As the sister publication to PENTHOUSE, VIVA was envisioned as the worldly woman's glossy periodical--an erotically charged magazine that would include celebrity gossip, politics-lite and diet advice next to racy pictorials and sexy fiction. In actuality, VIVA was a hilarious mash-up of OUI and PLAYGIRL, sort of a gay man's magazine masquerading under the polite fiction of being made for women. Either that, or it's a jaw-droppingly evil work of misogyny, designed to indoctrinate unsuspecting women into an unending hell of eating disorders and Social Diseases. Were I of an appropriate age during the years in which VIVA was published, I could see purchasing it for its extraordinary camp value, because--simply put--this is a ladymag that has clearly been guided by men who understand women only through the mirror-world of being a man: "I dig looking at beavers, therefore women dig looking at wieners!" Not so much, sir--not so much.
That's not to say VIVA didn't sometimes get it right. The Erica Jong love poems from the August 1975 issue are beautiful, and the "machisma" fashion shoot (to be shared later this week) made the Tenebrous Heart go pitter-pat. However, the majority of the articles are the same repackaged crud from COSMOPOLITAN cautioning against infidelity under the guise of titillation, running articles on diet trends in the same issue as an editorial on body image (tellingly placed next to a full-page nude photo of a woman's body), and reprinting PENTHOUSE FORUM erotica in a "Sexual Fantasies" column with an expert's interpretation of the ALLEGEDLY TRULY CONFESSED naughty-naughty thoughts.
The VIVA woman isn't all that terribly liberated, but that's all right. She doesn't NEED your stinking liberation, and DAMN all those mean ol' feminists who want to keep her from being objectified! While I agree that it's every woman's right to define her sexuality on her own terms (THAT, cupcakes, is liberation), I take issue with statements like this:
- "Biologically, [being sexy] is one of our more basic survival functions." The author bases this on the famous research in which female apes who were given lipstick an negligees outlived their non-coiffed contemporaries by 20%.
- "The energy boost I get from being openly admired for my looks is a whole lot better than any instant breakfast." That's right--food is overrated, girls! VIVA emphasizes this. A LOT. (More on that later this week)
- On a notorious "sex object's" sexiness: "she listens so well: she literally drinks in a man's words. She makes him feel like he's the most important person in the world--not to mention the most interesting." STFU, ladies. It's HIS world and you're just living in it. A second "case study" is presented to underscore this TRUE FACT.
On that not-real-liberated front, you'd think the VIVA woman would know how to use a vibrator. You'd be wrong.
But it's OK, because she's got this chic zodiac clock! The VIVA woman fucking loves astrology and other forms of lite occultism. Each issue contains a two-page in-depth horoscope detailing the characteristics of HIS sign as well! Because it's really important to know what men want (other than the "you being skinny" and "you shutting up" parts).
All this, and makeup advice from Cher? DARE WE DREAM IT, LADIES?!
Tomorrow: VIVA on dieting.