On Pornography and Fashion

by Jonathan de Villiers

by an unknown user .

Isn't the standard dynamic of fashion pictures a female model presented as an object of male desire?


From the viewer's point of view; fashion photographs can mostly be seen to make the following claim; 'Wear these clothes in this way to make yourself desirable... oh, and here's who made them and where you can buy them.' Straightforward surely, and neatly tied to commerce. Except that on the one hand, desire encompasses a lot of things that can be dreamed or imagined and on the other hand, consumption of fashion imagery is not so reductively commercial. Perhaps to advertisers' regret, glossy magazines are not only read as catalogues but can also be entertainment, social comment, even critique. These two open-ended aspects to the whole business expand horizons immensely, opening up space for much of the extraordinary stuff that has been produced in fashion photography's name over the years.

And pornography? As an aid to masturbation it is surely a substitute for imagination. In so far as sexuality is about the smelt and felt and dreamed about, pornography acts as a colonising force of visual objectification. It annexes the whole domain to the most cognitive of the senses, impoverishing and reducing along the way. Pornography lights up and makes precise and repeatable a realm whose liberating expansiveness lies in its hazy, fallible subjectivity. The desirability that fashion imagery speaks of, however, can be much more open-ended and indirectly sexual than pornography must be by definition. (Sure, all sorts of things can serve the function of pornography but pornography proper has a job description that is uncomplicated and specific).

It seems to me that the fashionability of pornography occurred not only because of its sudden pervasiveness but also because of its apparent risqué authenticity. But pornography isn't the bald truth of sexuality; it only starts to become so with the consumption of pornography. (On a more basic level, men are undeniably attracted to porn and are happy to find excuses to look at it and, better still, produce it. If they can avoid making themselves look unattractive by dressing things up as cut-the-crap rebel honesty or meta-examination then so much the better).

Fashion: Alicia wears black scaled leggings and top by Mada Van Gaans. Joy wears a white tulle dress by Angelos Bartis.