We talk a lot every October about "sexy" Halloween costumes, but lately I've started to think a lot about the "sexy" aspects of the Christmas season as well. Part of it is on account of this notorious monstrosity, but a lot of it is about songs that get a lot of play at this time of year, like "Santa Baby" and "Baby It's Cold Outside" and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." And then the hopefully-not-last episode of Community up and brought us this masterpiece:
The good people at Persephone Magazine have already talked about this bit and laid out why it's troubling that incompetence is so hot right now. So they've got the infantilization angle covered.
Which means I get to ask: what is the deal with all the sexified lady Santas?
For instance, when you do a search for sexy Santa on Google Images, here is the first set of results.
Eight ladies, two dudes, and one shot of normal Santa with a sexy lady in his lap.
That is a ridiculously high proportion of sexy ladies to sexy dudes, and it's pretty representative of the results that follow. And that's without quotes; if you add quotations to the phrase "sexy Santa" one of those dudes gets replaced by a sexy lady, and one of the ladies gets replaced by an even sexier lady (assuming sexiness can be quantified by measures like approximate amount of clothing and proximity of ass to camera).
How do we know those ladies are really Santas? Let's recall our Santa identifiers:
Typical Traditional Santa:
- white beard
- wears long sleeves, pants, and fur because it's cold at the North Pole (and also in Rovaniemi, his office in Finland)
Typical Sexy Santa:
- clean-shaven, and we're not just talking about the face anymore
- wears clothing that, to put it mildly, would not be useful in the warding off of hypothermia
The only indicators that these sexy ladies are supposed to be sexy Santas is that they are wearing red clothing with white fur trim and the occasional black leather accent. And a hat. Really, the Santa hat is doing all the work in most of these photos.
It begs the question: are we expecting these sexy ladies to perform the same kind of duties that Santa does?
My answer would be: no. For one thing, there's rarely a sleigh or a reindeer or a pile of presents or anything that might imply travel or gift-giving. These sexy lady Santas are presented as if they themselves are the gift, something to be unwrapped and enjoyed by someone else (hence the "box" innuendo in that Community clip). They're not going to do anything—they're inviting the viewer to do things to them, in unmistakeable accord with the primacy of the male gaze.
The sexy lady Santa, then, is an illustration of how sexual objectification can unmake reality as we know it. In order to be "sexy", a fat bearded dude becomes a thin hairless lady. A shirt becomes a corset or a bra top. Pants become panties, or a skirt if you're lucky. And the very thing that defines Santa—traveling around the world to bring presents to children on Christmas—gets replaced by cheesecake poses and come-hither pouts, passivity in place of activity.
It's enough to make a Scrooge out of anyone.