Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Some stupid puns are impossible to resist!
[Editorial Note: While composing this post, I realized that using the obvious, four-syllable word to describe what I am discussing might make my blog unable to get past certain common filters. So I shall use the word "umptysquat" instead. Besides, I find it amusing.]
Via Arts and Letters Daily, whose blurb momentarily threw me for a loop by mentioning "the anatomical variety among bunnies," I found a couple of book reviews at the web site of n+1, a magazine that might be worth looking into. One of them discusses Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds, and the other, Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream.
I have always found whatever umptysquat I have encountered odd, off-putting, boring (more on that later), or just plain confusing, to the point that my curiosity about it has been mainly of an intellectual, or even anthropological, nature.
"Why waste time and money on magazines when there are real women out there?" might summarize my overall attitude, but there was always an additional rebellion against many of the subtexts I'd encounter. "Sex isn't wrong or shameful, so this isn't doing anything for me," would sum up much of this. And then there are the fetishes. Were I to take my own limited forays into umptysquat as an indication, I would conclude that I am the only man on earth who doesn't constantly fantasize about lesbian sex. Maybe I'm weird. Oh well.
Many of the attitudes about sexuality one encounters are, predictably, reflective of the views dominant in our culture, a major one being the Madonna-whore complex, which is the mind-body dichotomy as applied to sexuality. Human psychology and sexuality both being as complex as they are, it would certainly follow that much of the emotional fallout of our altruistic and collectivist culture would also play out as common, but warped sexual tastes, and views about sexuality.
So it was mainly boredom -- from a desire for more -- that really drove me away, and on many levels at that. Let's see.... What do I find more interesting? A random slut -- or an attractive woman I have taken the time to know? Sex with an endless parade of women I barely know -- or a shared life of physical and emotional intimacy with one woman I care deeply about? Notice what's missing from the umptysquat here: the fact that women have minds. (The efforts by Playboy to overcome this limitation as described in the first review were necessarily superficial.)
For a young man exploring his sexuality for the first time, this may be fine, but when I was growing up, Playboy wasn't even good for this because all the models looked the same.
In those days [starting in the mid 1950s --ed] Hefner liked his centerfolds "round, soft, and with a maximum emphasis on the beauty of being female." The Playmates of the first three decades follow this formula, flashing biteable bottoms and breasts. Things go downhill in the 1980s as breast implants became popular: the new boobs are globe-like and tactile only in the way that bowling balls are tactile. Some of them cast a glare, like cartoon balloons. Food metaphors no longer apply.Exactly. If, as I do, you find beauty in actual women, including their inevitable departures from the Platonic "ideal" the entertainment industry wishes to foist on everyone, and you were trapped in the late eighties, you were out of luck even for window-shopping.
Something else (related) happens around this time: Playboy ceases to be about the erotic everyday encounter. Flesh and blood women turn to images; the "girl next door" becomes distinctly mediated. The bunnies were always mediated, of course, but something about the earlier photographs made you forget the medium and feel as though you were staring straight into the eyes of a luscious partner. Enthusiastic photoshopping has aided the transformation. Gone are the freckles and downy arm hairs of the predecessors. Breasts are surgically standardized; gym routines and spray tans produce identically toned and tinted bodies. Girls of all ethnicities blend together into one latte-colored woman, and the result looks computer-generated. When you try to imagine how the models might feel and smell, things like rubber come to mind. [bold added]
Having said that, sexuality is a very complicated phenomenon, involving one's deepest convictions (both in terms of how one views sexuality and in terms of what one responds to on an emotional and sexual level) and one's psychology (which can affect what optional things, such as what physical "type" one finds attractive, manifest as fetishes, or even affect sexual orientation). There is an enormous variety in what a rational, healthy individual can find sexually attractive. That strikes me as something to celebrate, rather than hide from behind the photoshopped pages of a tawdry magazine.