I felt totally unsexy as a woman prodded my breasts Wednesday morning. The prodding was a routine part of my gynecological checkup and, looking around, all the signifiers of a sexy time were in place. There was a bottle of lube on the table. There were condoms in a nearby bowl. The gynecologist even taught me six different “safe words,” indicating six different levels of wanting her to stop, so I could be in complete control of my pap smear. Nevertheless, not aroused.
Because I was being tested for BREAST CANCER, and BREAST CANCER has this magical power to transform the breast from a site of fun to one of fear, Girls Gone Wild to cells gone wild, and myself into a squirming ball of anxiety in a crinkly paper dress.
Safe word one: Eeek. Def: This feels weird, but totally keep going.
A new Public Service Announcement, however, has taken a different approach to breast cancer. A buxom bikini-clad model strolls poolside, shots of ogling men and women spliced between close-ups of her chest, in slow motion, of course, to capture the beautifully nuanced shape-shifting of breasts in motion.
Safe word two: Eeeaaagh. Def: This feels pretty uncomfortable, but keep going, tentatively.
Right before our well-endowed vixen pulls up her top, an un-fun fact pops on screen: “Breast Cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 20-49.” The campaign’s tagline: “You know you like them, now it’s time to save the boobs.”
Safe word three: Uuuugh. Def: This is very weird and very uncomfortable. Slow down.
The “Save the Boobs” campaign has a logical premise. Ads and pamphlets about breast cancer featuring middle-aged women hugging agéd-aged women aren’t particularly memorable, especially for the male half of the population.
(Side note: I googled “agéd” to figure out if it was “agéd” or “agèd” and I found a wonderful verse by amateur poet Ed Sanders, called “Nights of the Agéd,” which stirred my soul.)
The “Save the Boobs” ad is effectively attention-grabbing and testosterone-spiking. If the aim is to increase breast cancer awareness, especially among young people, then huzzah success! The campaign was also conceived by, written by and starred in by Aliya Jasmine Sovani from MTV News Canada. So that’s pretty empowering. Oh yeah, the campaign’s Canadian.
Safe word four: Aaaaaagh. Def: I can’t really handle this. Can you pause for a second?
If only you could raise awareness for other women’s issues, like unequal pay, sexual harassment and rape, using magnificent bouncing breasts. But sadly that’s not really possible, since the root cause of those issues is, in fact, men’s reduction of women to a pair of magnificent bouncing breasts.
Safe word five: Aaaagh Aaagh Stop. Def: This experience is becoming a major problem.
Most people have come out in favor of the ad, for the same reason, I think, that the following conversation happened in my life, with a Zeta brother I bumped into on the street.
“You guys are in some trouble right now,” I said with the playful good humor of a raging feminist brimming with feminist rage concealing the rage with playful good humor.
“What do you mean?”
“The e-mail rating the attractiveness of 52 freshman girls.”
“Oh come on, every fraternity has a list like that.”
“You circulated yours.”
“Oh. That was dumb.”
Objectification is so normal, fun and awesome in worlds like fraternities and advertising that there’s nothing particularly shocking about a women’s health PSA starring dancing DDs or a meticulous account of freshman girls’ fuckability made public.
On the bright side, I don’t have breast cancer. But I had an STD test right after the breast check and I’m still waiting for the results. So I could still have herpes! You know you like them. Now it’s time to save the genitals and/or rectum!
Safeword six: STOP OH MY GOD STOP. Def: Just stop.