Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More on "the Sexy".

I do not find women who exceed a certain weight-to-height ratio sexually attractive.

I just don't.

My tastes in this regard are probably a lot wider than, say, a Parisian fashion designer, but still there's just some body types I don't find sexy, and that's just how it is.

(Just for completeness' sake: I tolerate skinny a lot better, but there is a point where skinny becomes anorexic. And I mean real anorexia, not "OMG that celebrity is anorexic and I hate that she's famous and thin". Skeletal isn't my bag, either.)

How did I come to prefer what I prefer? I dunno. How do people become gay or lesbian?

I doubt, however, that it was society drilling into my brain that "thin is sexy" repeatedly.

For me, at least, what I find sexy is just there in my head. And anyone trying to tell me that I should find Person X also sexy is going to succeed or fail based on what triggers the old lizard brain, not any inherent fairness or unfairness in my perceptions.

So every once in a while someone says something similar to "well, they should add more realistic body types to comics heroines, so that there's some normal-weight people in there." And then some other people say, "Ew, I don't want to see average or heavy-looking superheroines, that's not sexy." And replies to THAT sometimes go like, "You're just brainwashed by society into thinking that these scrawny women are sexy! If the media had more heavy sex symbols, heavy would be sexy!"

Nnnnnnnnoo. I don't think so.

Look, it's rare, but there've been points where heavy meets sexy. Cameron whatsername on that lawyer show, The Practice. A host of Jerry Springer episodes titled "I LOVES MAH FAT WOMANS" or something like that. There's fat porn. And to some that is sexy, but thinking about it makes me shudder in proportion to the weight involved. Because the covers of magazines like Maxim or FHM feature taut, bikini-clad women of within a certain body mass index, I can infer that a majority of people think in a similar fashion to me. Yes, heavy people fall in love, have relationships, I've seen it in person. Lucky them, that they found people that find heavy attractive. But there's a reason why sex symbols, models and movie stars tend to be thin, and it's not a conspiracy of the fashion designers and Hugh Hefner.

Not like I want to deliberately hurt anyone's feelings by saying "you're fat, so I don't find you sexually attractive", but there it is, and maybe you're a wonderful, beautiful soul under that cellulite, but if you're overweight, that's just going to limit how deep our relationship goes. Whether that's fair or not, that's how it is. And you can't impose different standards for attractiveness on me just because we should all be all understanding and not judging people by their looks. Adding, what, fifty pounds to the physique of many a superheroine would make them that much less appealing to me.

Tell me - would you want a 250-pound Nightwing running around? Or better yet, a 350-pound Guy Gardner? His ring's power comes from his mind, so he doesn't have to actually keep fit, he could scarf Cheetos down constantly inbetween buying buckets at the KFC...

13 comments:

Mizake said...

I got confused by the following part:

'So every once in a while someone says something similar to "well, they should add more realistic body types to comics heroines, so that there's some normal-weight people in there." And then some other people say, "Ew, I don't want to see average or heavy-looking superheroines, that's not sexy." And replies to THAT sometimes go like, "You're just brainwashed by society into thinking that these scrawny women are sexy! If the media had more heavy sex symbols, heavy would be sexy!"'

It confused me because the conversation seemed to go something like this:

A: Put more normal-looking women in comics.
B: But I don't find them sexy.
A: That's because of the media.

When the conversation should have gone something like this:

A: Put more normal-looking women in comics.
B: But I don't find them sexy.
A: ...and?

I'm not sure if I missed a meeting where the primary focus of superhero comics was moved directly from vicarious wish-fulfillment into specifically sexual fantasy, but that's the impression I get.

Anonymous said...

"If the media had more heavy sex symbols, heavy would be sexy!"

Nnnnnnnnoo. I don't think so.


Actually, I think you're wrong. Sexuality isn't *just* the lizard brain, it's also conditioning. That's how standards of beauty change.

As an anecdotal aside: I lived in a small town for twenty years. No black people. Also, I didn't find black people physically attractive, generally. Now I live in a city, and work with black people and see them everyday. I'm seeing some of them as attractive. Once it became normal to me, I could see it as attractive. So even for one person, beauty standards can change.

Lexi said...

Yeah, society and media images has more to do with it than you realize. Back in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, rounder women were considered beautiful-- you can't see the ribs on Botticelli's Venus.

Anon, A Mouse said...

mizake:

Sexual fantasy is somehow not vicarious wish fulfillment? If sexual fantasy had never been involved in superheroes, Phantom Lady would have started out dressed in sensible gear, like maybe sweatshirt/sweatpants, or even body armor.

lexi:

Boticelli's Venus is still well within the height/weight ratio I consider attractive, and she wouldn't be out of place on the cover of Playboy.

To be fair, I think the way some folks squawk about how the latest issues of Supergirl have her drawn all fat and dumpy is nonsensical as well.

There have been times when women I would consider overweight were considered desirable. However, some of that gets mitigated when you realize that they were desirable not as sex partners but as breeding stock - i.e., a heavier woman was better fed and less likely to die in childbirth, and would produce healthier children.

Not exactly a time of seeing people's inner beauty, there.

Rational Mad Man said...

Anon a Mouse.
Great postys all, very well thought out. IOt wont do much good to convince anyone but thats not your fault. I doubt I have enough traffic myself to give you any further reach, but after reading your posts I decided to highlight you on my blog.
http://rationalmadman.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-blogger-worth-reading.html
Keep it up.

V_Vendeta said...

I don't think all female characters must be sexy. If so, then we should get rid of Aunt May.

The thing is that you can have female characters whose atractive it's not physical but that you find interesting to read any way.

And you still would have Mary Jane bending for you even if they don't get rid of Aunt May, so I don't see how you lose sexy by adding other kind of female characters.

V_V

Lexi said...

Yes, but how many women with Botticelli's Venus's proportions do you see in the media/in comics? And portrayed as desirable? I can only think of one: Francine from Strangers in Paradise. So why not more?

Anon, A Mouse said...

Lexi:

Hm. I dunno, I find Francine (as shown by Google search on her SIP website character page) to look a bit heaver than the Venus. Certainly not a behemoth or anything, but I wouldn't have personally considered them a match in weight.

I won't deny that modern trends are for thinner stars and models, but old girlie pics from the 60's and 70's had women who were not obese, but not rail thin, either. (Didn't that "Twiggy" model appear somewhere during that time?)

Anonymous:

"So even for one person, beauty standards can change."

I had to think about this one for a while. Personally, I've been around fat people for years, and never found the obese to be sexually interesting. I haven't changed much, myself, regarding what I find attractive, and I've lived in all sorts of places.

I don't want to question the veracity of your statement too much, but I do kind of wonder if what was happening was that you had always had an attraction to that body type inherent in your being, but it was only once you'd lived near them and become used to them that it surfaced, that is to say, you were nervous about living near them at the start and you only considered attractiveness when you became more relaxed in their presence.

v_vendeta:

"I don't think all female characters must be sexy. If so, then we should get rid of Aunt May."

Well, okay, I confess I could have been clearer. Not every female character must be a sexpot. But by that token, Aunt May isn't going out dressed in spandex and whupping Doc Ock's butt across Manhattan. She's a supporting character, a "normal" person.

What I would not want is for someone to dress Aunt May up in a tight-fitting Ms. Marvel costume and try to tell me she was sexy. I just burped a chunk or two up in my mouth there. Now, there may be some geriatric fanciers who think that would be hot. (AAAAAAA) Not me. And no matter how much she would be a "realistic" person with a realistic body type, you could not convince me in any way that she was sexy.

Mizake said...

Anon:

Sexual fantasy is somehow not vicarious wish fulfillment? If sexual fantasy had never been involved in superheroes, Phantom Lady would have started out dressed in sensible gear, like maybe sweatshirt/sweatpants, or even body armor.

I didn't say that there was no sexual element in such wish-fulfillment; such things are, it could be said, in the eye - or the hormones - of the beholder.

What I simply disagree with, and what your hypothetical conversation seemed to suggest, is that the sexual element is and should be the primary focus of superhero comics. That if one does not feel sexually attracted to a female character - or male, depending on one's preference - then that character, and by association that comic, is of no interest.

I don't go to comics for erotic thrills; such things are far more easily obtained in other media, or for that matter in other comic genres. The implication seems to be that without the erotic element, comics featuring superheroines hold no interest for you.

I certainly appreciate a frisson of sexuality in my (age-appropriate) comics, but the lack of it wouldn't make me abandon a title out of boredom or distaste.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"What I simply disagree with, and what your hypothetical conversation seemed to suggest, is that the sexual element is and should be the primary focus of superhero comics."

That was my fault for writing it in a bad, disjointed manner. I don't want to say it should be the primary focus. I read and enjoy a number of different comics, some sexy, some far from sex-oriented.

I guess what this really is about is the whole "we don't want to take your sexy away" theme. I'd actually have not a lot of fault with the general idea if it didn't seem like some people did want to take "the sexy" away by trying to re-define what *I* (or others) think is sexy.

"This isn't sexy (or should not be sexy), so it's safe to take away! See? We didn't take the sexy away! We only took away what we said isn't sexy!"

"But, I do think that was sexy..."

"Oh, here, have Aunt May in a Ms. Marvel costume! That's sexy and realistic!"

(Sound of gouging eyes out.)

V_Vendeta said...

I think you are making an strawman. Don't take it bad, but nobody said you should find Aunt May sexy, what they said is that they want more variety. And some people could find Francine o Gert sexy. They don't take away miss Marvel by putting Gert in runaways, only give more choices to the readers.

And again, there was Destiny, old, wore spandex and was an interesting character even if no one find her sexy XD

philippos42 said...

I think your argument went off the rails when you seemed to decide that of course all superheroes are supposed to be sexy, & for that matter, sexy to you.

(And speaking of rails, Twiggy was rail-thin. Scary.)

I don't find Batman sexy. Just don't. He looks like a guy I'd want to punch in the face. I find the Ray sympathetic, but sexy might be pushing it. I'm not so much into guys. If I were, maybe I'd be into Nightwing; even as a straight guy, I can see the sexy there.

Now, female characters, some of them are sexy. Donna Troy is sexy. Jessica Drew is sexy. Lia "Looker" Briggs is sexy, & a good thing; that's her schtick.

But there are plenty of female characters that are sympathetic & interesting to me, that aren't exactly sexy to me. I like Wolfsbane from New Mutants & X-Factor, but not necessarily in that way. Someone else might find her sexy, & I can see it, but it's not the sexy that makes her interesting, or even that makes her likable. Same deal with Storm, whom I love as a character. Is she sexy? Sure. Is that what's important about her, what makes her attractive to me as a character? Not so much. I started on X-Men asa kid, where I identified with Kitty & Illyana as the kid characters, so I like Storm as this cool "older sister" character, like she was to Kitty. Her sexuality is just a small part of her.

And then there are characters like Amanda Waller from Suicide Squad, who's not built for spandex & knows it. She's not a super-type in tights; she gives characters like that their orders. Not sexy to me, maybe to somebody; but I love the Wall like you wouldn't believe.

Good characters != sexy characters.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to question the veracity of your statement too much, but I do kind of wonder if what was happening was that you had always had an attraction to that body type inherent in your being, but it was only once you'd lived near them and become used to them that it surfaced, that is to say, you were nervous about living near them at the start and you only considered attractiveness when you became more relaxed in their presence.

You misunderstand me - I was never nervous about living near black people, and I am not now attracted to 'black people' en masse. Simply, as I had more direct experience with them, I found some of them attractive and some of them not - just as I do with white people.

However, some of that gets mitigated when you realize that they were desirable not as sex partners but as breeding stock - i.e., a heavier woman was better fed and less likely to die in childbirth, and would produce healthier children.

Not exactly a time of seeing people's inner beauty, there.


I don't think you've thought that through. Sexual attraction is based in the desire for good breeding stock, (lizard brain) but modified by conditioning. That's why 'sexy' weights alter, but the hip/waist ratio remains fairly constant through most of history.

The Venus de Milo was not depicted with forty-two inch hips because the sculptor thought she'd carry healthier babies - he was sculpting a goddess of love, with lush flesh and generous curves.