Not that skanky chicks haven't had their historical troubles as well. In the witch-hunts of the 15th and 16th centuries, women were tortured and killed by the thousands for their unusual sexual practices, such as making men's dingbats disappear and collecting them in boxes. Of course, while upright, moral men professed to be appalled that these women were doing the Devil, they made sure to query the women—purely for the sake of scientific knowledge—about exactly how well hung was the Evil One. "Even when only half in erection [it] was as long as some kitchen utensils," wrote a French witch-hunter in 1595. "There were neither testicles nor scrotum attached to it."

In modern times, skanky chicks have helped define youth culture for one generation after another. In the 60s, there was the ravishingly sexy, anti-social alcoholism of Janis Joplin and the supermodel-gone-to-seed appeal of the Warhol girls, particularly Nico, who is hot once again thanks to a new documentary, Nico Icon, in which we learn just how thrilled she was when her teeth started rotting out of her mouth. In the 70s, there was Debbie Harry giving on-stage blowjobs during guitar solos. In the 80s, it was Wendy O. Williams and her strategically painful clothespins. Today, skankiness is used to sell kids everything from Calvin Klein perfume to Calvin Klein underwear.

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A sense of history is important here because it can help you distinguish the true skanky chicks from the legions of wannabes. Skankiness isn't something you dabble in, and a pierced psyche is more important than a pierced nipple. When separating the wheat from the chaff—or more properly, the chaff from the other, less appealing chaff—keep in mind a few subtleties:

Skankiness requires intellect. Skanky chicks are not simply downtrodden sex goddesses, they are wry commentators on style and morality. In other words, they are not trailer trash. Tonya Harding and Anna Nicole Smith may have been briefly hip because it amused the style elite, but they have never been genuinely hip. That 90-something tycoon didn't look like he was gonna be busting up hotel rooms even before he croaked.

Skankiness also requires innocence. In our cynical age, no one really believes in ingenues anymore. We don't buy Julia Ormond as the next Audrey Hepburn not because she can't act (or not just because she can't act), but because we know that the Hollywood machine positioned her to be the next Audrey Hepburn. When charm comes off as calculated, anti-charm becomes refreshingly naive. On some level, we believe that even a great actress and movie star like Jennifer Jason Leigh must be lacking in sophistication if she doesn't even know that great actresses and movie stars aren't supposed to have bags under their eyes. A skanky chick can have you twisted around her middle finger in a second, but she makes it seem inconsequential, even bothersome. It's certainly not anything she works at.

Madonna, for instance, has tried on the skanky pose, but it never amounted to more than a pose. That's partly because she's had so many poses that we know she's using us by now, but it's also because her most famous pose was the Material Girl, and while skanky chicks can be pretty,
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they are ultimately incapable of anything approaching glamour or sophistication.

Winona Ryder has flirted with skankdom also, but she's just too charming, too drop-dead gorgeous. Yeah, I know about her and Johnny Depp, but while he's a fine accessory, true skankdom depends on what you have tatooed on yourself, not who has your name tatooed on them.

Nor can skanky chicks be too deep-down wholesome. For all her foul language, Liz Phair will always be the WASPy girl next door. Alanis Morissette, on top of being a former kiddie-TV star and a performer of songs written by the same guy who writes for Wilson Phillips, will always be a Canadian.

Finally, skanky chicks only seem easy. Wantonness and licentiousness in general, do not mean she'll actually have sex with you. Skanky chicks can afford to be choosy. It helps if you're a movie star, but you only really have a shot if you're a snake. </end>
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"Daniel, you ignorant slut!"
- Mikki Halpin responds
"Who are you callin' a skank?"
- The Skank Slambook
collage by Greg Kuchmek

DANIEL RADOSH is a New York based freelance writer who is a frequent contributor to the New York Press, Details, the New York Times Magazine and The Transom.
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