The Hot Porn Of Pottery Barn
Think Abercrombie & Fitch is racy? You haven't seen these naked, nubile coffee tables
Here it comes again, another dumbly predictable, panicky little outcry from terrified parents' groups and petrified dads all aflutter over the recent sexed-up, "racy" Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, just in time to stuff your proverbial stocking.
You know the one, that new A&F Christmas catalog that dared to go so far as to show actual young half-naked models laying around in half-naked splendor doing half-naked nothing much. Same as it ever was.
But wait -- nudity? Group sex? Orgies? Specific directions for gang masturbation techniques, all appearing in a mediocre clothing catalog aimed squarely at ineptly dressed Stanford undergrads who have free access to Dad's Visa? Whatever is the world coming to? And who, pray who, will save the children?
I mean, whatever happened to the innocent and tantalizing catalogs of yore, like the 4-inch-thick Sears tome with its countless pages of busty bra models who looked like your best friend's mom?
Whatever happened to fantasizing all the way through the panty selection in the JCPenney catalog? What happened to innocence and virtue in mail-order advertising?
Yeah, right. Softcore is, of course, where you find it. And one person's "offensive" is another's "barely naughty enough to arouse a Catholic priest." The hypocrisy of these parents is palpable. Bring me lots of photos of frumpy baby boomers happily munching $20 Harry & David pears so that I may rinse my poor singed eyeballs!
Meanwhile, Abercrombie is thrilled. The latest round of reactionary screeching is exactly the outcry they were counting on, as they yank the sexy catalog from the shelves just as the news of its raciness hits the media, thus resulting in an instant wave of interest among their target market: a.k.a., those youths who simply love it when parents get all pissy and fumy about interesting types of sex they no longer have.
Is Ambercrombie softcore porn? Is it really? Is it really all that much more dangerous or damaging to nubile young minds than, say, Pottery Barn Kids? Let us ponder. Let us compare.
Let us now gander at, say, the latest Williams-Sonoma catalog. Here is, quite simply, 160 pages of pure kitchen-fetish smut, raw and glossy and openly explicit, all gleaming $400 KitchenAid blenders and wickedly overpriced stainless steel All-Clad cookware and gorgeously photographed slabs of steaming gourmet meats being perfectly sliced with spotless $200 Wusthof knives. Mmm yeah, baby. Do it to me just like that.
And over here, it's the latest mail-order offering from Pottery Barn. Oh my yes. Page after page of softcore earth-toned lifestyle porn for those who can't afford actual designer furniture but who seem to have an undying fetish for picture frames and votive candles and faux-antique mass-produced hardwood rollaway desks.
And all that's missing from these shots is the girl in the Garnet Hill catalog sweater who will refuse to have sex with you on the Pottery Barn slipcovered sofa lest she wrinkle her J. Jill catalog skirt and knock the Crate & Barrel vanilla pillar candle over.
The Abercrombie catalog is, by the way, not sold to anyone under 18. It has a cover warning of "Mature content." No actual terrified oversheltered children were in any way harmed or exposed or even lightly tickled in the photographing or marketing of its pages.
No matter. Still, Michael Kieschnick, president of Working Assets and chairman of some scary-sounding overbearing thing called Dads and Daughters, thinks Abercrombie is trying to openly molest his young girl, who has, presumably, never even seen the catalog and is probably too young to buy it and if she is, in fact, over 18 and she's into happy yuppie group masturbation, well, it's really none of his damn business. Just a thought.
Still, Maryam Kubasek of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families (hello, red flag of rigid sanctimony) apparently thinks the catalog is literally capable of stripping her young son naked and plying him with massage oil and anal beads and a nice Burntbridge Pond Striped Polo shirt with moose embroidery for $39.99. Oh the horror.
Oh hell, let's just spell it out: All major catalogs are softcore porn. Just because they lack nude postcoital models does not make them any less explicit or depraved.
All are unabashed fetishy lifestyle whores and all attempt to showcase their wares in impossibly perfect situations for impossibly perfect people with impossibly perfect teeth.
Of course sex and orgies and masturbation have nothing to do with selling yuppie clothes. This is what the parents groups pule.
Then again, this is complete B.S. -- sex has absolutely everything to do with selling clothes, because just under the surface of it all, clothes are only silly shallow vanity-based things we adorn ourselves with for no other reason than to appear attractive and interesting to the world and to our lovers and families and friends and really hot waitresses. We want to look cute. And sexy. Or at least presentable. Because we want to get laid.
And if you say this is not the reason you buy clothes, you are either lying your ass off or you are sadly disinterested in physical appearances, or you are past the age or the marriage status where you care about sex or fashion or how those jeans make your ass look, and therefore you are not even on Abercrombie's radar.
Should we now talk of the upscale decorator porn of the Gump's catalog? What about the weird overpriced parenting porn of Hanna Anderssen? The uber-cheesy gay Eurostud porn of International Male?
Or what of the super-rich diamond-encrusted ultra-slick porn of the Neiman Marcus catalog, packed with all those untouchable preening fur-clad mistresses descending the steps of your new Lear jet? Why are uptight parents' groups not horrified at this raunchy display?
It's all the same. It's all manufactured desire and imitation lust and a boatload of tasty crap you don't really need but they make you crave madly, the way a 14-year-old schoolgirl pines for Orlando Bloom in a blond wig.
Note to scrunchy parents: I'd be far, far more worried about what, say, Kraft is selling to your kids in all those millions of boxes of toxic and openly poisonous Kraft Lunchables than about some quasi-sexy yuppie-fashion catalog they never even see. But that's just me.
Oh, but here. Here is the safe, saccharine J. Crew catalog, all bland white former sorority girls and carefully emasculated boys and a smattering of safe black persons, all with incredibly clean teeth and nifty haircuts and big happy smiles playfully tossing snowballs at each other in their new J. Crew scarves, only $29.99. Oh yes, that's much better.
And here we have the L.L. Bean catalog, featuring those exact same J. Crew models about 10 years later, doing the exact same smiley snowbound activities, only with more gray hair and a higher credit limit and less sexual activity and lots more monogrammed luggage. How disturbing. I feel sort of violated just looking at it.
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Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does. He also writes the Morning Fix, a deeply skewed thrice-weekly e-mail column and newsletter. Subscribe at sfgate.com/newsletters.
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