Mass media has twisted and damaged the definition of “sexy”.
This past weekend, I went to Borders with my brother, and we spent some time browsing the periodicals section. When I saw the November cover of Maxim, I asked, “How is that sexy?!”. Tricia Helfer and Grace Park from “Battlestar Gallactica” are scantily clad and contorting their bodies into unnaturally upright positions.
My brother didn’t seem to have a problem with the cover. However, he did point out a questionable cover line: “Ten Hot Babes Who Want YOU Now” (or something along those lines).
We flipped to the page with the ten babes, and my brother asked, “What? Why would these girls want me now? They don’t want me.” His comment inspired me to think about the popular portrayal of “sexy”. In my opinion, the media’s definition of sexy is: unattainable, unrealistic, distant, fantastical, and extremist.
Basically, what my brother said was very telling – these girls DON’T want him because, though they may be real somewhere, they’re not real here and now.
Admittedly, I love sexy photography. What’s my definition of sexy? Sexy is real, earthy, creative, empowering, beautiful, and capable of evoking a sensual response or memory.
Truly sexy photos spark my imagination (and not just in a dirty fantasy kind of way). They make me wonder about the subject(s) of the photo, and they inspire me to dig deep into my memory for remembered emotional/physical responses. I like to imagine myself as these empowered women, wondering about how they feel and what they think.
I can’t possibly relate to the girls on the cover of Maxim and NOT because they are better/skinner/prettier than me. They are so far removed from the camera, so air-brushed and contorted that I can’t imagine myself in their shoes (or lack thereof).
So where do I get my sensual imagination fix? Some of my favorite blogs are collections of sensual pictures. My absolute favorite blog for sexy pictures is Synthetic Pubes (NSFW). I truly think that Andrew Collins, a curator-of-sorts, is a renegade who is reinventing sexiness and reminding his readers what sexy is and should aspire to be.
SP is an aggregation of photos from Flickr and other blogs; the subjects are sexy women, some fully clothed, some partially clothed, some nude.
A few months ago, I wrote Andrew an e-mail, praising him for his good taste in photography and women. I am convinced that he understands something most men, deceived by the portrayal of women in popular media, are missing.
Women themselves are reinventing sexiness on the web. Check out this photostream by the girl who tamed the tiger. She takes imaginative photos of herself in whimsical settings. Sometimes, she includes her boyfriend in tastefully sexy shots. My favorite picture in her photostream is this gorgeous still.
In his response to me, Andrew wrote: “A lot of the photos I find and post are self portraits.”
the girl who tamed the tiger is just one of many young women who are developing their skills as photographers and redefining sexy at the same time. I am drawn to this surge of self expression on the Internet.
I wonder: what would happen if the models themselves directed sexy magazine photoshoots? How would they choose to express themselves? And would they look even sexier? What if they stood behind the photo editor as he or she edited the images? Would they want to be airbrushed?
A few of Flickr’s femme fatales:
(Photo by Flóra)