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By Association Member Charles Sayer

For several years I’ve specialised in painting and sculpting the vulva but I’ve become equally fascinated by the female anus. I exhibited my ‘anal starbursts’ at the erotic festival at Olympia several times without a problem but this was largely because most of the images were semi-abstract. Partly because they were stylized interpretations, most viewers didn’t know what they were looking at. But their failure to identify them was also due to the fact that most people have never looked closely at the intricate morphology of the anal orifice, and so it remains outside their terms of visual reference.

I eventually stopped exhibiting at Erotica in protest over the absurdity of the ban on public nudity. Here was one of Europe’s biggest sex festivals, in which everyone was over 18 and where masses of hard core videos could be purchased, but none of the dancers in the floor show were allowed to be nude. The dance/fashion show in an erotic festival is surely a totally justified arena to showcase the beauty of the body? Added to this risible anomaly, nude models were also outlawed in the art gallery preventing artists from working in ways that have been tradition in art schools and evening classes all over the country for decades. I’ve always felt very strongly that dance, especially contemporary ballet is an area where nudity is highly relevant, sometimes imperative but I’ve never seen nude ballet - probably because to my knowledge it is seldom if ever performed in public. How is it that when dance is intrinsically sexual, and the clean bodyline and beauty of the human anatomy is so pivotal to the medium, nude ballet is virtually non-existent?

I used to exhibit with the Candid Trust in Islington but as soon as I tried to push the boundaries beyond the conventional nude they had a series of obstructionist techniques to block my work and after having happily exhibited my former less contentious erotica (even placing one of my works on the flyer) they insulted me further by stating my more radical work wasn’t up to a similar standard. Seeing themselves as censors was impossible for them to live with so they disguised their discomfort with my anuo/vulvic icons by impugning my technical abilities. As a Parthian shot, after wrestling with their bullshit for months, I had my say in the local newspaper and left the organisation. My experience with the Candid Trust was just one of an ever growing list of negative experiences with galleries, media manipulators and other body-phobic institutions and individuals.


My work has been featured on television many times but on each occasion any attempt to dignify it with serious philosophy was always edited out. The media have their own agenda and the idea that images of arseholes and vulvas could actually have conceptual content is beyond the intellectual parameters of our society and most people are reluctant to think outside the box. This closed circuit thinking is no doubt related to the failings of our education system that has always deemed religious indoctrination more important than philosophy lessons that would actually train people to think and to question.

Of the many experiences I could recount I will mention just one that particularly vexed me – namely Eurotrash. This popular international TV programme focused on my anus paintings because of the originality of the subject but did not show the actual anus of either of the two models. This in itself is perfectly understandable given the anti-eroticism of our world but for me this fear of public nudity is a form of insanity an endemic thinking disorder. Why can’t we see images of our natural anatomy within a justified context? If one artist paints a flower or landscape why cannot another paint any part of the body he finds as beautiful and interesting without being censored? But even this sanitised version of my work was not enough for some screwed up individuals, whose complaint was upheld, getting the programme banned. In defence of its broadcast channel 4 stated:

‘The second programme had been preceded by a broadcast announcement and the item complained about, featuring the controversial London artist, Charles Sayer, had been trailed twice, earlier in the programme, giving a very clear indication of the subject matter. The artist’s work was inspired by various parts of the human anatomy and the item centred on his present area of interest the female anus. The photographic process used by the artist, necessarily had involved nudity and unusual modeling positions but this had been carefully filmed to avoid any shots of the genital or anus areas. It was not a prurient item and had been an appropriately filmed account of the work of a controversial artist, notwithstanding a certain degree of humorous embellishment in the “Eurotrash” mould.’

The BSC upheld the complaint because it considered ‘that the sexually explicit nature of the items’ content had exceeded acceptable boundaries for broadcast.’


.I first discovered the beauty of the human anus almost by chance when I was in my late twenties. It came as a shock to me, not quite an epiphany but at the least, a low voltage revelation from the holy book of nature that had substantive consequences for me from that point on. I was admiring the buttocks of a casual lover whose name in my dotage, now escapes my dwindling powers of recall when I noticed as if for the first time the picturesque rosette, the oft-hidden puckered orifice that so often conceals itself demurely within the closed cheeks of the buttocks. I felt a little stupid at first because I couldn’t exactly share my discovery with anyone without feeling that I had to simultaneously explain why this standard piece of the human anatomy had somehow escaped my attention for nearly thirty years. It was like suddenly discovering a back door in your house that you’ve never seen before. I could not recall anyone - no religious leaders, no politicians or celebrities, no academics, no school teachers, no parents - not even mates ever raising the matter. I couldn’t recall ever having discussed the aesthetic qualities of human anus with a living soul and what surprised me even more was that as an experienced consumer of pornography it hadn’t really educated me to make the discovery. Although verbally speaking the anus was relentlessly mentioned in reference to anal sex, visually speaking it was as if the iconography of porn only mentioned the bum hole incidentally – as if in passing so to speak. It was often there, as a consequence of the near unbreakable laws of anatomy, caught in proximity to the cunt but seldom did any photographer deem it worthy of its own space; namely a close-up de-contexualised study. Even in the derriere magazines devoted entirely to the posterior, there was much more focus on penetration – on the anus as an empty space to invade instead of a dynamic surface feature. Dildos, vibrators, fists, hard cocks, all pounding away in the anus which of course was completely obscured by the act of intromission.

Added to this, the rectum is continually insulted by our linguistic habits and cultural norms that have adopted it as a grave insult. The term ‘arsehole’ as an insult is no doubt premised on its biological function – namely defecation. Shit stinks and we are all a little embarrassed by having to shit (unless that’s your thing of course) and the anus is the exit point for this foul smelling waste. The rectum also serves in many of our minds as a homologue of the mouth which is often to be perceived talking ‘bullshit’. This makes it easier to define a whole person as an arsehole – a reductionist expletive that summarises another human being exclusively as a double orifice emitting actual and figurative excrement. The anus is the great equaliser. Monarchs and mighty statesmen are soon reduced to size when one pictures them crapping. Thinking ‘shit and farts’ can be a helpful curb on the male libido when over-stimulated by the sight of perfumed beauties and mini-skirted lovelies on a hot summer day. To imagine such fresh-flowered femininity off-loading noisome effluent from the intestines brings with it a sense of proportion to feelings of rampant desire.

The fact that the anus is functionally distasteful to many is particularly relevant. This means that the rectum makes us face the issues of the body that are vital to a realistic construal of sex. Sexual desire can only function healthily if it is properly contextualised in biological realism which often means facing the fact that much of what underlies your partner’s sexiness is not very sexy at all. – unless of course shit turns you on. The body has some off-putting characteristics – our stale sweat stinks, we can have bad breath or noses full of dirt and snot, we are crawling with bacteria and ghastly looking microscopic monsters. We are basically a sack full of rather bloody gooey viscera and organs that eventually age and die beneath a cutaneous exterior that begins to repulse us all at fifty with is rapid wrinkle acceleration. The anus is one of the most ambivalent parts of the human anatomy – a signifier of multiple meanings.


When I turned to the chronicles of erotic art I found a noticeable absence of homage to the anus. Eastern erotica from China and Japan to India seemed to have largely marginalised the anus from its visual discourse. I found no serious studies of the pretty rosette that hides demurely between the butt cheeks waiting to delight the curious anal sightseer. No substantive visual homage to the caress of the sphincter muscle as it gently squeezes the intruding finger or sex organ; no visual eulogies that might educate the public to better appreciate the intricate morphology of the devil’s ring hole.

In the chronicles of western art there is even less chance of uncovering the holy grail of my sphincter quest. Classical Greek art pulls few punches, and images abound celebrating the diversity of human sexual experience, but I found no specific acknowledgement of the fascinating morphology of the anus on any vase or temple wall. Roman frescos also failed to meet my needs and with the conversion of Constantine to Christianity there isn’t of course any point in looking any longer until our own times. A Christian weltanschauung encouraging men to castrate themselves or hurl themselves naked into thorn bushes to better their chances of salvation, is not likely to encourage respect for the anus. Ergo if we skip the last two thousand years of ano/genital denial we arrive at the sixties, flower power and the sex revolution. There might have been at this point, some wandering hippy who decorated his caravan with ring holes shortly before he got shot on campus by the riot police or sold out to become a yuppie, or freaked out of orbit on acid, but as far as I know the anus as a self-contained icon of erotic meaning is virtually absent from history. Considering the pleasure anal sex must have given humankind, this strikes me at least as perplexing.

At first I felt cognitively retarded as if I was behind everyone else – as if I hadn’t noticed what was self-evident to my more worldly fellow-humans who took its significance so for granted that it was seldom mentioned, but as time moved on I began to realise that I could be in possession of a seemingly esoteric knowledge. Perhaps there were millions of people out there who had noticed the glory of the anal starburst; but who just didn’t mention it in deference to decorum and good taste, which I perhaps lacked. . Perhaps on the other hand it was commonly discussed around the dinner tables of the intelligentsia or around the pool tables of the average pub and I had simply missed the everyday bawdy references of the common man to anal pulchritude. But the more I studied the female anus (which as far as I know is indistinguishable from the male), the more I got mesmerised by its charms. I started to collect imagery. My camera was forever searching for a new anus, like a sniffer dog rooting out the unlawful aroma of unlawful narcotics. There is a special human delight in collecting and making comparisons.

This is the fascination with collecting, whether its stamps or anal starbursts it’s the gravitational pull of variety – the infinite permutations of the finger print or the snowflake for example. One anus will have a single rectal rosebud, another two and yet another none. One will have a doughnut configuration encircling the orifice while another will be smooth. To the uninitiated they all look the same no doubt but to the discerning eye of the anus enthusiast they ooze personality and a compelling quest became, for me at least, a compulsive need to capture their idiosyncrasies for posterity. Maybe it was too late for humanity to relish the anus in this century but what of the star trek future when anus wisdom could be promulgated throughout the universe?


This wisdom began shaping up in my mind almost as a language of mystical illumination conveyed to me in the radiating leylines of the anal wheel. I almost convinced myself that the rectal icons I had captured in moments of erotico-spiritual transcendence were an encoded gnosis that I was duty-bound to translate and pass on to those ‘knowers’ advanced enough to receive such an upgrade on the I Ching and the Cabbala. I could almost envisage a future world where the tarot cards and runes and astrology itself were rendered obsolete by the predictive advantages of anal starburst readings. To confirm my growing convictions that the anus was a form of God-Talk I stumbled across a book on ancient pagan sun worship that gave new meaning to the expression – “The sun shines out of your arse” .There to my astonishment were sun symbols that unquestionably resembled the stylized representations of the anus in my own artwork. Was it not possible that our ancestors, who worshipped the sun, noticed the similarity between their solar god and the anus? Could not Stonehenge actually be a monument to the human rectum – a starburst temple?

After all, the ancients worshipped the genitalia for their procreative powers - would it not be reasonable to postulate that they also worshipped the rectum for its magical non-procreative properties – as a divine aid to family planning. To the horny megalith builder, the ‘radiate sun’ of his spouse’s anus would provide him with a natural contraceptive and arguably more intense, worry-free satisfaction, owing to the tight fit rendered by the puckered sphincter. Is this theory any less plausible than the violations of logic that make up the theological building blocks of western civilization, from the resurrection and the incarnation to heaven and hell?



After a few drinks I have been known to claim that I can argue from an anus to world revolution in one paragraph. I’m sober now and perhaps regretting my Dutch courage. Although I have on rare occasions let down my friends by not honouring my own words I could not under any circumstances betray my trust in anal wisdom, nor could I miss an opportunity like this to finally vindicate the need for a global rehabilitation of the human rectum:. It would be up to the government of each nation to choose their own format of redress but I would suggest that the UK drops the union jack in favour of my own design which I will elaborate on shortly. Here then is my testament of revolution which I am happy to defend at the Oxford or Cambridge debating society whenever invited:

The anus even more than the genitalia, represents the lost world of the human body. A world deliberately banished by sex phobic politics and religion for thousands of years. The image of the rectum in art is therefore a revolutionary icon of counterculture, a clarion call for the rehabilitation of the human body in the face of manic sustained state censorship. If western ‘civilization’ can get the anus so wrong, just imagine how wrong it is getting everything else. I hereby propose the motion that we storm the Bastille waving rectum flags to inaugurate a new age of reason and sexual freedom.



In Britain the offence known as buggery was made a felony by the buggery act of 1533 by which the death penalty was established in law for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. This monstrous conceptual deformity was only repealed in 1861. Anal sex is often referred to as a crime against nature when in fact anal phobia is a crime against reason. Since the Iranian revolution in 1979 the government, in the name of Allah has executed over 4000 innocent people charged with homosexual acts

Our great nation gives us much to take pride and many great traditions to treasure but anti-erotic religious homophobia is not one of them. We have been a great nation and we still are, but we have achieved our greatness not because of our Christian traditions but despite them. The union jack – the union of three Christian saints (St George, St Andrew and St Patrick) might as well be a print of Michelangelo’s horrific painting of the Last Judgement, – yet we wave this insignia of sadomythology with pride and affection, this pathetic rag from the dark ages - from a society that at the height of its religious convictions sanctioned the death penalty for sodomites to please God.

This flag is a direct insult to the human body and especially the anus. If we are supposed to apologise for slavery then we can apologise for centuries of anus neglect, gay persecution and sphincter demonisation, by changing our flag. What could be more appropriate than the motif of an anal starburst? – representing at the same time the rising sun of a new world and the excretion of the historical toxins of the old? Western capitalism runs on greed and bullshit, on the profit motive, on self-interest and the never-ending drivel of politicians, meddling monarchs in waiting, and last but not least cohorts of mullahs and priests and vicars, archbishops and popes, forever blaming the ills of society on creeping secularisation. This floodtide of bullshit is driving our planet into a nosedive of self-destruction. Perhaps a dose of anal wisdom can slow down or even reverse this suicidal momentum.

The anus is the exit point for ridding the body-politic of all its toxins and waste material. It would foreshadow the excretion of racism, poverty, private education, faith schools, Big Brother censorship and pollution of the environment and everything else that needs to be excreted in order for our nation to find its soul.