I don’t follow any actual porn blogs as that’s what porn sites are for. But my dash is often peppered with pictures of attractive women because of the gynephiles I follow. (There are also lots of pictures of attractive men because of the androphiles I follow but since I don’t fancy men, my eyes kind of skim over those pics unless they exhibit startlingly good photography.)
Here’s an example image:
The model’s name is Hailey Outland. I don’t have the photographer’s name, sorry, I even tried using TinEye to find out who it was. I’ve picked a deliberately safe-for-work picture here but, obviously, Tumblr delivers every variation of nude / naked you could ask for, every pose inviting, every pose targeted at us. I’m talking about this picture but I’m talking about all those pictures too.
So, I look at the picture. As a gynephile, I’m attracted to the model; she’s beautiful.
But then what?
This person isn’t my friend or even an acquaintance. I don’t know her, I’ll likely never know her. Maybe I’ll fantasise about her? Well, I could try but it’s pretty difficult as I don’t think her type is fat, middle-aged men. I mean, I could be wrong but judging from the female friends I have of her age, that’s not who they go for.
The picture is presented, obviously, to be looked at. It invites and nurtures our scopophilia. Moreover, it is bereft of complication. It is saying: here is a beautiful woman on a beach, she is wild and mysterious and here for you. We don’t see the photographer, their assistant(s), the make up artist, the stylist. We don’t see the time it took for the model to travel there, or that she’d maybe had a dodgy kebab the night before and was desperately trying to contain explosive diarrhoea. We don’t know her personality. Does she like cats? Is she into snowboarding? Is she actually a deadly CIA assassin using modelling as a cover for her international death spree? We don’t see that her feet hurt or that she’s got cramp in one of her calves from posing in an awkward position for too long while the photographer was fiddling with their grey card.
Annie Sprinkle covered this construction of fantasy perfectly in her Anatomy Of A Pinup:
No, instead of all that, my brain goes: mmmm, she’s gorgeous! And I can almost see her boobs!
We are encouraged into the dream of the scantily-clad woman waiting for us on the beach. The narrative of the picture is artful in its erasure of the reality of the woman and the creation of the fantasy. If you look around, at the pictures of women you see everywhere, there is a fundamental breakage between the narratives they portray and actual real, living, breathing women. (You may wish to look at the male gaze if any of this is novel to you.)
I wish I could look at pictures of attractive women on Tumblr and see through the picture to the actual person, to know her as a human being. But that’s impossible and, for the models, highly un-desirable. Imagine the nightmare for them if millions of sweaty old men could actually, you know, interact with them.
In the back of our minds, we know it’s bullshit, we know we’re lying to ourselves when we look at pictures of attractive women on Tumblr and imagine witty, flirty conversations with them. We’re not only being sold the idea of the woman, we’re being sold the idea that we are someone she would actually be interested in. When we see her youth and beauty, we can pretend that we are as young and as beautiful even though, truthfully, we aren’t and never were.
We know it’s a lie.
But we’re sad and lonely and alone.
So, we keep scrolling. We keep looking. We keep fantasising.