"Boudoir Photography": Lame, Sweet, Or Creepy?

As we already know from our adventures today with the Men's Health Valentine's Day guide, Valentine's Day causes people to do things they normally wouldn't do, all in the name of love, sex, or both.

Laura T. Coffey, a Today Show contributor, suggests that perhaps "boudoir photos" are the best gift a woman can give her significant other for the holiday, claiming that the photos provide "fun for guys, self esteem boosts for women." Coffey's article focuses on several women who have held "boudoir photo sessions" in order to provide their partners with a unique gift, including Corina Marie Howell, a photographer who started her own business based on positive experiences she had creating the shots for herself and her friends.

Howell is honesty about the fact that her professional photography skills ensure that her clients can be airbrushed and photoshopped into perfection: ""Oh yeah, we can get rid of cellulite. That's easy," she says, "And I can change the shading of your body with an effect that makes it look like you have more abdominal muscles than you do." But she also admits that there are limits: "I mean, I think it's best to use this minimally. I don't want to change the way people's body shapes look. You're not going to look 50 pounds lighter in the picture, but five to 10 pounds is easy and I don't think it's something that the boyfriend would notice."

Joseph Christina, 39, has been taking boudoir shots for ten years. But he follows a certain set of rules, Coffey notes, "No nudity, no porn, and his wife, a licensed cosmetologist, is almost always present to help put the woman being photographed at ease." Christina prefers to think of boudoir photography as less Maxim and more Marilyn: "Some photography you'll see out there is not boudoir photography at all,"he says, "It's basically R- and X-rated. Lots of guys do that, and it's garbage. It's not what it's about. Boudoir photography, or sensual photography, is about making the woman comfortable and portraying her in the best light possible. The person's looks don't matter as much as how they're feeling. Marilyn Monroe stuff back in the day? Now that's boudoir."

But here's where he starts to lose me, you guys: "It's a gift from somebody who is taking time to capture their ‘self' or their essence at a particular time of their life and immortalize it. ‘This is me, for you, when I was 30.' ‘This is me, for you, when I was 45.' Age doesn't matter. Capturing a moment and keeping it is what matters." Kelley Gates, a roommate of Howell, had similar thoughts; "Now when I get old, I can always look back on my photos and be proud of my rockin' body when I was in my 20s. [And] just so you know, I have never called my body ‘rockin'' before these shots."

There is a weird sense of "ownership" that comes with a statement like Christina's: "This is me, for you, when I was 45" creeps me out a bit, as it appears to be an attempt to "capture" a woman's body in a "prime" state, as if the "me" in the statement is merely an object, and not a person. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think my self-esteem would go through the roof if my boyfriend got excited to see airbrushed pictures of my body, with all of my flaws taken away, my weight slightly whittled down, and my faux-abs shadowed in place. And I certainly wouldn't feel too great handing over a pile of pictures and saying, "See? Now you have something to remember my body by when we're 80 and apparently won't be physically attracted to me anymore."

Boudoir photos themselves don't bother me; I think they're a bit goofy and for many couples, probably a fun way to surprise one another. But the undertones of this article really bothered me, in that someone like Kelley Gates needs a set of airbrushed cheesecake pics to call her body "rockin" and apparently thinks it's just all downhill from there. There are forms of beauty that go beyond looking good in a satin sheet lingerie shot, know what I mean?

Howell, however, says, "This is super fun, and I have absolutely nothing at all against doing this, too. It's a blast ... especially when we do it with groups of girls. It's like everyone cheering for each other and saying things like, ‘Hell, I'd do you!' It's just fun and supportive!" So clearly it makes some women feel better about themselves and their bodies, which is always a good thing, though I can say this: I would never get this shit done, mostly for the reasons I've listed above.

What say you, commenters?

Best Valentine For Your Guy? A Boudoir Photo [MSNBC]