Who hasn’t looked at Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Seven Year Itch” photo of her straddling a NYC subway grate blowing up her skirt and thought of this summer’s scorching heatwave?
Has the heat been sexy for you? It hasn’t been for me. But then, it never is since I live in the desert and am used to 115° for four months. The nights only go down to a microwave blast of 90°. We pray for rain. Anything but fire. Some like it hot … but fire isn’t sexy either. Heat is a way of life in my world. My AC tech is listed a notch higher than my doctor on my emergency call list.
Yet, “Summer in the City” used to be sexy. Less clothes, more on-the-street action — being sweaty looks hot. Now I wonder what sexy even means anymore since we don’t exactly live in flirty times. Then again, I am not “the market” since I am over 75. Still, new definitions of “desirable” will soon be upon us.
Apparently, underarm hair is making a comeback. Popular model Emily Ratajkowski believes “Letting my body hair grow out is what makes me feel sexy.” This has become a trend with many young female and non-binary celebrities. Who can keep up? Who wants to?
But here is something worth looking at – Hulu’s three-part documentary from brilliant director Matt Tyrnauer – Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons. It takes you through the whole history from the company’s “Mythic Victoria” (a well-bred Brit) to the “action hero angels” in giant silver wings and guns. Ah … those popular monthly catalogues and bordello decorated stores, the porn appeal of all those TV runway specials! The documentary takes you right up to the “odd relationship” between VS owner Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein. Do all roads always lead to Epstein’s massage table and his Lolita express?
What an amazing story of fashion and marketing’s rise to fall, and a history of sexuality in our culture. Imagine just two years ago (in the wake of the #MeToo movement) VS models were still strutting down runways in stilettos, thongs, and pushup bras … with those giant “Angels in America” wings. Heidi Klum’s career was made in that explosion. Now she has no comment or maybe she “aged out” of being just another set of “boobs in thongland.”
The movie emphasizes how the company’s men in power, and powerful men in general, envisioned women to look like this!
But now VS has entered into a rebranding moment. Wexner is out. Epstein is dead. #MeToo has wobbled and VS sales have tumbled. The store is no longer a “base camp” for most malls. So no more “Angels,” we are now getting “Diversity; ten “accomplished” women of varying ages, skin color, and size “looking comfortable in simple bras and panties.” The message is “comfortable is sexy.” To me it means boring is the new hot.
So here we are with what is considered sexy without insults to nonbinaries and extremes.
Cool has always been sexy (Steve McQueen taught us that). But isn’t “functionality” just a yawn in the end? And why does everything nowadays have to be sexualized (and politicized)? That’s what got us into #MeToo (and severe bipartisanship) trouble in the first place. Truthfully, everyone has to find their own allure in and out of bras and panties.
But the truth is … VS’s “plain and comfy” rebranding is still being beaten by Rihanna’s seductive Savage X Fenty and Kim Kardashian skims. In the end, money is the ultimate sex bomb and Rihanna and Kim are huge moneymakers — bosom, ass, and all.
I am one of those who say I liked the era of tits and ass. Who wants to look at seriously overweight bodies in “utilitarian” neutral toned giant contour bras? Does inclusiveness really sell? It seems Dove and Aerie ads started this diversity trend of women in “underwear” (don’t say “panties” anymore). But have they changed the landscape at all?
The truth is porn killed sexiness. It numbed us all to any real sensuality. After all, sexiness involved a certain mystery, not “let it all hang out.” We “hung it all out” for a long time, and now have to pull it all back. Maybe sexiness has to become more creative and connective. Covid killed most human connection, and therefore we feel less “available.”
Masks never made it — even in bondage. And computer dating is not really the same as relating up close and personal.
So here we are, in our social media time where everyone craves attention, sexy or not. Whether it’s Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (wasn’t their marriage a way to reboot a movie gig or streaming series?) or Meghan and Harry who continually bore us with their damaged egos and seemingly avid social concerns. As NY Post columnist Maureen Callahan observed; “Meghan Markle revealed for what she really is — a Kardashian.”
What person today (with an Instagram account) isn’t craving their own Kardashian moment? It’s as if nobody can stand being alone and unrecognizable.
I leave you with last week’s viral appearance of super-hot Brad Pitt arriving on a heat waved red carpet for his Bullet Train movie premier — dressed in a linen mini skirt. His explanation for the skirt choice; “It’s all about the breeze … the breeze is very very nice.”
I bet Marilyn Monroe would agree.