Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The crux of it all

Trawling the net, one can't help but be mystified by the apparent allure of the "amateur" sex divas that sprang in pop-ups all over the screen. Most of them are clearly pros, with the wear and tear clearly visible in pose, set and taste (or lack thereof). Others, however, are cleverer... They promise innocence. They advertise candid moments caught unaware. They speak of posing only for their boyfriends/husbands. Those are the better ones. The ones with red-eye naturalness, as deers caught in the middle of the road. The ones that appear in photos with natural illumination (the flash seems to be the only extraneous source of luminosity), with simple and everyday clothing... The ones who seem naive... The ones who leave us thinking: can it be?

But why such an allure? Why such a bait?

I believe it must be the old neo-platonic convention rearing up its head, whispering to our inner selves that the woman must be at the same time sultry and innocent, sexy and inexperienced, irresistible and unattainable.

Because we burn with the desire to see that restraint crumble. There are few things more exciting than the transformation of repressed sexuality into wanton lust. The image above is a clear sample of it; all about the girl speaks of boundaries being crossed. She is young, clearly on a night out with friends. I can easily see her having a few drinks, flirting with a boy friend, trying to play sultry... trying to act adult. At the same time, she has the body of a temptress, of a pagan force of nature. Her eyes are daring us to try to get her... pushed by her hands, her breasts seem so big that we can't believe they could ever be sustained by the flimsy straps of the bra. It is the expression on her friend's face that tells us that this photo is the result of a sudden determination. She is clearly pretending for the camera of a friend. She's a child playing the whore. And the crucifix dangling in her wonderful cleavage makes it all seem more risky and more subversive...

Without knowing it, she is transversing the ages, leaping centuries into the role of a Venetian courtesan of the Sixteenth Century immortalised in a painting of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library of Yale. Tolerated by the civil and religious authorities of the city-state for the income they represented, the courtesans gathered at the Ponte delle Tetelli (Bridge of Breasts) in the Castelleto - so called because prostitutes were ordered to uncover their breasts because some of them were known to dress like men in order to attract gay clientele. Commenting the above image, Marilyn Yalom writes in her A History of the Breast (1997): "Uncovered breasts were generally associated with prostitutes, as were the yellow veils they were required to wear in public and the absence of pearls, forbidden to them by law. Yet, despite attempts to control their dress and jewelry, well-paid courtesans continued to flaunt their lavish attire and the crosses that dangled provocatively on golden chains in their cleavage".

Four centuries separate both pictures but the game is always the same: and the crux of it all still remains, dangling between the breasts.

1 comment:

D-Angelous said...

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