There’s something noticeably missing from the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, that time-honored tradition of half-naked models posing in front of the camera in the name of sports. That something is boobs. Save for the smallest sliver of sideboob, there’s nary a bronzed mammary gland to be seen. Instead, you’ll find not one, but three scantily-clad butts. It’s only the third time in the 50-year history of the iconic swimsuit issue that butts have been front and center, and it’s the first time multiple butts have graced the cover. And if we can use Sports Illustrated as a loose cultural barometer for measuring what current mainstream culture considers “sexy,” this cover confirms it: This is the golden age of the butt.
Shapely haunches, of course, have always been the vogue in certain cultures, and certain styles of music and dance have always lent themselves to shakin’ what you’ve got, like Jamaican-style daggering. But butts — whether small or large or round or flat — have never been so embraced, so to speak, by mainstream pop culture like they are right now. Here’s a brief look back at the a cornucopia of famous (and infamous) moments that put butts on the map in the last year like they’ve never been before: 2013 was the year Kim Kardashian took the belfie (or “butt selfie”) that launched a thousand belfies (and the unfortunate term “belfie”); a young woman’s butt got international press (and its own Instagram account with 2.4 million followers); we spent two whole weeks trying to forget about Miley Cyrus’s VMA twerkfest; sidebutt replaced sideboob as the risqué red carpet look of choice; Robin Thicke made a music video featuring a giant, butt-shaped float; butt implant and injection surgeries grew in popularity for both men and women; and scientists discovered big butts are smart and healthy butts, too.
Unsurprisingly, our collective demand for butts is higher than it’s ever been in the last several years, which you can see in these Google Trends and Porngram stats (in each chart, searches for “ass” start to see a lot more love from 2011 onward):
Does all this love mean butts are back for good? I hope so — it’s pretty damn hard to rock a good butt without sporting some allover meat on your bones, and I’ll gladly take that as a sign that healthier bodies (and the butts that go with them) are here to stay.