Novelist Jim C. Hines writes, among other things, fantasy interpretations of fairy tale princess stories. And when his readers started asking questions about the way women are posed on the covers of his — and other — novels, he did something rather extraordinary. He didn’t just illustrate men in similar poses. He tried to hold them himself, and found that they didn’t just ludicrous. They were painful. I’m not going to include an image here because you really should click through, look at all of them, and read about the specific discomfort he experienced in each one.
Now, obviously covers are usually pictures of characters in action, rather than posing for formal portraits. So it’s not as if these characters are forced to stay in these positions for long periods of time. But if even getting into them requires the body to move in illogical and uncomfortable ways, that says a handful about the cost, and lack of naturalness of producing images that are supposed to be coded as sexy. If images like these are supposed to be what we find attractive, then maybe what we find attractive isn’t really human.