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Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll… and Print?

I usually read magazines, like any good-blooded American, on the John (a detail must of you could probably do without) or on the subway on my way back from work. What you read on the subway is a way of telling your fellow passengers what your interests are or somehow what you stand for. I enjoy when the person next to me does that downward-eye-peek-without-moving-the-neck-or-face gesture to see what I’m finding so interesting that I don’t care to engage in useless chit chat with him or her. And I always proudly hoist my design magazines to let people know that, oh yes, I am a graphic designer.

Last week I thrust the latest issue of Print, plastic bag and all, into my bag, walked to the station, got on the train, found a seat, pulled Print back out, ripped the plastic bag and — gasp — the sex issue lay on my lap. In all its vainy, three-dimensionalized, gory glory. Now, I’m not a prude man, but I don’t like people thinking I’m some sort of Mexican pervert riding the “L” 24 hours a day looking at S-E-X. So I changed seats and went to the back of the car.

Flipping through the issue, I thought “Boy, I wouldn’t want to be the editors at Print right about now”. Many design magazines or any trade publication other than, say, Playboy, receive angry letters from their readers when they dare to show nudes, words like “fuck” or posters with “questionable” content. A whole issue, then, of a commonly conservative magazine devoted to sex will undeniable raise, at the very least, some eyebrows. A quick week after the mailing of the July/August issue Joyce Kaye, Editor-in-Chief of Print, has already posted a note on their web site.

Now that I was in a more comfortable spot on the train I gave the magazine a closer read. Gangbang, anal beads, freaky she-male farmgirls and dildos — words that never find their way into Print, nor Speak Up for that matter — abound… in just four pages. Even reading the table of contents (Pony Girls of Berlin, Pixel Vixens, Sexplaythings…) was, um, oddly stimulating. And let me tell you, for those designers who only look at the pictures, this will probably be your favorite issue. Ever. The editors at Print decided to go (graphically) all the way, well, almost all the way: female nudity, illustrated vibrators, screen grabs of various porn sites and many other phallic imagery adorn Print’s glossy pages. Even sexually-clichéd drop caps for every article.

Unfortunately, many soon-to-be offended Print readers will miss a great issue. Rick Poynor’s “Designing Pornotopia” alone is worth dozens of subscribers who will threaten to unsubscribe. Eric Zimmerman, consummate gamer that he is, proposes six sex games with amusing titles like “Probabilistic Sex Role-playing” — think X-rated version of Dungeons & Dragons. Even KarlssonWilker gets in on the action with one of their trademark charts, at one point showing giant-penised men and an abstract vagina claiming: “Being abstract makes me less intimidating”.

In such a strangely conservative country, Print’s point is well made. Sex is just sex, it’s part of our lives, so get over it. For such a forward-thinking country that America claims to be, its obfuscation of sex has always perplexed me. Oddly, Print is not luridly alone on the newsstands this month; STEP magazine proudly sports a vibrator on its cover — although disguised as some fancy industrial design artifact. Inside, in “Come out and Play”, beautiful photographs of glass and plastic vibrators and items vividly illustrate that sex toys are, you know, OK. Also, “Risqué Business” takes a look at the ultimate in men, women and sex objectification for the sake of retail: Abercrombie & Fitch’s Quarterly. For STEP to delve into these delicate topics is indication that sex is, you know, OK.

As the train got more crowded and the gazes more judgmental, I ultimately decided to just close the magazine and take it to my other magazine-reading inner sanctum. Why does the word sex have such negative weight? Why do we feel guilty about it? Where did go wrong — should we keep blaming Adam and Eve? As designers what is our role in employing sexual imagery? And why, does that guy in the blue shirt keep staring at me?

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2005 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Jul.07.2004 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Zara’s comment is:

I first opened my Print at the airport. I don't consider myself a prude either, but the cover made me want to bury it beneath my stack of reading material. Which in fact I did, deciding that this month's Print was not good reading material for the airport if I didn't want everyone around me staring wide-eyed.

I found STEP's cover more tasteful and thus felt perfectly comfortable reading that one in the airport. Still, I applaud both STEP and Print for exploring issues other mags might not be willing to explore for fear of tarnishing their image. That said, I don't think I will be bringing my Print mag out in public with me - perhaps I'm more of a prude than I think?

On Jul.07.2004 at 10:36 AM
Paul’s comment is:

Sex certainly is a weird topic when it intersects with our professional lives.

I worked at a porno mag early in my career, for about a year and a half. It was a really fun job, working alongside lots of cool people from whom I learned plenty. Guess how often I mention this in job interviews? Pretty damn rarely, and only if somehow it becomes clear that the person I'm speaking to was familiar with the culture that bred this publication. Too bad, too, because it wazs in many ways pivotal experience for me, but not knowing how a perspective employer might view it means I'm better off just skipping over it.

On Jul.07.2004 at 10:59 AM
Paul Mayne’s comment is:

Coming from a very conservative work place, I've been burned by the content in Print Mag before, so I usually slide it into my backpack and read in private (on the john). I've been out of the office for a week so I have yet get my new mail but I can tell from the description that I will be offended. I don't see how content like this applies to the graphic design world and what we do as professionals.

I too read all my books and magazines on the bus — one hour each way makes for lots of free time. I've found myself on a couple of occasions disguising my reading material for the sake of racy covers. Probably because most of my bus mates are very conservative and possibly judgmental — I’d just assume not having them think I’m a pervert.

On Jul.07.2004 at 11:12 AM
Valon’s comment is:

It's interesting to me for the American culture to be so sexually curious and yet be so censored at the same time. From graphics, pornography, visuals, magazines, and all in between sex is everywhere. On their catalogs - Abercrombie and Fitch - suggests a more liberated sexual appeal, however watchdogs don't let such a publication make it to stands. The interesting fact is that the catalog made it to print. In some countries a publication like that would be hard to see in hands of youngsters. All I am trying to say is that we as graphic designers can change and influence our audiences through variety of ways, however we are always going to run across criticism and opposition that will prevent us from proving a point, being free, or just simply raising few eyebrows just for the hell of it.

On Jul.07.2004 at 11:12 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Gangbang, anal beads, freaky she-male farmgirls and dildos — words that never find their way into... Speak Up for that matter

And that is a damn shame, too. ;o)

We're American. We have a facade of prudeness when it comes to sex and like to judge others a lot based on our own morals. Nothing new there...

On Jul.07.2004 at 11:25 AM
Rick’s comment is:

I thought the same thing you did, Armin, when it arrived in my mailbox: "Wow, I wonder how many readers are going to be pissed about this issue?"

It's been sitting in my office for a week now. Every time she sees it, my girlfriend just rolls her eyes. As if I had a copy of Maxim sitting around. "But look, honey!" I found myself saying. "It's really design heavy! And I'm reading the articles!"

On Jul.07.2004 at 11:34 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Americans are all such prudes. Sex is just sex. Sex is not depravity, pedophilia, or violence. It's just sex. Sometimes it can be a little weird in its (ahem) variations, but it's still just sex.

We've all done it. We all enjoy it. We all want it. But we rarely discuss it. At least men rarely discuss it amongst ourselves.

I'm going to pick up that new Print issue at lunch today. What's the big deal?

I mean, come'on — they sell Hustler and Penthouse at the airport gift shops for God's sake. Not that that's not weird, but compared to real pornography — what we touch (ahem) as designers is just a tease, gratuitous or not.

On Jul.07.2004 at 12:36 PM
Tim Drabandt’s comment is:

Wow, I wonder how many readers are going to be pissed about this issue?

I'm just waiting for the next one to read the letters to the editor. :)

Like the previous posts, I also applaud Print. Sexual imagery has always been used, but lately I've been seeing it pop up more lately. I remember last year, pornstar clothing had a knit hat that had a very pixilated woman giving a guy a blowjob. Not my particular fashion ideal, however the hat was done in a humorous fashion. Eboy has some nice pixilated porn going on. If you feel inclined to visit Lust they have some really nice ascii porn images.

I think that there's a quiet surge in sexual imagery going on, and Print brought it to the forefront.

On Jul.07.2004 at 12:56 PM
Richard’s comment is:

This might be off subject, but I feel designing for the porn industry is the equivalent as designing cigarette ads.

Yeah we all like to have sex and are stimulated by the images. And there is tons of people who smoke. But for me as a designer (and call me a design snob if you like) I would never work in that industry. Paul's comment Guess how often I mention this in job interviews attributes to that fact.

I figure that if I wanted to make a lot of money, I could go work in the San Fernando Valley, and lose any design intrigrity I had for myself.

On Jul.07.2004 at 02:18 PM
Scott d’s comment is:

Wow, I wonder how many readers are going to be pissed about this issue?

I'm just waiting for the next one to read the letters to the editor. :)

This reminded me of Corel's "Devilish" ad a few months ago. The ad can be seen in the Sept/Oct 2003 issue of Communication Arts (pg. 5) and in the Oct 2003 issue of HOW. You can read the pissed off letters to the editor in the December 2003 CA (pg. 138). In this case designers were designing for other designers, and they chose to use sexual imagery-interesting decision.

I was rather surprised to see an ad like Corel's "Devilish" in the pages of design magazines, but I can't say that I felt offended. Maybe it's because as an American I've grown accustomed to seeing sex used to sell products or at the very least grab the viewer's attention.

On Jul.07.2004 at 02:22 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Richard, you are on subject, no worries.

I do disagree though, that designing a movie package for the latest porn flick is on par with designing the package for the latest Marlboro flavor. In terms of "challenging morals and integrity" maybe, but in terms of "damage to the human body" — which is the main issue when working for cigarrete companies — nowhere close.

Not that I'd jump into the offer, but it would be kind of fun I guess — make that bigger takes on a whole new meaning.

On Jul.07.2004 at 02:27 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

But for me as a designer (and call me a design snob if you like) I would never work in that industry.

But the firm you work for (?) seems OK doing work for the gambling industry and organizations that some find cruel to animals (bull riding). (and this could certainly be seen as pornographic by some ;o)

I'm certainly not judging you on that at all (hey, cowboys, sex and gambling is what the west is about!)...just pointing out that we seem to jump on issues of sex in this country without sometimes getting the big picture.

Whenever I see the letters to the editor in Print complaining about showing work that some deem as vulgar I just find myself wondering what industry these people think they work in. Graphic Designers are very much a part of the vulgar marketing machine. ;o)

On Jul.07.2004 at 02:33 PM
Richard’s comment is:

Points well taken...

I wish I could discuss more, but I'm off to a photo shoot with four scantily clad women...

On Jul.07.2004 at 03:05 PM
marian’s comment is:

I haven't seen the issue, but will pick it up when I'm in town.

There are kindof 2 tracks to this. There's sex used to (gratuitously) sell product and there's the sex trade, where sex is the product. Graphic designers often work in/with both. More often than not, the former is seen as acceptable, the latter is not.

That's the double standard.

You probably wouldn't hesitate to include in your portfolio a fashion catalogue with nude or semi-nude women in it. But if those images are accompanied by cum-shots, well most people see that as a problem.

But let's face it folks, the porn industry needs us! Those ads in the backs of magazines, the magazines themselves, the porn sites! All that black, yellow and pink. These people need help. Their graphic language is so unsophisticated--well that's the true embarrassment, imho.

On Jul.07.2004 at 03:18 PM
Amber Nussbaum’s comment is:

Never had to hide a design magazine under my mattress before. Haha what will my mom say?

On Jul.07.2004 at 03:50 PM
big steve (aka cochino)’s comment is:

Marian, you beat me to the punch! Porn ads and packaging materials are the most godawful ugly specimens of design EVER! Mags like H-Bomb and Rihcardson and maybe some Wicked and Vivid ads are the exceptions, but i digress.

I love conflict, and I've got little tolerance for the closed-minded/ overly conservative (this comes from 13 years of catholic school i think), but as much as I'm the first to say, "chill out grandma, it's just a donkey show" I think if everyone accepted sex (as in sexiness) it would take all of the fun and mystique out of sexy imagery. I think a big part of the allure is the dirty bits, the stimulation that comes from seeing sexiness in an odd place, like a design magazine, where you think it doesnt belong. It's like the beaver shot in Basic Instinct or the penis in Boogie Nights - we are all adults and could all just as easily see full on XXX DVDA if we wanted to, but there's something special about seeing a genital in a mainstream movie.

I get dirty looks on a daily basis because i often do read in public and god forbid there's an exposed nipple on this month's issue of American Photo, or Calvin Klien has an exposed muff in a Flaunt ad... I am an asshole though, and i do often call out someone when they pass by and give me a dirty look or mumble a comment.

But americans do hate sex (exhibit a. Janet's nipple) and if you don't you're often made to feel like a pervert... pity.

Last december a magazine i was working for ran a sex issue. The cautious editors made such a huge deal about my cover shot (dont worry, the magazine logo ran across the top!) that they didnt notice the graphic i made for an article on fleshbot.com showed a girl getting railed in the behind. I singlehandedly lost half of the magazing advertisers because of a 2x2in abstract illustration. We all thought it was ridiculous, and luckily they needed me, so i actually got a raise soon after!

On Jul.07.2004 at 03:57 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Good God marian, you're posting like a drunk sailor today.

I'm blushing.

On Jul.07.2004 at 04:20 PM
Paul’s comment is:

For the record, Richard, it's not any kind of shame that causes my hesitation. I just recognize that some people, like yourself, feel so strongly about the subject that it's not something I want to go into until I know them a bit better. Job interviews (and similar situations) are generally not the right venues for potentially divisive topics.

I feel comfortable enough here to have let you all in on my dark, shameful secret. And now I feel so LIBERATED!

(Group hug?)

On Jul.07.2004 at 05:58 PM
marian’s comment is:

Good God marian, you're posting like a drunk sailor today.

I am?

I was just trying to drive home a few points, massage the discussion, rope y'all in and lubricate the intercourse. No lemon gin required. We're all equal and willing partners in this, are we not?

On Jul.07.2004 at 06:28 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>You probably wouldn't hesitate to include in your portfolio a fashion catalogue with nude or semi-nude women in it.

Ok, so this brings up a related question...please bear w/ me.

I still get a lot of stock photography books. And almost all of them contain large sections of nudes — mostly female, mostly tasteful. What I've always wondered is this: who is ordering all this nude stock photography? It must be a huge part of the stock business. I mean, why else would they be advertising nudes so persistently? Has anyone else noticed this same prevalence?

Is there a category of design and advertising firms I'm not aware of where nude stock photography is reviewed and used on a regular basis? What are the names of these firms??!!

Just things I think about during Microsoft meetings...

On Jul.07.2004 at 06:30 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

>But for me as a designer (and call me a design snob if you like) I would never work in that industry. Paul's comment Guess how often I mention this in job interviews attributes to that fact.

Oh how historically limited we all are.

I don't mean to step on Design Maven's turf, but I suspect his SaulBassamania prevents his participation...

STEVEN HELLER WAS AN ART DIRECTOR FOR SCREW MAGAZINE

The GREAT PORNOGRAPHER Al Goldstein said so on his MIDNIGHT BLUE television show! Called him a 'cocksucker' too. Out of love.

I passed comment on to STEVEN HELLER who laughed. A gracious man!

DESIGN GOD MILTON GLASER DESIGNED SCREW MAGAZINE'S MASTHEAD

Not a logo. Doesn't fit in OFFICIAL FOUR CATEGORIES OF LOGOS. Called a masthead when at top of magazine or newspaper.

DESIGN GOD HERB LUBALIN ART DIRECTED EROS MAGAZINE

Publisher Ralph Ginzburg Warrior for First Amendment Went to Jail for Obscenity

MY HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS ARE MANY.

YOU CANNOT TOUCH MY HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS.

joke: You may not want to!

On Jul.07.2004 at 07:05 PM
big steve’s comment is:

Tan, I don't have an answer to your question - I would look to the pages of Maxim / FHM / whatev maybe because i've definitely seen stock pictures repeated for different ads in those magazines before. But your question reminds me of a funny stock image predicament that has intrigued me for the past few years.

There's a picture of this very attractive young girl kind of leaning over in not-particularly sexy clothes but a perky pose, decent picture i guess. But in the past few years i've seen this photo in everything from ads for liposuction, breast augmentation, botox (the l.a. weekly has been running all three of these ads for YEARS), 900 numbers, travel agencies, even on the packaging for pantyhose in a department store, and a few other things i cannot recall. Though I'm not gonna cry a river for this girl (assumedly she knew she was doing stock photography and got paid for the work) but I doubt she ever thought she would become the postergirl for plastic tits, lips , and hips.

On Jul.07.2004 at 07:10 PM
marian’s comment is:

I don't mean to step on Design Maven's turf

Oh god, thank you Mark, for stepping on the turf and for doing it so well.

On Jul.07.2004 at 07:19 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Hahaha.. that's pretty good Mark. Just curious..like, how long did that post take you to type?

I've always marveled at how long it must take for our dear friend Maven to type his quasi blog poems.

On Jul.07.2004 at 07:20 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

HA HA TAN my brother in CORPORATE IDENTITY!!!

My posts take a lifetime of research

a lifetime of collecting HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

and five minutes of righting

NOW BACK TO MY VIVID COLLECTION!

On Jul.07.2004 at 08:56 PM
Jeff G’s comment is:

who is ordering all this nude stock photography?

I haven't ordered all of it, but I did buy a couple photos. Both were for advertisements for a kitesurfing shop. Both were rather groundbreaking in the kitesurfing world - not for their use of nakedness, but because they had a point other than, look how cool we are! We have a naked woman in our ad.

On Jul.08.2004 at 06:31 AM
Jeff G’s comment is:

Mr Kingsley, you made me laugh my head off this morning. Thank you.

On Jul.08.2004 at 06:33 AM
steve heller’s comment is:

Thanks a million Mark for bringing me into the conversation. Hmmm.

But since you did, allow me a few points of order:

1. I was founding a.d. of Screw, which was born out of a failing underground political rag called the New York Free Press. Fact was, our circulation increased only when we put "sex" images on the cover (and believe me they were tame for those days). Sex was the new politics. And Screw was a purposeful attempt at challenging (and maybe changing) social and sexual mores. It succeeded in ways too numerous to mention here, but I contend in its wake much more was attempted and allowed on TV and film, not always for the better, but certainly it helped remove certain unsavory barriers to free speech. A really intelligent critique of Screw and its ramifications has yet to be written, although Gay Talese wrote a fascinating book about the sex (and sexual politics) industry at the time.

2. I was (at seventeen years old) the publisher and art director of The New York Review of Sex (and politics). It followed Screw but attempted to be a cross between it and Eros. The intent was to push the boundaries, yet add a level of intelligence to the new field. We lasted 20 issues. I write about this in my book The Graphic Design Reader (Allworth Press). Brad Holland used to design covers for the magazine. It ceased after being busted two times and its sexual content was adjoined by more eclectic cultural commentary. The name was also changed to The New York Review of Sex and Politics and Aerospace (as I was interested in manned flight to the heavens).

3. Glaser did design the masthead of a redesigned Screw. He also introduced Helvetica display type. Curious, no? The logo was Helvetica with an upturned E. Get the pun?

Sex has been a fact of design and communication for ages. It has been commercialized by countless advertising agencies, filmmakers, you name it. It is such a fact of American popular culture that the Print issue seems long overdue. I edited a book called Sex Appeal (Allworth Press), and there are a handful of other books that analyze the sex/design nexus. Sure, Print is bound to upset some readers, because as ubiguitous as sex may be, not everyone wants to be reminded of its light or dark side. Print fairly and effectively addresses all sides - entertainment, politics, and more. It deals intelligently with moral questions and concernsn. It will be an important design reference for those who want to address the sex aspects of our culture - good and bad.

But like all things that address sexuality in America, Print is a target. Eros was a target for the US Government. Ginzburg went to prison for publishing a MAGAZINE. And a beautiful one at that. But sex is a hotpoint, and debates will continue.

Like it or not, given the cherished doctrine of free speech in America, it is important to discuss sex and sexuality in public forums like Print without fear of legal reprisal. In Ginzburg's day this right was abridged. That Print can publish an issue of this kind proves that our rights are in force, and that dissenters have the right to criticize. The discussion on this forum is quite useful not only about the Print and Step issues, but about how and why we are so sensitized by the role of sexual imagery.

On Jul.08.2004 at 07:59 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

>Thanks a million Mark for bringing me into the conversation.

Steve - No insult intended, hopefully none perceived.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy — and respect — that bit of your personal history. And yes, my amusement comes out of its contrast to your current job. I fear that some of the uproar in their upcoming letters to the editor is a result of historical ignorance or lack of information on American culture in the late 60's/early 70's. Sex magazines express their times; what was obscene then, isn't now. I have cherished copies of Eros in the historical document section of my library and you know what's in them? Dirty limericks!

Calling all Grad students: reading back issues of Hustler is a way to learn about American culture — supplemental to the New York Times.

This issue of Print is also a lesson in how screwed up (sorry, couldn't resist) the American discourse has become. How tangled up in ourselves are we when we get all-a-titter over Janet Jackson's flapdoodle yet have no problem with ads in primetime like the "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" series.

Were the editors of Print being just a wee bit exploitative when they decided on the sex theme? Perhaps. But it is also the most thorough, most interesting issue of Print that I've seen in a long time. I'm keeping this issue not for its prurience, but for the quality and breadth of it's selected subject matter.

This was the last issue in my subscription, perhaps I'll renew.

On Jul.08.2004 at 09:30 AM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

Like it or not, given the cherished doctrine of free speech in America, it is important to discuss sex and sexuality in public forums like Print without fear of legal reprisal

I agree wholeheartedly with the "without fear of legal reprisal" part, but I wonder if Print is really interested in discussing sex and sexuality.

From Armin's description and the table of contents online, it looks to me like they're just waving candy around. One can't just dismiss the pissed-off masses with a "get over it." It's not that simple... or am I just obfuscating?

Seems like the focus of Vit's article is the impact of the magazine's cover. Is not shock the easiest thing to employ in our work?

On Jul.08.2004 at 11:09 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> it looks to me like they're just waving candy around.

It is nothing like that. There is no "candy", none of the images are of hot, sexy women in striking, photoshoped poses. Most of the visual material shown is just real. Other than Eboy (which was mentioned earlier in the discussion), there is neither any designer eye candy.

And like I mentioned in the article, Rick Poynor's article is great. Heller interviews the founder of the Museum of Sex (which is not arousing either — the museum, not the interview) and also presents the "Tijuana Bibles" which I didn't know about and was nice to learn about. There is also an article about didactic materials used to teach kids in school about the birds and the bees. And plenty other stuff.

I suggest, Steve, you pick up a copy.

On Jul.08.2004 at 11:19 AM
Hiedi’s comment is:

First of all, I'm glad people have the right to speak up in this country. But I wish people would take more responsibility for the consequences of what they put out in the public. The long-term effects of the media (inlcuding printed materials) seem to be disregarded. Either that, or people actually want to destroy essential elements of a happy society. One of those essential elements is emotional well-being. Don't we all want to be happy? I suggest that things that destroy our spiritual and emotional growth also destroy our happiness, or our emotional well-being.

Armin comments, "In terms of "challenging morals and integrity" maybe, but in terms of "damage to the human body" — which is the main issue when working for cigarrete companies — nowhere close.

Maybe sex is not usually damaging to the physical body, but when not treated appropriately, it is definitely more damaging to the spiritual and emotional life than cigarettes! Sex is a good thing, but used in the wrong way extremely damaging. Look at statistics for the perverts who commit crimes of rape and murder. Often their behavior begins with small things, just looking at a little pornography. It's like a drug, addictive, and is very destructive to family life, and to good close relationships of many kinds. It's not just an opinion, it's a truth supported by lots of evidence. Again, don't get me wrong. I think sex is a great thing, and necessary for a good marriage relationship, for example. Sex is healthy and a beautiful thing. But using it as a selling device, or exploiting it in public is destructive to the spirit, destructive to the fabric that supports strong societies (i.e., strong families with parents that have trusting relationships and a commitment to fidelity. Promotions of sex such as seen on the cover of Print do not promote strong relationships, fidelity, trust, etc. Sex is a sacred thing that bonds two people together. That is lost when it becomes a public play toy.

On Jul.08.2004 at 12:08 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Marriage is about money, sacrifices, love, trust, who takes out the trash, religion, laundry, yard work, in-laws, car maintainance, type of milk to buy, and about a million other everyday, mundane things that cumulatively add up to a life together.

It's not about how much smut it would take to challenge your fidelity. There are SO many other things that is much more important than some nudity on TV or on a magazine cover.

On Jul.08.2004 at 12:39 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

...is a good thing, but used in the wrong way extremely damaging.

Replace "..." with pretty much anything. ;o)

On Jul.08.2004 at 12:43 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>Promotions of sex such as seen on the cover of Print do not promote strong relationships, fidelity, trust, etc. Sex is a sacred thing that bonds two people together. That is lost when it becomes a public play toy.

Omigoodness, please! You are defining a "good" relationship by your own point-of-view. It is hardly an objective defintion. Anything that two people in a relationship value--or respect (see Tan's list)--can potentially bond people together. What you consider sacred is a totally subjective experience. While you might think the cover of Print is a "promotion of sex," someone else might think that it is just one magazine's perspective on an interesting and controversial topic.

The magazine (imho) is not treating sex as a "public play toy"--it is covering a topic that has captivated the human race as far back as anyone can remember. And--here is the kicker--even if it were indeed treating sex as a public play toy, if that is all it takes to destroy fidelity and trust in human relationships, then I would suggest that the relationship wasn't very solid to begin with.

And lastly...what about the couples that like to share in a look-see of the latest Screw magazine together? Is their bond to each other any less sacred or trusting if they happen to enjoy a little saucy literature now and then?

I just (finally) saw the Print issue...and I think it is fantastic. Gutsy. Funny. Spicy. Sad. Provocative. Just what you want a magazine to be. Bravo.

On Jul.08.2004 at 01:13 PM
big steve’s comment is:

Heidi, are you signing up to be a soldier in the war on pornography? I don't mean to attack you, but i do mean to attack your statements. Such as, that rapists and murders develop their behaviour from reading a titty magazine, that it's more dangerous and addictive than drugs and cigarettes, that it's destructive to family life and close relationships. Please, I would like to see your evidence for this (and a Jerry Falwell lecture at Bob Jones University doesnt count).

Saving that there's a direct link between seeing sexual images and becoming a rapist and murder is possibly the most ridiculous thing i've ever heard - it's like people who are against homosexuality claiming that giving gays equal rights is on the same level as making pedophilia and beastiality legal - there's absolutely no [legitimate] basis for your statement that sexy pictures leads to rape and murder. none.

And your statements about destroying the essential elements of a happy society? What bizarro world are you living in where a) this society can be called happy and b) there is a formula for, much less definition of happy? Happiness is possibly the most subjective, intangible thing to have a name - it's a feeling, its not like you can pour a cup of happiness or accumulate a wealth of happiness - trying to define it is futile, but not so much as trying to define what makes ir (or in your case, what does not). You think that sexuality destroys the essential elements of a happy society, i think it's one of the necessities. I think war and greed destroy those essential elements, but i know there are people here who disagree... There's no barometer for happiness, so please to not try to quantify it with infallible terms and statements. And as far as a happy society goes, please do not evoke the changing times and the greatest generation, because if you go back in time about fifty years and ask women who are treated like second class citizens and completely subjugated by men, or if you ask African Americans and Chicanos who are still hanging from trees on a regular basis and who are certainly serve as third-class citizens where they are not allowed to attend schools or drink out of certain fountains, I bet they'll have a different view than Tom Brokaw.

I cannot understand these people who cry in outrage (my state rep, Heather Wilson, did it in front of congress) that a little nipple is going to tear apart the fabric of our society. Most of us spend the first year of our lives staring at and sucking on a nipple, but when we see one for a brief second on tv, all of the sudden we're living in Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the barbaric contest of guys beating eachother up for a couple of hours surrounding that nipple? Or the ads for movies that showed violence and carnage during the superbowl? Steven Speilberg got the PG-13 rating created for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom so kids could see a guy rip out another's bloody heart on screen, but if you say fuck or show a tit in a movie, that's automatically worse. This doesnt contribute to the essential elements of my happiness.

I dont get how you can say sex is a beautiful and healthy thing, but also say it's addictive and destructive to family life. That like saying Heroin is a beautiful and healthy thing, but can really fuck you up! Sure its true in the way that there are no qualifiers so the statement can be applied to anything (a can of soup is great, but if you slit your throat with the sharp edge of the can, it sucks, or pencils are pretty sweet for writing with, but if you jam them in your eyes, they can infringe on your personal well being).

And as far as selling and exploiting sex being the root of its badness, maybe a physical anthropology book would interest you, because that's all we're here for. The survival of a species is dependant on each sex selling itsfitness for reproduction to the other. Some female primates shove their ass up in the air to present for the male (some humans do the same), male primates beat the crap out of each other to show they are strong and will produce a stron baby (anybody else play varsity football here?). Sure, this is selling sex to one another, as opposed to selling sex to make a profit (that argument can be made too though if you want), but it all starts and ends in the same place.

Personally, i would hate to see a society that isnt coloured with sexuality. What would be anyone's motivation to do anything? Money? Cars? Nah, those are only tools to get the sexy girls. Personal enlightenment from productivity? Move back to China ya hippy communist! Sex drives our society, it does not stifle it. If geeks and nerds across the world weren't tired of not getting laid, they would have never been driven to make money (an aphrodisiac because it allows for your fitness as a mate (allows you to provide for your family)) off of their basement tinkering - no steve jobs, no bill gates, no cell phones, no public internet, no weblogs, no speak up. right?

On Jul.08.2004 at 01:41 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

Man... I thought I was gonna' get my ass handed to me, then Heidi comes along.

That was really something, bs.

On Jul.08.2004 at 02:17 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Such as, that rapists and murders develop their behaviour from reading a titty magazine

It's true. One of our state sentors even pointed out that allowing gay marriage will lead to an increase in pedophilia and bestiality.

(Ah, yes, our highly educated and objective public leaders...sigh...)

;o)

On Jul.08.2004 at 02:47 PM
Tim Lapetino’s comment is:

Heidi wrote: Sex is healthy and a beautiful thing. But using it as a selling device, or exploiting it in public is destructive to the spirit...

I think there's a case to be made here, even if you aren't a wacko, a prude, or a lunatic.

I haven't gotten to pick up this issue of Print yet, but I'll definitely be doing so, to really get at these important issues. But this whole discussion itself has gotten me thinking.

Just a while back, some Harvard students launched their own sex magazine, "H Bomb" (full story). One concern came from a Harvard chaplain, who said, "No matter how you cut it, crop it, light it or shade it ... exploitation is still a denial of anyone's and everyone's dignity..."

That seems to resonate with me deeply, and I think it reflects some of the reality we're discussing.

Exploitation is a loaded word, to be sure. But at the same time, the *unreality* of the situation comes in. I mean, as design professionals, we can glance at the pages of any "skin" mag like Playboy or even something like Maxim, and *know* that it doesn't reflect reality. Very few, if *any* women look like that--no blemishes, perfect curves, no visible bodyfat (unless it's in their Photoshop-augmented breasts). Some people might say that's just "reflecting" the culture, or selling us guys what we want. But does that make it right?

In his entry, Armin asked: As designers what is our role in employing sexual imagery?

I think the answer is responsibility. We're not completely responsible for all content that floats out there--but much like designing for tobacco or alcohol companies, I think we need to see the consequences, even if they're slightly less obvious than drunk driving or lung cancer. Our sexual "openness" seems to be contributing to:

-Eating disorders by women in record numbers

-frequent and unsafe fad diets

-huge increases in invasive "cosmetic" procedures and plastic surgery

-emotional and sexual issues that require years of help (my fiance is studying counseling in grad school--you could just ask her what she sees...)

I think openness about sex is crucial. I'm no prude, and I don't long for the days of female oppression, or for the shroud of silence about sex that characterized my parents' generation. But at the same time, I feel we're taking it too far. Our culture is oversexed. And doesn't it seem reasonable to say that if sex is *everywhere*--on every billboard, half the magazines at the grocery store, in TV, movies, etc. that it becomes commonplace--and not nearly as special?

If after we're married, my fiance decides to pose nude in Maxim, or even just jaunts about the Windy City every week in her birthday suit, I think that takes something away from *us*. If that happened, it would no longer be my *exclusive* privilege to share her body. I have to share her with the readership of Maxim, or Pay-Per-View subscribers, or whatever. And so the privilege isn't solely mine any longer. It's less special. If *everyone* had a Benz or a Ferrari in their garage, would they be as special? I don't think so.

I do believe that sex is a covenant, an agreement between two people. In Cameron Crowe's "Vanilla Sky", Cameron Diaz's character says "Don't you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not?!"

While that movie might have been questionable in quality, I think her character is speaking some truth. That seems to hold true for the sexual *acts*, but it could also apply to the "sex" that goes on in print ads, moving media like TV and movies, etc. It doesn't necessarily mean we should Amish-ize our media or marketing, but maybe we should think a little more deeply about just throwing sex out to there to be consumed, like another product. Doing so does damage, and does us a disservice as human beings.

Thoughts? This is another Excellent Discussion. :)

On Jul.08.2004 at 03:58 PM
Design Maven’s comment is:

STEVEN, MARK, DEBBIE, DARREL AND GODS of SEXUAL BEASTIAL DEMENTIA:

SAUL BASS WAS A TOTAL PERV!!!!!!!

HE LOVED TO STROKE IT I!!!! HEY, WE ALL DO !!!!

BACK TO MY STATLER BROS CD

On Jul.08.2004 at 04:15 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Classy, very classy Socksmell.

* Please note that was Felix, not Maven.

On Jul.08.2004 at 04:19 PM
Frank Lin’s comment is:

Well put, Tim.

You spoke what I was meaning to,

but had not :)

On Jul.08.2004 at 05:07 PM
M. Kingsley’s comment is:

>One concern came from a Harvard chaplain, who said, "No matter how you cut it, crop it, light it or shade it ... exploitation is still a denial of anyone's and everyone's dignity..."

>but maybe we should think a little more deeply about just throwing sex out to there to be consumed, like another product. Doing so does damage, and does us a disservice as human beings.

And the same goes for your PMRCs, your Jerry Fallwells, your Rudy Giulianis, your Fox News...

I suggest that if one has a problem with sexual imagery in design or design publications; one should consider originality of invention instead of presenting a moral argument. Moral arguments do nothing more than draw lines and polarize positions. They have no subtlety, they have no appreciation of alternative views, they have no elegance.

Information is neutral. To only present a moral argument is the sign of an undisciplined mind.

On Jul.08.2004 at 06:15 PM
marian’s comment is:

Oh man ... I am rotfl ... I thought I came to Speak Up for the sex, but really I'm here for the humour ...

Back to my Roxy Music CD cover ...

On Jul.08.2004 at 06:26 PM
big steve’s comment is:

Tim, a few points.

First is your unwillingness to share your girlfriend with Maxim's viewership or Chicago. Though i can understand your feelings of wanting to keep her to yourself (because i've gone through that with a girl or two in my day), when you say that you want to keep her for yourself and others shouldnt get to share her, that is outright objectification - that she is your property (or her body is at least) and that's much worse than the type of objectification seen on the cover of Big Black Tail or Maxim or other magazines. But under your rationale, are Jack Ryan's antics alright because he's cool with his wife sexing it up, or is it still wrong because you're not?

I believe there's some bullshit in the whole post-feminsim taking control of one's body and i know that not every girl who ends up on fistinglessons.com is there because she's an exhibitionist (or likes to be fisted) but I think Paris Hilton knows exactly what she's doing on her tv show and in the new Guess? campaign, and i doubt Heidi Klum cries herself to sleep every night because a lot of guys like staring at her in a bikini. I can agree that there should be some level of responsibility on the part of publishers, and art directors, and television programmers, but I there is restraint in all of these, the level varies though, and I guess may not be in accordance with your taste. Then again, we (americans) cried of outrage that afghan women were forced to wear burkas to hide their sexuality about a year before the entire country flipped its lid over Janet's nip. There's a difference!, you say. Of course there is, but it's a matter of degrees - europeans think americans are prude and ashamed of sexuality, they wouldn't lose their minds over a nipple. And then there's Ashcroft, who has draped a cloth over a statue of Lady Liberty to cover her exposed marble boobie because it's filthy sexiness undermines him and his beliefs... Is that where the line stands?

Then there's the mincing of words over exploitation. Yep, it's bad, yep, it hurts people. But who's to say what exploitation is? A common extremist view is that any time a girl stands in front of a camera it's exploitation. Andrea Dworkin and Robin Morgan used to both claim that all heterosexual intercourse was rape. Both claims are wrong. Picking up a 14 year old runaway at the Van Nuys bus stop and putting her in a gangbang is exploitation. H-Bomb magazine is not. It's actually an art magazine, and as my friend Natalie, a contributor to it, says, females had just as much of a role in its creation as men, with much of the art/poetry being self-expression. Plus, imho, you'd have a better time trying to beat one out to the panty page of a Macys ad than to H-Bomb... The chaplain blames our 'sad sexual culture' for corrupting us. I like the idea of personal responsibility and free will.

As for Maxim and Playboy causing eating disorders and diet crazes, I say rubbish. I know a whole lotta girls with eating disorders - whole lotta - and it boils down to inner self-esteem issues and personal mental problems. Robin Lasser and Kathryn Silva's Extra Lean exhibition does a good job of dealing with it. I totally agree that the media contributes to this with some of its female representation, but A) sex and sexuality is NOT inherent to images of females, and vice versa. Also, if I were looking at a culprit for eating disorders and the media's relation in our society, I would look past the 'sex' that's used as a tool and look to the $50 billion a year spent on diet products as a motive for making young girls sick and destroying their esteem. Further, I would be just as quick, if not more, to blamethe very unsexy Katie Couric, Oprah Winfrey, and the fine women of The View for the diet obsession, as they the shows that shove 20 new crazy diets down women's throats on a daily basis.

As for Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky, the crazy girl drove Maverick off a effing bridge after swallowing his sauce, hardly a creditable source. Plus, she's into that dirty S&M.

This reminds me of Lauren Greenfield's argument about her teen-porn book, Girl Culture. She made a book of sexy teens doing sexy things to express her outrage in the male oppression of women in america - citing fat camps, spring break, and beverly hills divas as examples of men essentially forcing young girls to become sluts and whores. Nonsense! Sure, we don't object, but Hustler isn't responsible for girls ripping their shirts off for mardi-gras beads or starving themselves to fit into a Marc Jacobs dress. Nope, that's pure Laissez Faire, free market competition between girls! Rather than following in the footsteps of Aristophane's Lysistrata and banding together to end wars, gain rights, or dominate men and any other way they see necessary, girls today are in fierce competition with one another - to be the skinniest, have the nicest dress, have the best looking boyfriend, etc etc. Magazines like Shape, Vogue, Lucky, Flair, W, et al definitely use imagery to control these aspects of female behaviour, but they are hardly what most people would consider sex/sexy magazines... I've been in a lot of frat houses, but I've never seen a stack of Vogue laying in the chapter room with the pages stuck together. My point, Tim, is that you are correct in that issues of self-image are influenced by the media, and they can be problematic for girls of any age, but Sex and sexiness does not specifically play a role in the media in question, nor in the social problems that you describe.

On Jul.08.2004 at 06:41 PM
big steve’s comment is:

Great point, M. Kingsley. We all have our own views of sex and the media, and arguing about it is kinda futile. I agree that sometimes sex/sexiness is an easy device to use (particularly when marketing to men), but that doesn't mean that it cannot be done artfully and creatively (like in H-Bomb, or Richardson, or whatevs). I would just as soon have this discussion about using babies and puppy dogs in design/advertising, in which case I would be on the anti-baby/puppy ticket. PRINT Magazine, are you listening!? Bring on the Babies and Puppy Dog Issue!!!

On Jul.08.2004 at 06:47 PM
Omar’s comment is:

Sex, eh?

It amazes me how willing people are to equate sex in popular media - sex which many here have referred to as the "exploitative kind" - with...well, real sex. Now as hard as I try, and as open-minded as I encourage myself to be, my sexual experiences don't seem like they'll ever approach a state (though in some cases I wish they would) that will allow them to be represented by the imagery I'm imagining you imagine here - if that means anything at all. I don't genuinely believe that the the creators of most of the sexual images I come across, on television and in magazines, are realistic representations of their sexual experiences either. They're more likely just bastardized versions of existing erotica. And the longer that this remains to be the case, the more misinformed we, and especially children, become about sex.

The concept of sex in the media as being "exploitative" comes from the fact that when products are (inadvertently) marketed to children using sex, it is not a fair representation of reality. Yet they have no reason to believe it isn't real. In fact, the taboo which surround sex results in children preferring products marketed with a sexual bias - in appreciation for informing them as to what sex is when other's won't. At any age, information is empowering. And if it is the graphic designers who are educating the public about what sex is, than its is the products that graphic designers are helping sell that will be sold.

Ultimately, the only ethical and moral issue being challenged here is honesty - not chastity. While many can differentiate the fantastic from the real, some cannot. And this is more so true in the case of sex than in that of violence. If you're careless about who you're audience is, you're going to end up lying to someone.

I'm not asking popular media and culture to be void of sexual content. I'd just appreciate it if it were real. Don't get me wrong, I'm leading the fight for more public sexuality. But I find realistic portrayals of sex to be far more enjoyable than imaginary ones. And that doesn't mean I want to watch fat and unattractive people having sex.

The bottom line is: I don't like being lied to. Sorry.

Teen pregnancy. Aids. Anorexia. Plastic Surgery.

It's your call. That's what I think. Cheers.

On Jul.08.2004 at 07:33 PM
marian’s comment is:

Hmmm, interesting point, Omar, and yet the entire advertising industry is built around selling fantasy, whether it's sex or cars or shampoo.

Everything is enhanced, touched up, manipulated and glossed over for the sake of the sale. We get lied to every day, with nearly every image. Real life just doesn't sell.

The disappointment the teenage boy experiences the day he sees that first thatch of real pubic hair is the same disappointment we feel when we see those clothes on the rack in the Gap. ... OK, maybe his disapointment is a little more profound or shocked, but c'est la vie.

(Men raised on porn are a funny lot, I have to say ... but they learn these expectations and we learn how to deal with it.) (OK, now I'm posting like a drunken sailor.)

I suppose that's where our imagination comes in handy. We see the picture of Johhny Depp some guy/gal in a car, and we imagine as best we can, the reality of what it would be like to be there with them. Then when we're in the car with our less-than-perfect counterpart, we imagine what it would be like ... or--no we don't! No we learn to accept, admire and desire our counterparts for the lovely, genuine people they are. Yeah, that's it.

On Jul.08.2004 at 08:52 PM
Omar’s comment is:

Sure Marian...everything is enhanced. I agree.

But the dilemma here is that when an advertisement makes something look shinier, faster and better it is doing so to the product. With the exclusion of pornography, no one is trying to sell sex. I can't go to the mall and buy shiny sex.

Presumably, I can get it for free from the right people.

Selling fantasy is the name of the game - there's no doubt about that. But in this case no one is selling sex, because it's not to be sold. Sex is used to sell. And like I said, I'm all for using sex to sell, but a lot of the time I find shiny sex to be boring, silly and trite.

And more problematically...unrealistic.

Do you think employing more realistic sexual imagery would be more effective in communication than what is used today? This is the question I think Print is (unintentionally) posing, and that graphic designers have to answer.

On Jul.08.2004 at 09:11 PM
marian’s comment is:

Ummmm ... but the mere existence of models and movie stars proves that idealized perfection is what sells. It may not be your perfection, or mine, but the current fad in body type somehow gets determined and perpetuated in the interests of using the body (sex) to sell product. The model isn't for sale, the shirt is.

There is the bigger issue (mentioned already, above) of the sale of body type and the damage it does to, in particular, women. I'm all over that, but I also agree with ... i think it was big steve, in that that is not specifically a sex issue.

Don't get me wrong, in many ways I agree with you. I would love to see a more realistic representation of people and things, but I doubt it's going to happen just as i don't have high hopes for an end to ... er, racism for instance.

(Isn't it beautiful the way all our topics link up in the end?)

Do you think employing more realistic sexual imagery would be more effective in communication than what is used today?

I'm having a little trouble imagining this. Could you mean perhaps the failed attempts, the angry turn-off, the way a stomach hangs down in that alarming manner when a person is on all fours? Or do you mean a body slick with sweat, flushed and blotchy, hair a tangled mess?

It might help with the sale of soap, but I'm not sure it would be any more noble or less sensational that what we currently have.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum ...

On Jul.08.2004 at 11:24 PM
big steve’s comment is:

Omar, sex isn't the only product replacement used in advertising (that is, the only thing that's used to sell something else). Celebrity is probably the number one thing - you can put Justin Timberlake's face on anything from a Big Mac to a BMW and the fantasy is that you're eating the same sandwich as a celebrity or driving the same car, so you're that much closer to them. Lexus ads may have the car in them, but they're hardly about that car. Rather, they're selling an affluent lifestyle - like if you buy a Lexus you get a pretty WASPy wife, a shiney Rolex and a house far away from any minorities. Food is hardly present in an TGI Friday's or Chili's ad (thank christ), rather they sell the idea of community and friendship and being social, like if you go to either of these horrible horrible restuarants you're not gonna be lonely anymore. Red Lobster ads feature plates of fresh seafood... where's the honesty in that???

So when beer and Cheer-ios use T&A to sell their product, it's no more or less dishonest, it's just much more overt.

Aside from that, i think that the more design oriented sexy/sexual ads get, the more raw and honest they are. I hate to sound repetitive, but look at the work of Terry Richardson, his Sisley ads, his Helmut Lang ads, all of his work actually - it's direct flash with no airbrushing, you can see every freckle and ingrown hair on models in these ads. It's kinda that VICE Magazine, punk- rocky aesthetic, which is much more designy than Kiera Knightly on the cover of Vanity Fair. Imagine how David Carson would integrate a boob ad bush into a piece of work... The notorious Calvin Klein CKOne and even more notorious basement porn ads were very raw / realistic / un airbrushed, and they were very successful. American Apparel ads follow in this lineage.I know this is only a grain of sand on large beach, but hopefully it's a start. In the process of being a part of the airbrushing problem, I too have grown to hate hate the glossy, over-lit, over made-up pictures of models - they're all the exact same, which is to say very uninspired and boring, but as (I believe) Armin said, that's a problem with the design / originality (or lack there of) and not necessarily the content / nature of the piece.

PS - anyone else see the magazine on the newsstand? It's sealed in plastic with a brown paper wrapper obstructing the cover. The brown paper is obivously more gimmick than barrier (as it says, "Warning, Graphic Content" and as the cover is hardly risque) but the plastic kinda bugged me because it makes me think that someone at Print was afraid of the content.

Some newsstands (even some bigger ones) in more conservative places seal magazines like High Times,Vogue, sometimes even Maxim and Stuff in plastic because of their supposed offensive content... Which is pretty uncool in my book.

On Jul.09.2004 at 02:09 AM
Omar’s comment is:

All true.

I'm not denying that sex "isn't the only product replacement used in advertising." And I never said it was the only form of dishonesty in advertising - just a more potentially harmful form of it.

Maybe it's that most false images presented in advertising lose their lives once the sale or consumption takes place. I think that this is the case with celebrity but not the case with sex.

However, it seems like that conclusion may have already been reached.

And Marian...you make sex sound like boxing.

On Jul.09.2004 at 07:59 AM
Michael B.’s comment is:

The issues that Omar and Marian have raised are good ones.

The late Tibor Kalman gave a lecture for AIGA San Francisco while he designing and editing Colors. Unlike many of his sarcastic presentations, this one was very earnest: he was clearly proud of what he was doing at the magazine, and stressed how dedicated he was to advancing the promotion of diversity and understanding.

In the discussion period, he was able to field every question from the audience effortlessly, except one. Someone asked why all the models in Colors were so good looking. Why no fat people? Why no ugly people? Why no real looking people?

Tibor is smart and fast, but this one took him aback. He finally said something about the challenging content needing a pretty presentation because, well, people like to look at pretty things.

Ugliness -- or maybe just diversion from the popular norm of perfection -- may be a bigger taboo than sex.

On Jul.09.2004 at 08:18 AM
marian’s comment is:

Ugliness -- or maybe just diversion from the popular norm of perfection -- may be a bigger taboo than sex.

I wouldn't call it a taboo. After all, no one is going to get outraged or write letters to the editor or the gov't because ugly, or "normal" people are being represented on TV or in ads. It just doesn't sell product. At least, not in North America.

Speaking of TV, this reminds me of the difference between American and British TV shows. One of the things I love about the Brits is they have all these interesting, normal looking people as stars. Helen Mirren! Robbie Coltrane! Any of Mike Leigh's movies. Canadian productions used to be similar, but I've noticed a huge amount of beauty-creep over the past 10 years.

But we digress.

And Marian...you make sex sound like boxing.

Ouch!

On Jul.09.2004 at 09:29 AM
steve heller’s comment is:

Micheal B wrote: "

Ugliness -- or maybe just diversion from the popular norm of perfection -- may be a bigger taboo than sex."

One thing that SCREW did was attempt to bust the beauty stereotype (i.e. the bunny myth). It used very ordinary models, in fact many of them came from the Japanese artist Kusama (who a few years ago had a retrospective at MoMA). She used to organize men and women into, well, simulated orgies (wearing costumes, etc.) posed them among her weird artworks that looked a lot like potatoes, and then sell (actually give away) the photographs for publication. The models were quite average looking, some were totally nude, others wore "taboo" articles of clothing, like socks. Believe it or not, according to some legal decree, totally nude was "artful" but nudes with any articles of clothing not covering the genitals were "prurient." Long story.

This kind of democraticized the endeavor, and while the pictures continued to objectify woman (and men too), it was done in such a matter-of-fact way. I argue that Screw helped influence and alter lots of popular media, including advertising. But this "average joe or joanne" view of sexuality never caught on an Mad Ave. Advertising sexuality continued to hold that the Playboy paradigm sold best. Average-ness, or ugliness was left for the porno or alternative precincts, where aesthetics were not as important as selling allure.

What's interesting about the Print issue is that it takes this into account. The sex, sexuality, and sexual allure that is covered in this issue is not about the pepetuation of beauty as an end product. Its not even entirely about eroticism. Its about how sexual imagery pervades our culture in many forms - some easy to accept and other difficult to look at.

On Jul.09.2004 at 09:45 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Ugliness -- or maybe just diversion from the popular norm of perfection -- may be a bigger taboo than sex.

It certainly worked for Fellini — esp. in Satyricon.

I suspect Tibor was treading water on that response since, at that time, he was employed by a fashion company. A fashion company that sold to the young & hip.

On Jul.09.2004 at 10:42 AM
Tim Lapetino’s comment is:

Big Steve,

Some more thoughts:

when you say that you want to keep her for yourself and others shouldn't get to share her, that is outright objectification - that she is your property (or her body is at least) and that's much worse than the type of objectification seen on the cover of Big Black Tail or Maxim or other magazines.

No, it would be objectification if I were doing this against her will. If I didn't treat her as a *person* with choices, feelings, beliefs, and convictions of her own--*that* would be treating her as an object, not a human being.

As it is, I might be accused of being *selfish*, in my unwillingness to share her. But it's my conviction that when you take your clothes off for someone, there's a bond of intimacy, openness, and vulnerability created there. By stripping down, I think you're saying, physically, "I'm letting it all hang out, not hiding anything from you. All of me is there for you to accept or reject. Nothing stands between us." Obviously, this is separate from emotional intimacy, but no less important.

I make no apologies for this with my fiancé. (Maybe she'll even post later in this thread.)

i know that not every girl who ends up on fistinglessons.com is there because she's an exhibitionist (or likes to be fisted) but I think Paris Hilton knows exactly what she's doing on her tv show and in the new Guess? campaign, and i doubt Heidi Klum cries herself to sleep every night because a lot of guys like staring at her in a bikini.

Sure. And I'm not going to make some sweeping generalization about the mental/emotional health of every woman flashing skin. But just because you *feel* okay about something, or do it intentionally, does *not* mean that there can't be issues underneath it. Many people, if they *knew* they had emotional or social issues, would try to do something about that. Hitler probably didn't cry himself to sleep at night either. (Not trying to be glib, but just making a point.)

And then there's Ashcroft, who has draped a cloth over a statue of Lady Liberty to cover her exposed marble boobie because it's filthy sexiness undermines him and his beliefs... Is that where the line stands?

It's a tough call, a slippery slope. I wouldn't raise a call to arms to institute some Ashcroftian standard--but for thoughtful, reasoned, careful dialogue about what the line is. It seems like most of the time, designers (and most other media types) just go ahead and put things together, without a lot of serious questions about whether something is going to be healthy, helpful, good. (Unless of course, there are lawsuits or subscribers involved.) :)

I like the idea of personal responsibility and free will.

No question about it. I'm not one for playing victim here. But I think we need a balance, so that when people *do* exercise their free will and personal responsibility, the cultural deck isn't stacked completely against them. Again, a balance.

and it boils down to inner self-esteem issues and personal mental problems.

That are often *fueled* by things like Maxim and Playboy. Why do we look at stereotypes of "catfights" or see the backstabbing on shows like "The Bachelor"? Are we helping to breed an environment of competition, comparison, and low esteem in women? Are men telling women "I'll like you better with a couple less inches on your waist, and another cup size larger,"? Again, people are responsible for their inner lives, but a lot of these things probably don't help.

look to the $50 billion a year spent on diet products as a motive for making young girls sick and destroying their esteem. Further, I would be just as quick, if not more, to blame the very unsexy Katie Couric, Oprah Winfrey, and the fine women of The View for the diet obsession, as they the shows that shove 20 new crazy diets down women's throats on a daily basis.

I agree.

But this whole discourse, if even just about our opinions, is good. Designers need to be talking about this. We're making artistic decisions in advertising. We're part of the culture-making machine.

And BTW, Big Steve, it was interesting to me to check out the link to your website, and see your photo retouching of women (and men). Slimming down women like you've done here and Photoshopping them into "perfection" kind of disturbs me.

Here's a question for the women of SU: How would you feel if this were *your* picture? Would you *like* to see the "sexually ideal" version of yourself? Or does that make you feel less about yourself? I'm very curious. And I'm more interested in your emotional, personal opinions, rather that political stances or rhetoric.

On Jul.09.2004 at 11:14 AM
Jerry’s comment is:

Armin, your episode reminds me of when I was at SAIC and took a class that had me reading a book called The Philosophy of Sex everyday during my commutes to and from school, on a bus and a train. I live in a working class neighborhood so you could imagine the looks I got from people. The cover has two taboo words in my part of town, sex and philosophy. “Look at this fuckin’ guy all smart and shit, and a pervert too.”

To answer some of your questions: I feel that the reason this country is shy and uneasy about these issues goes way back to the country’s “founders” and their moral system. It still reverberates strongly in American values. You have shampoo commercials in other countries that show a woman’s breasts but it doesn’t have the stigma it does here, it’s just like seeing her back or thighs. Children see those commercials and still go on to become normal healthy adults, not perverts. I think we have it all wrong here. I’m not saying that the Playboy channel should go public or that Rope Burn magazine should hand out free copies at city events either. Censoring only heightens the desire to partake in activites that are taboo, but because of such label they become perversion.

The word sex has such negative weight because some ways it’s the archnemesis to ´┐Żlove’. It smells bad, looks funny, and arouses and tempts even the most civil of us (sometimes with adulterous thoughts). Anybody can have sex, sex can betray, be forced upon and many crimes have a sexual underpinning. Love however, is attributed to the spirit and needn’t rely on sex to flourish.

On Jul.09.2004 at 12:54 PM
Schmitty’s comment is:

Sorry, with Marian's Saskatchewan images still in my mind and the indie canadian band thing, I had to add this:

"...Burn all your magazines down

Look at you there, could eyes possibly stare upon you

Or buy to become you

You see I'm slimming down

Like the way we say ideal is to be (or 32B)

Even though it's killing me so

No matter how, as long as tendons tighten the skin

In the right places, I may need some stitches

Over to make the room up

For a couple of sizes of cup..."

Sex is OK, but I think it needs to be portrayed in a realistic way-somthing between two people-give and take. I find the "Spur Posse" attitude very disturbing. This is someones daughter (or son), they are the most important and rewarding aspect of a parent's life-they deserve respect on a level that is reflective of this. I think we as advertisers and designers have a responsiblity to society to help create a safe, respectful society for both genders.

On Jul.09.2004 at 12:55 PM
big steve’s comment is:

Tim, nice go around... My comments about the objectification (or not) of your fiance remain because in your second post you say that, 'What if she shares these views...' which is fine, and dandy if she does, but your original statement was that you would not approve if she if she were to elect to post for Playboy or hop on the train sans clothes, which would mean that she wouldn't be sharing your views and that you would be trying to wield power over her.

As for my photoshopping of girls for different jobs, i said in that earlier post, In the process of being a part of the airbrushing problem, I too have grown to hate hate the glossy, over-lit, over made-up pictures of models - they're all the exact same, which is to say very uninspired and boring, which is totally true. I used to hate more natural/raw photos because they didnt seem as pretty, but after doing that sort of work i very quickly became tired of airbrushed photos and became more interested with 'honest' photos. I'll still brush a photo if the job calls for it or at my own discression, but as for your open question to the women of SU, i think it applies to men as well. As a matter of fact, the only negative feedback i've got about those (from the subjects) were from this guy who said (uncomfortably) that he didnt even recognize the guy in the photo (the angle does a lot for him too, before the retouching). I felt pretty bad for the guy because he's not a model - he just wanted to be in a picture with his bar. I hate low self-esteem in girls, and hate that I have contributed to it with some of my photos, but that said, I'm still reluctant to blame it on sex/sexiness in imagery, true in the case of the retouches on my wesbite that you speak of as they're in no way glamour/beauty photos, but rather [pseudo] candids.

no one is going to get outraged or write letters to the editor or the gov't because ugly, or "normal" people are being represented on TV or in ads.

Marian, I totally thought the same thing until i saw the Letters to the Editor following last year's Supermodel Issue of American Photo, which featured two different covers, one of Gisele and one of Heidi Klum, both shot by Gilles Bensimon. They were polarized, half of the readers wrote in saying that the magazine was becoming porn (hardly), but the other half of the readers wrote in to say how disguisting and ugly these girls on the cover were, and asking who the hell would find them attractive. I thought it was hilarious because these are probably the two most beautiful women in the world, but A) i guess the readership didnt know who they were, and B) they both looked really really ugly in the pictures... it was kinda fun though.

On Jul.09.2004 at 02:08 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Psssssssst. Anybody wanna buy some erotic art? LOL

On Jul.12.2004 at 05:57 PM
RavenOne’s comment is:

Curiously (or not) this issue of PRINT never made it to the local bookstore...

or if it did, it never got to the stands.

On Jul.13.2004 at 01:47 PM
MrBlank’s comment is:

I liked the sexy articles in the design annual issue of Step Inside Design. They were interesting and tasteful, but because a spread I designed for a kid’s science magazine was featured in the annual, I got to say something to my mother that I never thought I ever would:

“Hey mom, I’ve been published in a design annual! Just ignore that dildo on the cover.”

On Jul.14.2004 at 11:31 AM
steven morris’s comment is:

to RavenOne's comment:

Yes, this issue of Print did make it to the local bookstore. I just had lunch at our neighbor Borders and it was there...brown wrapper and all.

On Jul.15.2004 at 05:18 PM
justin m’s comment is:

I pulled this issue out of my bag to read at my fiance's mother's house and as soon as I did, I was asked if that was something I really wanted to read in front of her mother. I put it back in my bag and read a book they had on their coffee table instead.

On Aug.02.2004 at 07:07 AM
Kelly’s comment is:

I guess Im on the outside of the majority. I felt the best part of the whole issue is the fact that it said graphic content inside. It's always graphic content inside. Plus when people were looking at me while reading the sex issue I believe it was more to wonder what the word is supposed to be made out of. I know I did and couple people even came up and asked me if it explained the form of the word sex inside the issue. Lighten up people we're one of the prudest generations yet. If your all artists remember your schooling... doing nothing but staring at nudes and sex along with at least 30 other people.

On Aug.14.2004 at 12:08 AM