“Miss TSA” calendar reminds us just how unsexy some “sexy” poses are

Especially the one in the second row, where the woman looks like she’s about to start doing tricep dips. It’s a nice reminder that in addition to all the makeup, lighting, airbrushing and photoshopping, making what’s considered to be a “sexy” photo also requires some really uncomfortable posing.

series of x-ray photos of a woman in various poses, similar to sexy ones they might make in a photo shoot

The photos were originally taken for another calendar that was designed to convince doctors to buy x-ray monitors. Both calendars are clearly meant as parodies, albeit crappy, sexist ones. But I appreciate these photos because they’re a reminder that, when you look at conventional definitions of “sexy” from a slightly different angle – in this case, from an angle that removes facial expression, hair, makeup, surrounding requisite beach or fur rug and leaves nothing but the body – those definitions start to look really ridiculous. These poses are totally absurd, so unlikely to be struck during actual real-life sex, and this particular form of photography throws that into sharp relief. It can be easy to forget, when you’re looking at a photo that includes all the images that serve as code for “sexy” – the hair, the pout, the lighting, the flesh – that it’s all a carefully orchestrated performance. These x-rays take that performance and remind us that it’s all a show, and not a very sexy one at that.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/lisslalissar/ Lissla Lissar

    You know, I gotta say I don’t entirely agree with the conclusion here. I’ve been a nude model for almost a decade now, and have probably done each of those poses many many times. They aren’t that uncomfortable and some of them result in really great images that I’m proud of. And it doesn’t have to be a “carefully orchestrated performance”.

    • nicolechat

      I also don’t agree with the conclusion and I don’t agree that the calendar is sexist, either. I think it’s pretty clever, actually, and one could even say it has feminist connotations. Where’s the sexism? Because the models are assuming typically feminine poses, or something?

  • apiontek

    I understand where you’re coming from, in that my wife has said how much she finds certain erotica “annoying” because of the silly poses. Mind you, she loves some interpretive dance that seems rediculously “unreal” to me.

    My point is only that the human body is a strange beast that we tend to enjoy in multifaceted ways because we are also human. It’s made of bones and flesh and the ways they move are either attractive or grotesque, depending on what we expect (or have been taught to expect).

    Yoga is uncomfortable to some viewers; bliss to some participants. What does that mean? Need it mean anything general?

  • http://feministing.com/members/suntzu1984/ Matt

    Why does “performance” = “unsexy”? Aren’t positions “struck during actual real-life sex” also pretty performative? There seems to be a bit of a naturalistic fallacy going on here in the assumption that “positions struck during actual real-life sex” are objectively sexy, and other positional representations of “sexy” are somehow warped or “ridiculous.” Even on this level the logic doesn’t really work, though, as visual cues for courtship/attraction (“sexiness” if we’re going to naturalize it) wouldn’t necessarily be the same as those given off during actual sex. Finally, isn’t pretty much any photographic representation of a human going to look kind of absurd when rendered in X-Ray? What about these poses makes them look more “ridiculous” than an X-Ray image of a person sleeping or running or eating a bowl of oatmeal? I’m not sure what about the image set highlights any of the things mentioned here.