BEAUTY MYTHS: The sexiest woman (barely) alive

Stephen Marche – The Star

Copyright The Star
The female ideal pushed by laddie magazines has become as smooth and lifeless as an iPhone
May 03, 2008
Megan Fox is the sexiest woman alive. Last year she wasn’t sexy at all. In 2007, the 21-year-old starlet didn’t even make the top 100 in FHM’s annual ranking of the world’s women. In 2008, she’s number one. The obvious reason for her sudden rise up the charts is the popularity of Transformers and its key scene in which she appears in a short skirt bent over a 1976 Camaro. But she couldn’t have entered the list at all if she hadn’t made the wise career decision to change her last name from “Foxx” to “Fox.” One more x and she’s a porn star; one less and she’s an object of aspiration – perfect for FHM.
For Him Magazine, and the other lad mags like Maxim and Umm, occupy a strange, liminal place in the territory of contemporary male desire. They exist to allow men to look at women’s bodies sexually but not pornographically. With the emphasis on suggestion rather than revelation, the women in their pages are slick materialistic ideals, as current in their smooth plastic forms as the Prius or iPhone.
The downside to such manufactured people is that they’re all the same. If you were mugged by any one of the women in the top 10, you couldn’t pick the perpetrator out of a lineup. They’re all white. They all have long hair and they’re almost all blonde. They all have the same high cheekbones. They all have the same nose. Each woman is allowed exactly one deviation from the norm, and the deviation is immediately remarked on – her tattoos or her extra-dark eye makeup or her curves. The girls of FHM are obviously products of a fundamentally icky consumerist objectification, but their engineered homogeneity also reveals an incredibly limited imagination.
In some ways, it’s a surprising development. If the lad mag is the latest chapter in the long, toxic and ancient book called “Men Staring at Women,” it’s very different than anything that’s come before. The nude throughout the history of art offered a social expression for forbidden sensuality, which is why the women, sprawled on exotic beds or on picnic lawns, emerging from the bath or from the sea foam, are always sexually available. In FHM, the women are totally unattainable – “too good for you, buddy” – and their way of dressing, in the context of a world in which seemingly every celebrity has a home sex video on the market, is comparatively modest. The subjects of nudes were womanly – whether the plump nymphs cavorting in pastoral scenes of Rubens or the cubistic chest-thrusting models in Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon. Their womanliness reminded male audiences of their manliness. The women in FHM’s top 100 are almost all rail thin, with whittled down bodies and faces. Every year there is less and less to them.
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