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Of goddesses and their boy toys

Barneys has never shied away from provocation in its window displays or catalog, and its latest campaign – featuring supermodels of a certain vintage shot by Bruce Weber – is no exception. 

  Christie Brinkley (above) and Stephanie Seymour Brant (top) are among the supermodel stars of a Barneys’ catalog celebrating the sexuality of women of a certain vintage.

Christie Brinkley (above) and Stephanie Seymour Brant (top) are among the supermodel stars of a Barneys’ catalog celebrating the sexuality of women of a certain vintage.

The models, fully clothed in fashions by the likes of Céline and Balenciaga, pose with younger men who for the most part are not. In one, Christie Brinkley, clad in short, lacy Lanvin, pauses from applying her lipstick to succumb to the ecstasy of a tousle-haired hunk wrapped in a white bed sheet.  In another, Stephanie Seymour Brant, in short, sheer Balenciaga, looks boldly at the camera as three nude men worship her with makeup mirrors.

Coupled with the appearance of plus-size model Ashley Graham in the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, it would seem as if society were finally ready to acknowledge the sexuality of women, many of whom are neither young nor thin.

So, as I said, it would seem.   Seeming, however, doesn’t make it so. The models may be middle-aged but they are still gorgeous women. And the posts about Graham, who appears only in an ad in Sports Illustrated not an actual spread, range from saying she’s too fat to remarking that she’s too thin for plus-size work.  (Graham’s a size 16.)

Women don’t make it any easier for our sex. In a Feb. 5 New York Times’ piece about women’s tennis fashions at the Australian Open – see Serena Williams’ and Maria Sharapova’s vibrant, cutout dresses – Billie Jean King was quoted as saying that tennis for men and women should be only about competition not about appearance, too. This on the heels of the (male) on-court reporter at the Aussie Open asking Eugenie Bouchard to twirl around.  

But sport is a kind of entertainment, and entertainment is partly about looks – for male athletes as well as the female ones. (What about the female reporters and officials who ask Novak Djokovic to dance? Or Nole and Grigor Dimitrov performing their on-court “stripteases”? Or the fans and shutterbugs who take note whenever the men change their shirts courtside?)

Sexuality is part of all of us, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it, just as long as it’s also part of what Jung would call the integrated self.