The Body Eclectic Content

This is a collection of links, essays, and whatever else I can find about the human body and people's attitudes toward it. I'm fascinated by all of the topics listed here, especially the history of the body and of sexuality. Some of the material linked here may be considered "indecent" where you live, so you've been warned. If you're here so you can find stuff to shock my mother, don't bother. She knows what's here. (Hi, Mama!)



Anatomy

Renaissance notions of the body

We have a better understanding of the human body and how it works than ever before, but we've still got a long way to go. For an overview of the Renaissance notion of the female anatomy, consider a summary that I wrote of articles by Ian Maclean and Thomas Laqueur, historians with a great interest in the history of anatomy. Laqueur is especially instructive on this topic; I recommend his books The Making of the Modern Body, a collection of essays that he edited in collaboration with Catherine Gallagher, and Making Sex.

Making Sex is reviewed by Meryl Altman and Keith Wightenhelser of DePauw University in the Journal of Postmodern Culture.

Current scientific inquiry

The Visible Human Project is an immense collection of images of very thin slices of the body of an executed convict. This project, although the notion of it gives me the shudders, is perhaps one of the best opportunities yet to learn about the human body. There is a Java applet called the NPAC Visible Human Viewer that makes looking at this project easier. There's also a site called Marching through the Visible Woman, about slices of a 59-year-old woman who gave her body to science.

Nakedness

Nudity is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to enjoy. Nudity does not equal sex. (Sex is nothing to be ashamed of, either.) We can hide our bodies, turn them into taboos, try to ignore them, mistreat them, obsess about them, or accept them and even be happy with them. I know which I'd rather do.

All manner of shapes and sizes

These are links to sites that explore a number of aspects of body shape and size, including the differences in shape that usually clue us in to whether someone is male or female. As you explore, ask yourself the following questions: does shape matter? Does size? Why?

Body modification

There's not much here, because BME is so comprehensive that anything I'd do on this page (besides, of course, a picture of my one and only below-the-neck body modification, so far) would be reinventing the wheel.

Bodywork

The Massage and Bodywork Resource Center offers a great deal of free information about bodywork, including how to determine what kind of massage or other therapy might be best for you, and how to choose a therapist.

There's also a page for the Rolf Institute, describing Rolfing and its effects on the body. And James Clay maintains An Illustrated Guide to Muscles & Medical Massage Therapy, which is excellent.


Sexuality, and attempts to suppress it

The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform.
-- Kinsey

It is a characteristic of the human mind that it tries to dichotomize in its classification of phenomena. Things either are so, or they are not so. Sexual behavior is either normal or abnormal, acceptable or unacceptable, heterosexual or homosexual; and many persons do not want to believe that there are gradations in these matters from one to the other extreme.
-- Kinsey, 1953

Being a sex radical means being defiant as well as deviant. It means being aware that there is something dissatisfying and dishonest about the way sex is talked about (or hidden) in daily life. It also means questioning the way our society assigns privilege based on adherence to its moral codes, and in fact makes every sexual choice a matter of morality. If you believe that these inequities can be addressed only through extreme social change, then you qualify as a sex radical, even if you prefer to get off in the missionary position and still believe there are only two genders.
-- Pat Califia, Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex


Books about the body

Books I recommend about the human body:
  • Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body. A novel written from the perspective of a narrator (whose gender is never identified) watching his? her? female lover die of cancer. Absolutely breathtaking. There's an excerpt in the Internet Book Information Center's Commonplace Book that gives an idea of how amazing this book is.

  • Patricia Foster, editor, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul. A collection of twenty essays from various women writers, including Margaret Atwood and Naomi Wolf. Lucy Grealy's essay about her numerous bouts of plastic surgery to rebuild her face, severely damaged by childhood cancer, is particularly moving (I was in tears by the end). From the Women's Review of Books: "The contributors are a perfect mix: writers of different ages, races, and degrees of conformity to American standards of beauty. The tone is consistently raw, intensely personal; you really feel as if you are inside these writers' heads...So for those who proclaim that in the 1990s American women have finally achieved tremendous power and gains, Minding the Body is a needed slap-in-the-face reminder that women still live in a separate sphere--the objectified body."

  • William A. Ewing, The Body: Photographs of the Human Form. 432 pages of photographs and text. Stunning. Here's Ewing's description of the chapters:
    FRAGMENTS:
    the body 'in part'
    FIGURES:
    the tradition of the full-figure nude
    PROBES:
    the realm of scientific exploration
    FLESH:
    the vulnerable, mortal body; an emphasis on corporeality
    PROWESS:
    the body at its peak of physical condition; dance and sports
    EROS:
    the body as an object of sexual desire
    ESTRANGEMENT:
    the oppressed and victimized body
    IDOLS:
    the idealized body
    MIRROR:
    the camera turned on the photographer's own body
    POLITIC:
    the body as a site of contested meaning and value
    METAMORPHOSIS:
    the body transformed
    MIND:
    the body in the realm of dream, fantasy and obsession

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