Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Back in 1905, Freud wrote about oral fixation, the phenomenon whereby an adult tries to capture the pleasure he or she experienced as a child during thumb sucking. As psychosexual theories go, I have no idea if it’s actually a thing — but February magazine covers certainly suggest it is.
Alicia Keys on Allure, Madonna on Harper’s Bazaar, and Reese Witherspoon on Elle all have a thumb hovering around their mouths accompanied by come-hither stares, or in the case of Alicia Keys, pure joy. (H/t to my eagle-eyed friend Karen, a former reporter and TV producer, who noticed this on the newsstand at the airport yesterday.)
Strengthening my oral fixation theory is Princess Charlotte, who graces the cover of a special royal edition of Vanity Fair, proving that her mom, Kate Middleton, is not the only one who can inspire the fashion industry. She looks super cute with her fingers in her mouth, so it would follow that grown women would also. (Right? I don’t know.)
This whole weird confluence of digital (as in fingers) prominence this month calls to mind the social media trend of “fingermouthing,” which Katie Notopoulos at BuzzFeed reported on last year. While fingermouthing involves fingers merely hovering unnaturally around the mouth, these new images all feature actual mouth-to-thumb contact.
It’s a particularly ballsy choice because it’s flu season, people! Sticking your fingers in your mouth is also a great way to pick up rhinovirus, which causes colds. If you’re inspired by these covers, wash your hands frequently, or at least carry around some hand sanitizer. Plain old Purell, used in hospitals and clinics, is the gold standard. EO’s is also great if you prefer so-called natural products.
That said, if these covers are are meant to draw attention to the scourge known as nail biting, as someone who has shabby nails thanks to a lifetime of nail biting, I appreciate it. But the magazines might do well to simply recommend Mavala Stop, the disgusting-tasting product you paint on your nails to curb the habit. (I can vouch it worked for my younger son and — occasionally — myself.)
As Freud wrote of oral fixation, “There is no doubt that the pleasure-producing stimuluses are governed by special determinants that we do not know... Psychology is still groping in the dark when it concerns matters of pleasure and pain, and the most cautious assumption is therefore the most advisable.”
The same could be said for magazine covers.