A pin-up model (known as a pin-up girl for a female and less commonly male pin-up for a male) is a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal as popular culture. Pin-ups are intended for informal display, i.e. meant to be “pinned-up” on a wall. Pin-up models may be glamour models, fashion models, or actors. These pictures are also sometimes known as cheesecake photos.
The term pin-up may refer to drawings, paintings, and other illustrations as well as photographs (see the list of pin-up artists). The term was first attested to in English in 1941; however, the practice is documented back at least to the 1890s.
The pin-up images could be cut out of magazines or newspapers, or on a postcard or lithograph. Such pictures often appear on wall or desk calendars. Posters of pin-ups were mass-produced and became popular from the mid 20th century.
Male pin-ups were less common than their female counterparts throughout the 20th century, although a market for homoerotica has always existed as well as pictures of popular male celebrities targeted at women or girls. Examples include James Dean and Jim Morrison.
Feminism and the pin-up
According to Joanne Meyerowitz in “Women, Cheesecake, and Borderline Material” an article in Journal of Women’s History, “As sexual images of women multiplied in the popular culture, women participated actively in constructing arguments to endorse as well as protest them.”
As early as 1869, women have been supporters and protesters of the pin-up. Women supporters of early pin-up content considered these to be a “positive post-Victorian rejection of bodily shame and a healthy respect for female beauty.” Conversely, women protesters argued that these images were corrupting societal morality and saw these public sexual displays of women as lowering the standards of womanhood, destroying their dignity and harmful to both women and young adolescents.
It has further been argued by some critics that in the early 20th century, these drawings of women helped define certain body images—such as being clean, being healthy, and being wholesome—and were enjoyed by both “normal” men and women; but as time progressed these images changed from respectable to illicit.