Jacqueline Livingston and American Sexual Taboo

By Xah Lee. Date:
Jacqueline Livingston cs 1980 5
Jacqueline Livingston cs 1980

Discovered Jacqueline Livingston (born 1943). Thanks to a kindred human who provided correction to the article The Last Taboo: Sexual Desire for Pre-Pubescent Children.

Here's a excerpt from Wikipedia about Jacqueline Livingston:

In the mid-1970s, Livingston began exploring male sexuality in her work as “a way to overcome the distance she felt from the male body.” She was a photography and art professor at Cornell University until she was fired by the university in the summer of 1978 because of publicity over a series of photographs of her son in nude and masturbatory poses.[1][2] Upon inquiring as to the cause of her (illegal) firing, Livingston reported she was supposedly told by the chair of the art faculty, “You can't be a feminist and expect to be on this campus - furthermore, you can't photograph male genitalia.

Connie Samaras, a feminist writer and artist who is a professor of art at UC Irvine, writes:

Of all her images, though, it was this series of her then six year old son masturbating which caused her the most trouble. Like many photographers, Livingston was in the habit of photographing her child since birth. Thus, by the time he reached six, he was completely comfortable with the camera. Moreover, Livingston and his father tried to provide a climate for their son in which nudity was nothing to be ashamed of. The images you're looking at are a grid of nine photographs of her young son sitting cross-legged. His head has been cropped and the focal point is his torso. As Livingston was taking these her son began to masturbate spontaneously, a sight, I'm sure, not unfamiliar to any parent. Rather than shaming her son into stopping or shaming herself into not taking pictures, Livingston continued to photograph.

Livingston viewed her work as a means to change prescriptive notions about women's sexuality and women's artistic production, not as a vehicle to transcend an unalterable material world.

Discussing child rearing, Livingston states that:

Wilhelm Reich's book The Mass Psychology of Fascism influenced my thinking about child rearing. According to Reich, being raised in sexual freedom (i.e. masturbation is healthy, premarital sex and sex education are a person's human right) is the first step in structuring personalities who will not follow authority.

Jacqueline Livingston book cover Eating the Forbidden Fruit
Jacqueline Livingston book cover Eating the Forbidden Fruit

here's a quote from her site:

Jacqueline Livingston: Eating Forbidden Fruit

is a memoir in photographs (work-in-progress; cover and interior pages are an imagined rendering of the proposed book).

The artist rose to prominence through controversy in the late 1970s for turning a feminist gaze upon the male nude. Through two marriages, single parenthood on welfare, she photographed her husbands and son, sans clothing.

In 1978 Cornell University refused to renew her contract because of these photographs. After the Village Voice reported on her work, an anonymous tip to a child abuse hotline prompted an investigation. The FBI harassed her at her “One Artist Gallery” in New York's Soho district in 1982-83. Kodak confiscated film that included images of her son nude, which it deemed “pornographic.” Her resistance included a class action lawsuit against Cornell for sex discrimination, creative end runs around the closed circle of art critics and gallery owners, and living a naturalist lifestyle.

her website: http://www.jacquelinelivingston.com/book/