We’re all staring at the same thing this morning. Regardless of sex, age or sexual orientation, we’re all oddly compelled to look at Kim Kardashian baring her bum on the cover of Paper magazine.
Who can blame us? Nobody can look away from nudity. Nooobody.
It’s a pretty shocking image—she’s not wearing any underpants on the cover of a magazine and this is still a pretty big deal in the world. The cheeky shot, which is about as close to pornography as a magazine cover can get without asking Kim to turn around (which she does inside the pages of the mag, revealing everything to the camera), is a far cry from Kardashian’s Vogue cover, which garnered attention for far different reasons.
Kardashian’s posterior is presented as flawlessly as one of Manet’s oranges. It’s greased up, hyper-tan, spotless and cellulite free. It hangs off her Barbie-thin waistline like a ripe double-cherry ready to pop. Maybe that’s why I keep staring at it. I’m waiting for it to pop.
The full-dressed version of the cover represents a master class in Photoshop (the photo is a recreation of photographer Jean-Paul Goude’s famous ‘Champagne Incident’ image).
In short, it’s an uber-bum, an artificial confection, the anatomical version of a Twinkie. (Contrast that artful presentation with Keira Knightley’s politically motivated edict that she would only pose topless for Interview magazine if they agreed not to Photoshop her body.)
The Internet, where Kardashian and her burnished saddle reign supreme, has reacted with memes and comic re-imaginings. None hold a candle to the original for OMG factor, however.
That’s because the bum is having a moment, culturally. And Kardashian possesses the biggest bum out there.
In a recent profile of Nicki Minaj, GQ writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner meditates on our current fixation on the back door. “I want to know what it is we’re telling the world when we use our asses in the way that Nicki has been using her ass—when they are not the accent in a video but the point of it,” she writes.
Kardashian’s cover and the reaction to it provides an answer to that query. We’re not talking about backsides—what they are, what they, uh, do—we’re looking at them. To answer Brodesser-Akner, when we use our butts (and formerly our breasts) as a punctuation mark, we’re telling the world to look. The world reacts in much the same way a well-fed dog reacts to the sight of a cheeseburger; its pupils dilate and it starts to drool.
It’s a primitive reaction to primitive stimuli. It’s sex.