. He called the system "A defiance of System."

Although taboo to audiences, Burlesque performers grew in numbers. When these performers started leaving behind photographic business cards meant to be pinned up on the wall, the term "Pinup" came into use.

Pinup photography was a part of the art scene, but pinup illustrations became more commercialized. Charles Dana Gibson created the Gibson Girl, one of the first kinds of pinup illustrations. That woman became the image of perfect beauty during the early 20th century. She was self-confident, proper, and made direct eye contact with the onlooker as if alluring them. In her way, Gibson Girl was an icon for mischief as well as freedom from the shackles of tradition.

Unfortunately, the Gibson Girl lost relevancy after World War I. Women were now socially independent and had been managing the economy while men were off at war. They were able to shed some of the strict ideas about modesty thanks to the flapper culture displayed by Gibson Girl. This era shaped pinup illustration into the style we see these days.

Pinup art is not just art for men to consume, nor does it always conform to the male gaze. History has given us many female pinup artists too. One of the most prominent ones, Zoe Mozert was one of the best pinup artists of the mid-20th century. She often used herself as inspiration for her drawings and paintings.

Unlike her colleagues who were hyper-focused on showing arched backs and hyper-sexualized body parts, Mozert focused on depicting a more realistic view of women while keeping equally free in their sensuality. The poses were much more natural. Pinup artists would often change the figures of women to make the art sexier; Mozert preferred the original forms of her models in all their glory.

Pinup art serves as a form to show how women were not just limited to their outfits. It showed confidence and strength even when they were completely vulnerable. In contrast to the superheroes, we see in comic books who are far from reality, these women were living and breathing and held enough power to achieve previously unthinkable things.

Pinup art managed to permeate the mainstream art scenario and is not restricted to men's magazines despite common belief. Specialists consider pinup art as one of the deciding factors that amplified sexual discussion in the 60s.

Eroticism and Art

There are a few ways to approach the topic of using erotic elements in art, especially if you consider how various cultures have clashing opinions about sexuality. All around the world, museums are filled with nude figures captured within frames, but erotic art surpasses the boundaries of sex.

Our perspectives can impact how we interpret art. For instance, much western art shows paintings of nude bodies – should this be termed as erotic? This is where the line gets blurry. Some would say nudity is not directly linked to erotic imagery and it can be used to hint at the thin line between love and lust or simply how a human being exists naturally.

In talks about sexuality, nudity, or erotic imagery, there is a debate about when an image transcends the border of being erotic and turns pornographic. This is where the matter of intention must be considered. Eroticism has ambitions that cannot be defined simply by sexuality and desire. This kind of eroticism deals with psychology, morality, and what is permitted and what isn’t. A pornographic image is only there to incite sexual interest, nothing more.

Erotic art is about much more than sexuality and what is there in front of your eyes. Simply put, the true meaning hides in plain sight. The 20th century shows numerous occasions where erotic art was used to define moments of social importance, historical events, and the artists’ perception of eroticism.

World War I and II served as inspiration for many while the female artists of the later generation engaged with erotic art to showcase what it was like to be a proud member of the new generation.

In Western history, eroticism was often used as an educational tool to spread awareness. The viewers were encouraged to raise their moral standards and not overindulge in the pleasures of the flesh.

The idea may have been to motivate viewers to look beyond unbridled lust and contemplate morality and the mind.

In the 19th century, people wanted to fix on the clear signs that differentiated eroticism from pornography so they could put a label on what type of art was socially acceptable.

This gave rise to the popular term of censorship, but many were still unable to grasp the concept of using bareness and sexuality to explore the deeper parts of the mind.

However, erotic art is not all about explicitly sexual appearances – many subtler erotic iconographies do not attract as much criticism or attention. Even something like a work with a young lady lying between a garden of dead flowers may represent the loss of innocence. And here the artist did not have to use sexual means to portray something that has an inherently sexual connotation.

Why Pinup and Eroticism Are Fundamental Parts of Art

With sexual elements, what started as the convention of using female nudity in art turned into something that broke barriers and initiated conversations. Past conventions were shunned, and feminists all over the world have constantly urged people to look beyond the baring flesh and rely on their morals to decipher what’s at the core of the art.


● As female nudity developed in the art scene, it became much more concerned about the objectification of women. Women aren't just moving figures of flesh and blood to be gawked at, and some things don't meet the eye which you won't be able to recognize if you can't grow out of your involvement with sexual contact.

● When analyzing nudity, some questions come to mind: Who are the intended viewers? What was meant to be achieved by the art? Does this narrate a relationship between the model and the artist, and the patron and the artist?

● Art gives us a concept of various aspects of sex in this society – thoughts about beauty standards, morality, fertility, gender dynamics, and passion.

● After the feminist art movements, artists – particularly people of color and women have come up with interesting ways to use this very eroticism and nudity for self-determination.

Bottom Line

As someone who has not been introduced to this complex form of art, nudity, and sex may be just another hoax to draw in the audience. But at the end of the day, these topics stand for much more than attraction and pleasure. It is about expression, independence, and control, and is a beautiful way to express the vulnerable state of being human.

About The Above Art:

"Interlude," is the first of seven pieces in artist Matthew R. Paden's new series, "Unwrapped" which explores a fresh take on sensuality. This evocative series depicts a spirited, strong nude female figure using the vivid Spontaneous Realism style.

"Interlude," features an unknown performer in a dynamic pose on a stage perhaps as she builds up to an interlude moment.

With influences spanning French modernism all the way to the more contemporary American pinup art. This evocative body of work is an unorthodox, aesthetic blend of sensual imagery painted in a raw, chaotic style of manipulated colors.

To explore a genre, I believe it is fundamental artists push boundaries of what is considered the norm and delve into the curious unknown.

Unwrapped,” is an exploration of the female form and an inquiry into the natural feminine beauty. It is an expression of perfection unhindered by modesty yet not overshadowed by erotism.


24 x 24 x 1.5 in.

Acrylic on Gallery Wrapped Canvas

March 2021


Matt's originals are painted on professional grade gallery wrapped cotton canvas. Triple primed with professional-grade, acid-free gesso, every canvas is made by hand to precise specifications to ensure a superior painting experience for the artist - as well as maximum archival stability and durability.

Finally, the primed fabric is evenly stretched around solid wood stretcher bars, which are kiln-dried for warp-resistance and long-term stability.

#nudeart #spontaneousrealism #savvypalette #fineart #acrylicpainting #abstractnude #artcollectors #artinvestors #artgalleries

The Savvy Artist

Matthew R. Paden (b. 1977) is an award-winning contemporary abstract artist living in Oklahoma with his beautiful wife and daughter.

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