The Perils of Male Art Models

My last post about Michelangelo and his nude men, male and female anatomy, etc, got me thinking about male art models in general. Even though I’m able to candidly discuss and share all my art modeling experiences, there is, believe it or not, one topic of my profession that I am unable to address. Because I’m a woman, and we are happily invulnerable to this male art model “issue”, thanks to our blessed anatomy. It’s happened to some male art models I know. I can imagine how mortifying it must be!

This video clip from a British television comedy says it all. It’s predictable, but still funny. Have fun, guys! 😆


22 thoughts on “The Perils of Male Art Models

  1. Brian says:

    Hey Claudia,

    Now that’s funny (predictable as noted, but funny)…thanks for the comedic jolt! Just what I needed on a rather mundane Tuesday morning.


  2. dougrogers says:

    Okay, confession time…. I modelled for some drawing classes. Yeah, nude. I didn’t mind the guy whose drawings were just my genitals.

    Two stories: At the bank, I ran into a woman who had drawn me. She blurted out… “Oh, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!”

    Another married female artist has a prize winning charcoal reclining nude of me – framed, and hung above her bed.

  3. artmodel says:


    I’m glad you enjoyed it, sweetie! 🙂 I thought it was funny, especially that guy’s face.
    Happy to have provided some silly distraction in your workday. Dicking around on YouTube is the ideal method for achieving that 😆


  4. artmodel says:


    Oooh, I love confessions, especially when they’re like the ones you just shared. I love those! You do realize that that second lady has you nude and her bedroom 24/7. And RECLINING!! 😉

    A similar thing to your bank story happened to me once, except it was on the subway. A guy kept looking at me and the train was very crowded. He finally spoke up and asked, in a loud voice, “Didn’t you pose nude at the Art Students League last year for life drawing?”. Normally that’s fine with me, but in this case the ten or so people crammed in around us overheard him. The next thing I knew all these pairs of eyes were staring at me! Of course I’m used to it in a professional setting, but on a New York subway during rush hour it can be a little, let’s say, unsettling!

    Thanks for those stories, Doug. I enjoyed them. I bet you were a very confident art model.


  5. Annelie says:

    Here’s another male-model confession! Growing up very sheltered, my first experience witnessing an erection was in a college art class. It was kind of a half one and everyone around me started tittering. I asked my friend, “What’s going on?” and she explained it to me. It’s hard to imagine that I didn’t know, but I was just completely unaware of the mechanics of it all.

  6. Now that is an interesting word to use, ‘mechanics’, well Annelie if you press the correct button it may switch on! (I’ll stop the analogy there I think!!)

  7. Annelie says:

    hahaa! It’s been 13 years since then and now to remember *not knowing* is a trip!!

  8. artmodel says:

    Annelie, that’s a great story! Yeah, it must be bizarre in retrospect.

    Your comment made me try to recall my first time seeing that, and I can’t even remember!! Damn. Probably in some high school utility closet while cutting math class 😆 Oh boy, did I just write that?


  9. Terrell says:

    Hi Claudia,

    I’m an art photographer, but I got my start as an art model posing for drawing classes and also for some for some of my peers in photo classes. I thought this post from my blog might be appropriate as it details concerns for the male art models.

    I’ve also had to endure the “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!” comments and I once worked at a bank which once supported local artists with a gallery inside the bank. One of the drawings was of me and my peers would comment on how much this drawing looked like me. I played it off with the race card. “What, do I look like every bald black man you see in a drawing?”

  10. artmodel says:


    Hi! Nice to hear from you again. Thanks for that excellent link to your blog post. You’re able to discuss the issue much better than me, for obvious reasons!

    Your story about the bank was funny! Sometimes art models forget just how easily large numbers of people will see them without their clothes on when the work is hung in a gallery or public place. And then you are suddenly “recognized”. I just found out recently that there is a painting of me hanging in some bookstore window, visible to the street and anyone who passes by! I haven’t seen it yet myself, but I’d like to check it out for kicks.

    Thanks for commenting, Terrell.

  11. exbrun2 says:

    It’s never happened to me… no unwanted, anatomical malfunctions nor recognition by anyone who might have seen me during a life drawing class ( I am a male life model.)

    I’m usually so focused on maintaining the pose and projecting the pose’s energy that arousal really just isn’t an issue. I also tend to find poses that have a certain level of discomfort which actually helps me focus on the task at hand.

    If someone from a life drawing session does recognize me on the street I hope it’s because I inspired them to create artwork of which they are proud….

  12. artmodel says:


    Thanks for your comments! I’m glad to hear that this “issue” has not interfered with your art modeling. Sounds like you have an excellent approach; staying so focused and taking on challenging poses which effectively keep your mind and body in a state of professionalism.

    Great to hear from a fellow dedicated life model. I hope you contribute more comments in the future and share your experiences.


  13. Steve says:

    As a life model, I always enjoy reading these kinds of posts…and I had seen the bit with the marbles before and found it quite funny! I pose for college classes and for informal drawing groups and obviously they are quite different. 99% of the time life modeling is very non-sexual and in fact can be difficult physical work. Since I also draw, I know that students are almost always concentrating on shapes and everything else that is needed to produce a reasonably good drawing. Drawing groups sometimes like poses that are sensual by nature and I have become erect for more than one group and they produced some really good drawings that captured this. The male anatomy needs to be drawn as you see it, just like every other part of the figure. Sometimes it’s big and sometime’s it’s small and sometime’s it’s in-between…:)

  14. artmodel says:


    Thanks for your great comments! I agree that life modeling is “non-sexual” most of the time, even though people outside of the art world perceive it as such. There are “moments” to be sure. But like you said, the physical exertion and concentration tend to suppress those kinds of feelings.

    Sounds like you handled your “arousal” with a lot of composure, as did the artists. You never know if some people are going to get offended or uncomfortable. But if they happily drew away, then good for them!

    Good to hear from a fellow model. Hope you comment again.


  15. Steve says:


    Glad to have found your site! Always nice to compare notes with a fellow model…:)

  16. jesse says:

    I have been a professional art model for over 20 years(male model), I have modeled for art classes, private artist, photographers, sculptures etc. And never have had this happen, and I have modeld with female models on the same stage, and I am not gay, it is a matter of keeping your mind on your work.

    However this does seem to be a problem with non professional models, and some who model nude for some sort of cheap kick.

    To be a real professional art model takes time and skill and a high level of fitness, I see it like being a professional in a sport, you train for it and work hard at it, 20 plus years of constant work prove it.

    Art models are made fum of on TV and films etc. as a less then normal person, I have had people refer to me as “one of those models”. People need to get over this hang up about models after all we have only been around about three thousand years, and people still have not grown up.


  17. artmodel says:


    I’m glad that you’ve never experienced this problem. I imagine, like you said, that simply keeping one’s mind on the work will stave of any embarrassment. But again, as a female model we have the luxury of allowing our thoughts to run wild 😉 will no “evidence” to give us away!

    Thumbs up to you and your 20 years in the business. You are a true pro. And I’m glad you mentioned the skill and fitness level required for our work. I know models who claim not to do anything to maintain their physical condition, and I can’t understand it. No yoga, no nothing. Strange.

    Thanks for your comments, Jesse.


  18. Eric says:


    I’ve been modeling for art classes since college. I’ve been on both sides of the classroom and have been to art school as student as well.

    I can see a problem if the model has habitual erections. But if you model long enough, its bound to happen. I’ve probably posed for 500-600 classes over the years. Maybe half a dozen I’ve gotten an erection. Many times I’ve disciplined my mind and caught it while in motion. Either way its embarrassing.But still its natural. When I’m modeling, I get in a meditative state. Its extremely relaxing. When that happens, occasionally junior will start moving. Sometimes its not controllable and mind discipline does nothing. Only once has an instructor mentioned anything. She merely asked if I needed a break.

    Although, I’d be even more mortified if I had wind on stand. THANK GOD thats never happened!!!!

  19. artmodel uk says:

    This actually happened to me today. Had not heard that it had happened to anyone else so appreciate your post and responses so far. After 75+ life modelling sessions, and in most of them surrounded by young and overwhelmingly female student artists, today I experienced a number of uncontrollable erections in the company of two older women (one the tutor, who was also drawing). I am not attracted to these people and was not thinking about either of them (or anything else of a sexual nature), except to worry over their reactions once it became inevitable, and was looking away (thankfully). I said nothing and remained in the pose each time. I was fully erect for several minutes spread over the class, and partially for longer. This has never happened to me before, and contrasts with the situation 3 nights ago when I was in another somewhat intimate class setting, surrounded by 6 female undergraduates as I reclined on a table, with absolutely no problems whatever. I noticed the women were commenting on their drawings rather audibly and nervously (even giggled a bit) which I presume was to distract themselves from what they had seen and continued to see. All the while I found it almost impossible to maintain control, focussing on breathing and uninteresting information from lectures only helping temporarily. After the first one I generally just accepted it and tried to remain professional, if such a thing is possible.

    I definitely felt a bit out of step in general today, and can only think it has something to do with stress as I have exams coming up and am spending all available time in study. This was as relaxed as I get these days, and the erection may have been a subconscious (and non-sexual) response to that fact. While I would have preferred it not to have happened, I don’t feel bad about it as it is a natural phenomenon and I know it was a response to stimuli on some level and not the result of conscious arousal. I am sure I didn’t appear threatening as I reclined on the floor and looked away, and even engaged in conversation occasionally (I have been working with these women for 10 weeks now and we get along very well). It will be interesting to see whether I am asked back for the winter session as this was the last class. I didn’t apologise at the time as it seemed crude, and thought it better not to mention it. Of course they didn’t say a word, except to thank me and make other light talk. I did feel just a little awkward as I said goodbyes, and wished them a merry Christmas. Whether I work with this group again, I very much enjoy modelling and plan not to allow this to happen again through preparation and self-control methods which I apparently forgot today. Aye, definitely easier to be a female life model in this regard!

    BTW thanks very much for the Somewhere Over the Rainbow video link (5 Dec), and may I suggest you need to listen to more Judy Garland? She also lived a tragic life and died young, and to hear her performances of that song and others in her last years is nothing if not utterly haunting and moving. And no one has ever matched the power of her voice, except perhaps Liza and Jeff Buckley ; )

  20. Brian G says:

    Female art models are lucky. Being able to think about anything you want while on the model stand must enhance the modeling experience. Let’s be honest, although we do model to help artists and art students develop their skills, the main appeal to being an art model is being nude in front of artists of the opposite sex. I actually get paid (although not much where I live) to allow female artists to study my naked body.

    Been modeling for 2 years and have not really experienced any arousal moments yet. But sometimes I model for Drawing 1 classes, where many of the females have not seen a nude male body before. When I see these girls just staring at my penis, I usually start to lengthen. I always catch myself before it becomes a distraction, but wow, to be able to let my mind wander at that moment, like a female model can, must be an incredible rush. Yes, female art models are lucky.

  21. Jack says:

    I have been drawing for decades, and last year I tried modeling for the first time. I was a bit worried that I might become erect, but it never happened. I am still modeling, about once a month.

    An erection is just one of the many male genital displays that can occur. The penis can of course alter length and stiffness, and the uncircumcised one can also vary in the degree of sheathing of foreskin over glans. The testes can be tight to the torso, or dangling loosely.

    Personally, I have never seen a model become erect, although I have seen genitals vary during a session.

    Most everything I could find about the subject said basically it’s a non-issue. The few accounts where it happened were all handled discreetly. As an artist, if you see it happen, the proper reaction is to accept it as a natural and normal event and keep drawing. As a model, if it happens, remember that it is a natural phenomenom and doesn’t make you a pervert, nor will it destroy your modeling career…unless it always happens.


  22. A professional is one who is paid to perform a service. I am paid to model and serve the artists, not to worry about my own situation.

    I was once modeling for first-time drawing students, so I wanted to ensure that they had a good start in figure drawing. It was a morning class and I could tell that in this one standing pose I was starting to get noticeably chubby, so I non-chalantly knelt down and took a drink of my water bottle. In unison every student questioned “What’s going on?”

    The fact is, they wanted to draw and I had let them down. Now THAT was unprofessional. They didn’t care about anything but drawing, which is all the model should care about. Everything else is irrelevant.

    From that time on if my physiology asserted itself I continued to do what I was being paid to do: model. Never had one complaint or untoward comment, but I did get lots of compliments.

    If it happens, be happy that the equipment works and get on with drawing. Besides, art is a sensual experience at its essence, why should this be any different?

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