Breast in Show
Snide Remarks #187
"Breast in Show"
by Eric D. Snider
Published in The Daily Herald on July 11, 2001
A few weeks ago, The Daily Herald received a large envelope containing a copy of the Spring 2001 Victoria's Secret catalog, accompanied by a handwritten note reading: "Victoria's Secret is out .... (She's a SLUT!!!) I resent this pornography being sent to me!!!!" I am not sure what the complainant wanted us to do about it, but if her wish was to be made fun of in my column, I imagine she'll be pretty happy now.
I thumbed through the catalog many, many times, often with a magnifying glass, and was unable to locate any pornography. I found quite a few pictures of women in their underclothes, but nothing exhibiting "sexually explicit behavior ... intended to arouse sexual excitement," which is how the dictionary defines pornography. There wasn't even anything "offensive to accepted standards of decency," which is the dictionary definition of "obscene." Nor was there anything resembling "a sliding wood or iron grille suspended in the gateway of a fortified place," which is the definition of "portcullis," which is a word I just learned.
Actually, it's possible the second half of that "pornography" definition applies: "intended to arouse sexual excitement." Surely the people who make the Victoria's Secret catalog are not unaware of the effect it has on some men, i.e., it makes them hot. However, I doubt that's the actual PURPOSE of the catalog. I suspect the purpose of the catalog is to sell frilly underwear, and the getting-men-hot thing is just a side effect.
Anyway, the Victoria's Secret war heated up a few days ago, when local mother Tina Rivera walked past the Victoria's Secret in Ye Olde Provo Towne Centre Malle and was shocked and appalled to see a shocking and appalling poster in the window. Tina Rivera's 6-year-old son saw the poster, too, and immediately burst into puberty. Tina Rivera's head exploded. The mall caught fire. The world ended. (Remember?)
Tina Rivera was so shocked and appalled, she drafted a document called "A Mother's Plea" and had it posted at FamilyNook.com. [You can see an archived copy of the letter here.] In this letter, she urges people to take action against stores like Victoria's Secret, which force "lewd and sexual images" on unsuspecting passersby. She also described the poster as "soft pornography" and compared it to pornographic pictures she once saw as a child.
Immediately upon learning of this exciting development in breast publicity, I headed down to Victoria's Secret to see if the poster was as bad as Tina Rivera said. As it turns out, Tina Rivera could be a medal-winning athlete in the Utah Olympic sport of Making a Big Deal out of Nothing. First of all, her description of the poster -- "a naked woman who only covered herself with her hands" -- is inaccurate. The woman is wearing panties (thus making her un-naked), and she covers her bosoms with her arms. I had imagined a woman looking right at the camera, barely covering her breasts with her hands, when in fact it is a side view, and very little cleavage is actually shown, as her arms cover most of it. It's a case of implied nudity.
Furthermore, the picture is far from "lewd and sexual." It's certainly not "sexual," as the expression on the woman's face is benign, and the photo has no other people in it. And the dictionary says "lewd" means "preoccupied with sex," which seems like a better description of Tina Rivera than of the poster.
I see the poster as perfectly appropriate for Victoria's Secret, as it shows the store's ideal customer: someone who needs to buy a bra. Surely there are more important social ills to address, such as people who feel comfortable using words like "slut" in anonymous correspondence with newspapers.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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