The annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show aired earlier this week and served as a rare and welcome opportunity for men and women to sit back and enjoy something together.
These are fraught times for straight couples, as every day seems to bring about a new rash of sexual assault and/or harassment allegations at formerly powerful, well-respected, successful men. Some have even gone as far to argue that male sexuality is inherently violent and dangerous.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show seems a bizarre (if not downright ironic) rallying point for the sexes in light of these events — you know, given it’s rather unabashed display of objectification. And yet, so many straight couples love watching it together.
If we are to play to the basest, most tired of stereotypes, men tune in to ogle the barely-dressed models, and women watch for the fashion and to appreciate the female form. But rather than speculate, I thought I’d go to the source and speak to two straight people — one woman, one man, each of them in different relationships — about what pleasure they derive from watching the VSFS with their significant others.
Catherine Pham, 31, Design Director at Mass Jones Studio, Chicago
I first convinced my boyfriend to watch the VSFS with me last year — and I did it by force.
I told him it was something I do every year and would like to watch it with him. He didn’t think it would be something he’d enjoy, but my tone didn’t give him much of a choice. I also didn’t own a TV at the time, so I needed his to watch it.
He didn’t think he’d like it because it’s shiny things and pop music and conventionally attractive women. He likes football and video games and tattooed women. I’m more of a stereotypical boy than he is in the last respect.
He recorded it and we watched it the following night. It was great. It’s one of my favorite events because I enjoy the art and the production aspect of it. Having worked in fashion for more than 10 years, I know what goes into putting on a production like that — the planning (from conception, to prototyping, to fitting) and the vigorous training the models go through to look the way they do. I explained all these things to him as we were watching, and it changed his perspective.
I also explained to him about high fashion and why shows are so “outlandish” to a non-fashion eye. It’s art. What you see in high fashion shows aren’t meant to be worn, but they introduce concepts and colors. All of the outfits in the VSFS have a base of lingerie that will be sold in stores, and they embellish and crest a costume out of it.
It was a new and different experience for him that he otherwise would’ve never sought out on his own, and he now respects it because it’s so similar to my line of work. He wouldn’t watch it without me, but he’s excited to watch it tonight when I get back. There’s also a promise that afterwards he gets to pick out new lingerie for me. So, it’s good foreplay, too.
To anyone who might think it’s objectifying and anti-feminist: Being a top model is a profession. They may not sit in an office for eight hours a day, but they train for eight hours a day and that takes an insane amount of discipline. Those wings can weigh up to 80 pounds. It’s fucking hard. So why can’t women flaunt all that hard work?
Jake*, 30, Chicago
I’ve watched the VSFS every year since I first discovered it my senior year in college. It’s kind of a tradition. Every one of my college friends watches the VSFS with their girlfriends, fiances and wives, too, and we talk about it all night in our group text chat. It’s fun.
If you’re wondering about me possibly getting a half-boner during the show or my fiancée getting mad about her own body, don’t. It’s not an issue. Like me, she likes to watch anything pop culture-related — every red carpet, every awards show, etc. She likes the celebrity aspect, and I’ll be honest, I like the babes. And to see the performers. The last few years have featured Bruno Mars, Bieber and Harry Styles. I’m pissed we didn’t get to see Katy Perry, though. Apparently, her visa got denied.
There’s also a novelty aspect to the VSFS that makes it enticing. One hour, one night a year. If the VSFS were a weekly series, I’d doubt I’d tune in.
I get why some people would be surprised couples watch it together. The guy lusts over the women while his female partner sits there feeling insecure. But that’s not the case. Admittedly, it probably didn’t help that I ordered a bunch of Mexican food right as the show started. We’re sitting down to watch a bunch of supermodels, and I’m making my fiancée a plate of nachos.
I tend to make fun of the whole spectacle a lot, and then my fiancée will shush me and tell me I’m ruining it. But we do that with every show.
My point is the dynamic is no different from other shows we watch it together. We derive different things from it. She appreciates the beauty of the women and the event itself, much like I admire baseball stars. There’s a recognition that these people are superhuman, and we could never do what they do. And while I might enjoy it on a more superficial level, I have that respect for the models, too.
Like, I have no idea how hard it would be to walk in heels when you’re 6-foot-4.
*Name changed to protect the anonymous.