Now I want to resist the temptation to get on a high horse about my tastes. Yeah, it seems to me that I dig distinctive-looking beauty, rather than than the blandly-very-pretty that passes for “beauty” in American popular culture, and that my preference is “better” both in æsthetic judgment and in cultural implications. But everybody feels that way; de gustibus and all that. I think of all the artists well known for transparent obsessions with depicting people with particular sorts of builds: Peter Paul Rubens, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Crumb, on and on. The eye likes what it likes.
In fact, this gives me sympathy for fellas who had their preferences installed more correctly by American culture than I did, who therefore find themselves constantly confronting hypnotic images of feminine beauty generated by our vulgar culture industry. That's gotta be bewildering.
I count myself lucky to be just slightly out of phase from the norm.
Which reminds me of an odd reflection on the subject by Eric S. Raymond.
A couple days ago I chased a link over to unablogger and found myself unexpectedly confronted by pictures of naked women. This picture, in particular. And I noticed something unusual—which was that I liked it.
Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m a functioning heterosexual male; I enjoy looking at naked women. It’s most pictures of naked women I can’t stand. I’ve found by experience that most of the vast amounts of pornography available on the Internet leave me feeling more repelled than aroused. And not out of puritanism either; I have no intrinsic moral objection to porn, and I judge that the consequentialist arguments against it don’t stand the reality test.
No, the truth is that I find most porn subtly and deeply ugly. Unablogger’s picture (which happens to be of a Czech model named Veronika Zemanova) was a sufficiently glaring exception that it stimulated me to think seriously about why.
I found Mr Raymond's guesses about what unappealing pornography is trying to do to be intriguing, though as he is uncomfortable with feminism he was more dismissive of the power symbolism in pornographic images than I would be.
Which brings me back to Ms Ray: having seen that first picture, I spent a minute with Google and found that she has had a number of far more racy pictures taken of her ... pictures I didn't find nearly so affecting.
And I found out about her because she's art modeling at Dr. Sketchy's Barbary Coast this weekend. Having now thought this hard about her picture, I think it's probably fortunate that I won't be able to attend that event.