After the release of the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, I was reminded of how much resistance this annual gets, particularly when it appears in grocery stores on the magazine rack. There are hundreds of justifications for not supporting the swimsuit issue, many of which I can get behind.
It perpetuates the objectification of females, and further instills our culture with the notion that female perfection only comes in a few shapes and sizes, most of which require surgical enhancement, exercise, not to mention a hell of a lot of waxing and plucking. It sends the message that only a few avenues of social power exist for women, and advocates beauty over brains.
One objection some have to this magazine that I can’t get behind, however, is the argument that images of females who are scantily clad or naked are “bad” or “dirty.” One of the most disturbing quotes I saw on Facebook discussed how . . . oh fuck it. Here it is:
On another website, Gofatherhood.com, the author called the magazine “pornographic,” and said he threw it away in lieu of letting the magazine come into his house. To each their own . . . speaking of which:
I have never been able to understand why the female body is considered “bad” or “dirty,” or why nudity is dirty, for that matter. I see this shit all the time. Women are taught from a young age to feel shame about their bodies. On one end of the spectrum, they’re taught to be ashamed if their bodies don’t meet the aesthetic standards of our society. On the other, they’re taught to be ashamed if their bodies do meet the standards, because they’re “seducing” with their physique or “being dirty” if they reveal too much of their body. There’s still this sense of accountability, this idea that it is the woman’s responsibility to veil her body to squelch the desires of others. It becomes the woman’s fault, for some reason, that her body prompts a certain response from others.
Whenever I start thinking about this, my mind always turns to looners*, those folks who are sexually attracted to balloons. The same people who consider the female body “dirty” approach fetishism from the opposite end of the spectrum, i.e. when a man is attracted to a nude woman, the woman is dirty. However, if a man is attracted to a balloon, he is dirty, not the balloon. I don’t need a Facebook update to prove this. Show me one person who calls a balloon bad or dirty because a person is sexually attracted to it and I’ll stand corrected. The accountability changes for some reason.
So maybe it is a matter of intent. If the female intends to arouse an audience through wearing little to nothing then that is dirty. Since the balloon has no intention of arousing the looner, the looner “perverts” the balloon’s aesthetic value to fit into the looner’s sexual desires, thus the looner is at fault. I don’t agree with this evaluation, but I can see the logic behind it. Unfortunately, there are so many circumstances in society that contradict the rationale that intent is the factor that provokes some people to dub nudity and scantily clad “bad.”
Countless works of art, which celebrate the human body and have no implication of sexual intercourse, have been destroyed and censored throughout the ages. Venus de Milo was convicted, fucking convicted, for nudity in the mid nineteenth century. Adding to the absurdity, as most of you already know, is the fact that Venus de Milo was a fucking statue. Michaelangelo’s “David,” both the original and reproductions, has been stoned, maimed, disfigured and censored throughout the ages. These instances, as many others mentioned on THIS WEBSITE show it doesn’t matter if sexual provocation is the intent or not. The problem is that the sexualization of nudity, coupled with the moral estimation that sex is wrong, has resulted in some pretty conflicted and repressed individuals.
Maybe it is a matter of context. The nudity is ok behind closed doors, but not in a public setting, not on the shelves of Wal*Mart stores or other “family-friendly” retailers.
Here’s where I start to understand the “dirty” mindset a little. I remember watching films with my parents and being bombarded by unexpected sex scenes. That shit was awkward, incredibly so. I wouldn’t want to walk through a store or a city street and see people fornicating all around me, especially if I was walking into town with my kids. But if there was a marble statue depicting a nude woman or man, that would NOT be a problem. Subsequently, if someone sees a nude statue and gets aroused from it, that is also not a problem. If said person begins to fornicate with the statue in public or masturbate, then this might be a problem. But we can’t control the responses people and objects elicit. We can control how we act upon feelings of arousal, however.
I feel like the folks who want to censor Venus de Milo, David, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition don’t trust their ability to control their responses to potentially arousing stimuli. That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway. But there’s a high likelihood that the moral estimation that sex is wrong or dirty has, for some, caused a reaction that prefigures arousal. The nude, rather than a depiction of aesthetic beauty or an arousing image, becomes instead a conduit through which the viewer becomes tainted.
Internal obstacles pertaining to moral climate transform the plowshares that sow personal fulfillment and satisfaction into barbs against the self. In the circumstance outlined above, the obstacles keep people feeling shame instead of autonomy. The obstacles control. Anyway, nothing R.A. Wilson and thousands of others haven’t said before.
* – to learn more about looners, visit the following website, created by Mr. MotoX aka Northwestlooner: http://www.blow2pop.com/wp/?paged=2&tag=hug-pop