Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Culturespotting or the Feminine Form in America

When I was back in the US over the Christmas break, I did a few post in a series I called "culturespotting". I did one on "The House Tour", one on "Auto Love" and one on restuarants entitled, "Get Out! Out! Out! Out!" Today's post will be the final installment.

In Europe the feminine form is revered. In England we have Page 3 girls in Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper. In Italy women are expected to "fare bella figura" (roughly translated as 'look good') whenever they leave the house. France is the height of fashion because the female form is the most glorious thing ever created. In all these locations, all shapes and sizes are accounted for, appreciated and enjoyed. This isn't to say European men aren't lewd and disgusting. Some certainly are. But woman can be beautiful even if they don't fit the 36-24-36 profile.

When I I was at the mall finishing my Christmas shopping and I stopped in Victoria's Secrets (just for the articles, of course). I was looking for a matching bra and panty set for Mrs. Expat Teacher. I don't mind bragging to the rest of the world that my wife is HOT! and she looks extremely good in sexy lingerie. Mrs. Expat Teacher does not have the 36-24-36 shape. I looked through the various racks and displays and came up empty. All that was offer was lingerie to fit the woman that happens to have the 36-24-36 figure or lingerie to squeeze, push, tuck or prod various parts into the 36-24-36 mold. Mrs. Expat Teacher got something else for Christmas.

Later during our trip, I was hanging out with my family and we were talking about the "Girls Next Door" E! show. As my grandmother and I were perusing the Playboy photo spread (long story) of the three women competing for Hefner's love, it struck me that the only difference among these three women was their hairstyle. They all had hourglass figures and not an ounce of fat on them. These weren't the girls next door. They were the plastic surgeon's girls next door.

Finally, during our last few nights, I watched Pamela Paul speak about her book, "Pornified : How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families" on C-Span. It was incredibly interesting and brought the whole thing together for me. Here was a secular woman (as far as I could tell, she certainly wasn't approaching pornography from a Christian/Biblical viewpoint) talking about how porn was shaping our culture. How the availability of porn on the internet, video-on-demand television, iPods, mobile phones, etc. was turning men into consumers of "the whore". Porn doesn't do diversity real well. All the girls look the same and generally do the same sexual acts. In fact, porn probably reproduces and reinforces racial and sexual stereotypes more than any other medium in our culture.

Ms. Paul went into some detail about the different "types" of porn available. A very interesting phenomenon that she noticed was that men's taste in women became more uniform the more they watched porn. A man might start out interested in a woman's smile or the shape of her neck, but after long term exposure to porn they were only interested in T&A. The uniformity of porn created consumers that wanted that same uniformity. It was a virtuous circle for the porn producers. They didn't have to come up with new formulas, looks or plot. All they had to do was find fresh faces to go on the same bodies. Porn producers can keep making billions without even trying.

The same can be extrapolated to pop-culture. Why do the "beautiful" girls all the look same? Why is 36-24-36 the desired shape? Because it sells well. Since America is the best country in the world for selling things, it only makes sense that we've taken the feminine form and commoditized it. 36-24-36 is beautiful and you can take that all the way to the bank.