Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bosom and Phallus in Paris

If there's one thing you can say about the French, they're no prudes. Sex may seem to infuse American culture, but walking around Paris makes the US seem like bible school.

First, there are the monuments, most of which use some huge phallic symbol to represent the, uh, stature of the thing being memorialized.

Place de la Vendome

Place de la Concorde

OK, it's kind of subtle--not exactly a wardrobe malfunction--but they've been doing this for a long time. And sometimes it's less subtle, one thinks.

Pont Alexandre III (notice the "batons" in the ladies' hands)

Then, there are the breasts. They're everywhere. I've experienced them in three contexts. (I am sure there are more contexts, but I haven't gone into those stores, which, by the way, go by the very francophone title "Sex Shop.")

The first context is the classic art. The number of breasts in the Louvre is surpassed only by the number of crucifixions. The breasts seemed to have been portrayed so prominently by these artists because, well, they're just really nice to look at.

Venus de Milo

Gabrielle d'Estrees, lover of Henri IV, sharing a bath with her sister

The second context is the modern art. Here the breast is symbolic, representing power relationships, subjugation, liberation, etc. One is not really meant to enjoy the breasts, but rather to think something about them.

(Note: the hula hoop on the woman in the background is made of barbed wire.)

Finally, one sees lots of breasts in the mass media. Magazines have topless women on the covers, ads include them. We've not watched any TV, but I'm guessing they're on there, too.

Interestingly, these images seem to be there because, well, they're just really nice to look at. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose (The more things change, the more they remain the same).

Of course, it doesn't hurt that they probably help sell a lot of products! Then again, it may have improved the marketability of classic art as well.

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