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 Wading through no-man's land

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PostSubject: Wading through no-man's land   Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:28 pm

I return now to the subject of prostitution. To many who speak from the outside, prostitution epitomizes the exploitation of both women and sex. The woman's body is sold to satisfy the man's lust, part of a culture of power and economics where female sexuality can be purchased by the male. Money is impersonal, accepted everywhere, not based on relationship. So too becomes the act of prostituted sex, or the image of the half-naked woman on a billboard. In both cases, the worth of the woman comes from her body. The prostitute sells a product – sex. The model uses her sex appeal to sell a product.

Here we enter a sort of schizophrenic no-man's land. Very few mothers dream of their daughters growing up to be whores. Yet many mothers and daughters alike celebrate the possibility of a modeling career. Prostitution remains of the fringes of society. Prostitutes sell the act of sex, so they are scorned, perhaps tolerated, but rarely a roll model. Models on the other hand, sell the idea of sex. They dangle the possibility...if you only buy a purse, a lipstick, a camera strap. Yet they are roll models for countless girls, teenagers and women.

The woman's body offers the possibility of sex and in so doing, becomes an object to sell an idea. One can be sexy, desired, fulfilled, or happy if you enter the bedroom of the billboard. Unfortunately, the bedroom is only of plastic and steel, and so sadly, the buyer walks home without any further experience with this beautiful woman, only a new tube of lipstick or bottle of sports drink.

The sex – unlike in prostitution – isn't real. What is real though is a mental intercourse of a much more insidious type. The viewer sees an image and believes in what she or he can and needs to become. (Advertising influences both male and female audiences, but for the sake of time from now on, I follow the path of the female viewer.)


1


Apart from a particular product that a gleaming model sells, a woman viewer sees that model as chosen, a sort of “model of” what it means to be a woman. She is up on the billboard, on the magazine cover, selling air conditioning from the side of a truck. And this image of model woman is dangerous because it is so defined: young, light-skinned, slim, pretty, without glasses or blemishes, with a large bust and probably curvy. A model woman exudes youthful sex appeal. She sells sexuality.

2


This is the game a girl learns from the cradle. She can be beautiful. She can be sexy. She can use her looks to have power over any man she wants. “What a nice game!” the little girl squeals, clapping chubby hands. She doesn't know what these big words mean, but no matter, the older women smile and speak in flowery pink words. They will teach her. Her mother, sisters and friends. Her favorite TV stars. Her next best-friend celebrity. The gaunt young woman with heaving bosom who smiles languidly from every printable surface. This girl will learn quickly. She must. Otherwise she will always stand apart in their perfumed shadows. She sees how the beautiful are treated. How men gaze and women envy.

There is something satisfying about becoming an object. You follow the rules, and you reap the rewards. You are given hearty applause as you cross the proverbial finish line. Everyone smiles and cheers. Except that the finish line never arrives. You are always catching up to the random woman ahead.

In modern society, Coco Chanel's now-clichéd words of a woman never being too rich or too thin have reached a new level. With the explosion of media technology, women in the Netherlands compete in the beauty race with Hollywood celebrities or Bollywood stars in India. Brown-skinned Salvadoran women see the glistening curves of Brittney Spears at the corner copy shop. Plastic surgery booms as Asian women have eyelids cut to give them a more Western look. Now Chanel's list easily tumbles on. A woman can always be prettier, younger, more busty and curvy, thinner, have better skin (whether it be lighter in color or with less wrinkles).

3


With Internet, cable and digital images, we are in the image race with women worldwide. Achieving desired results hovers, mirage-like, just on the next horizon. Because, after all, the pictures always change. As one model grows older, there are always ten new ones to replace her. And just like the images we see – the billboard with a woman's torso or a sultry face advertising eye shadow in a magazine – what we often compete with is a mental conglomeration of a million women's body parts. To become the next ideal, we must have this pair of breasts, that woman's skin, a pair of bluer eyes, those longer legs and so on.

When I try to make sense of my own body, for example, I have to wade through a lot of extra baggage. From childhood on, I am so bombarded with images that now as a woman in my 30's, I shuffle through millions of mental model women: my first large-breasted, tiny waisted Barbies; puffy-haired models from teen magazines of the 90's; sex vixens in spandex from early MTV videos; ongoing pictures of Hollywood actresses' weight gain or bikini bodies on magazine covers at the supermarket check-out line. I can always easily find advice on achieving desired physical results from the magazines (now also on-line) which support the advertisements and gossip articles. I might buy the product or not, but I always see the image (and so often buy the female ideal).


4


This constant stream of beautiful images breeds discontent. Girls see what they can become. Women see how they can be better or regain what they've lost. We see the woman in the red light district of advertising. We want her body. We want to be desired as she is. We feel bad about who we are, but also hopeful that if we just buy this product, we can improve. This is nothing new in the concepts of advertising. Bigger markets, more competition, more sales. Slick sex for sale is crude. Slick image for sale brings fantastic results.



1. http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif
2. http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2496/3775811432_43b83ec8fc.jpg
3. http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif
4. http://illiweb.com/fa/pbucket.gif
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PostSubject: You go too far!   Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:35 pm

Your connections between prostitutes and modeling are too extreme! Modeling is a respectable job in which women (and men) work hard and have standards. You cannot compare a model to a person who has sex with people to make her living. The two are very different. And from reading your writing, I think it is also way too extreme to say that I, that women, are trained to be whores, just from putting on a little make-up or buying a shirt, for example.
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