Victoria’s Secret and male body image

Sex on Tuesday

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By far, my favorite television spectacle of the year is the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Forget the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Super Bowl — they don’t have sexy women strutting down the runway.

While wildly popular, the show has been criticized as sexist and retrogressive to our society’s conception of beauty. Its purpose is simply to market Victoria’s Secret’s brand and products — which it does very well. After watching highlights of the fashion show, I began to question whether women were the only ones hypersexualized in today’s world? I realized that no, they’re definitely not. I personally have been dominated by the ever-changing standards of masculinity and attractiveness men face.

Cosmopolitan tends to cater to women and GQ to men. Women have Shape, and men have Muscle & Fitness. I expected that the pitfalls of body-image marketing, because its effect on women is pretty well known, would be easy to avoid. But when I flip through the pages and see perfectly chiseled eight-packs, luscious golden locks, acne-free skin and the goddamn perfect lip-bite technique I know gets panties soaked, I genuinely feel insecure. I feel I’m not tall enough, not toned enough, not tan enough and definitely not sexy enough.

I began to think no woman will ever look at me twice unless I emulate these male models. For the most part, I’ve learned to shake it off. I convinced myself that not all guys are naturally gifted with such beautifully crafted physiques. Or, maybe, that’s just the excuse I tell myself when I don’t want to go to the RSF.

Are the men splayed across GQ covers what women visualize when I ask them what their dream guy looks like?

The reason I ask is that hypersexualized Victoria’s Secret “angels” perfectly embody many heterosexual males’ sexual fantasy. Her breasts are plump, her stomach is toned, and her legs have the perfect width of thigh gap. After watching the fashion show for the first time, I began to associate — more so, expect — any woman who wears Victoria’s Secret lingerie to embody the same sexy features.

The effectiveness of this marketing strategy is inherently detrimental to the way we view female sexuality. Many men (at least inherently) have a difficult time separating the media-projected world from realistic expectations. By sculpting flawless women who represent a paragon of beauty, the brand only heightens the requirements women need to satisfy the male libido.

I have developed a weird, almost instinctual tendency to get more turned on when women wear the same sexy lingerie promoted in the show. When I first began to have sex with my now ex-girlfriend, she would always wear panties bought in bulk at Walmart. I asked if she owned any sexier underwear — she didn’t. But as our relationship became progressively more sexual, she increasingly began to wear Victoria’s Secret, to the point where it was the only brand of underwear she wore — even after we broke up. And I thanked her for that, because after seeing her in a lacy thong for months, I could no longer get excited when she wore her Walmart panties.

So, that’s Victoria Secret’s success: They have made it so that I need any sexual partner of mine to wear underwear by their brand. But I try not to let myself take it any further.

After years of experience, I noticed that being intimate with women with even the largest breasts did not make me any happier — neither have the tiniest waists or the most voluptuous booties. Although carefully marketed events such as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show have redefined how we view physical beauty, we can’t allow that to change the way we approach human relationships. Believe me, her large booty does not mean she will be any more trustworthy.

This applies to intercourse as well. The size of a woman’s breasts has no reflection on her sexual ability — neither does the size of a man’s penis. I actually found myself enjoying sex with a feisty partner who has the cutest little A-cups over another who has DD breasts but refuses to change positions.

Ladies, don’t feel insecure about the physical beauty the Victoria’s Secret angels present. Let’s not forget that it’s their job to look that way. There’s no point wasting time worrying about physical aspects of your body you can’t change. To most people, the most attractive women are those who feel beautiful in their own body. I can sense when a woman knows she is sexy. And that kind of confidence is a huge turn-on.

The same goes for guys. I am not the most muscular, I am average looking at best, and I am only 5 feet 4 inches tall. But that has not prevented me from being satisfied during casual sexual encounters and experiencing fulfilling relationships, even with girls taller than me. As I’ve been making progress in accepting my body, I’ve noticed the sex has gotten better. But I still have a ways to go, so I’m excited to find out what’s in store.

Sex tip of the week: Speaking of clothing making people feel sexy, leaving your socks on during sex usually leads to better orgasms for everyone.

Brett Tanonaka writes the weekly Sex on Tuesday column. You can contact him at [email protected].