Every year around this time, I’m deeply troubled by the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Not because I don’t like a great-fitting and sexy bra as much as the next lady (I do! In fact, I purchase plenty of my unmentionables at VS), but because the entire event is such a blatant example of out-of-control objectification.
But it’s also one that is so mainstream and accepted that everyone acts like it’s totally normal—hip, even—to openly ogle and dissect the appearance of nearly-naked women in their underwear.
Like, women should sit there and not feel threatened or insecure or bad about themselves while the men they are with take pleasure publicly in the display of nearly-naked bodies of other women that conform to dominant beauty ideals? Whose definition of a fun night out is that? Not mine, I tell ya.
But it does fit the bill, apparently, for a male colleague of mine who attended this year’s VS event, posted photos to Facebook, and then publicly thanked his wife for taking him to the event as a birthday present.
In other words, Honey, love you bunches for escorting me to a place where I was allowed to salivate over other hot women—in fact, the hottest and most valued women in our culture—and for you being okay with all of that.
In 2011, Katy Perry headlined the VS event as a musical guest, and stole the show from the (more) scantily clad models thanks to her fantastic live rendition of her hit “Firework.”
This year, however, the lovely and talented Taylor Swift was made to share the stage with the models as they showcased the latest VS “collection” (is my sarcasm coming through here? You should be picking up on some sarcasm right about now.)
The result: Swift literally had to dodge feathers and stilettos—and her singing, IMHO, unfortunately played second fiddle to the flesh—oh right, lingerie—on display (scroll down for video, Taylor swift at :46).
Let’s be honest here: as important as it is for our country to get more comfortable with positive portrayals of sex and sensuality, the whole Victoria’s Secret franchise has unmistakenly contributed to the pornification of our culture.
And the VS fashion show is not an annual pop culture “happening” (as it’s tried to position itself by featuring hot-ticket musical acts and inviting A-list celebs). It’s an opportunity for some people to drool over the models, for the models to boast about how much they do or don’t work out, and for lots of people to walk away feeling less than.
Ultimately, maybe that sells more undies. But angels in heaven, I sure wish it didn’t.
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty.