There are reports in the media that something called a “special event boudoir photography party” is a growing trend in the U.S., with some photographers reporting a 50-percent increase in this type of business over the past five years.
Any party that needs more than four words to name it and still makes no sense is either awesome in a Stefon kind of way… or not.
Let me explain: Apparently women who are marking some sort of special occasion — an upcoming marriage, a momentous birthday, even a divorce — get their gal pals to come over, or they all go to a photography studio, and then they drink wine, eat chocolate… and pose for photos, often naked or nearly naked.
Do you understand it now?
I don’t either.
The whole thing smacks of some male fever dream of what women are supposed to enjoy. You know, pillow fights and other sorts of underpants-clad frolicking. It reminds me of another media obsession: telling women how much they enjoy, often to the point of hysteria, eating salad and yogurt.
Anyway. I felt compelled to find a woman who’s participated in one of these boudoir parties and began asking friends, both real and on Facebook.
I found a group of long-time friends who turned 50 this year and had dared each other into a celebratory group photo, but no one accepted the dare. Said one: “I’m trying to grown down the regret list.”
A 45-year-old woman I know who is getting married asked her bridal party, and they assumed she was joking. When they understood that both the trend and the bride-to-be were for real, one said, “We haven’t seen each other’s breasts, and I intend to keep it that way.”
I found one woman in her early 30s who had a pre-wedding session with her three best friends. They had a “pretty good time.” They went topless and wore matching high-rise black underpants, and found it “moderately sexy,” adding that they “probably didn’t drink enough wine.” Though she was happy with the results, she says it wasn’t until the exact moment she picked up the shots, 8” x 10”s in sleek black frames, a set for her and each girl, that she realized she had no idea where she would display the photos. Even her own bedroom, where they ended up, “feels weird.”
Mostly, despite the media’s assertions of the trend’s ubiquity, I found myself having to explain what a “special occasion boudoir photography” was to the women I spoke with. Some found the whole concept adorable, while others groaned about sexism and the propagation of objectification. None made an appointment at a studio. (There’s one in Jersey called, no joke, Glamour Bitch.)
My feelings are mixed: I’m all for the empowerment of women, whether that means Spanx or kettlebell workouts. I have had the great fortune of having powerful, meaningful relationships with women. My high school girl friends helped me figure out who I was supposed to be; my college roommate is still my soulmate; I know I needed a kind of collective female energy when I gave birth to my son; my husband’s death would have been even more impossible without my female friends; I even feed off the positive female energy of other women I don’t know at my gym. Do I need or want black-and-white air-brushed photos to mark any moment in a meaningful way? What would I do with the finished pieces if I had them?
In this era of endless selfies, it makes sense that we would move back toward having someone else take our picture, since we all know, unless we are digitally recording our every waking move, it’s not really happening.
Who cares that we don’t really hang out with our friends in our panties? We can just call that part art.