Nuns Drawing a Nude February 10, 2008

Nuns Drawing a Nude

Equinox Fitness Clubs have a racy new ad campaign that basically shows what having a nice body can do for you.

For example, here is photographer Ellen von Unwerth‘s ad that features hot nuns and a nude male model in a David-like pose (click on image for larger version):


You can see all four ads in the series and learn more about the campaign here.

Not surprisingly, that figure-drawing image makes for one angry, angry Catholic League president Bill Donohue:

“… this patently stupid ad that Equinox is floating suggests that it must hype its edgy image in order to compete. That’s too bad—apparently their targeted demographic group isn’t lured by the prospect of more barbells and fruit bars. Hence, the need to rip off Catholic imagery in a sophomoric soft-porn ad.

“Of course, Equinox could have asked Fallon to replace the nuns with Islamic women covered with veils. But that was probably too edgy, even for these trendy types. Guess there are some envelopes that no one wants to push these days. How telling.”

It’s easy to respond to that. In America, we have stereotypes of sexy Catholic schoolgirls and sexless nuns. That’s not the case for Islamic women — you rarely hear the word “sex” associated with them in any way whatsoever. That’s not the envelope the admakers wanted to push.

The ad wasn’t offensive to me. I saw it, thought to myself, “Huh. That’s interesting,” and moved on.

What do you think: Is the image going too far? Could it have gone farther? What were your first thoughts when you saw the image?

(Thanks to Orli for the link!)

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Eliza

    My first thought? That is a nice body!

    Though it’s interesting how the lighting creates graceful curving shadows on the guy’s low back and thigh which almost make the body look feminine. Was anyone else struck by that?

    OK, so the fitness chain is not trying to appeal to dyed in the wool Catholics. They’re trying to appeal to hip young people (or, middle aged people who think they’re hip & wish they had a chance to look like this).

    The “insult to nuns and the Catholic church not to mention all Catholics & actually even all Christians everywhere” aspect wasn’t among my first five thoughts about the ad. *Shrug* It’s rude, but this portrayal of sexy nuns and nuns with prurient interests is far from being new, or news, in Western culture.

    The image of the nude David is well established, & there’s nothing about the photo which necessarily suggests this guy is supposed to be David. No slingshot, no Bathsheba hanging around while her husband gets killed through David’s machinations before D & B have a child who is punished by God for David’s actions while David continues to be God’s beloved pseudo-son (you know, one of those uplifting moral tales in the Bible).

    Now, what would be really rude is if they had a guy who looked like this, with longer hair, who we were supposed to think was Jesus. That, imo, would be uncalled for, in an ad for a fitness chain.

  • julie marie

    I can see why he was offended – a person would have to be pretty insensitive not to realize this would be offensive to some. I suspect that they don’t care.

    That being said, I didn’t notice the nuns at first. I was too busy admiring David. My first thought was wow, that looks so much better in flesh than marble 🙂

  • “Of course, Equinox could have asked Fallon to replace the nuns with Islamic women covered with veils. But that was probably too edgy, even for these trendy types. Guess there are some envelopes that no one wants to push these days. How telling.”

    I hardly think showing sexualized nuns is “pushing the envelope” at this stage of the game. As Eliza pointed out above, sexy nuns are hardly news.

    Which may be part of what’s gotten Donohue riled up, whether he realizes it or not: poking fun at Catholicism is good, clean, and above all safe fun. I’m sure the marketing folk expected (and probably even hoped for) a little squawking from people like the Catholic League. But they also knew that the vast majority doesn’t take Catholicism seriously enough to get upset about a few aroused abbesses.

  • Claire

    My first thought (after a moment of appreciation of the obvious) was that the nuns were wearing a whole lot of makeup.

    Though it’s interesting how the lighting creates graceful curving shadows on the guy’s low back and thigh which almost make the body look feminine. Was anyone else struck by that?

    I’ve always thought Michelangelo’s David, whose stance the model appears to be copying, had a rather effeminate posture.

    The one thing that does puzzle me is who the ad campaign is aimed at. The men are portrayed as being rather subservient (not usually a selling point) and I don’t generally think of fitness for women as involving either nuns or costumes….

  • Any photographer who could make women in burkas look sexy would be a god in my book. I’d like to see that tried.

  • First thought: Nice ass. I didn’t even notice the nuns, to be honest.

  • Hey, we think the ad is awesome, but that’s just us.

    Bill Donohue was offended because he gets paid to be offended. If he doesn’t make his quota, he’s out of a job.

    These guys blow everything out of proportion. We’ve got scores of innocent TV ads on our site that throws these guys into fits.

  • Kate

    There are nuns in the picture?? Funny…all I see when I look at it is a fantastic ass.

    Don’t tell Erik. 😉

  • What would Donahue say to the fact -FACT, mind you – that countless nuns have passed by the original Michelangelo’s David for the past 500 years with nary an objection.

  • AJ

    Nunsploitation isn’t a new phenomenon. I don’t see what’s wrong with depicting nuns as sex crazed, is unsurprising when you advertise celebacy so much. Advertisements are inspired by culture, and this has been in the culture for quite some time. Some of it based on historical people and events.

    There’s numerous porn movies, lots of soft porn especially in the seventies, and it’s worked its way into regular movies and tv shows. It’s appealing in part because it’s forbidden, and complaining about it is only going to make it more appealing. Catholicism in particular is a gold mine of inspiration for S&M and bondage.

    Exploiting the hijab has increased in popularity in porn in recent years (do your own research), and perhaps we’ll start seeing exploitation of the hijab in other areas of our culture, and inevitably the naughty muslim woman in a hijab may feature in advertising. Perhaps it’ll take over from the nun’s habit. It might have already jumped to the mainstream:

  • Renacier

    You see much worse during prime time network commercial breaks. They’re just being attention whores.

    And yes, The David is meant to be more feminine than our (America’s) current perception of male beauty. Sculpture at the time was often influenced by the Classical style, and the Greeks didn’t see masculinity and femininity to be mutually exclusive as we do.

  • ellen

    My first thought was “nice ass!” followed by appreciation of the rest of the package. The nuns – that’s cute that they are turned on.

    Objecting because the nuns are aroused by the sight of a beautiful naked man just dehumanizes the nuns. They aren’t supposed to have normal sexual feelings, or any normal human feelings for that matter, because they’re supposed to save it all for god.

    Why should that unhumanistic attitude continue to generate respect?

  • AJ

    It asks you to sign in or says it’s only viewable by friends unless you turn referrers off or put the url in the address bar instead of clicking it. It’s a Marie Claire photo shoot.

    Debbie “Europe’s turning Islamic” Schlussel has the photos:

  • Yum!!! 😯

  • I just thought, hey I’d like to sculpt that model! Why can’t the nuns take up drawing? What the hell is so wrong with the human body that nuns aren’t allowed to see it and enjoy it?!

    I actually think this image is quite innocent and the nuns give it a sweet quality…

    But then I draw and sculpt from nude models at my work, so I tend to look at drawing sessions like this in a nonsexual way.

    I’d love to work with that model, my sculpture would look great! He’s beautiful! The models playing the nuns might have great builds as well…they look like they might.

  • QrazyQat

    Catholic League president Bill Donohue

    “One dude with a computer.”

    — Kathy Griffin

  • It would have been amusing to see a likeness of Bill Donohue wearing a bra and panties sitting with the nuns admiring the male model 😉

  • I don’t ever, ever, ever remember hot nuns while I was in Catholic school. This is an insult to hot women all over the world!

    Those poor hot women never get a break do they.

  • Bill Donohue is one of those pathetic people who just sit around waiting, hoping and praying to be offended. As nunsploitation said, it’s his job to complain.

  • I’m a dude. And I’m straight.

    My first thought – “I really need to hit the gym ’cause I am way behind.”

    My second thought upon reading the comments – “I really, really need to hit the gym ’cause I am way behind.”

  • What I wonder, though, is how people would react if the model were female and the nuns were monks instead. Would it still be an innocent scene of the “appreciation of beauty” then?

  • JeffN

    I thought it was a perfume add. I would have never thought fitness club if it was not spelled out to me. Maybe that’s just me. O well.

  • The advert doesn’t offend me personally but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. Making an advert that is designed to get some flack (flack=media attention=free advertising) is a cheap way of promoting yourself, and done often at the expense of a minority group should be unacceptable no matter who that group is.

    Just a thought.

  • Rystefn

    ansuzmannaz, I personally wouldn’t have an issue with it, but I think a lot of people would have been offended. I think all of those people should get the same reaction this Catholic League joker is getting here.

    My response was “Wow”… I won’t try to judge it as an ad, but honestly, I think it’s great art. Absolutely amazing.

  • Rider

    I know my reaction is “years later”, but I am Catholic and I feel this ad is a breath of fresh air. The reactionary conservatives tend to say that something like this (as they would say about anything fun) ‘takes away’ from the respect of nuns. That sounds narrow minded. Nuns, to me, are ‘all-around-awesome’ and the Catholic League is just displaying their usual, oppressive side. The nuns portrayed are wearing ‘halloween costumes’ since nuns don’t wear habits anymore…. and I find that more shameful, just as I do of nurses no longer wearing the traditional nurse uniform. The world’s gone wacky and such a picture and ad is merely expected these days. So instead of the old white men getting upset about seeing human nature, they should focus on seeing the beauty of it.

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