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Cheesecake is a term which describes photographs, paintings, and other images depicting women in sexually suggestive poses.
The term reportedly originated when newspaper photographer George Miller observed Russian opera singer Elvira Amazar stepping off her ship in New York City in 1915. Miller asked the singer to gently hike up her skirt for the picture. His editor was impressed with the shot and is rumored to have called it "better than cheesecake."
Cheesecake is also an historical term for an attractive woman. It's been used as early as the 1660s. The term has fallen out of favor today, but is still heard occasionally within some circles.
Cheesecake is the female equivalent of the term beefcake. Cheesecake works of art are also known as pin-ups.
Cheesecake paintings present a stylized image of the female form with slender figures, nipped-in waists, larger busts, perfectly coiffed hair, and enticingly elongated legs. The women in cheesecake artworks tend to be clothed in revealing outfits such as swimsuits, short dresses, or lingerie. They may sometimes be nude or partially nude, but this is less common, as cheesecake works often tend to maintain some modesty.
Photographs of actresses snapped during World War II, US Army Air Face bomber nose art, and the artworks of Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren are all well-known examples of cheesecake artwork.
Cheesecake paintings and photographs became popular in the 1930s when they were featured in men's magazines. Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield, and Lili St. Claire were all popular pin-up models during the height of the cheesecake movement. During the early 1960s, cheesecake works helped amplify discussions about female sexuality and expression. Following this, cheesecake art fell out of favor with the rise of more overtly sexual pop culture products and artworks. However, cheesecake works have made a comeback in recent years. Many photographers look to recreate the works of the '40s and '50s with modern pin-up girls.