Oh, those sexy Texan polygamists.
You know you're thinking it. Why don't you just come out and say it? Those women with their pastel bolt cotton ankle-length frocks and never-once-cut pompadours are hotter than cinnamon toast. You can't stop looking.
Everyone knows Chloë Sevigny's character Nicki, from the HBO polygamy series Big Love, is the sexiest sister-wife in Utah, with her 1970s Holly Hobbie-inspired dresses and her cunnilingal fears. And the women all over the news after an April 6 raid on a West Texas splinter sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are just as bootylicious. Why? Because you don't know anything about their culture. You don't know anything about their lives. And you don't ever see them in the Sobeys root-vegetable aisle looking for sweet potatoes without mould spots. They are exotic to the core. And that, by god, makes them sexy.
That's not their goal, of course. According to an Associated Press piece last week, which traced the roots of the women's clothing, pioneer prêt-à-porteris all about understatement. AP's Hillary Rhodes summed it up with a quote from John Llewellyn, a "polygamy expert" and retired Salt Lake County sheriff's lieutenant, who says the women cover themselves "so thatthey're unattractive to the outside world or other men."
It ain't workin'.
First off, since when does plain attire detract from sexiness? Remember when Tony Soprano asked his bombshell Russian girlfriend Irina to wear something a little more businesslike---to dress like his uptight psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Sometimes, he told Irina (clad in her usual black lace lingerie), it's better not to show so much.
And according to that same AP story, the polygamist compound women's clothing is all the same because uniform dress implies unity. But here, quoted from the same story, is celebrity stylist Ted Gibson's assessment: "He's going from wife to wife to wife, so why should I look any better than theother ones?"
Sorry, but I don't buy that uniformity is poison to looking attractive, or a simple exercise in I-just-can't-be-bothered.
When I pick up off-the-shelf porn, those women all look the same to me---same boobs, same lingerie, same hair, same nails, same well-lit bedroom set. It's like double-D cantaloupes, long squared-off French polish and a ticket de metroBrazilian wax are some kind of unspoken porno uniform. And those models are held up as archetypes of adult female sexuality.
And now, at least until the mainstream media becomes bored with the west Texas compound---where last week 25 more mothers were found to be under the age of 18 and have now been included in the investigation into the abuse of 460 minors---homemade pastel cotton floor-dusters will take their place on the sexy-by-rote rack along with maid's uniforms and boob-bustingnursing outfits.
Part of me sees this as a lesson we could probably all stand to hear: there are no set forms for what's sexy. We can label anything arousing if we package it the right way, or if it just gets jostled around enough in the pop-cultural melee of television and the internet (to wit: Peaches).
But there's something darker, too, in our urge to ogle these women.
There are no bounds to the way, culturally, we can mess with representation. Praying-mantis-thin models can symbolize beauty and heath, even while some of them (like Uruguayan sisters Luisel Ramos, 20, and Eliana Ramos, 18) are dying. A 17-year-old doll-cuddling Britney Spears can appear in 1999 on the cover of Rolling Stonelying on purple satin sheets in her underwear, with her boobs hanging out of a black bra, epitomizing adult sexual desire that is, if not illegal in some places, at very best, dreadfully damaging.
And there's this---the Texas polygamy story is about child abuse at heart, not clothes and hair. It's about teenage girls being passed over to older men. Girls who get pregnant and become mothers before they're old enough to go online and look at the video-game trailer for Age of Conan. Girls who are told their lives should unfold this way because it's ordained by god.
See, it's more than their polygamist uniform that makes these women so gawk-worthy; more than that they just don't look like you do. You're interested in the pictures of these women, because you're just dying to know what goes on in their lives. Like the weekend-exposed story of an Austrian woman who was locked in acellar for 24 years and impregnated repeatedly by her father. Now that she---like the polygamist women and children---is ostensibly out of the woods, you're just dying to hear the details and see the pictures.