I was lingerie shopping yesterday, and as I wandered through the aisles of lacy, frilly underpinnings, it got me to thinking….
I’m old enough that my first bloom of youth was over 20 or 30 years ago (depending on your definition of ‘first bloom’). It was fun back then, shopping for alluring underwear, and I don’t mean just because I had a younger, more underwear-friendly body. There was the whole anticipatory factor: choosing some sexy undies that, when revealed, would wow your boyfriend/husband and give you both a bit of an illicit, risque, out-of-the-ordinary thrill.
It used to be easier, I think, for a woman to be enticing, and for a man to get excited about his girlfriend’s or wife’s body (and her sexy underwear), because there was a pretty good chance that hers was the only body he had visual access to. Sure, porn was available. But to see some random female’s undressed body, a guy back in the ’80s or early ’90s had to physically walk into the drugstore and buy a magazine or go to an ‘adult bookstore’ or strip club.
Now, all he has to do Now, he doesn’t have to do anything, besides be breathing and online.
Whether they want to be or not, men are subjected to a non-stop barrage of electronic titillation. Website advertisers know that a picture of a shapely woman with an enticing headline will generate clicks, so they offer a constant stream. “Clickable content” found on a couple of news websites after a cursory search included the NFL’s most beautiful wives and girlfriends, seduction techniques ‘women can’t resist,’ 28 hottest actresses, most outrageous wardrobe malfunctions, etc. You get the idea. Not to mention the countless “look-at-me-i’m-so-sexy!” selfies that hapless (hopeless?) women post on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.
And of course, that doesn’t include the non-porn websites that are nonetheless filled with half-naked vixens: Esquire magazine’s “Women We Love,” Maxim magazine’s “Hometown Hotties” and “Girls of Maxim,” Sports Illustrated’s “Hot Clicks,” Men’s Health’s “Sexiest Women Ever,” and on and on.
How can any real woman compete with a cyber-fantasy seductress who’s been photoshopped to perfection? We can’t. And how many images of perfect women do men (especially young men) have to see before the idea starts to embed deep in their brains somewhere that this is how a woman should look to be desirable? And how many images before a guy gets so desensitized that anything less than perfection (i.e., a real woman’s body) just isn’t really all that exciting or impressive?
The pervasiveness of provocative photos of women’s bodies blunts the mystique and allure and anticipatory excitement of what used to be the big ‘reveal.’ Once upon a time, there was a delectable moment when a woman undressed and her partner was treated to what was, back then, not a mundane sight—the naked female form—something that was ‘special,’ as quaint as that sounds today. An intimate couple had a tacit agreement: a woman wrapped herself up in fun lingerie as a ‘gift’ exclusively and especially for ‘her’ man, and the man appreciatively received her that way. Although men at that time were surrounded by, and admired, clothed women’s bodies all the time, an unclothed one was something that wasn’t on display very much.
The ubiquitousness of naked women in our world, I think, has made the big reveal in the bedroom rather anticlimactic. It’s reduced the frisson of shared excitement and intimacy between men and women. And it makes a lingerie shopper more likely to fleetingly think: “Meh. Why bother? Racy undies or not, there’s no way I can compare with the dozens of beautiful bodies he’s already stumbled across in the cyberworld.”
Not that I’ll stop shopping for lovely underthings. I enjoy wearing them for myself, regardless of whether or not they impress anyone else. But sometimes I think it was probably more fun being a woman—and a man, for that matter—before the internet could fulfill our fantasies in just one click.