Thursday, September 25, 2008

Boobs, butts, bellies and thighs

The first time I walked through Ssang-yongdong on that Tuesday night while it was still light out, I was struck by the amount of thigh on display in conservative Korea. High-heeled silver sandals with straps around the ankles provide the platform for the exhibition. The exhibition includes the silky-soft skin that is natural to most Koreans. In fact, I have a friend in the states that the affectionate nickname that I use with her is Silky Pants, she calls me Jerk Face. As I try not to be obvious or rude, my gaze slowly follows her calves all the way up to the thighs and right to her butt, literally. Her shorts can’t be but an inch bigger than the skimpy bikini bottoms that American white girls wear to anywhere they can get away with. I get that funny tingle that only lust hormones can produce as I bashfully walk past her and her almost blue denim shorts, I say almost since they barely qualify as “shorts”. Images of hippie chicks in the sixties when I was growing up trying to piss off their parents come to mind. The next woman I am approaching down the hill on the sidewalk on this unbearable hot 92 degree humid evening, is wearing white sandals with the same four inch heals and straps around her ankles. Her silky smooth skin also is on display way up to her blue denim mini skirt that conjures up more images of sixties chicks pissing off their daddy’s. As I now have enough time to lift my head up after this startling visual treat, her t-shirt goes all the way up to her neck, down to the edges of the bottom of her blue denim mini-skirt and the shirt has semi-long sleeves on this hot day in Korea.

I reminisce about earlier this summer in several college towns on the east coast of the states and how much cleavage was bulging out of push-up bras and bikini tops. There are more breasts showing on the American female than the actual breasts of the Korean woman. They do not show boobs, shoulders or bellies here, like ever. The Korean female’s upper body is not on display in public but their legs and butts put the twenty dollar hookers outside Port Authority in NYC to shame, especially with the heals that bring me back to my younger years in bars with half and whole naked women with dollar bills tucked into their g-strings. The g-string is the predecessor to the thong for those of you too young to know there was once a world before thongs that underwear went over your butt instead of inside. With the exception of those who got paid to wear them or trying to spice up their personal life every now and then. Yes, Korean women like to show their legs and butts, but no upper body, and they will never leave their homes without a bra or undershirt on, nipples are outlawed here.

Besides the obvious reason of being a guy who really appreciates the female form, what has caught my attention about these social mores is that on late night TV, woman show their boos all the time and the TV stations blur out any butts or pubic hair. So in real life, boobs and bellies are a no-no, on TV, butts and pubic hair is a no-no. In both, Korean women rarely wear anything that fits snug, alters or lifts their boobs. It appears that Korean female celebrities are very comfortable with showing themselves topless in movies and TV, whereas American female celebrities have to be mindful of what they show and how it will effect future casting, while they walk around with their boobs on display to the legal limit whenever possible with underwear of any form a commodity.

Why is it that we have such curious contrasting and maybe even contradictory social programming about what and where it is OK and not OK to expose the naked body? There seems to be no rhyme or reason that I can see. I initially thought that it might be related to the fact that western women typically have larger breasts than Korean women. After seeing them topless on TV all the time but not bottomless, my theory gets thrown out the window. We certainly are an interesting species. The fact that we wear clothes at all is somewhat bizarre, but the peculiar patterns that determine how that justifies which and when we expose any or all parts of our bodies is absolutely a mystery to me. I doubt I will solve this mystery tonight, tomorrow, or the next night. In the meantime, I will keep my eyes on things that are not as stimulating to the those senses and focus on things that are stimulating some the other senses like trees, mountains, patterned sidewalks of green, red and yellow and all the incredible little places to eat that line every road I can find with sights, smells and tastes that thrill even an objectifying male like myself.

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