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March 16, 2006

I Concur

A page full o' porn was not exactly what I was expecting to find in this week's New Yorker. Which isn't to say I was upset. The spread accompanies Joan Acocella's review of the new Playboy retrospective, and the accompanying graphic lays out a series of Playboy centerfolds throughout the ages. It was surprising, from my perspective, to see how subtle the change in body type has been. It didn't seem, at least at first glance, that the girls from this millennium were appreciably thinner than those from the 60's, and though there was a definite increase in breast size, it wasn't as dramatic as I'd expected. The example from 1960 looked like she could well have competed today, albeit with a different hairstyle. The article is great too, but that's no surprise. Of all the talent calling The New Yorker home, Acocella is easily my favorite member of the feature-writing stable.

March 16, 2006 | Permalink

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I think we sometimes forget, and it's worth noting, that there are really several different physical ideals in play in our culture. Once I saw an episode of The Family Feud where Playboy Playmates played Miss America contestants, and the difference was so distinct, it was startling. The Playmates were on average about 6+ inches shorter than the pageant women. They obviously had larger breasts and were a bit more voluptuous.

You can see other examples of this. Fashion models generally have a completely different body type than either of those. Tall, but slinkly, extremely thin, and smaller breasts. Actresses have a different look, although the trend seems to be moving toward a more-buff version of the model look. Pop stars generally look like the youngest of the porn actresses.

It would be interesting to know which of the various ideals you find has the most influence on cultural body issues. If someone wants to give me a sizeable grant, I'd be willing to do an exhaustive analysis!


Unless The New Yorker starts putting naked women in the cat cartoons, I think its overall respectability isn't at risk.

Posted by: Royko | Mar 16, 2006 3:08:12 PM

fashion models are on the end of the spectrum that is more like what females look for in a male (tall, thin, agressive.). porn stars are on the end of what males look for in a female. i wonder what the equivalent male spectrum is?

Posted by: dan | Mar 16, 2006 3:44:52 PM

I think I remember a study (from Playboy) at some point that said that the bust's of Playmates had actually decreased since the 60's and 70's. The difference you saw, I think, is the differences in the rest of the female form. In the 60's and 70's, the Playmates were more voluptuous, and therefore, the size of their bust is not readily apparent because they had a larger waistline. Today's Playmates typically have very thin waistlines that help accentuate their busts. This makes it look like the busts are getting bigger when they are actually decreasing. Add in increased shadowing and photo editing, and this probably accounts for the difference.

Posted by: NoVA liberal | Mar 16, 2006 4:16:45 PM

Which isn't to say I was upset. Teenage 'reading' material, Ezra?

Dan: i wonder what the equivalent male spectrum is? Males are porn stars too, for both men and women. Symetricality!

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 16, 2006 4:49:53 PM

Ask a girl about bra size, the size of the back, or circumference of the torso can mean several inches.
....
As an expert, the centerfolds suck. Separate very formal shoot, with an old box camera with hood that takes an extrawide negative, multiple light stands, a huge crew for makeup and hair and photographer's assistants, the model holding a single pose all day and trying to be motionless for the long exposure time...from the article:

"There were also side photos, in which, released from the master’s library, the Playmate is shown in more natural situations—taking a shower, walking on the beach—and finally she looks sexy. But in the centerfold she is stuck in the Ralph Lauren world of Hefner’s imagining..."

This is the good stuff. Most of the archive releases run 20-50 photos not shown in the magazine. Candid relaxed day-long shoots with a good Canon or Nikon and a professional photographer, just the two of them, very little artificial lighting or makeup, never in a studio, relaxed and natural poses...I have seen very little...well, actually, the style is making a comeback.
I could point you to certain sites.
...
And of course, the late sixties early seventies were the peak, as the article explains in great detail.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 16, 2006 5:13:40 PM

"The Playmates were on average about 6+ inches shorter than the pageant women."

That is one of the biggest changes. I just went thru 1965-66, and few were over 5'7". Most were 5'2" to 5'5". A couple were under 5 feet. I don't know if people were shorter then, if the economic class was significant, because height does track with family income, or what.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 16, 2006 5:27:19 PM

I am very dissappointed that Panda-Poo Marcotte has not chimed in here. Turning any discussion into a feminist war is her one trick and she does it well.
Discussing womens' body parts is just ripe for the conversion into "why all men hate women."

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 16, 2006 6:28:13 PM

Shorter Fred Jones:

"Look at me, Amanda! Pay attention to me!"

Posted by: Thlayli | Mar 16, 2006 7:54:13 PM

So, Bob, about those sites...

Posted by: Lindsay Beyerstein | Mar 16, 2006 10:48:14 PM

"So, Bob, about those sites..."

What the hey....you must be 18 to read this comment. Ezra, delete at will. Had to do some searching, I don't hang at these places, don't give them money, hundreds of nudes for hour after hour doesn't work for me. Most of my wallpaper is fine art, currently a Utrillo. One in 30 is a 60s playmate. I have nothing else. Ok, The Marilyn Monroe/Milton Greene shoots.

Domai, MetArt, GraceandBeauty. There are more. Domai is the oldest, dating from 1999.

Warning, spread shots abound.

Which did not exist in the 60s of course. But they will give you an idea of the fashion, "Innocent, happy, natural nudes of the most beautiful women in the world." Certainly not of Playboy quality, either photographers or models. I think a segment of the male audience tired of silicone sleaze and in-your-face glamour shots. It is still porn, I suppose, and maybe worse with its subtext of non-professionalism.

There was a longish thread, I think at Unfogged and elsewhere, about inauthenticity and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues. "Why not be honest and go for real porn?" Well, cause there are a wide range of tastes and inhibitions and whatever. I have a little guilt, but separating the aesthetic from the erotic gets really tough sometimes.

My favorite hottie:Vicomtess Othenin d'Haussonville (scroll down) Is this erotic?

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 17, 2006 2:06:14 AM

Ezra should have known better. I have a history. It aint about the bodies.

I collect fine-art jpgs, tens of thousands of them over 700 years. And it is surprising how few really good faces I see. The TV sits next to the computer for comparison, and faces are animated and expressive, anger, sorrow, laughing, constantly moving. Yet most of the poses for the great artists are static, frozen, inexpressive masks. The Mona Lisa isn't that special, a mysterious smile is easy for a model for a reason. Most fine-art portraits have nothing inside or behind the face. Capturing emotion or personality in a fixed moment is very very hard. Rembrandt is Rembrandt because he could do it. Vermeer was pretty good. Renoir spent thirty years at the kitchen table trying to capture his wife's face. Photos are actually better with faces, and Marilyn was the best ever.

Two scenes in Closer: Clive Owen arguing with Julia Roberts is chasing her around the room trying to make eye contact which she is avoiding like it would kill her. Finally, with that famous filthy line, they look at each other. In the other scene, Clive Owen never breaks eye contact with Portman while she is lap-dancing in the strip-joint. Clive is trying to break thru the mask like with Julia, except there is no mask. Portman's joke on Clive, he can't dominate an honest person. Last scene in the movie shows she is free.

I went to a strip-joint once and only once. I tried to be nice, but like Clive, my eyes kept drifting up to the stripper's face. She did her best, but I couldn't help it, I kept looking at her face. She hated me for it, she didn't want to be seen and I was breaking the rules. I never went back.

Unless you are an animal or an idiot, it is always about the face. The point isn't T & A, there isn't enough substantial variety to be interesting. But faces are infinite. And the face of a young woman who has taken her clothes off...the mask, and what is behind the mask, and sometimes the taking off the mask...that is the most interesting sight in the world.

It isn't the "objectification" that is the dicey side of porn. It is the opposite. It is a real person trying to become an object at the worst, and an acceptance of the gaze, the return of subjectivity at its best.

Blue Marilyn

Black Sitting Marilyn

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 17, 2006 6:13:54 AM

Shorter Fred Jones:

Perhaps I shouldn't have named names when any psycho feminist bitch would have sufficed.......and there are plenty of them to choose from. Pam Spaulding comes to mind. Speaking of body types, is there any wonder why she is such a pissed of lesbian??

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 17, 2006 9:34:18 AM

good lord Fred would it kill you to stay on topic?? every once in a while there's a fairly non-political topic that leads to interesting discussions but nope - you have to try and start people fighting.

Posted by: JenM | Mar 17, 2006 5:20:51 PM

Thanks, Bob.

Posted by: Lindsay Beyerstein | Mar 17, 2006 5:31:15 PM

Huh. When I was dancing I enjoyed it when guys looked at my eyes and face. From the stage it was the only way to communicate well and during table dances it was just fun. Especially if they signaled they were in on your private jokes and whatever.

Now, boring into my eyes like some psycho...not so fun. Maybe you were looking too, um, intently, Bob M. I've never seen written rules on length and intensity of eye contact, but if you're making her think that you're about to stop spending money and ask her out because, y'know, you now have this incredible connection, you're not gonna get a very positive reaction. Or, say, if she thinks she'll need an armed escort to her car later, you're staring too hard at the eyes. It's pretty common sense. If it would disturb a girl in a grocery check-out line, it will probably disturb a stripper.

Darn those strippers and their insistance on being humans!

Posted by: K | Mar 18, 2006 4:18:53 PM

"Maybe you were looking too, um, intently, Bob M."

Sure. I certainly was. My first time, and I was shy, and she was scrawny, and I didn't want to stare at the bar or my friends, so I didn't know where else to look.
It wasn't a stalker look, but a "what is really going on inside you" look, like I was examining a bug. It was a way of escaping a situation in which I felt uncomfortable, but probably very offensive.

I am not a partyperson.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 18, 2006 6:55:28 PM

Take it from one who has been on the other end, Bob:

You said your stare was: "a 'what is really going on inside you' look, like I was examining a bug."

Are you freaking kidding me?!? That IS a stalker look! Great, now everybody's uncomfortable.

If you really want to know what's going on inside a person, you converse with him or her. Some dancers are OK with that for a while. Some are pure hustlers and if they don't get a dance inside of ten minutes they're gone. Some are dumb, addicted hos to whom you wouldn't want to talk anyway. Whichever way, like with lawyers or therapists, time is money. You don't expect any other professional to chat for free on their time, right? The best guys who just want to talk will also tip steadily while talking.

It's OK not to be a partyperson, but there are rules of social discourse in every setting and among every person on this earth. It behooves all of us to learn and love them, or at least fake them so we don't become pariahs.

I like the way you write. Just talk like that.

Posted by: K | Mar 19, 2006 10:47:28 AM

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Posted by: peterwei | Oct 22, 2007 6:53:22 AM

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