Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2012: The Lingerie Company Forgets Lingerie is For Women

Unlike the Sport’s Illustrated, “Swimsuit Edition” — which is an excuse for scantily clad women to be shot by art photographers, in some of the most stunning locations in the world, in the most innovative fashion designers’ latest work — the Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show is an excuse for scantily clad women to be on old people network, CBS, wearing a big box-retailer’s itchy Agent Provocateur knock offs.

And unlike the iconic luxury lingerie brand, whose marketing caters to women’s fantasies of feeling sensual, with product placement videos featuring self-pleasure, or even female dominance and unapologetic sexuality, the Victoria’s Secret branding is about angels. The Madonna-whore complex is the most banal of sexual complexes, where, as Freud describes, women must exist either as saints, or debased prostitutes, and serves the mixed-message, middlebrow ad campaign well.

The women are coquettish in feathered wings and garters, telegraphing to the audience that they are the ultimate stereotypical male fantasy, a fallen saint. Don’t worry, though, we can put this on TV and not call it smut because they’re angels, pure, devout, existing to serve. The hour-long special is even taking it one step further this year, with both CBS and VS donating to hurricane Sandy relief efforts as, “a thank you to the National Guard members who are based out of the Lexington Avenue Armory that has been home to the show for years.”

Although there are some female National Guard’s people, the majority who serve are men. Again, the underlying bias comes through that the company is aiming their advertising at men. While this may seem like an obvious assumption, if you stop to consider whom lingerie is for, it’s not. Men are not the primary purchasers; women are. Men don’t wear lingerie; women do. The logic would then be that women are purchasing lingerie to please men.

This is such an outdated concept, and it’s at the heart of the show and the brand. The idea that female sexuality is taboo makes lingerie buying about men. Yet, in studies of female sexuality, it’s been concluded that women are turned on by an essentially narcissistic version of erotica — by feeling themselves to be sexy, by fantasizing about themselves in sensual roles.

This year’s fantasies include, “Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio wearing the $2.5 Million Fantasy Bra made with more than 5,200 precious gems, including sapphires, rubies and diamonds, in 18-karat rose and yellow gold.” This is anecdotal, but I don’t know many women who play their lady harp while imaging being covered in heavy sharp objects. Other vignettes this year include, “Pink Is Us,” and the circus. While lion tamers may have whips, a tent that smells like manure also doesn’t factor high on the list of women's daydreams.

While there clearly is a price point difference between high-end unmentionables like A.P. or La Perla, who clearly design with women in mind, if you want inspiration and accessories for role-playing on mall budget, try Cosabella instead.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Marni Chan

Marni has a M.A. from NYU's Arthur Carter Journalism Institute's Cultural Reporting and Criticism Program, where she studied under Susie Linfield, Katie Roiphe, and Dennis Lim. She also has a B.A. in history and politics from Pomona College. Marni has previously written for Forbes, AOL, and Conde Nast Traveler.

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