This morning at the coffee shop I opened my laptop and found an angry article about some movement in England to ban what are so unfortunately called "lad mags" as well as the Page 3 photos found in various of the English tabloids. The arguments are the usual ranting neo-Victorian hysteria from the gender warriors, of course. Looking at photographs of unclad girls or seeing bare breasts somewhere between the front page and the sports pages will incite male lust and lead inevitably to a sexual assault pandemic. It's all something straight out of the 1860s, less the Victorian invocation of sentimentalized Christianity. I've heard it all before: male desire is evil, being an object of desire is always demeaning and degrading, thinking of someone in sexual terms is always and ever an act of violation, no woman not blinded by false ideology could ever not be horrified by sexual images.
I can't say that I was surprised by it all, though the names cited of various "lad mags" meant nothing to me. I've never seen any of them in their British editions, and I don't read their equivalents in the States. My own taste in photographs of lovely girls runs to fashion magazines. The photography is better, the girls are more my physical type (very tall, very slender), and the captions don't have a nudge, nudge, wink, wink air. High-fashion photos are much more erotic than anything found in, e.g., Maxim, and they're probably much more likely to be nudes.
I grew up in the years when the high-end fashion magazines were coming to regard nudes and stylized erotica as the stuff of everyday. I do remember discovering photographers in my undergraduate days--- Rebecca Blake, Jeff Dunas, David Hamilton, the early Ellen von Unwerth, Helmut Newton ---who were doing wonderfully elegant, dark, stylish things. I had collections of their work--- mostly vanished over the years as I moved across different cities ---that I wish I could look at now.
It's probably only a matter of time 'til the neo-Victorians amongst the gender warriors get around to mounting a sustained attack on high-fashion nudes. They've had a few spasms about poses that have undertones of s/m, but so far they haven't attacked the idea of nude photos in fashion magazines. I suppose they've been too busy attacking the models for being tall and lithe to get to attacks on sexualized poses or nudity. It'll happen, though. It's only a matter of time. I can't imagine that the gender warriors, for all their intellectual failings, won't figure out that male eyes do sometimes pore over high-end fashion magazines.
The gender warriors want to close off any visual avenues to desire. In their world, no image that might evoke desire can ever be anything other than degrading and coercive. Desire itself is seen as always and ever a pipeline to oppression and violence. The gender warriors would like to drain sexuality and sexual desire out of the world. I'm not even sure that they'd be satisfied with purifying the public arena of any images that might evoke desire, since they'd be just as happy to do away with private, in-home access to magazines or videos.
Photography itself seems to anger the gender warriors. After all, photography is all about the gaze. It's posed, too--- the model really is only an object, something to be moved into place for a shot. Photography allows the viewer to create his own tale about the scene and the model. And it encourages the viewer to think of beauty and desire, two things the gender warriors especially dislike.
Long ago, I used to take photographs of two things--- architectural design and lovely girls. Both things still excite my eye, and I wish I had the equipment (a good DSLR and lenses, at least) to photograph them again. In the meanwhile, though, I'll look at high-fashion photography and sigh over beauty and tell stories in my head about the beautiful.