There are those who will point to the decline of print to explain why Playboy magazine is a shell of what it once was, when circulation topped 5 million in the 1970s (it’s a fraction of that now). And some will triumphantly point to the new push for diversity and inclusion in recent issues of Sports Illustrated’s famed swimsuit issue for stripping the mag of must-read (or rather, must-see) status.
LZ Granderson In the same way I’m sure some social justice warriors believe awareness and cancel culture led to Thursday’s announcement that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show would be no more. But I tend to believe there’s a simpler explanation for the fate of these enterprises. Listen to the insightful words of Trekkie Monster, a character from the 2004 Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q:” The internet is for porn! The internet is for porn!Why do you think the net was born?Porn! Porn! Porn!In other words, society hasn’t grown a conscience, it just got a smart phone. Who needs to wait for a magazine to come in the mail or a TV show to air once a year in order to see scantily clad women in the privacy of your home when there’s Pornhub and sites like it? According to Similar Web — a UK-based company that monitors internet usage — Pornhub is visited more online in the United States than Netflix, ESPN and Walmart. There are three porn sites visited more frequently than CNN, four more than FOX and five more than the New York Times.
The narrative that a more enlightened society has led to a change in viewing interests may feel good but I would suggest that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show cancellation came about because Instagram models are more readily accessible than runway models (Instagram, by the way is just behind Pornhub on SimilarWeb’s ranking). After all, record stores are all but deceased but we didn’t stop listening to music. Travel agencies are essentially a thing of the past but we’re still traveling. Telephone booths are gone but phone calls remain. Technology, not morality, led to the fashion show’s demise. Don’t believe for one second that the reptilian brain’s desire to glance at a woman’s backside has been reasoned away by a well-written thought piece posted on someone’s Facebook page. No, what likely happened is someone logged off of Facebook halfway through reading said post to look at porn. That’s not to dismiss the “indivisual” trauma and cultural damage caused by all those years of the Victoria’s Secret fashion, as it anointed itself the judge and jury of female beauty. Only that I don’t believe the country consciously rejected those standards as much as gravitated towards an easier way to satisfy its sexual fix. The atrophy Victoria’s Secret’s show suffered is a but a byproduct.
Besides, Victoria’s Secret’s strict definition of female beauty—thin, bosomy, unattainable–is not only outdated, it was never accurate to begin with. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Just because diverse voices have progressively become stronger over the decades and now challenge the Eurocentric image long held as the beauty standard doesn’t mean that standard was ever accepted as fact among real people. And thanks to the research conducted by Pornhub itself, we know users are interested in looking at a wider variety of women than the ones the lingerie show has historically featured. So yeah, viewership for the fashion show is down and we can debate ad nauseam why that is. But there’s good reason to believe enlightenment isn’t the driver. Too many still want to objectify women, they just want to do it their own convenience.