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June 05, 2004

What To Do About the Shrubbery?

How do media images affect our erotic responses and demands?

Ahhh, let us not be fools, version #1: We're in charge. We know perfectly well that media images are made-up, fake, fantasy. And we enjoy them -- or don't enjoy them -- as such. In fact, while gabbing recently with some younger guys I happened to say that I find the Pam Anderson, all-silicone 24/7 look unappealing. My young chums laughed and said that they like the look. They know that the hair, the boobs, and the lips are all fake; and they know perfectly well that for an image to achieve such vinyl flawlessness Photoshop has to be taxed to the max. But they just dig the results. As far as they're concerned, enjoying such an image has about as much significance as killing a time in front of the Cartoon Network, or playing with a videogame.

Ahhh, let us not be fools, version #2: Who do we think we're kidding? Peer pressure is a formidable force, our imaginations and souls get imprinted on in ways we don't expect, and popular culture is a dynamic and immense force dedicated to reaching deep inside and having its way with our very beings.

My own feeling is that both these responses have a lot going for them. If, on the one hand, I'd never be caught arguing that our actions and responses are determined by our experiences with popular culture, on the other hand it seems absurd to maintain that our responses and experiences aren't conditioned by them. After all, if these images aren't having something of an effect, why is the culture so devoted to generating them?

Which are nothing but some minor musings prompted by a letter to a underground newspaper's sex columnist, found via Daze Reader, here. A teenage girl writes in with a question: should she keep her pubic hair or shave it off? She's in a quandary because she doesn't want to do the nude-pudenda thing, yet potential boyfriends are telling her that they find bushy girl-crotches a turn-off. The sex columnist delivers some sympathy, and advises the girl to compromise with a landing-strip-style pubic 'do. (The exchange can be read here.)

Not a question that ever perplexed the '70s generation, of course. But while scanning porn sites, I've learned that what '70s people considered a normal bush has become a fetish style-thing of its own, known as "hairy." There are guys cruising the web who are on the look-out for "hairy" images, just as there are others on the lookout for boot-licking or bondage imagery. How bizarre that what was once thought of as natural has rematerialized as another option on the cyberworld's infinite menu of styles.

Randall Parker does a lot of substantial thinking about how compare/contrast opportunities affect our conceptions of what's desirable here.

posted by Michael at June 5, 2004


I am sorry, but I couldn't help but think of these bushisms: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; bushwackers; bushy bushy blonde hair-do; beat around the bush; the burning bush; good wine needs no bush; Busch Gardens; Busch Bavarian (the last two with a deviation in spelling, but proununciation is same, of course)

Anyone care to venture more?

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on June 6, 2004 10:24 PM

We came across a stack of 1970s era Penthouse and Oui magazines in cleaning out my grandfather's house, recently. Our first impressions were, wow, these "hardcore" images are extremely tame! Less provocative, certainly, than the modern day Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. And airbrushed to the point that I was taking my glasses off to see if they were fogged.

The only thing making the pictures look particularly naughty, spicy, or exotic were the, ahem, wooly masses of ungroomed pubic hair. I wonder when the change in porn-shaving style took place? How exotic did it seem when the first centerfold unfolded sans bush?

Posted by: Nate on June 7, 2004 10:52 AM

Oh my goodness! Young men are trying to convince young women to do something by using the argument that "all the girls do it"? Surely we are living in end times.

Perhaps the girl, who does not seem to have been in gym lockers or Loehman's dressing rooms, could ask a gynecologist about shaving habits among her peer group. She might also want to think about the maintenance requirements of certain fashion statements.

M. Blowhard, these teen males you chatted with - what do their real life GFs look like? One assumes the boys themselves are all ripped and buffed and clear-skinned.

Nate - FWIW, the standard trope is the shaving, in mainstream porn, was the next logical step after what 70s editors called "showing pink." Fems like to argue that it's all about pedo. Personally, I doubt there's much logic or reason to any of it. Men are just men. How complicated can it be?

Cowtown Pattie - Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? How could you miss that one! Was it too squirrely?

Posted by: j.c. on June 7, 2004 11:18 AM

Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed! How COULD I have forgotten that one? Psht, and I call myself southern. Thanks, J.C.!

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on June 7, 2004 12:02 PM

At some point, the haircuts, color, highlights, fake tan, manicure, pedicure, facials and Brazilian bikini waxes become expensive and time-consuming. So, are the young lads who prefer a clean shave turned on by the smooth look or by the air of exclusivity? Men probably prefer the former, women the latter.

Posted by: C. S. Froning on June 7, 2004 6:53 PM

I might propose that it is perhaps the novelty that fulfills the male need for something different and exotic. Once it becomes trendy, it no longer may be as alluring. Years ago, I watched a young man as he watched an older, extremely attractive woman who chose not to shave her underarms. The poor kid was practically panting and couldn't take his eyes off of her.

Posted by: susan on June 7, 2004 11:44 PM

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