Forty years of wankitude

Shapeling Ellen writes in:

Last night I ran across a picture of the 1965 Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. I was so surprised by the difference between then and now in terms of what is considered “ideal” that I created a side-by-side comparison of 1965 vs. 2008.

[Click here for larger version.]

I’ve never understood the hoopla over the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue — or rather, I’ve always been amazed at how incredibly mundane the whole idea is: let’s take a magazine that is, for most of the year, about sports, and for one magical week, we’ll just put softcore porn in it instead. It’s not quite like the infamously pornalicious Victoria’s Secret or Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, which do more blatantly what most advertising does, which is to buy your attention with half-naked bodies. Sports Illustrated does the same thing, but without the premise of selling you something (though I have no doubt that it makes a mint from the ads in the swimsuit issues). This issue comes out every year, and we all know what it’s going to contain — mostly naked women on beaches, in poses that perform “sexiness” in comically predictable ways. It’s a big wankfest, is what I’m saying, and it’s a boring wankfest at that.

Which is why the graphic Ellen made is so illustrative. What is considered blandly inoffensive wank material in 1965 versus 2008? There are some very obvious similarities between the two women: both are white, (dyed) blonde, and thin; both look directly at the viewer in an inviting, not hostile manner; both are showed from the front, emphasizing their hourglass figures. So: thin white blonde hourglass women who want you to look right at them, who invite your gaze. They’re on the beach to be looked at; neither has so much as a single damp lock of hair. Many aspects of the ideal wank stay the same in these two images.

However, there are striking differences. For one thing, the actual amount of swimsuit featured in this swimsuit issue is drastically different. In 1965, the swimsuit is actually kind of an interesting design (a bit Jetsons-y, don’t you think?) and covers most of the model’s torso, and it’s the only thing she’s wearing; in 2008, we see only the bottom of a bikini, and the model’s nipples are covered by beaded necklaces which would be incredibly impractical on the beach (she’s also wearing a pendant in there somewhere). This contrast — between a woman who might conceivably be swimming at some point, and a woman who could not possibly swim without strangling on her own tacky accessories — is heightened by the backdrop: the 1965 photo looks like it might actually be taken on a beach, given that we see the shoreline at a middle distance behind the model. In 2008, by contrast, the model appears to be floating on water, Christlike. In other words, she may be wearing a swimsuit, but this cover photo doesn’t even attempt to create the illusion that she’s wearing it for any reason but to please you, the theoretical male viewer. The way I see it, this contrast in framing — “oh hey, there happens to be a pretty lady on this beach” versus “HELLO SAILOR” — also extends to what is probably the most glaring difference between these two otherwise rather similar models: the way their “ideal” figures are displayed. The 1965 model smiles her apple-cheeked smile, while the 2008 model does the “my lips are open because I am ready to blow you any second now” Sexy Face that’s now standard posing fare. The 1965 model has only a little cleavage, and she has visible chub at her underarms, hips, and thighs that would be ruthlessly photoshopped out today. Even with no bikini top, the 2008 model’s breasts are perkier than her 1965 counterpart’s; her pose is chosen to emphasize her rack and her hips; and any hint of fat, wrinkles, hair, or any other sign of humanity have been digitally removed. The 1965 cover looks like a very conventionally attractive woman you might see on a beach; the 2008 version looks like a standard issue item from the Wank Factory.*

This comparison is a great example of how beauty standards that start out extremely narrow (white, thin, blonde, hairless, a certain kind of curvy) have become narrower over the last few decades. The 1965 model looks, well, kind of chubby compared to the images of “ideal” women we are used to seeing now. No doubt if they put her clone on the cover today, we would be subject to hand-wringing editorials about obesity and bad examples as straight men pile up on the fainting couch.

It’s instructive to look at this kind of image not because there was a golden era of wank fodder which was somehow okay and empowering;** there clearly wasn’t, and the swimsuit issue is a grossly overcelebrated tradition of straight-up objectification. But in a visual culture that depends on the assumption that women’s bodies are available for men’s pleasure at all times, it’s striking to see the continuities and changes in the images that work to explicitly reinforce that assumption. Vanishingly few women look like the model in the 1965 cover; no one looks like the woman in the 2008 cover, including the model herself.

*non-union

**Further reading: Joan Acocella’s review of a coffeetable book of Playboy centerfolds over the years. Sample quote: Six hundred and thirteen women are represented, but there is one basic model. On top is the face of Shirley Temple; below is the body of Jayne Mansfield. Playboy was launched in 1953, and this female image managed to draw, simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have since come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment. We are now accustomed to seeing the two tendencies combined—witness Britney Spears—but when Hefner was a young man they still seemed like opposites. Also, I can’t resist including this part: At the same time, many of these nice little girls are fantastically large-breasted. Strange to say, this top-loading often makes them appear more childlike. The breasts are smooth and round and pink; they look like balloons or beach balls. The girl seems delighted to have them, as if they had just been delivered by Santa Claus.

62 thoughts on “Forty years of wankitude

  1. I would also compare the contrasting text: “Sport and Sun” in 1965 and “Barely Bikinis” in 2008. They’ve stopped pretending this shit has anything to do with Sport.

  2. as I’ve been quietly grumbling about in my gaming stuff, in some MMORPGs, women are not *allowed* to look anything other than h0+. after all, why would anyone want to be or see an ‘ugly’ woman?

  3. this contrast in framing — “oh hey, there happens to be a pretty lady on this beach” versus “HELLO SAILOR”

    Okay, first, heh. Second, Jezebel recently did a piece comparing the Victoria’s Secret catalog to the Athleta catalog, which illustrated (literally) a lot of the points you’re making here perfectly. And made me feel a lot better about blowing lots of money at Athleta (which, unlike most fitness clothing companies, has a pretty generous XL and goes up to 2X in some styles, I might add).

    And hell yes to narrow standards getting narrower.

  4. I have a complex, selfish, sad, and horrible desire to look like a Wank Woman, such as Ms. 2008 “oh big boy, sex me now,” there.

    In my fantasies, I am approached by the most base and puerile of shallow men, and fawned over because of my outer shell of “beauty.”

    The fantasy continues with me being almost incalculably cruel and cutting to them in return, not only scorning them, but shaming and possibly traumatizing them for life.

    It’s funny that I seem to be a much nicer person while I’m “ugly.” That a Hyde-esque part of my psyche would like to use “pretty” as a weapon to attack the Patriarchy sounds vaguely like I want to rape it in vengeance, and makes me almost sick to realize such depths of not-very-nice emotions exist inside myself. Such feelings of rage and disgust, such urges to punish and destroy. It’s scary. It’s uncomfortable and ikky. It’s… empowering?

    It’s complicated.

  5. These two pictures, side by side, blow my mind. Today’s woman (!) almost looks like a caricature of yesterday’s, a mobile cartoon. I’m not trying to denigrate women who have those va-va-voom proportions naturally, I’m really not – it’s just that if you look at the models in SI-Swim nowadays, you’d think every beach is littered with em. In reality, I see a lot more women who look like the 60s model – hell, a lot more women who look like me!

    Emmy, ha! I have a Warcraft character (yeah, yeah, I know). She some sort of ox-creature – barely human, in other words – and even SHE isn’t customizable to be anything beyond “athletically built”. SHE IS A CREATURE WITH HOOVES AND HORNS AND A TAIL and she still has to rock a stacked rack over a six pack.

    Oy.

  6. I think the Virgin-Whore complex is probably the most damaging part of this whole male gaze thing. The totally unrealistic concept that a woman will be innocent while simultaneously hot for your cock…it makes my brain hurty.

    When Britney Spears shaved her head, whenever that was, I told my boyfriend that I felt sorry for her. And he was really surprised, because I’m not a fan of her music, or really anything about her.

    I feel bad because she is supposed to be a virgin, and not act like one. She’s supposed to be both innocent and slutty. No amount of being one or the other is innocent enough or slutty enough for the masses. It is almost a “be everything to everyone” issue.

    He actually noticed that poor Miley Cirus is going to have a similar issue. I’m so proud.

    So yeah, anyway, it’s fucked up. Not only does your body have to be unrealistically perfect, women also have to be unrealistically perfect. They have to be Virgins when virgins are needed and whores when guys need something to wack off to.

  7. Sugar,
    I have a good friend who is super hot. She’ll go to a bar with her fiance, and guys will hit on her relentlessly. Even after she goes so far as to say “THIS IS MY FIANCE< GO AWAY!”

    I have to say it fills me with shameless glee to see how horribly cruel she is to them. (They really bring it on themselves though, it’s pathetic.)

  8. Thanks for a great post! This reminded me of one day my (very straitlaced) mother was all upset about finding a magazine under my 12 or 13-year-old little brother’s mattress: it was that year’s SI swimsuit issue. :-/ My father canceled his subscription thereafter.

    Also: “Wank Factory.* // *non-union” made me laugh out loud, but not in a particularly happy way. :-|

  9. SugarLeigh, you just pinpointed one of my vices. I’m certainly not magazine-style hot, but occasionally the boys do come a’runnin’. And I torture them on purpose, even if they seem perfectly nice. I can’t decide whether it’s kinda wrong or not, but oh my fsm it’s fun. (And I’m sure the fun is based on too much boy-related teenage trauma, but that’s some psychoanalysis for another day!)

  10. Does anyone else think the 1968 model resembles Renee Zellwegger before she became another one of Hollywood’s lollipop heads?

  11. I get hit on occasionally, but it seems the majority of fellows who do so have… issues, to put it mildly. There was a time, not so very long ago in fact, when I would engage such men in conversation, as long as I had the extra time and didn’t feel threatened, just to try and discover what made them “tick,” because I was interested in learning about different kinds of people and in trying to better understand people I considered “mean” or “bad.”

    I ended up spending a couple hours with a dude who talked about how great war was because it paid his bills, who had things to say about anyone who was black that I didn’t even think existed in American thought anymore (I shudder at how naive I was about that, I mean, could I have been a bigger doofus?), and who ended up biting my finger at one point, I shit you not. I was relieved when I was able to extract myself from his presence.

    I decided after that misadventure that understanding wicked people isn’t necessary work after all, or if it is, I am most certainly NOT the ideal candidate for the job.

    I think if the world can truly be healed by Love, it may be needful (at least in certain situations) to administer this Love with a Big Fucking Spiky Stick… or at least with a restraining order.

    The Things We Learn…

  12. Editorial note: I totally used “1968” instead of “1965” in the original version of this post, despite the numbers “1965” being right there in Ellen’s quote. I’ve fixed the dates now.

  13. Kate, I’m a bad feminist.

    I get the point of the post you linked to, but all I can think is that I want to turn that ridiculously OTT VS bikini top (the red one with too much cleavage) and turn it into the most awesome floaty beach dress ever. Cleavage included. Just because.

    That said… did I see yoga-style sportwear WITH INTEGRAL BRAS in the athleta catalogue?! WANT! Especially the racerback.

  14. Does anyone else think the 1968 model resembles Renee Zellwegger before she became another one of Hollywood’s lollipop heads?

    *raises hand* Me! Me! I had to remind myself that in 1965 she was like -10 or something.

  15. I’m boggling at 1965’s, ‘… in little-known Baja California sur.’

    But aside from that, there are other differences I see, than those … embodied by the models. The 2008 issue is busy with text, that not only promises more semi-nude women (or possibly nude save for body paint) but also a ‘fantasy team,’ ‘players’ wives’ and Danica Patrick — a promise of not just more, but more prurient photos, fantasies, the equivalent of ‘hot wives’ porn, and the pornification of a famous woman athlete. And not to forget the ‘NFL cheerleaders’ in their ‘swimsuit debut’ — shades of Debbie Does Dallas.

    The 1965 issue, on the other hand, offers only ‘the Colt story’ — whatever that might have been — and a lovely young woman on a Baja beach. It’s mastabatory material, yes, but it’s less strident, in comparison almost demure. This is consistent with the 1960s porn I’ve read … but more than that, it’s as if to say, ‘We know men like to look at pretty girls.’ The 2008 issue, on the other hand, seems to be trying to force-feed its photoshopped wares to its audience, like so many two-dimensional lap-dancing automata.

  16. Not that it’s particularly important, but those “beads” are actually painted on and the model is topless. So, your points ++.

  17. It’s really frightening: The woman from 1965 triggered an automatic “OMG FAT” response in me although I’ve never, in my entire life, considered fatness unattractive. Likewise I have never been interested in the “common in magazines, but rare in nature” bodytype at all. So what’s this reaction, where does it come from, what’s it doing in my head? I think it’s an internalized “this is what everyone else must be thinking.” Scary.

  18. The other difference between the models is that the “modern” woman has a far longer distance from her waist to her crotch. Also the smallest part of her body is a bit higher– it looks like a couple of iches over her belly button. Some of this may be shopping, but I have sen it in real life, too. I work in costumes, and the you women I measure tend to have this build, where in the 90’s they didn’t, so I tend to think it has something to do with building ab muscles? I am fascinated by the change, though.

  19. also, it’s hard to tell without the full-size magazine in front of me, but it looks like they photoshopped out the 2008 woman’s hip bone. One on side, there’s a little bit of definition, on the other side, just a weird blank spot. It’s like they don’t even expect their audience to know how bodies like that work. I can’t think of a very good way to phrase that, but what I mean is, if you are that skinny and also curvy, your hip bones stick out. They are what make the curves. Presumably some men understand this, and it doesn’t totally gross them out to see hip bones on a real woman. So why erase them from your magazine cover?

    I know it goes along with getting rid of “any hint of fat, wrinkles, hair, or any other sign of humanity” but man, they’re bones! It freaks me out!

    And I guess it’s possible that it’s just a combination of the pose and how this particular woman’s body works, but I swear I tried the pose in front of a mirror myself (being skinny and hippy) and it just made the bone on that side stick out more. I also looked hella awkward. So much for my modeling dreams.

  20. I saw the picture before I actually read any of this post, and my first thought was something like, “Oh look, someone made a fake SI cover!’

    The 1965 photo looks so NATURAL– it’s a real beach with real sunlight, the model’s got a low-maintenance hairstyle and minimal makeup (hell, by today’s standards of Impossible Beauty, she’s really plain-looking), swimsuit made for swimming– that my brain still can’t quite believe the Swimsuit Edition ever really looked like that.

    and besides, a woman that OMG FAT would never be Swimsuit Edition cover material anyway, right?

    When I realize how easily my brain forms thoughts like that, it’s really frightening.

  21. SM, I wish I’d had that sort of courage or presence of mind at the time.

    I’ve always been rather timid, and I have this deep-ingrained fear of causing a scene or being rude (why I still worry about being perceived as rude to people who deserve rude and far worse, I’ve no idea… I guess part of it is I have empathy like some people have voodoo curses. Thankfully I’m beginning to grow a backbone, largely in thanks to FA, so yay!).

    I yanked my hand away and I think I said “why on earth would you do a thing like that?!” or something similar. The scary part is the dude wanted to see me again after our strange-ass conversation. I’ve no clue why, since I made it clear I have zero problem with black people, hate war, and am close to your basic tree-hugging hippie, all things which were the opposite of his loud opinions. Apparently he was hard up for anyone that would stand his presence and must’ve hoped I might do so again since I hadn’t killed him yet.

    As much as the whole situation was disconcerting, I could find it in me to feel a certain pity for him. He was obviously really lonesome and insecure. I don’t know what kind of life he must have led to come to be so defensive, hateful, and bitter.

    I accepted the proffered number because I could see no gracious way out of the situation, went home, and promptly tossed it in the trash.

    I gained no useful understanding of meanies as a result of the encounter, even though the guy had more or less shared half his life story with me. I washed my finger carefully with peroxide and applied antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Just in case.

  22. SL, that’s fucked up.

    Shinobi, at least that one line from your engaged friend doesn’t sound cruel to me. It sounds matter of fact – you are not wanted here! But I know what you mean. I’m like that in bars, especially after drinking, and my roommates used to titter when I would tell men to move away from us, or physically move them away myself. But that’s because we’re conditioned to be polite and accommodating, and we’re supposed to be flattered by the attention. It’s positively subversive to refuse it. In a good way.

  23. Also the smallest part of her body is a bit higher– it looks like a couple of iches over her belly button.

    Mine is, too. I thought that was why we talk about the ‘natural’ waist vs. where people actually wear their pants? I’m mostly an hourglass, though, and maybe that’s why . . . Now I’m confused.

    I’m pretty short from my navel to my crotch (I’m only 5’3 total) but the smallest part of my body is definitely about an inch and a half above my belly button, so a good four or five inches above my iliac crests (hipbones). The model looks similar, except the missing hipbone and the fact that she’s 5’10 or more.

  24. Also, the 1965 girl appears to have a swim cap in her hand, thus indicating that she intends to swim at some point during the day. She just looks so much more natural and nicer than the fake-and-bake photoshopped 2008 creature.

    I confess to being completely fascinated by the body painting though. I think the artists that paint these models have such amazing abilities to make paint look like real, 3-d jewelry and clothing.

  25. tanglethis, agreed! :3

    Stephanie, it sounds as though we might be similar in length… do you find it difficult to find pants that fit comfortably? It seems like the crotch of pants either wants to crawl up my tush or else hit me about at the level of my knees. Harder still because I prefer a pant with a low waist. It is just generally more cozy to wear pants just above my hips because of the shape of my tummy. A bit of an OT question but I’m always up for trying to find non-mythical well-fitting pants.

  26. Mine is, too. I thought that was why we talk about the ‘natural’ waist vs. where people actually wear their pants? I’m mostly an hourglass, though, and maybe that’s why . . . Now I’m confused.

    I think I might have been confusing– I think there is natural variation, but the idealized body type now has a longer waist to crotch measurement. Also, I think more young women have this long measurement/thicker waist because of all the things they do to strengthen their abs, but that is completely my thesis. All I can say is that I haven’t measured a woman with a waist smaller than 26″ in about 10 years, but the waist to hip ratio seems to be getting smaller, in general, for the particular age group I measure.

  27. And, back to the subject at hand…

    If SI is all about sports and porn, where is the issue that shows me mostly-naked (and some “tastefully naked”) MEN, with the interviews about their pet peeves and what they like in bed, or whatever, and the pouty-lip faces and ye olde smouldering eyes? I mean, okay we have the cheerleaders, but where are the demure-in-boxers shots of the actual NFL players?

    I just fail to understand why men have not yet capitalized on the gold mine that is showing us their fine manly bodies, since they keep saying it’s such a great thing for us wimminfolkz.

  28. … it looks like they photoshopped out the 2008 woman’s hip bone.

    interfacings, I think you’re right — it looks like the shadow and definition of the woman’s left hip was smoothed. There seems to be something wrong with the shadow on her left arm, as well. And what I also hadn’t noticed is that the woman on the 2008 issue has a thumb under the string of her bikini bottom, thus implying she’s ready to rip it off at any moment.

    And JR, I think the woman on the 1965 cover looks nicer primarily because she’s actually smiling, while the woman on the 2008 cover is not. This may also be why the 1965 woman reads as plump, as her cheeks *are* plumped up with the smile rather than hollowed out by a slack jaw.

  29. … where are the demure-in-boxers shots of the actual NFL players?

    In Playgirl? Is it still being published?

    I always personally found it a bit of a bust — I have much better luck finding hot naked men in art photography.

  30. On looking at the 2008 one, I wondered if she might have had her waist area, from boobs to hips, lengthened by photoshopping. I am sure some women are that long through there, but not many!

    Ever since I saw the Dove ad where they lengthen the girls’ neck, I have realised just how much they can change a photo.

    What I am not sure of, is why it has been decided that a mile of straight middle is attractive enough to require that she be modified? That long, streamlined look is beautiful on a greyhound, but they still have a shape!

  31. Actually, on looking again, I think the stretching has been done both above and below the belly button. Whose belly button is really that far away from their “Map of Tassie”? (As we aussies so elegantly call it.)

  32. Playgirl? Pfft, a pathetic publication. (yay alliteration!) Though at least someone is catering to the female eye. Yeah… it’s pretty sad that even what tiny pockets of ladies-choice sexualized imagery exist are generally pretty poorly done, if you can find them at all.

    I’m actually not opposed to pornography as long as everyone is consenting and having a good time… I’m just opposed to having only men look real in it, when they show up at all, and having none geared towards a woman seeking that kind of gratification. We exist, too. Ladies are also sexual beings who like to look at sexy things sometimes. And hell, we even masturbate, shockingly! I know that most men have a hard time with such amazing revelations since it means we’re not busy being those virginal whores Shinobi42 mentioned for them, but by some miracle, we actually care about our own needs, desires, and orgasms as much as we care about theirs (or more if we’re not in a relationship with them)!

    I remember seeing part of a show starring Carlos Mencia (a comedian, I think he’s one of those insult comics… I don’t care for that style) where he talked about what he imagined porn for women would be and showed a skit of his idea of it (the woman was cranky and forceful with the guy and yelling at him about equality and romantic love while ripping his clothes off or something, to the best of my memory).

    I have to admit, I was disappointed. I think the truth would have been a helluva lot funnier, considering that, at least among my circle of horny young college female friends, “porn” almost always meant, “gay porn and yaoi.” Dude, twice the cock, right? We probably should have felt guilty or sexist. We never did, though. Then again, we were the weirdies with the high school Ronin Warriors fan club, whose motto was “man can draw ‘em hotter than god can make ‘em!” (I never said we were a particularly PC club, but we were 16 years old at the time.)

    All you get to see in straight porn is a bunch of bouncing breasts. If I wanted to look at that, I’d just go climb some stairs naked. Sheesh.

    Hopefully none of this is major TMI or whatever but as long as we’re talking about porn I felt the need to have a gripe over the fact that SI Swimsuit gets to be practically infamous and there’s nary a famous, rich, mainstream magazine to be found that puts out a yearly “softcore for the ladies” issue. The details in the post are probably more important points, but I’m just sayin’, this is something else that bugs me about it too.

  33. That a Hyde-esque part of my psyche would like to use “pretty” as a weapon to attack the Patriarchy sounds vaguely like I want to rape it in vengeance, and makes me almost sick to realize such depths of not-very-nice emotions exist inside myself.

    I have similar fantasies as well. I think it’s part and parcel of feeling so powerless in the face of such wankitude. If I say anything as a normal looking woman, I’ll be pilloried for just being an ugly bitch who doesn’t know my place. I can’t help but fantasize about making the douchebags cry.

    The woman from 1965 triggered an automatic “OMG FAT” response in me although I’ve never, in my entire life, considered fatness unattractive.

    I find myself doing the same thing. It’s like I’m preemptively cringing, waiting for the inevitable shrieks of “OMG! Fat!” from the idiot brigade.

  34. This was a really interesting read, Sweet Machine. Thanks!

    Eucritta – I always thought Playgirl was ridiculous and unappealing too! Same reaction most of my friends had the one time we got one for a slumber party in jr. high. I also totally agree with you that art photography or paintings of men (British painter Michael Leonard does gorgeous male nudes), especially those created by men to appeal to men, are more…er…interesting.

    What Playgirl does bring glaringly to light is just how much of soft porn operates by making women look ridiculous. The magazine’s MO seems to have been ‘turnabout is fair play’, which meant a lot of oiled, weirdly-perfect naked men wearing nothing but whipped cream, rollerskates and a smile. I can’t even approach thinking the models are getting any pleasure out of their activities, nor does it appeal to me AT ALL to imagine sparkly Roy gliding toward me on his oil slick.

  35. What Playgirl does bring glaringly to light is just how much of soft porn operates by making women look ridiculous.

    Yes, I think that’s what’s wrong with it too. Not only ridiculous, but disturbingly unnatural — the model on the 2008 cover looks to me as if she’s been molded of fiberglass and painted — I can easily imagine it being done much as the hull of a boat, so distant does it seem from real women — and it seems to me that the eye has to be trained to find such images appealing.

  36. I just got a package from Athleta today (cute fuzzy vest and a cycling skort!), but the one thing I do have to say about them is that for all the “active women just being active in our clothes” imagery they’re still using professional models (hello, American Gladiator Jet) who are significant physical outlyers even compared to other thin, fit women. Whereas other catalogs in their market niche (e.g. Title 9) have been known to use normal active women with day jobs and such to demo the clothes.

  37. It’s like I’m preemptively cringing, waiting for the inevitable shrieks of “OMG! Fat!” from the idiot brigade.

    Yes, yes, exactly! That’s what it was. Good to know I’m not the only one.

  38. Emmy, ha! I have a Warcraft character (yeah, yeah, I know). She some sort of ox-creature – barely human, in other words – and even SHE isn’t customizable to be anything beyond “athletically built”. SHE IS A CREATURE WITH HOOVES AND HORNS AND A TAIL and she still has to rock a stacked rack over a six pack.

    Yeah, and in certain titles, if they couldn’t figure out how to make a female version of a class/race “sexy”, they just won’t allow female characters in that class!

    Even if there are female NPCs of that class/race in the game!

  39. “as I’ve been quietly grumbling about in my gaming stuff, in some MMORPGs, women are not *allowed* to look anything other than h0+. after all, why would anyone want to be or see an ‘ugly’ woman?” – Emmy

    While I’m not enough of a MMORPG player yet to know what h0+ means, although I doubt playing Hello Kitty Online which is the MMORPG I’m planning to play when i comes out, will help me understand it any clearer.

    I am tired of the games only having you choose from female characters who are half clad, or wearing some sort of crazy Anime outfit showing off the side straps of their g-string. Clearly these are games made for men, and they’re saying “Well we do invite girls to play, but only if they’re willing to be sexualized and demeaned by us..” Yeah…no, thanks.

    I suggest you check out http://www.hellokittyonline.com, I played the beta and it is going to be a very fun game, where people including women actually wear real clothing. Sure it’s full of mindless cute, but it would seem according to Ten Ton Hamster’s polls, people are looking for something outside the violent womanizing machismo set of MMORPG games.

  40. “At the same time, many of these nice little girls are fantastically large-breasted. Strange to say, this top-loading often makes them appear more childlike. The breasts are smooth and round and pink; they look like balloons or beach balls. The girl seems delighted to have them, as if they had just been delivered by Santa Claus.”

    Sounds like Playboy is stealing from Hentai imagery.

  41. No doubt about this article. Even in my teens (I’m 33 now) I just didn’t get the fascination with the swimsuit issue. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the women in them were beautiful, but just like you talked about back then I did think it was weird that the women weren’t wearing normal beach wear.

    From the looks of it, SI has even gotten worse. I haven’t read their magazine in a long time, aside from when I’m in waiting room due to the lack of decent reading materials. Then again I wasn’t a fan of their magazine to begin with.

    Also it seems like SI has gone from (possibly) non-models to super-models. That alone is annoying.

  42. Voyage Century Online isn’t a bad MMO if you’re not into sexualization. The female outfits are a little er…anachronistic at times, but you have to go looking for the skimpier outfits and they generally don’t give as much protection as the normal ones. Plus you get to sail around the world and kill pirates. I’m on a clone of that game called Bounty Bay Online on the free server, the in-game economy is more stable and there’s way less inflation.

  43. I dunno if someone else has noticed, but that second girl? Totally about to take her undies off. Those panties are on the way down.

  44. Also, the pornified, fuck-me cheerleader in the upper left hand corner of the 2008 mag is a classy touch.

    Thank you for always having the ability to make me laugh (non-union) when I’m about to slam my head into my desk.

  45. I read that Playgirl is no longer publishing a paper magazine. They can still be located online. Playgirl taught me a lot about the male anatomy, so I won’t knock it too much, except when one part of their anatomy is limp it doesn’t garner much of sexual reaction of out me. Which I think was one of the major problems for Playgirl. It’s not that women can’t view men as sexual objects, but when they’re not “aroused” what’s the point?

    All these images do is serve to remind everyone, men and women alike that somewhere in mystical land we can all “do better”. All women can and should look like the boob bead lady and all men should and could date her. We’re all just rats on a wheel buying and consuming and working to achieve this mystical goal. Seems sort of useless.

  46. OH! And I have another thing to mention about Playgirl or even pornography in general. None of it seems made to really appeal to women’s sexual appetites at all. It’s like what women desire is a complete mystery to the industry, or that what we desire isn’t of concern. If we’re all sexually available all of the time, what we desire doesn’t matter. The virgin/whore complex plays in here too, even if we are sexually available to all men all the time, we’re not suppose to enjoy or desire sexual contact in anyway.

    I know there are “film” makers out there trying to bust through this and make it known that women have real wants and desires. But it’s still apparent that what we do want or desire takes a back seat. Which probably does make for some crappy sex going on out there in the pornofied USofA.

  47. Seriously, why can Playgirl not figure out that men posed in sexy ways really aren’t nearly as effectively appealing when they aren’t visibly aroused? I mean, that’s why women in sexualized poses always have that little arch in their lower back (see above photo) — it’s a signal of arousal in women. Without that physical signal of arousal, it’s not as effective. Same thing for erections.

  48. Yeah, and in certain titles, if they couldn’t figure out how to make a female version of a class/race “sexy”, they just won’t allow female characters in that class!

    Or, as I have just discovered is the case with Final Fantasy XI, if the race is sort of sexy by default, they won’t allow male characters because those would surely look gay. No, wait. I think they invented the race to have more sexy females in the game, and no one thought it necessary to include male characters of the same race, so they made up an excuse for why you can’t be one of those. Argh.

    I had originally wanted to be one of the big, hunky “Galka” who are described in the booklet as being neither male nor female. When I started the actual game, however, they were labelled “male” anyway and all of them were referred to as “he.” I felt cheated!

  49. It’s like what women desire is a complete mystery to the industry, or that what we desire isn’t of concern.

    There are companies which produce porn aimed at women, both published and filmed. Problem is … well, it’s like romance: it’s assumed that women will want to read about or watch characters we can identify with and desire to *be,* rather than simply desire. Ergo, even het porn for women assumes we’ll be watching the women.

    Myself, I think women have in fact spoken loudly, clearly, and in public about just what it is that tickles our fancy, and then written for ourselves — in fanfic.

  50. Yeah, I really agree how things like photoshop and backlash have led to an even crappier beauty standard and it would be nice if models that looked even halfway like the older one could be accepted, but on the other hand I also think about what it was like for my mom growing up in the 60’s and for me growing up in the 00’s and I think I’ll put up with the magazine isle for the fact that all my science classes in college were half male and half female and the fact that we almost had a female president and that we have safe and legal abortion and that I was never made to feel that any career is closed to me because of my gender, which was not the case for my mother.

    I’m NOT saying we currently live in a feminist utopia, or that the 60’s were necessarily a crappy time to grow up or anything like that, I’m just saying that as much as there are still countless crappy setbacks and some things have gotten worse, I’m just really really happy for the progress we’ve made and will make and would rather focus on that than idealizing a past time.

    But yeah, I really sincerely wish that remotely realistic female bodies could make it in today’s media.

  51. I haven’t measured a woman with a waist smaller than 26″ in about 10 years, but the waist to hip ratio seems to be getting smaller, in general, for the particular age group I measure.

    I’m always told that’ I’m lucky to have a 21″ waist by my goth, corset-buying friends.

    From my Mum’s old nursing books, I remember reading that eating disorders and otherwise extreme or long-term dieting can change fat distribution, resulting in skinny limbs but a thicker middle. It’s a famine thing, that the body protects the organs with the little reserves it has.

  52. Tangerina, this post is definitely not in any way arguing that the 60s were somehow more feminist than today — far from it. Where you see an “idealization” of the past is completely beyond me.

    I suggest reading (or rereading) The Beauty Myth to think about the relation between the beauty ideal and feminist progress; Wolf argues that the more actual power women gain in the public sphere, the narrower the beauty ideal gets. The more figurative space women take up en masse, the less physical space an individual female body should take up.

  53. As far as corsets go, I was more of a Goth in high school, but still enjoy the music. The idea is so that if you do induce a starvation in yourself, the corset will keep the fat from appearing in the middle.

    I however have also heard stories about corsets doing weird things to some people’s spines, and them not being able to stand up straight without the corset due to an atrophy of core muscles. However, isn’t atrophy really Goth though? (sarcasm)

  54. D’oh, sorry. Think I was just reacting to the nostalgic tone of some comments, not really to the original post. And that is a very interesting point you bring up from The Beauty Myth.

  55. i have wondered if the 2008 ‘ideal’ is more extreme exactly because there are fewer and fewer people ‘meeting’ even the 1965 standard. It was just a thought and I haven’t worked it through yet. It is interesting, though, that as the population becomes larger, the ‘ideal’ becomes more extreme.

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