“Tits are dead, long live the arse,” announced the Male Gaze, peering through a pair of binoculars at the buoyant and glistening posterior of a young woman.
The modishness of female body parts is cyclical. In the Nineties, the popularity of the Wonderbra gave rise to a chest fest. Legs were big, more recently, with Instagram choking on pictures of girls’ “thigh gaps”. This culminated boringly in people giving a shit about Beyoncé’s legs.
But thighs, it seems, are simmering down again, and making way for the butt. “Butt” sounds far more satisfying to me than “bum”, and I’d rather eat an entire roll of Andrex than refer to it as the “bottom”, so please forgive the Americanism.
So butts. I can vaguely remember a more innocent time in which buttocks were nothing more than a gateway to the anus. But, beginning with last year’s twerking extravaganza, and climaxing in Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea’s recent hit single “Booty” – a catchy ode to the rump – we’re increasingly arse-focused. In fact, in writing this, I’ve just become uncomfortably aware that I’m sitting here on my own inglorious keister.
Last year, Major Lazer entered the top 40 with dance track “Bubble Butt”, the video for which features three women having their behinds inflated to comical proportions by a giantess with hoses coming out of her mouth. Although it’s an earsplittingly annoying dick sandwich of a song, it remains unavoidable on the lesbian scene for some reason. More recently, Nicki Minaj has had a hit with “Anaconda”, which samples Sir Mix-a-Lot’s early 90s butt ballad, “Baby Got Back.” In 1992 though, the song, glaringly sexist as it may be, was trying to do justice to the black female body, as opposed to the “ideal” small, white arse. “My anaconda don’t want none, unless you got buns, hun,” says Sir Mix-a-Lot. That’s rap for, “I can’t maintain an erection unless your posterior is sufficiently large.”
Meanwhile, the penis remains in hiding. The elusive mole rat rarely makes an appearance in music videos, and no one seems that bothered. It’s not too surprising, in a society so used to objectifying women, that the male anatomy never seems to have its time under the microscope.
On the other hand though, something that Minaj, Azalea and Lopez have in common is that they own their arses. Both “Anaconda” and “Booty” are about butt pride. Perhaps curvy women are enjoying a moment of empowerment, even if what we’re shown is an idealised, cellulite-free kind of curvy.
Perhaps we’ve just become more comfortable with butt stuff, when it comes to sex. The anus is the vagina/penis’s way kinkier next-door neighbour, who probably listens to loads of really loud techno and speaks fluent German. It’s hard not to be sort of intrigued by it. According to this Gawker article, rimming (anilingus) is “having a moment”. Good for it.
But whether the arse craze is about empowerment, sex, misogyny, or all three simultaneously, it’s had one weird effect on me. When you repeat a word for long enough, you empty it of its meaning. It’s reduced to a mere sound, and a very silly one in the case of Anglo-Saxon words like “egg” and “cow”. For me, prolonged exposure to massive jiggling butts has produced a visual version of that mechanism. Butts have become great, flabbering, fleshy, shapes that appear to serve no purpose other than to wobble hysterically until the End of Days.
“What even is a butt?” I wonder into a bowl of Crunchy Nut, the contents of which I’ve mindlessly rendered butt-shaped with my spoon, “And why are ears still waiting for their fifteen minutes of fame?”