Found Feminism: Ann Summers Models
Oh, this one is a doozy.
I wanted to include it because the responses I’ve been getting to it have been quite wide ranging. So, the story begins with that bastion of the High Street Sex Shops, Ann Summers, of whom I have always been reasonably supportive, despite their addiction to itchy lace and the colour pink.
Why do I like them? Because in a world where sex, especially female participation and enjoyment is still taboo, this is a store that unashamedly caters to women and makes sex toys understandable, fun and available.
Together with the revolutionary Ann Summers parties, which are still going today, it provides safe adult sexual education away from schools or the XXX signage of the sleazy, intimidating stores of old. You can still find those stores in some parts of Soho, if you fancy something retro. Pack your own mac.
I love Lucy!
Anyway, Ann Summers ran a modelling competion, and now their windows are full of the image above. The winner, in the middle, is Lucy from Portsmouth. The vote was public and Lucy secured enough votes from whoever votes in public modelling competitions. The general public, I guess, which means that the general public have a very different, and arguably more representational, view of what a sexy woman looks like compared with the usual imagery.
I like the fact that Lucy is a size 16 (I believe that would be just about an ‘average’ size, right?). I like that she has won something she wants to win, that she is smiling and happy and confident. Part of feminism is about being able to look sexy and to enjoy looking sexy – without being called a slut, and without feeling as if you need to starve yourself to death. In which case, hurrah for Lucy!
I don’t know whether I love Lucy, I’m conflicted!
But part of me, perhaps a churlish and mean spirited part, wishes she’d won something else. Something where she kept her clothes on. Something that wasn’t about a narrow definiton of sexiness as standing around in red and black underwear for men to gawp at you.
I don’t like the idea of model competitions full stop – the whole idea that there are winners and losers in a world of body standards. There are too many women, too many shapes of their bodies, for there to be ‘correct’ ones. Sexiness isn’t about size. And this makes it about size. It makes it about “skinny” and “fat” – which is that Marilyn meme all over again, frankly.
Maybe I do love Lucy!
Yet there she is. On the high street. In a shop which is for women. And most of the women I talked to about this thought it was amazing, and when I put my objections about the sexualisation of women to them, they pointed out that this was Ann Summers, which is a sex shop, dammit, and that it was like me complaining that there were chocolates in Thorntons. They had a point. As did all of my friends who do like sexy, lacy (even pink) underwear.
I don’t know, I really don’t. Over to you…