Something triggered a bit of an odd memory for me today. Someone mentioned, in a comment on my blog, that they flipped through the pictures before reading the post.
Snap! I used to do the same thing. We used to have a subscription to the National Geographic. I don’t know if I ever actually read any of the articles. It was a long time ago. What I did do, though, was look at the pictures. It was the old-fashioned version of the internet. Instant gratification. Pinterest for a pre-internet civilisation.
There were all sorts of things in that magazine. Modern cities, space, albino gorillas who spoke sign language and owned kittens, the works.
But one of my favourites was the so-called “primitive” cultures. Topless dark-skinned women dancing in grass skirts. Men with painted faces running naked over the backs of lines of cattle. Brightly adorned and heavily bearded New Guinea tribesmen. They were all there, and they took me away to another time and another place.
I needn’t have bothered. I didn’t need a magazine. One day, driving to, of all places, the local dump, we passed a settlement filled with women who looked like this.
They were Ndebele, a local tribe famous for their neck-rings and their bright, geometrically patterned houses. This was the only time I ever saw them outside of a touristy, “look at how African they are” context. They were just a group of women, going about their daily business in about five kilograms of neck-rings.
And they are just amateurs. Check out these women from Nepal!
It seems like a rather strange thing to do. But maybe it isn’t. Eroticism is a strange thing to try and get your head around in the age of the internet. At the push of a button, you can see all manner of men and women in all sorts of nudity and sweat related situations. It’s all a bit dull.
It’s dull because it takes the easy way out. For the internet generation, it’s all about genitals. Hundreds of them. In all manner of unimaginable situations. And in some pretty large groups. With some pretty unnatural tan colours.
Which is all well and good. In their heart of hearts, when no-one is watching, no-one really minds the odd well-framed genital or two. But genitals are not erotic. This is.
All it is is an exposed neck on a young woman. But it’s enough. There’s nothing crass about it. Nobody is thrusting anything plucked like a chicken and spray-tanned orange at a camera while gurning like a sideshow freak. It is just a delicate exposed curve of vulnerable skin, hair pulled back and laid bare. It’s the sort of thing that should give proper grownups the shivers, while the teenagers busy themselves with the orange genitals.
The Ndebele get this. And so they have focused on the neck as a thing of beauty. They accentuate it. They draw attention to it. They emphasise it.
And those women from Nepal stretch it. Technically, they don’t actually stretch it. They just push down their shoulders and rib-cages. But the idea is the same.
These are not the only people to isolate some aspect of femininity and emphasise it. Like nibbling on the odd earlobe? Try these babies.
Got yourself a little bit of a foot-fetish. You’re not the only one.
God only knows what this is about.
This sort of extreme body modification is not limited to the distant past or obscure cultural backwaters. Slim waists and wide hips are erotic too. Remember all those stories about Victorian women swooning all over the place? They weren’t just pathetic weaklings. They just couldn’t breathe. Because they were being a little tribal. Corsets. Tight ones.
Luckily, we live in a more enlightened age. Many of these so called “beautification” traditions could be pretty horrifying. Those Chinese women with the bound feet, for one, were left crippled and in almost permanent pain. These days, women are not expected to modify their bodies in bizarre ways to make themselves attractive to
Oops! I’m sorry; I have no idea where that came from. What I was saying was that we have moved on from the more primitive tendency to modify the female form in grotesque ways to fulfil some sort of cultural ideal of beauty, and besides,
Sorry. I think there’s something wrong with my computer. Where was I? Oh yes. And besides. And besides, no doctor who had been through seven years of medical school to heal the sick, and sworn a Hippocratic Oath, to boot, would ever mutilate a patient to satisfy some sort of bizarre obsession with
This is all getting to be a bit much. I need to contact my service provider. The internet has been buggy all day. I’ll try to write a proper post once this is all sorted out. I just