YOU CAN JUDGE A CUL­TURE, to some de­gree, not just by whom it ob­jec­ti­fies, but what body part. Homer raved about “bright-eyed Athena” and a sea nymph’s “fair an­kles.” In ide­al­iz­ing the Vir­gin Mary’s mater­nity, Re­nais­sance dudes de­vel­oped a breast fix­a­tion. Vic­to­ri­ans had a thing for small waists. And whereas ear­lier gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans wor­shipped pamela an­der­son’s bust and betty Grable’s legs, to­day’s most cov­eted as­sets are the be­hinds of kim kar­dashian, nicki mi­naj, and un­told le­gions of raun­chily rumped Instagram lovelies. Fi­nally, af­ter decades of dis­place­ment, our sex­ual ob­ses­sion has re­turned to a frankly sex­ual body part. For­get el­e­gant shoul­ders, the nape of the neck. We are living in a but­t­lover’s par­adise, an age of ass­less pants and up-the-crack thongs, buttclap­ping booty dances, and fit­ness “tw­erk-outs.” Even Vogue, which has cham­pi­oned­flat-backed fem­i­nin­ity for decades, re­cently de­clared this “the Era of the Big Booty.” Buoyed by the ex­u­ber­ant pro­fan­ity of In­ter­net porn, not to men­tion the cheek-happy cheer­lead­ing of our most ex­alted tastemak­ers—the butt is back at the naughty epi­cen­ter of Amer­i­can sex­u­al­ity.

Love of the der­riere presents some­thing of an erotic para­dox. Hu­mans are among the only crea­tures with en­larged rumps (a trait as­so­ci­ated with bipedal­ism), yet the eroti­cized rear view is of­ten stig­ma­tized as an­i­mal­is­tic. Sex­ual po­si­tions that dis­play the butt are con­sid­ered in­fe­rior, as­so­ci­ated with a “doggy” in­stead of a pi­ous “mis­sion­ary.” When it comes to the age-old ques­tion “Tits or ass?”—the Betty-or-veron­ica of male de­sire—the lat­ter is gen­er­ally deemed the more lurid fix­a­tion. Maybe that’s be­cause butts are far­ther away from the face. Or be­cause the non­sex­ual func­tion of breasts is life-giv­ing, while the non­sex­ual func­tion of butts is...never mind.

Some evo­lu­tion­ary bi­ol­o­gists be­lieve breasts func­tion as vis­ual stand-ins for but­tocks—some­thing closer to eye level that made the fe­male body iden­ti­fi­able and iden­ti­fi­ably sexy, once we stopped roam­ing around on all fours. (Butt Lite, if you will.) When shown iso­lated images of ass cracks and heav­ing breasts, men are of­ten un­able to dis­cern one cleav­age from the other.

Un­abashed sex­ual frank­ness is part of the butt’s ap­peal—and also why men who lust af­ter ass are, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, bet­ter lovers than men who fa­vor boobs. The sex­ual plea­sure a woman ex­pe­ri­ences with her top off pales com­pared with what hap­pens when the butt—and neigh­bor­ing zones—are in play. With­out the pos­si­bil­ity of eye con­tact or kiss­ing, butt-fo­cused sex acts are pure, hon­est-to-god bang­ing. There is no Ni­cholas Sparks ver­sion of a rim job. And so the butt of­fers an ap­peal­ing au­then­tic­ity—a wel­come respite from a world of weak im­i­ta­tions, slick fakes, and phoni­ness in gen­eral. Due to the butt’s anatom­i­cal ne­ces­sity, syn­thetic al­ter­ations like im­plants and pads are deeply in­con­ve­nient and thus rel­a­tively un­pop­u­lar com­pared with their mam­mary coun­ter­parts. (Padded bras are avail­able at ev­ery mall in Amer­ica, while butt pads are con­sid­er­ably harder to find.) But the glu­teus max­imus is a mus­cle, and the most cov­eted butts tend to be­long to those who per­form the most squats. It’s sort of demo­cratic: Even an un­known girl from Long Is­land like Jen Sel­ter can, with enough grit, trans­form her­self into the undis­puted queen of the Instagram butt selfie. Ev­ery woman has an ass, and we’re all ca­pa­ble of im­prov­ing it. But progress re­quires the kind of dis­ci­pline that juice-cleans­ing Crossfit en­thu­si­asts and Quan­ti­fied Self ob­ses­sives have turned into a reli­gion.

And yet, I hate to break it to you guys, but asses are not al­ways what they ap­pear to be in all those “belfies.” Tak­ing a pic­ture of one’s hindquar­ters is, of course, some­what hu­mil­i­at­ing in and of it­self. In­sta­gram­mers will sooner show you a butt pic than the awk­ward con­tor­tions they went through to get the shot. But once she gets into po­si­tion, the forced per­spec­tive cre­ated by hold­ing a cam­era at arm’s length above a bent-over and popped-out ass makes the poser’s buns look hugely round and her waist look tiny. And since hold­ing that pose re­quires en­gag­ing ev­ery sin­gle bal­ance­ori­ented mus­cle in the body, noth­ing even jig­gles!

So when Kar­dashian “broke the In­ter­net” with her baby-oil­coated rump last year, the mass public freak-out was not merely the log­i­cal con­clu­sion to seven years of star­dom launched by a sex tape. It was the peak mo­ment in an on­go­ing, swelling shift in our sex­ual cul­ture—an all-out race to the Bot­tom. The ef­fect is so com­plete that when Pa­per pub­lished full-frontal pho­tos from Kim’s naked photo shoot barely 24 hours af­ter the butt pic, it felt al­most like an af­ter­thought. The ass broke the In­ter­net—the rest was just a bonus. ■

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.