Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Modest Proposal

A couple of weeks ago, while reading the Huffington Post, a sidebar headline caught my eye -- "In Defense of Bridal Boudoir." Curiously, I clicked on the link and was led to a piece promoting the practice of so-called Bridal Boudoir pictures, those soft-core porn pix some women pose for when they become engaged or are newly married. Hawked hilariously as "tasteful," these photos are intended to be keepsakes or trophies of you at that moment in your life when you are/were at your most delectable and nubile.

But it wasn't just that the article was silly and written in breathless advertorial tones, it was actually offensive, urging women to get those portraits done before everything goes to hell:
But brides face tough questions in deciding whether or not to book a boudoir session: Should I let it all hang out? Will he still love me tomorrow? 
I'm here to say yes and yes! Yes for many reasons, some of which a young woman may understand now and some which she will not understand until she hits 50 and her tightly toned triceps just flutter in the breeze. And not everyone is Madonna, so don't even go there. 
All young women are beautiful. This is not a cliché, this is nature or God's plan or whatever you want to call it, but it's as true as all babies are beautiful. My best friend is really beautiful, we're talking Angelina Jolie beautiful and there's about a handful of pictures of her in existence. We spoke of it recently and she insisted that no one ever took her photo and I was dumbfounded because everyone TRIED to take her photo and she would put her hand up to block them. I reminded her of this and she looked sad and said, "Oh yeah, why did I do that?"
So much is wrong with this writer's thinking that it is hard to know how to begin to respond. Misguided concepts like Bridal Boudoir (the consumerism! the objectification of women! the ageism!) invariably compel me to respond, so I fired off a few salvos within the comments section to the article.

However, because I do not actually care about this subject for more than the three minutes it engaged me online, I blithely skipped away for a couple of weeks, only to be drawn back to the forum this evening when a notice stating that someone had responded to my comments popped up in the sidebar section of the HuffPo, obviously the source of all distraction in life.

In a state of semi-horrified fascination, I read the comment posted by someone called Ogaraj. Ogaraj is infuriated by my critique but what is really striking is how up close and personal he makes his response, using my actual name, ranting and raving.There is something both creepy and interesting about his counter-offensive. He is livid about my "passing judgment" on him and his wife, who are evidently sleazebag consumers of this dubious service. It is kind of funny that he cares what I personally think of Bridal Boudoir and it is not-so-funny that he believes I am critiquing him and his wife.

What's weird is that I stumbled upon this lost correspondence as I was preparing to research a related topic: Orthodox Jewish women who dress in a sexy or provocative manner, in defiance of the laws of tsniut or modesty.

I somehow get the impression that Ogaraj is not an MOT and would therefore not be useful to an exploration of this trend. For this, I am relieved because he obviously cannot draw the distinction between expressing an opinion and passing judgment. I would caution him to avoid reading negative reviews of movies, books, plays, restaurants or anything else that he likes. The judgment might be too much to bear.

Here is my volley with Ogaraj, from the comment section of the HuffPo. You can link through to the original piece here.

In Defense Of Bridal Boudoir
While it is customary for couples to book wedding and engagement photography sessions, a whole new world of possibilities hangs over the bride with the rising trend of the "boudoir" photo shoot.
Shira Dicker Wow. The fact that you see someone having posed, soft-core porn shots taken of herself as a sign that she is in command of her sexuality is the essence of the problem.This is hardly a liberated gesture; it's pathetic. I feel the same way, incidentally, about the so-called Slut Walk; in fact I blogged about it. When women conform to MALE ideals of sexuality, that's not liberated.

Bring on empowered female sexuality. But this, my friend, is not one of its manifestations.
posted Dec 21, 2011 at 07:04:37
Reply  |  Link
ogaraj First, you implied that my wife, (along with the many other women out there who have done boudoir), lacks dignity for doing so. Then, you raise that ante by determining that it qualifies as soft-core porn, and go so far as to call it pathetic. You even go on to foolishly imply that there are largely differing male and female ideals of sexuality, but pass judgement on what does or does not qualify as liberated.

Your insults and hateful judgement says far more about you and your own (fear? loathing? hatred? confusion?) of your own sexuality than it does about the women and men you pass judgement on. The photos my wife (and many other women, along with those in the article) had done have her wearing more clothing than women wear out for a day on the beach with family. Hardly porn. No nudity involved. Hardly undignified. Very classy. Very sexy, and very beautiful.

Most importantly, she enjoyed doing the photos, and enjoyed my response to them. In the end, it was something that she found empowering and fun, despite whatever repressed sexual ideal that Shira Dicker thinks she should conform to. You close by hypocritically saying "bring on empowered female sexuality." In what form- the kind that you approve of? What are the rules that my wife needs to conform to that Shira Decker will accept as a manifestation of what is sexually empowering to a female? Next, are you going to say that a mom wearing a two piece at the beach with her family and posts it to facebook is a bad mother? Better yet, since you see yourself as the authority on female sexual expression, are you going to instruct wives everywhere on what positions are acceptable for a woman to perform in the bedroom as part of *your* opinion of what is empowered

1 comment:

Rebecca Einstein Schorr said...

Yikes!! Can we say transference??

I did one of those "glamour" shots when I was in college. It was the least sexy I ever felt. The whole thing felt icky. And I have never liked looking at the photos. Interestingly, my BF (now husband) never really liked them either. Perhaps because they felt forced...

Sensuality is a private, individual thing. And it is about so much more than the physical. A woman wearing a bikini may be wearing less clothing than a woman wearing sweats...but that woman wearing sweats might, in fact, be far more sexual in her mannerisms.

(As a reform Rabbi who has embraced tzniut, I am quite interested in your research!)