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November 08, 2004



I've started to watch a couple of Britney's recent videos, and have been forced to look away.

If you think that's bad, I strongly suggest you don't actually try listening to them.


I thought "Hit me Baby, one more time" was great -- despite the disturbing first two words of the track. It's been all downhill since then.


It's also bizarre the way they see a contradiction between waiting for sex and then liking it when you do have it. Our culture has this strange idea that you must be either for or against sex, in some sort of universal way.


Wow, loved it again Hugo.


Hugo, I would argue that there is a vast difference between craving attention and craving validation, too. Someone who likes to be looked at doesn't necessarily have a gap in her self-esteem she is trying to fill.


Well, Amanda, I think that may be true for adult women -- but do you really think most teenagers are crystal clear on that distinction?


Not the majority, but I do think it confuses them further to equate one with the other. When dealing with teenagers, I think it's hard to check our censorious urges, but check them we must or they won't trust adults. I would explore ways to explain these distinctions, which is hard, no doubt, but necessary.


Agreed. Helping young people to own their sexuality (rather than repressing it or buying in to media stereotypes) is hard work.


Well said, Hugo.

In a cynical way, though, aren't those commodifying their sexuality being as smart as our culture will let them? You either give it away for love or you sell it, and there's only one of those that will make sure you have a nest egg when your hair starts to gray.


Absolutely amazing. Right on!


I found you by mistake, but THANKYOU for saying this so eloquently. A great deal of my 19 year old friends refuse to stand for this side because they fear it will make them look "uptight" or sexually repressed in the face of a male. That, or they're accustomed to the kind of jargon displayed in that article you commented on.
So thankyou again. (It's especially nice to know it's not just a female concern)


And guess what? There ARE girls that age who ARE asexual. I was one of them.

I think this sort of thing just goes into the whole thing of "if you are a part of a certain demographic, fuck your individuality, we will tell you what you really want, becuase you have to be just like everybody else."


Even those who delight in the power their sexuality gives them will find out that that power begins to diminish rapidly as their age.

This is true. Conversely, men gain in power/wealth/status as they get into middle age, and this gives them more attractive to women. So we see the phenomenon of older male-younger woman.

There are numerous books and website which tell men how to exploit this situation, or, if you will, to understand how the real world works.


You know, I have got to edit my stuff before posting it!

Should have been: "Conversely, men gain in power/wealth/status as they get into middle age, and this makes them more attractive to women."

Hugo-- nice gizmo you got for preventing spamming your site!


Prizing perfect breasts and sculpted cheekbones is as oppressive to women as prizing an intact hymen.

Well I agree with most of the points you raise, both in this and the numerous other entries concering gender in your blog, this one strikes me as extremely absurd and unfair. Unlike the example your produce of the 'intact hymen,' appreciating a woman's appearance need not imply a judgement as to her ultimate worth, only the level of attraction one feels towards her. 'Prizing an intact' hymen, on the other hand, is tied into the binary distinction between virgins and other women; with the latter being accorded very little value.

As humans, we naturally enjoy beauty and there is no more sublime beauty than that of a woman. One may object that it is unfair to elevate beautiful women because of their beauty, since it may make less attractive women insecure. But then one should also object to galleries exhibiting the work of Matisse because the extraordinary beauty of his paintings will make less talented artists insecure, and the same for the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven, or the the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Perhaps I should complain that the quality of your thought and prose makes me insecure about my own abilities.

No, it is never wrong to admire beauty or excellence, so long as we do not fall into the trap of appreciating women for their appearance alone, while ignoring other qualities and achievements. Take the aforementioned Christina for instance, I like her both for her amazing voice and songwriting talent, and for her stunning appearance. I am not ashamed of this because I admire women for all the countless qualties that make up who they are as people, without needing to pretend that I appreciate women in an aesthetic way as well.

In any case, this is a great site, keep up the good work!


That should be 'that I don't appreciate women in an aesthetic way as well.' Sorry.


Matisse, Mozart, Beethoven, and Plath created their beauty using their talent, intellect, and creativity. Not their physicality.

As humans, we naturally enjoy beauty and there is no more sublime beauty than that of a woman.

Can you find beauty in all women, or only women that are as "perfect" as Cristina? If we decide that only women who match a certain "standard" (thin body, large eyes, large breasts, whatever) are attractive, what does that do to the value of other women who don't fit those standards?


It just may be that the world us unfair, and that people who possess "beauty" will have an edge over those who do not.


Matisse, Mozart, Beethoven, and Plath created their beauty using their talent, intellect, and creativity. Not their physicality.

The difference being? Some people are born with incredible gifts of intelligence, or an aptitude for some particular skill, and others are born with great physical beauty. To address the obvious counter that Beethoven, Mozart or Plath, had to work at writing beautiful symphonies and poems, we should not forget that even very attractive people have to work at enhancing and maintaining their looks. Nor can we overlook the fact that - and I say this to take nothing away from the remarkable determination and persistence these individuals possessed - their inherent genius and affinity for their vocations meant that excellence in these domains came a lot easier (for lack of a better word) to Plath, Beethoven and Mozart in their respective domains, than it would for most of us; in fact, I suspect that no matter how hard some of us might try, we could never reproduce the same standard of work. To be sure, there is little in the way of common measure in terms of the effort involved, between the composition of the Fifth Symphony and attiring oneself in such a way as to maximize one's natural allure. However, given that there is a degree of achievement as well as inheritance involved in both, this serves as a sufficient demonstration that no fixed or absoloute distinction can be drawn between gifts of the mind and gifts of the body.

Can you find beauty in all women, or only women that are as "perfect" as Cristina? If we decide that only women who match a certain "standard" (thin body, large eyes, large breasts, whatever) are attractive, what does that do to the value of other women who don't fit those standards?

Yes of course, read the last paragraph of my original comment again, specifically the part where I warn against falling 'into the trap of appreciating women for their appearance alone.' I may not find all women physically attractive and to assert that I do would once again, be extremely dishonest. Not to mention the fact that we do not, on the personal level, 'decide' who we find attractive -- that is up to the confluence of biological, psychological and social factors over which conscious decision making can exert but the faintest and most artificial influence. To maintain otherwise is really to assent to the argument advanced by so many fundamentalist Christian groups who believe that people can be 'cured' of their homosexuality because the attraction is entirely volitional.

But the question, can I 'find beauty in all women?' Well, one might as well ask the question with regards to people in general, whereupon I would answer that: for the most part, yes. Almost everyone has some 'beautiful' qualities that are expressed in manifold ways. As contradictory as it sounds, even physical beauty is not the preserve of the 'young and beautiful' (so to speak); who can deny, for instance, the beauty the ancient, weatherbeaten countenances of Hopi Indians in Edward S. Curtis' famous photographs? Needless to say, I'm only recapitulating what I was careful to qualify in my original comment, so I recommend a more attentive review was/is in order before implying that being attracted to beautiful women somehow makes one complicit in the devaluation of women at large. Not only is it a blatantly absurd and unjust charge to begin with (hence the source of my objection to Mr. Schwyzer's article) but then to take the straw-man approach of attacking someone for supposedly advocating something they themselves clearly condemned is either underhanded or a sign of wilful ignorance.


I just nodded my way through all of that. Bloody fantastic.


Great thread! Thank you Hugo! Interesting to read the direction of the comments from commodity to discussions of 'beauty' - perhaps an important disctintion is that what is being adressed is sex appeal. Women's bodies seem to be the icon for sex, which sells, as Hugo mentioned. I wonder what the folks on this thread think about the potential of cycle-breaking here? The inherent dilemma of these conditions is increasingly turning towards safety. The numbers of sexually assaulted, raped and abused young women are growing. Just rencently Dolce & Gabbana created an ad alluding to men raping a woman - thankfully the Spanish and Italian government demanded it be withdrawn. But it amazes me it got that far. From the company to the designers, photographers, models - these people actually thought it was okay too! The commodification of the body seems to be granting "permission" to devalue it. It is no longer bodies that are attracting attention - it is the vulnerable body. The fetishization of young women, child-like poses, or worse, victims - which was recently a theme that America's Top Model aired in March - a terrible precedent to sexual assault awareness month!

Martin Sutherland

Good piece. On a whim I typed 'body commodity' into Google and got here. Nothing is more damaging than the equation of 'empowerment' with supposedly self-directed commodification.

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