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Erotic Postcards

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A similar change in fashion had, of course, taken place during the Napoleonic Wars, although the changes then had not been illustrated nearly as amusingly by La Belle Assemblée as they are now by the picture postcards. The lady with the hourglass shape could hide her ankles as much as she wanted with a frilly foam layer of long skirts, but at night she exposed her raised breasts almost to the nipples. By the turn of the next decade, motions to censor and govern public morality had failed. The year 1933 saw Prohibition repealed, and as the '30s wore on erotic photography became more visible and popular. Perhaps early 20th-century composer Cole Porter said it best in the song "Anything Goes:" In another unattributed French postcard (before 1904), we follow the adventures of Lili who is described as “playing around”. The caption informs us that she has a springtime smile, and that she is ready to wear her bedside wreath. Her white apparel and the laced clothing convey the idea of virginal innocence and freshness. The artist tainted the model’s lips with a vivid red, a similar hue to the plinth’s velvet. The colour conveys a brazen sexuality immediately contradicted by the candour of the model. What strikes one’s attention is precisely the discrepancy between these sexual innuendos and the sitter’s youthful naivety. She proudly smiles, unaware of the paedophilic gaze she may entice in the adult viewer. The end result is deeply unsettling and exploitative. Because so many of these cards were destroyed it is difficult to get a complete sense of their history. Erotism often found outlets in other more social permissible ways such as seaside views and art reproductions but these types of cards can be cross referenced into other categories as well. Spicy Russian Postcards

The Internet begat LiveJasmin and Chaturbate. The printing press begat Fanny Hill and Fifty Shades. The camera begat Playboy and dirty postcards. Blank links the modern fetishising of virginity to the rise of capitalism during the industrial revolution. Young girls left rural areas with the hope of finding better prospects in the city. Economically and socially vulnerable, they were easy prey for unscrupulous employers and brothel owners. The temptation of a pristine body was even greater as venereal diseases were rampant. We often hear that we are living in a corrupting, visually saturated, consumer culture, which threatens the innocence of girlhood. But representations of young girls in the European postcard trade at the turn of the 20th century cast doubt on this notion of an ideal, more innocent past. These early 1920s erotic postcards originated in France, like the majority of similar sexually-charged postcards of the era. In the United States, all cards of this sort were known as "French Postcards," no matter where they originated. This period lasted barely twenty years, but during that period the skill of the imagination of thousands of talented artists ensured that we were inundated with millions of miniature sandwich boards full of enticing scenes, dreams and thoughts, people, fictions and facts, greetings, jokes and beauty. Dawdling Well SpentThree eggs hide the sitter’s bosom. They allude to the symbol of fertility, while playing with the visual resemblance between the shape of breasts and eggs. A deftly positioned piece of cloth emphasises her hips thereby defining an inviting triangle. This veil of modesty also denotes the art of teasing in a game of hide and seek.

In her book, Virgin: The Untouched History, Blank highlights a recurrent theme in pornographic tropes: “the tale of the skilled ‘conversion’ of resistant virgin into willing wench”. In these coded scripts, virgins hold a dormant sexuality ready to be activated by “the magic of the ‘right’ male wand”. The erotic cards can range from the mere risqué to explicit pornography (Fig.1 and 2). Most of these were created as real photo cards, especially when dealing with full nudity. Though produced in postcard formats most of these cards were not meant to be mailed for they were often confiscated by postal authorities. Destroyed The demise of the saucy postcard occurred during the 1970s and 1980s; the quality of the artwork and humor started to deteriorate with changing attitudes towards the cards content.The first world war sounded the death knell of the postcards age. During the conflict, propaganda postcards had helped feed the nationalistic fervour but overall, demand for postcards plunged. The attraction of youthful femininity though, did not wane. Another medium offered more exciting prospects and creative potential than serialized postcards: the cinema. The dating of erotic cards - the further we get into the twentieth century, the more postmarks there are - are of particular importance, because they form a nuanced commentary on both the rapidly loosening and cheerful attitude towards sexuality and the exceptional way in which the World War I changed the fashionable image of the sexually-attractive woman. Strapped Up Waist

The early Edwardian hourglass model was an anachronism well before the war, but the limitation of its strapped up waist had been replaced by the perhaps more severe limitation of the narrow hobble skirt; the war, however, freed the legs and bodies of the women, free to move in the world on the same wider scale as when they had had to do the work of the men. Napoleonic Wars The 20 spicy postcards below are Russian-made. The first set of six postcards (Fig.3 to 8) are from the late 19th century featuring the sensual awakening of the two adolescents “ Mitya and Manka“. – [Moscow]: Universal Postal Union publishing house. Mel Brooks was on a late-night TV chat show riffing ideas for his next movie. He said he was gonna make a film about the ascent of man, you know, the rise of humanity from the apes to the splitting of the atom and mass globalisation. Brooks was firing off routines faster then the beads of sweat could pop on his brow. He looked sharp in his dark suit, white shirt, Windsor knot tie, which all kinda contradicted his nervous energy and the rumpled face that always made him look like an overworked and under appreciated insurance salesman.It’s difficult to know how many prostitutes worked in London during the Victorian era. Estimates vary from 20,000 (probably) to 80,000 (unlikely). The doctor and writer William Acton (1813–1875), who is perhaps best-known for his books on masturbation or “ self-pollution“, estimated there were 210,000 prostitutes working in London during the 1850s. Acton based his figure on the 42,000 illegitimate births in London in 1851. He also once claimed to have counted 185 prostitutes on a walk from his surgery to his home. One suspects he considered every woman he passed as a prostitute.

Still, photographs of coquettes were risqué yet charming. Under the celebration of a candid femininity, they catered for both male and female audiences. More than a marginal phenomenon, the sexualisation of girlhood in the social fabric denotes a collective fascination with the young body as a modern ideal of femininity. A socially ingrained phenomenon In both postcards, the sitters epitomise the photographers’ quest for both pristine morality and brazen sexuality. The ambivalent girl exemplifies what scholar Hanne Blank names, the “erotic virgin”. The development of the picture postcard got off to a slow start, but the time it took for this initial dawdling was well spent: when social freedom was a fact, the picture postcard was ready. If this freedom or the sudden popularity of the picture postcard had been a long time ago, this coincidence would have been much less effective and sparkling than it was now.As a result, the identities of French postcard models -- as well those of the people who took them -- remain unknown to this day. This new eroticised visual culture drew the attention of legislators, philanthropic organisations, and religious groups. Concerns of child protection reformers ranged from the growing recognition of the child as a vulnerable being in need of protection to a more general fear of moral corruption.

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