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[TLA Flashback] Victoria’s Secret Problems: 3 Big Issues the Lingerie Chain Needs to Address

Image Credits: 

Left: NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 07: Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr walks the runway during the Victoria’s Secret 2012 Fashion Show on November 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS)

Right: NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 07: Victoria’s Secret Angel Doutzen Kroes walks the runway during the Victoria’s Secret 2012 Fashion Show on November 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS)

Please don’t remove the credits. 

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The One Big Way Victoria’s Secret Helps the Entire Lingerie industry | The Lingerie Addict | Lingerie For Who You Are

[Lingerie Addict Flashback] The One Big Way Victoria’s Secret Helps the Entire Lingerie Industry

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Diversity & Sexuality: Talking About the Way We Talk About Victoria’s Secret

Excerpt from The Lingerie Addict:

Sexuality

Very often, at least from my perspective, conversations about Victoria’s Secret and sexuality drift off into the “deep end.” Either you hate everything they’re doing and believe they should be shut down immediately, or you hate women (or some other, equally hyperbolic nonsense). The conversation on sex and sexuality and lingerie and Victoria’s Secret is, like a lot of other things, much more complex and subtle than all that. This year, Victoria’s Secret made headlines for their “Bright Young Things” collection, which elicited several allegations of “sexualizing” young women, in particular, teenagers. However these conversations sometimes have the unfortunate side effect of tipping over into body snark and sexuality shaming, where women are not only ridiculed for having insufficiently feminine bodies but also for wanting to express their sexuality through their lingerie.

This article isn’t about the “healthiness” or “unhealthiness” of Victoria’s Secret’s particular brand of sexuality (and I’m being very deliberate when I use the word “brand”). There are a number of issues with the way VS portrays women (submissive, passive), and I’d love to see a more active, self-aware, self-possessed version of sexuality in lingerie advertising…not just from Victoria’s Secret but from almost every other lingerie brand in the industry. If nothing else, women’s come-hither glances and parted lips have turned into a tired trope – it’s boring. There’s more to sexuality than the formula of pretty girl + lingerie.

That said, I am incredibly uncomfortable with how a conversation on sexuality, at least in America, disregards the role of lingerie (or clothing in general, for that matter) as a way of feeling “sexy.” There are a lot of memes and self-esteem posters insisting that sexuality (especially a “real” or “healthy” sexuality) all takes place on the inside, and I understand what those messages are trying to do. In a world where so much emphasis is placed on a woman’s external appearance, these notices are trying to remind women, especially young women, that there’s more to who they are than their appearance. That’s a wonderful thing, and it shouldn’t stop.

However, there’s also nothing wrong with saying that people can express their sexuality (which, let’s face it, is a big part of your identity) through dress, including lingerie and “sexy lingerie.” While my personal interest in lingerie tends towards the fashion side of things, no one should get to tell anyone else that an expression of their sexuality is “healthy” or “unhealthy” because it involves push-up bras, garter belts, or knickers with words on the backside. Women can wear sexy, titillating, provocative, naughty, dirty, trashy, cheap, or even slutty lingerie and still have a “healthy sexuality.” Women can buy this kind of lingerie for one partner, no partners, or many partners and still have a “healthy sexuality.” One’s underwear choices are not a shortcut for determining sexual health.

I’d much rather see a message reminding young women that exploring their sexuality is okay, and that self-respect shouldn’t be determined by one’s undergarments. Learning what you like, playing around with what you see other people do, and keeping or discarding as necessary is part and parcel of discovering your own sexual identity. Every “healthy” sexual encounter does not have to occur in the context of a relationship with lots of conversation and people being appreciated for their stellar personalities.  And being physically attracted to the person you want to sleep with isn’t “shallow.” There is no need for a false dichotomy here. You can quite literally have it all.

The word “empowerment” gets thrown around a lot, so much so that it’s meaning has become watered down and lost. However, I believe empowerment, at least in this context, comes through taking ownership of your appearance, whatever that may be. Empowerment doesn’t come from creating more rules of what’s appropriate, healthy, or socially acceptable. It comes from letting women, including young women, go through that entirely natural process of self-discovery and exploration. Fun, flippance, naughtiness…it’s all okay. And we can both encourage Victoria’s Secret to expand their notion of sexuality without completely decoupling lingerie from sexuality (at least for people who express aspects of their sexual identity through lingerie). No woman’s self-esteem should be dependent on the underwear she chooses, and that goes both ways.

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