While looking for a suitable image to open the lexicon entry on hedonism, I happened upon all sorts of pretty unbelievable things. Did you know, for example, that there are vacation clubs called "Hedonism" and "Hedonism II", where people go to have sex with strangers? Well, it was news to me.
I also discovered a series of advertisements for Tom Ford Perfumes which I had never seen before. I had seen the Neroli Portofino shot with a naked man and woman pouring, I presume, water on each other from large Neroli Portofino bottles. It must be water, else they would not be laughing, and might even have to undertake a detox program after the photo session, given how strong that fragrance is. The volume which they were splashing around so blissfully in the ad spot could easily have cleared the building.
I posted the Neroli Portofino ad before in connection with another topic, but here it is again:
Pretty racy, I thought, when I first encountered the image, especially given that the woman is fairly clearly staring at her partner's private parts. Another ad for the same perfume ratchets the excitement up from ogling to direct contact, as though the naked couple were together in bed in the midst of (gasp!) fornication:
A third image for the same perfume features frontal nudity:
To my surprise, however, the Neroli Portofino ad campaign does not hold a candle to some of the others which popped up using Google image search, including this one:
Not sure exactly what this is supposed to mean. Can anyone help me out here? Paper strips used for testing perfumes have been nestled in the woman's behind while Tom Ford, a confirmed homosexual, poses as a creative director assessing the perfumes. The message is quite unclear.
What about this one:
Here we have a more standard advertising technique. The suggestion appears to be that if one wears Tom Ford Cologne, then one will gain access to the treasures hiding behind the bottle in the ad. A version of "panty dropper" logic, it seems. Here a variation on the same theme adds the extra allure of well-oiled skin:
With all of this naked flesh, and the heavy-handed, even panting, juxtaposition of sexual images to bottles, Tom Ford perfume ads start to look verily pornographic!
I use the word pornography with some trepidation, as my own knowledge of the porn world is nearly exhausted by the contents of the film Boogie Nights, which I found utterly fascinating, in part no doubt because it revealed to me a subculture of human society about which I was up until then entirely ignorant.
It's not that I have any principled moral objection to pornography, per se. If it leads men to mistreat women, then I think that is a bad thing, but whether it does or does not is an empirical matter. My real objection to pornography is simpler and less contingent than that. What little I've seen of this genre of self-expression (for lack of a better term) has just struck me as boring or distasteful or stupid—and usually all three.
Pornography seems to be about separating body parts from souls, and in that sense it does not connect with my own experience in any way whatsoever. I've never had a relationship with anyone which was about isolated body parts. Really. As unbelievable as that may sound, it's true. Perhaps that is because for me, people are a package deal: body and soul. Aristotle opined that human beings were "rational animals" or "embodied souls," and I could not agree more.
Pornography is about severing the soul from the body, and dividing even the body up into appendages to be used as sources of pleasure. Say what you will, but isolated body parts are just not very interesting to me. I am merely reporting on a matter of taste here, not taking to task anyone who happens to like porn.
I also dislike boxing. It's true that one of my classmates in high school was rendered an imbecile by sparring without head gear during a practice session, but I disliked the sport even before that happened. I actually cringe during boxing scenes in movies. Raging Bull is the Scorsese film which I've watched the fewest number of times, and I still have not gotten around to the Hilary Swank boxing movie (Million Dollar Baby). Perhaps there is a connection between my aversion to boxing and my dislike of porn? Do I suffer perhaps from anemia?
Probably what I dislike the most about the small amount of pornography I've seen—and I confess to never having made it through an entire "work", if that term even applies—is that the acting itself was so egregious that I could not even bring myself to watch the thing. To be honest, I found what I've seen excruciatingly embarrassing for the actors. How could they degrade themselves so horribly—not by having sex on film but by pretending to be actors when they were nothing of the sort! Know thyself.
Which reminds me: while searching for Tom Ford Porn—which returns thousands upon thousands of images—some pornographic shots of Scarlett Johansson popped up as well. I was needless to say taken aback, as she is a real actress, is she not? Coincidentally, Bryan Ross at From Pyrgos opened a recent feature with a photo of and several comments about Scarlett, one of which being that she is the world's least talented actress. I almost left a comment, because I can think of about a hundred worse actresses than her. I am not saying that she's great, but far from the worst. For the record, I disliked Lost in Translation, which I found to be distastefully xenophobic. Japanophobic, to be more precise, and I'll never understand the praise which it garnered (I presume from monolingual anglophone Americans).
Now I am really curious: did Scar Jo (which I learned from Bryan's post is her nickname) do porn before breaking into Hollywood? Or were the porn shots I found photoshopped? Either way, it got me thinking about how easy it would be to fabricate false images of famous people juxtaposed with any- and everything, as in the images of Scarlett with plenty of other people's, let us say, "ample" body parts. Yet another reason to use avatars while roaming about the world wide web...
Add to my avoidance of bad films more generally the fact that I have no interest in watching other people have sex—or any other animals for that matter—and pornography just ends up being a no-go for me. It's not interesting, and I find it aesthetically repugnant and intellectually insulting. Why would I watch it? I refuse to watch bad movies, and the porn which I've been exposed to involved insipid plots and pathetically bad acting. Those are my queue to leave the theater. I never watch regular movies which are that bad, so why would I watch a porn movie which is even worse, given that I've no desire to watch animals copulate—whether dogs, horses, rabbits, or people?
I know that lots of people enjoy or even love porn, and Tom Ford appears to be one of them. In an interview for Harper's Bazaar in 2011, he indicated that he watches heterosexual porn "all the time". He went even so far as to say that his top bookmarked sites are porn sites:
"I watch straight porn all the time. If I go on my computer, there's a button that can connect me to all the sites I look at most often, and they're all porn—and 1stdibs.com. Porn and antiques!"
Tom is not alone. Cyberporn addiction appears to be quite the internet age phenomenon, impossible in centuries past, but made possible today by the ease with which images can be transmitted from one place to another and accessed with an innocent—or not-so-innocent—click of the mouse.
Cyberporn addiction must be real because sometimes when I am in the computer laboratory at the library, I see men in rows ahead of me watching porn, which seems pretty incredible—at a library?—but there they are! They tend to be older men, and my guess is that they watch porn at the library so that their wife will not discover their naughty cookies on a shared computer. I gather that they find it less embarrassing for the people in the rows behind them at the library to know that they watch porn than that their family find out.
When I've seen what I presume to be "porn addicts" watching women masturbating and the like, I wonder again what the appeal of these images is supposed to be. I guess that I don't understand, but I also don't want to, to be perfectly frank. My reason for posting these Tom Ford Porn advertisements is not so that we can all enjoy the images. Nor am I hoping to draw porn traffic to the salon de parfum, which is not even monetized. No, I have ulterior, philosophical motives.
What do the Tom Ford Porn ads really reveal?
On their face, the Tom Ford Porn perfume advertisements suggest that Tom Ford advocates hedonism. Would that be descriptive or normative hedonism? the savvy salon de parfum subscriber is now wondering. In the Harper's Bazaar interview, the provocateur gestured toward descriptive hedonism about himself. But he is a role model of "coolness" the world over, so saying such things could also be advocating that people emulate him and start bookmarking porn sites, too. "If it's good enough for Tom Ford, then it's good enough for me!" we can imagine some of his many adulators explaining to their employer when asked about the suspicious cookies on shared corporate computers.
One interesting facet of philosophical hedonism is that it does not distinguish pleasure by species. Any sentient creature is capable of pleasure and vulnerable to pain. In an ethical framework such as utilitarianism, if utility is defined as net pleasure, then all sentient creatures should be taken into account in the final equation. That means that cats, dogs, cows, horses, pigs and, yes, rabbits, should be considered in deciding how to act.
Why is this relevant to Tom Ford Porn? you may not without reason be wondering. And the answer is because it just so happens that the house of Tom Ford is on the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) list of companies which test their products on animals. This is not a result of the fact that Tom Ford is one of the Estée Lauder group companies. Aveda is too, yet they bear the benevolent "Beauty without Bunnies" badge.
If Tom Ford is a philosophical hedonist who advocates maximizing the pleasure of the greatest number, then he owes us an explanation of why his company is injecting chemicals into animals and causing them to suffer so that other animals can spray on the products and hopefully snag some of the hot coochie which his ads promise awaits the wearer of Tom Ford Cologne.
Perhaps I am giving Tom Ford too much credit here. Perhaps he is not a philosophical hedonist at all. Perhaps he is just a money-grubbing guy out to make big bucks. His ads then reveal not what he himself thinks but what he—or his marketing team—thinks that his potential customers think. He obviously does not use soft porn images for no reason. He thinks that sex sells perfume. One surmises that his marketing data bears this out, which is why he has put out so many such ads. He probably knows that not everyone will be seduced by his not-so-subliminal suggestions, but the ads are undoubtedly carefully placed in magazines whose readers generally share Tom Ford's fondness of pornography.
I have never seen any of the above advertisements in any of the magazines familiar to me. So the Tom Ford company has done a good job of placing the ads where they will be seen by people who are likely to view them favorably. Those of us who are not titillated by the juxtaposition of naked bodies and perfume bottles are probably better off not seeing the ads—or any ads whatsoever.
I own two bottles of Tom Ford perfume: Black Orchid and Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, but they were purchased not because of but in ignorance of the advertising strategies of the house of Tom Ford. The exclusive private collection is this house's effort to appeal to the sophisticated niche consumer and seems to be yet another savvy business tack.
What Tom Ford Porn reveals is not what Tom Ford thinks, but that his company's marketing data suggest that a fair number of perfume users are hedonists of the sort who use perfume functionally, to achieve other forms of pleasure, above all, sex.