Monday, December 01, 2014

Related but not the same

Next to a car dealership on East Washington Avenue sits an enterprise whose sign sports scissors and the name "Lust BeautyWorks".

Am I alone in thinking this a trifle muddled?

There seem to be at least three attributes that get confused: sexy, attractive, beautiful. A few minutes thought should bring to mind women who are clearly more of one of the three but not so much of the other two. (I'm a man. Women can probably find men that fit similar categories, but I won't try to predict how that would work out.)

"What does he see in her?"

You know what I mean, I hope. A woman who doesn't seem to be particularly beautiful but people like to be around her--she's attractive. Another seems to radiate sex appeal, but seems unable to hold onto conquests reliably. And there's glamorous types who excite admiration and envy but aren't the first choice for dreams.

I'm thinking here of public attributes. Plenty of women and men who don't stop traffic are more than adequately sexy behind closed doors. If not there'd be many fewer children born. And the old husband who says his old wife is beautiful isn't kidding--he sees better than the simpleminded public eye does.

Maybe magazine covers(*) make it clearer. (Since Borders closed I don't see magazine stands so often, so I'm not up to date.) Playboy's covers, at least the ones I remember, featured beautiful women with an air of "You're here. Dinner can wait." The beauty was from a rather restricted palette, but was always beauty. It was always on the far side of the line, into erotica, but with enough plausible deniability that you could, for a moment, kid yourself that it was mostly about beauty. Other mags posed their models in postures designed to emphasize secondary sexual characteristics, regardless of whether this was a beautiful pose or not. Sex appeal was the goal, though it sometimes looked too silly to be appealing. But when Jackie Kennedy was on a cover, she was always made to look glamorous: beautiful but not sexy, and not very approachable either--except when the image made her seem helpless and in need of a defender.

If that's not clear, how about Ginger or Mary Ann? Mary Ann was played to appear approachable and attractive, not just beautiful; Ginger played to appear beautiful and slightly artificial, and not approachable and attractive. (And beside me is a Dominican University alumni magazine featuring an airbrushed young nurse with an attractive friendly smile.)

If you are young and healthy it is probably easier to take shortcuts with clothing and styles to appear sexy than it is to try to look beautiful. Teens in particular seem prone to taking these shortcuts. (Compare high school pictures today with those from 80 years ago.) But I suspect that the women who frequent Lust BeautyWorks would prefer to excite admiration for their beauty rather than lust, at least from the general population. Though I could be wrong again.

(*) "magazine covers" = superficiality squared

1 comment:

The Mad Soprano said...

My observation is that magazines such as "Shape" are designed primarily to show off sexy half-naked women. As "Cosmopolitan" wasn't bad enough.