Jowita Bydlowska

Perverts Are Mainstream

Mike Figgis, “Agent Provocateur Footwear Ad” (2007)

This is an Agent Provocateur shoe ad from 2007. It looks sexy, dirty and it’s shot in the way that suggests a peeping Tom or a surveillance camera. It has a fantastic soundtrack. It implies a lot more filthy fun than you can see, which is why it may make you a bit uncomfortable. But despite its rawness and underground feel it’s way more mainstream than… provocateur. It’s just your average S&M.

When I was 13 my friend and I wore sexy corsets and posed for a pedophile. He took pictures. We knew this was wrong, that he was wrong but our desire to wear sexy corsets was stronger than any red flags going up. He was just a pervert. The world was full of them.

By the time I was 13, I’d had various experiences with perverts: dicks pressed against me in line-ups and on streetcars, flashers popping out of cars and from behind dumpsters, droolers and fondlers and lap-sitting invitees at children’s sporting events and at summer camps. Once, in the course of one – one! – memorable day I saw two flashers (one by a dumpster, one by a church) and was approached to have nude pictures taken.

Perhaps I have a special luck with pervs, perhaps it’s a European thing, perhaps I’m just more honest in admitting that it happens all the time. The point is that by the time I had agreed to have those pictures taken I was well-versed in being a sexual object. Most kids are.

I liked it. No, not being an object so much but being an object of desire. It’s true that I didn’t understand it at such young age and I was stupid about it but the motive had stayed the same: to be adored. Although some are conflicted by it, it’s a natural craving and all humans have it. Even the ones who reject it, for political reasons or otherwise, have it (especially the ones who reject it).

Some take it a little further and dress it up in corsets and other sexwear like PVC, leather, chains, rope or ballet heels. The less extreme of us are content with whatever Victoria Secret or other La Senza allows. And if you’ve paid attention, in the last 15 years or so most lingerie outlets have quite evolved: from push-up bras and wedding-night garters to light S&M of black feathers and lace; I bought my first Grenier corset at La Vie en Rose 12 years ago; you can get it at SEARS today. What used to be underground is now above the ground and thriving, in shopping malls.

A hundred years ago, when I wore my first pair of fishnets (formerly my grandmother’s) in grade 8, I was sent home; it would be redundant for me to tell you the kind of outfits self-obsessed little brats wear to school nowadays. Seen an American Apparel ad lately? Wholesome is out. Pervy is in.

The Agent Provocateur shoe ad is a fine example of how friendly we’ve become with the underground and those secretive places reserved for perverts and fetishists. Everyone wants to be adored and dirty. Even Barbie.

– Jowita Bydlowska

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Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, as in Poland. She moved to Canada as a teenager. That hurt. She got over it eventually and now she likes it in Canada. She's the author of "Drunk Mom," a memoir, "Guy," a novel, and "Possessed," also a novel. For fun she takes weird pictures, usually of herself, because she and herself are on the same page most of the time so it's just easier that way. More from Jowita Bydlowska here.