A real-life sex kitten gives her thoughts on the current
appeal of old-time glamour gals
"Why Do Modern Women Love Vintage Babes?"
An essay by Gracie of Sex Kitten
When Java asked me to
write about why women 'love the vintage babes,' I first thought he was
joking. After all, he's The Java Bachelor for God's sake, what can
I possibly tell a man with this level of discriminatory taste that he,
or his readers, don't already know?
Can I impress upon him further the divine
female form? (Well, only if I press myself, or one of his lovely Cheesecake
Gals up against him!)
Can I reiterate how the standards of beauty
in female form & face were idealized in days gone by? (Surely he
doesn't want a lesson in Western History--unless it's a wanton lesson including
samples in the flesh!)
But then it occurred to me, the adoration
of the female form is not a pleasure reserved only for straight men, lesbian
women, & drag queens. These women are adored & admired for more
than their heightened & glossed cultural standards of beauty. To be
sure, we wish to emulate those legendary looks, in order to get those lusty
looks, but there is so much more to it than that.
For the feminists among us, these legends
mark cultural moments in our societies. Each legendary 'babe' may
have had the spotlight on the stage & a flashlight on her photo under
the covers, but she is also a beacon of light into the roles of women.
As her figure & face set standards of
beauty, her behaviors broke the rules. Even the masters of the innocent
girl next door look were viewed as scandalous as strippers--Any model showing
skin & smile was sexually aggressive to pose for such publications.
She was provocative in the true sense of the word, stimulating controversy
along with arousal. But as she used her sexuality to move herself
forward, was she pushing the women's movement back at the same time?
& Jean Harlow made names for
themselves based on their sexual aggression. They pushed the envelope,
sending a message that women were not prey to men, but that women were
hunters as well. These women are said to have 'exploited' their sexuality
for fame & power, for personal gain. Some believe they were feminists,
claiming their sexuality. Others see them as pawns of men--the money they
earned lining the male pockets of studio heads. Were West
& Harlow claiming their own sexuality, or were they only
rationalizing male control? When a woman claims her sexuality, is she
claiming it? Is she the 'exploiter' or the 'exploited?' Today many wonder
about those very things with Third Wave Feminism.
But these women are more than examples in
some feminist herstory book. They are more than fodder for Humanists. For
each legend was also a real, live human being. Each with a story of her
Female fans of femme fatales try to find the
real stories of love, happiness & success. We look at their photographs
and wonder, 'Was her smile real, or pasted on for self-protection?' We
search through clippings, biographies & tell-all books, hoping for
clues to the answers.
Did Marilyn Monroe
own her sexuality, or did it own her? She began her ascent to stardom reveling
in the attention of her sex symbol status, but somewhere along the way,
the confines of audience & studio conditional love were restraining
to say the least. And her status as a sex goddess also limited her love
life. Men flocked to her as Monroe the goddess, yet no lover,
no husband, could live with & accept Norma Jean the person.
Not even Monroe herself seemed to know what her role as a
real flesh & blood woman should be.
Was Brigitte Bardot
a femme fatale, or a lost lamb? While she has lured many, she also has
had three failed marriages & several suicide attempts.
Did these women beckon or plead from these
covers? As a sexpot she teased & flirted for the camera, yes. But when
she broke hearts, was her own included in the tally? The lives of
& Monroe says 'yes.'
And how did these women cope with changing
cultural attitudes, changing times & and the passing of time itself?
They lived in a youth obsessed culture, in a beauty fixated business, &
the swish of hips does not sway the passing of time. Did stars like Bettie
Page walk away from the limelight before it could reveal her
dimming beauty? Or did she simply walk away, relieved to end that chapter
& begin another? Some, like Mamie Van Doren,
Moreno, Sally Rand & Raquel
Welch continued their careers. Others, like Bunny
Yeager, switched to the other side of the camera. And still
others, such as April Daye &
Dolinger, went on their ways, no longer shaking or showing
their earlier money makers, living full lives away from their babe status.
Sometimes they moved on with new names, seeming to just vanish.
We search their lives for answers to our own
questions & fears of the future. Stories of tragedies & triumph,
not always together. Stories of stereotypes & spirits. For these women
have been both icon & individual, public figure & private being.
We are still pulled in by their provocative photos--but now it is the search
for answers that seduces. A photo here, a clipping there...
Their lives play peek-a-boo with us now as
their bodies did in costumes then.
We hunt for clues to their lives, but more
often than not, what we find is bits of our own. Their struggles are our
struggles. Their fears, our fears.
We like to think now, as we look back, that
they had some plan, that they knew what they were doing. That each woman
faced her archetypal role with steely determination--an iron fist in that
velvet glove--determined to be herself not just her gender. But as she
lived her life in the lushness of youth, she was like anyone else, unaware
of how her choices would affect her or 'women' at large. She may have cared
about the future rights of women, just as we do today, but I doubt she
made choices in name of feminism. Just as it is with today, her first concern
was the mouths she was responsible for feeding, including her own.
We'd like to believe that these legends could
be both a goddess claiming her sexuality & a woman claiming her human
frailty--capable of causing mortals to swoon yet happily living among them.
Even after the bloom of youth has wilted.
We'd like to look back at those glossy photos,
at those fading films, and feel that all that glitters was not only gold,
but that she got to keep it. If not in the monetary sense, then in a life
well lived. In wisdom gained. In love obtained.
We keep searching for clues to their lives
in order to understand our own.
They tease & tantalize now, as they did
then... Luring us in, bringing us closer, yet leaving us wanting more,
So who were they? Candid cover girls or burdened
bombshells? Vivacious vamps or vulnerable vixens? Femme fatale or femmes
The truth is, collectively they were all these
'things' and more: They were women.
Just like us.