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August 15, 2006

Is Stupid Sexy?

Donald Pittenger writes:

I'm edging into Michael's turf here, but I'll chance it anyway.

Over the years I've seen a lot of calendars, centerfolds, and other non-porn media featuring girlie art. And over those same years I keep noticing the same thing:

Many (but not all) of the gals who pose for those pix look like they're really stupid.

You know, lacking in IQ of almost any dimension. Narrow-set eyes that don't seem capable of focusing. Pouty expressions. Etcetera, along with the requisite big rack.

Why is this so, fellow deep-thinking Blowhards fans?

Some possibilities:

  • Brainless big-boobed bimbos are what photographers can most easily recruit.

  • Said bimbos are what the target audience demands.

  • They really are sexy and Donald, the prude, doesn't get it (in all its meanings, nudge, nudge).

Kindly clue me in.



posted by Donald at August 15, 2006


How about, most people don't look very smart when photographed, and when you select for two or three standard deviations out on the 'babe' parameter you don't have very many who also look sagacious?

Posted by: dave s on August 15, 2006 11:52 AM

Dumb equals easily dominated. Yes, it's creepy and incomprehensible. I blogged the topic, specifically Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.

Posted by: Fredosphere on August 15, 2006 12:46 PM

Women who pose for girly pictures are, almost always, very young... usually 20 or younger. Everybody is dumb at that age... without exception.

"Dumb equals easily dominated."

Fredosphere's blog entry reeks with that fashionable hatred of men, and reminds me once again how men played so foolishlessly into the now five decade long hate campaign against men.

No, Fredosphere, beautiful women are often very smart. They understand the contempt that men like to express for other men. And they understand how they can benefit from it.

One of the really interesting features of Filipino culture is that Filipinos actually like and seek service jobs, nursing being one of the favorites for men and women. In the western mind, service equals submission. You might want to take a trip, Freosphere, to a part of the world that is not dominated by an obsession with domination and submission.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 15, 2006 1:23 PM

Um, I'll go out on a limb and say a combination of #1 and #2, with an emphasis on "what the target audience demands." As far as centerfolds are concerned, doesn't the target audience like 1) beautiful, and 2) dumb enough to let me talk her into feeling her boobs?

Just wondering. On the subject of #3, I don't necessarily think you're a prude, Donald, although I can't say for certain . . . but I do now have the good fortune to be married to a man who doesn't pay all that much attention to boobs unless they are attached to someone he loves . . . I don't think that's prudishness, just desirous of a personal connection.

Posted by: missgrundy on August 15, 2006 1:46 PM

It would be pretty hard to read "lack of IQ" in a person's facial expressions, which signal emotions. IQ refers, more or less, to abstract reasoning ability, sometimes called "fluid" intelligence. And if there's any change over time at all (the data is somewhat murky), this tends to decline somewhat as one gets into middle & old age (spatial reasoning & memory are more affected, I think, than verbal).

Maybe a better description is not a lack of intelligence, but an effacement of whatever intelligence level they may have. In the interviews I've seen or read with porn stars, they appear average in intelligence, with several above average (university degrees / MENSA membership / etc.), and some below-average of course. A lot of the younger stars have MySpace pages, and their interests are broader intellectually than you might suspect. More artsy than scientific, but always above the level of pop culture or nattering about current affairs. Given that hardly anyone, especially young people, reads anymore, it's surprising to find that they tend to read more than the average person does, and that they are more likely to have a "kill your TV" attitude than average.

I don't mind the effacement of intellect that erotic stuff tends to have. Not that showcasing her brains would be a turn-off sexually, but just orthogonal. I think intellect matters more when you're thinking of longer-term relationships, and the ability to stand their talk -- but college grads can come with annoying chatter-baggage too. More along the "cultural / ethnic studies" type of major, but you get the idea. Guys don't always have lots of interesting things to say either, but they tend to be much less chatty.

Posted by: agnostic on August 15, 2006 1:57 PM

I don't know if I'd agree with you about "that pose for those pix look like they're really stupid." However, as the far as the way a guy tends to look when eying those calendars and do-dads, I'll have to bow to Julie Brown's theory about men. In my humble experience, a guy's IQ dropped in direct correlation to the increase of the allegedly IQ-challenged aforementioned Brainless big-boobed bimbos' accoutremonts.

So, is it Bimbo or Bim-Beau? I, for one, am not sure and I'd rather leave it that way.

Posted by: DarkoV on August 15, 2006 1:59 PM

Smart, dumb, I can't tell. What I do know is that models look less friendly as the fashionability of the products they advertise increases. Maybe someone will explain why this is. A smile goes a long way toward making a person attractive.

Posted by: Jonathan on August 15, 2006 2:00 PM

Well, I also think you need to remember the target audience of girlie calendars. Typically (not always) they are hung up in auto repair shops, maintenance closets, etc. The guys aren't rocket scientists. They don't want girls who might actually be smarter than them. Plus, these girls need to be "challenge"...any guy could have them, or they can't be "any guys" fantasy.

Posted by: annette on August 15, 2006 2:14 PM

A guy don't want no brains. A guy wants AHNEEMAHL! Mamie Van Doren. Fay Spain. (Does anyone here remember Fay Spain?) Jeezuz! AHNEEMAHL!! That's what a guy wants. And all the feminist thought police in the world aint gonna change that fact. Thank you.

Posted by: ricpic on August 15, 2006 3:17 PM

Um, Annette, if you think rocket scientists aren't looking at those girls too, you might be in for a shocker. Women don't like guys who are smarter than they are either.

Attractive women are by far the most challenging to get. Way too many guys hit on these women, and competition is fierce (I tell ya'!). Guys like 'em cause they are hot!

Rather than belittle the guys, why not just enjoy the men in a similar fashion? It's all good by me.

BTW, I find intellignet women very attractive. I also find unintelligent women, even if good looking, not so good looking once their dumbness is revealed. Hot, nice, and high IQ is the ultimate.

Posted by: s on August 15, 2006 3:37 PM

Annette, that is completely wrong. Geeks are probably pining for "stupid" chicks more than anyone else, on account of the undeveloped social skills. Anyway, pin-ups aren't meant to represent the entire spectrum of male desire for women. They are meant to do one thing: visually convey uncomplicated, physical sex. An attractive body type is all that is required.

Posted by: the patriarch on August 15, 2006 4:03 PM

Maybe the fact that pin-up images are usually meant to sit out there, embodying male fantasies means that whatever might be diestinctive or individual about the gal gets kind of airbrushed (even if not literally) over? That's my own prob with much pin-up type art. I have nothing against it and am happy if people get paid and enjoy the turn-on, etc. But it usually feels bland to me -- I look at Playboy, for instance, with no interest at all, because the gals in it (pretty as they are, professionally as they're presented) look like they've already been through the wringer of someone else's imagination. Pre-digested, or something. There's nothing there for my own imagination to get to work on. But maybe all that pre-digesting is what erases any signs of intelligence from the girls. I tend to think there's a real gal back there somewhere -- hopes, dreams, peeves, etc. But I never get a glimpse of her.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 15, 2006 5:09 PM

I don't like the staged aspect of professional pin-ups. Amateur is way better. You know they're doing it for the excitement, both yours and (perhaps more importantly) theirs.

Posted by: the patriarch on August 15, 2006 5:33 PM

why not post a picture and then explain. maybe cruel, but what can u do?

Posted by: gavin on August 15, 2006 8:16 PM

Here we go again, back to the old war of erotic versus pornographic.

Is there truly a difference? I have always thought so, but the dictionary is not so precise.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on August 15, 2006 8:19 PM

After reading this post and all these comments, I can only come to one conclusion.

Yes, stupid is sexy.

Posted by: Wormbrain on August 15, 2006 9:29 PM

I think it has more to do with projecting an air of vulnerablity rather than stupidity, but I can see why there might be some crossover. Guys pick up on it like crazy, and are generally rendered helpless by their attraction to it.

Posted by: kurt on August 15, 2006 9:45 PM

When it comes to photographic aesthetics, I don't think there is any confusion.

First, there are pictures that can involve nudity without even being quite "erotic".

Then, there are straightforward erotic photos--tasteful yet sexual.

And then, there are the full-bore, staring-in-your-face high resolution beaver shots Again, no confusing them with anything else.

Posted by: onetwothree on August 15, 2006 10:16 PM

Maybe the predominance of stupid facial expressions, or is it merely vacuous rather than stoopid, is a measurement of what the photographers and their editors *think* men want, rather than an answer to men's demand for beautiful but stupid women?

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on August 16, 2006 12:18 AM

I would say pin ups don't look unintelligent just blank. As in the viewer can project whatever type of personality they prefer onto the pretty body. It's just for many that empty vacant look equals stupid.

Posted by: TW on August 16, 2006 12:22 AM

Don't sell the big rack short. All things being equal it goes a long way.

Posted by: grandcosmo on August 16, 2006 12:35 AM

Onetwothree -- Excellent research, tks!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 16, 2006 8:15 AM

"Smart, dumb, I can't tell. What I do know is that models look less friendly as the fashionability of the products they advertise increases. Maybe someone will explain why this is. A smile goes a long way toward making a person attractive."--Jonathan

You're absolutely right! I've never thought of that before, even after 30 or so years of reading the major women's fashion magazines. Interesting. I suppose it has to do with the product's exclusivity (are you really good enough for a $5,000 handbag) and the consumer's insecurity (I need a $5,000 handbag to feel worthwhile, impress others, etc.).

Posted by: beloml on August 16, 2006 9:35 AM

Yes, I really should have included an illustration of the "stupid" look that I discussed.

My excuses are: (1) I'm not into soft porn or even much into girlie stuff and therefore have limited knowledge and resources for finding the material, and (2) all my publications are boxed and sitting 60 miles from here so I can't dig out, say, an old car mag and scan an ad.

So I was hoping that readers had seen the sort of ad/calendar/centerfold where the gal's face suggests gray matter on the lower slope of the bell-curve.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on August 16, 2006 12:37 PM

Maybe that stupid look is just some models' attempts at coy and come-hither, or a kind of vague, goddessy, out-of-your-league desirableness, only, very few can actually, uh, pull it off.

Posted by: Flutist on August 16, 2006 12:59 PM

This is a very interesting subject to me! I've also noticed this. Do editors think "smart-looking" women will intimidate men? Do they associate smart with ugly? Are most models just dumb to begin with? I also wonder if the very fact of you sitting there for a photograph naked makes you look dumb and vulnerable, even if you are a nuclear scientist.

Posted by: Neil on August 16, 2006 2:34 PM

(1) How come I said the same thing as Michael and I got reemed and he didn't? I just said they can't be too distinctive or they don't work as pure fantasy. None of them look like they've got a great sense of humor either.

(2) Just an aside to patriarch and "s". Snottiness is really unattractive, too. Anybody who starts a sentence with "Uh, Annette..." is not projecting an air of vulnerability (women like that, too). The girls may look dumb, but they don't look like assholes.

Posted by: annette on August 16, 2006 2:55 PM

There must be something in the air. There is this post on related topic, and a day ago I picked up a detective story to read on a bus, Ngaio Marsh, Artists in Crime, where a beautiful model gets murdered mostly for overrating her own IQ...sad mistake, really.

Posted by: Tat on August 16, 2006 3:15 PM

onetwothree's second picture showed me this is a job I can sink my teeth into, so I did a little research. A great sacrifice, but I did it because I'm noble and valiant and such. I've noticed some interesting differences between old and new pinups.

Old pinups, it seems, are almost all built around accidents, however farfetched. You just walked in on her in a compromising pose and made her go "Ooooohhh!", or she did something stupid and hiked her skirts while going "Ooooohhh!", or she spilled something, hiked her skirts yet again, and said "Oh fiddle!", or she was just innocently but rather obtusely trying on a sweater or getting dressed. Some of these "accidents" stretch the limits of plausibility, others imply some kind of severe mental deficiency on the female's part, while still others border on assault, but all are built around "normal" babes in normal situations being playfully but accidentally exposed by events. What's more, all the girls/victims seem like they'll be happy about it once the "Ooooohhh!" factor wears off, as though their recent misfortune gives them an excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway. More old pinups here.

The modern pinups, on the other hand, are mostly based on the clichés of professional female display, clichés which are usually taken from either pornography or fashion modeling. Check out this porny one, with lighting that mimics a cheap Polaroid. (Another cheap Polaroid here.) Or this one in an all-white professional fashion studio. Or this one with its conventional fashion model's poses. And speaking of professionals, many have a whiff of the bordello about them, like this one and this one and this one. More modern pinups here.

So the short version is, we've gone from fantasizing about amateurs to fantasizing about professionals.

Posted by: Brian on August 16, 2006 3:36 PM

Maybe there's an unconscious bias to selecting models and/or shots that suggest an invitation to "mindless sex."

Tongue only partially in cheek here . . .

Posted by: Kirsten on August 16, 2006 9:21 PM

I thought I had Kirsten's "mindless sex" one evening at college. I woke up in the morning arms wrapped around a small tree and half-chewed leaves still in my mouth. I realized later it was a wicked combination of retsina and ouzo, something an Aussie acquaintance had crowned as Ouzina.

So, I guess I'm not sure what "mindless sex" is if memory can't be involved.

..and No! It wasn't against the law to be taking of advantage of young saplings in the state my college was located.

Posted by: DarkoV on August 17, 2006 8:13 AM

When the Supreme Court many years ago, decided that they couldn't define pornography, but they kneew it when they saw it, one Justice sai pornography is matter that "appeals to the prurient interest." Naive little me asked one of the top WallStreet attorneys what that meant. His considered respnse: "It gives you an erection." I shrugged my shoulders and decided that the Supreme Court wasn't getting much.

Posted by: DugoutDoug on August 21, 2006 5:34 PM

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