Who knew I’d have some serious archives when I just started this thing?! Really, though – today I’m posting this “essay” (sounds academic, eh?) I wrote a year ago after I finished reading Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy. I cleaned it up and made some edits to reflect acquired knowledge…
She addresses what she calls the "raunch culture" of today: Girls Gone Wild, Playboy, strip clubs, the porn industry, etc. and how women are embracing it all. It's more acceptable (and even considered “cool”) for women to go to strips clubs and be into porn. Stripping and posing nude don’t even carry such a stigma anymore. In fact, it's just the opposite - strippers and porn stars have a huge fan base that includes a large number of women. Back in the day, if a celebrity had a sex tape surface, it would destroy their career - now, their popularity increases tenfold (i.e. Paris Hilton). Posing in Playboy used to be something you had to bounce back from - now, it's something stars do to boost their careers.
With all these changes in the acceptability of the sex industry on the female front, one would say, “Hell yeah we are finally sexually liberated!” But Levy says, not so much.
I think what she’s trying to convey is that women simply acting like men in this regard is attempting to spread sexual liberation with the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" mentality – which is self-defeating. And she says that supporting this "raunch culture" is still degrading to women even if the supporter is female. This tells women that they need to be "sexy" (adhering to the examples of the perfectly airbrushed role models), but not necessarily derive any sexual pleasure for themselves. Sex has become commodified; packaged and able to be sold. Now, to be "sexy" there’s a slew of stuff you have to buy and procedures you have to sit through in order to meet the standard. Sex is becoming less about mutual pleasure and more about accumulation. What’s disturbing is her chapter on high school students, who had said in interviews that "putting notches on their belts" is what popularity is built on. Sex isn't a source of enjoyment for them, but almost like shopping for new clothes to look better than their peers. Add to this abstinence-only sex education, which tells hormonal adolescents to "just say no" and leaves out information about contraception, birth control, STDs, pregnancy, abortion and good old fashioned masturbation. School is telling them one thing, yet they step outside into the real world and sex is everywhere.
Prime example – The Fox Network. Studies have shown there to be more sexual content on its prime time programs than any of the other biggies (ABC, NBC, etc.) – yet, they REFUSE to run any commercials for condoms. I don’t think I need to explain the pure stupidity of this.
Now, I've never held a stance strongly for or against porn - it can be a handy-dandy tool (wink, wink) and I always kinda figured if a woman wants to strip, be in porn or pose nude – and that's how she feels powerful – then great for her. If we want to break down archaic gender roles, wouldn't that include women exhibiting characteristics that were traditionally thought of as "male" and claiming them as their own? And if that's the case, then why is it such a negative thing for men to exhibit traditionally "feminine" characteristics?
I’m going to sidetrack here and mention some words of wisdom from Feministing.com’s Jessica Valenti. Her book Full Frontal Feminism addresses this very question: What is the worst thing you can call a man? A woman. Think about it: girl, pussy, sissy, bitch – aside from being called a gay man (fag, homo, etc.), why is being called female an ultimate insult? Please discuss.
I would say we are a hell of a lot more liberated sexually then, say the 1950s – but in 2004, half the country voted to ban gay marriage. That doesn't exactly exude sexual liberation to me.
I think it's important to remember that there are so many ways for one to express themselves sexually and different people find different things sexy and appealing. It's part of who we are; no one had to teach us how to feel. But, what's considered sexy in society is very limited. And where’s the fun in that??