Reddit ignores calls to pull ‘corrective rape’ forum
The Philosophy of Rape
By Mark Potok, Senior Fellow
In an online world that is increasingly fraught with extreme hatred of women, the subreddit named PhilosophyOfRape may actually be the most vile and malicious English-language expression of misogyny on the Internet.
The subreddit, a forum that was created by an anonymous user last Sept. 28, promotes the “corrective” rape of “sluts,” “harlots” and just about any other woman or girl, and promises to help readers get away with it. Its founder reportedly claims to have personally raped seven women, and a visitor to the site recently bemoaned his own arrest and 10-year sentence after following the site’s advice.
“These harpies need to be humbled,” the forum’s creator, who also goes by PhilosophyOfRape, wrote in his opening statement, which he described as “serious as a heart attack.” “We’re talking about filthy, unmitigated sluts. Obvious and loud. Shameless. Belligerent. Entitled. Selfie taking, Tindr-whoring, Teenage-walking-herpes-sores. We are talking about bad, bad individuals. Unruly, neglicted [sic], children, run-amok. That badly need to be punished. Badly. For the good of society, these women need to be raped. Here we will teach how to do it safely.”
…The site attracts more than its share of the criminally minded. “Do you think fathers should fuck their daughters?” one wrote in, adding without irony that that “would ingrain in them a healthy view of men.” Another user asked when a girl is too young to rape and was told that “9-15 is a decent range to start corrections.” And still another user who said he had “fucked a girl while she was unconscious” was told by someone else on the site that if that were true, he had “done good.”
How are we expected to laugh at the epidemic of violence against women?
Collective Shout wrote this response to a man who described us as ‘feminazis’ who lacked a sense of humour, and chose to ‘take offense’, on our Facebook page. He has since deleted his comments – because he’s now ashamed of them, we can only hope.
Feminazi: ‘A deeply offensive misogynstic slur’
Do the men who use these terms again us think about the meaning? Is the mass slaughter of Jews (and others) to be reduced to a swear-word against feminist activists? (in a similar way ‘lynch mob’ is bandied around by certain men who get called out by women, as powerfully highlighted here by Dr Helen Pringle). My Collective Shout colleague Caitlin Roper– who has received more than her fair share of slurs – emailed this to me this afternoon on the use of the term ‘Feminazi’.
The fact is it is men as a class who oppress women as a class and we can see manifestations of this everywhere we look, ranging from sexual harassment and sexist jokes to rape and femicide. To suggest that women are the oppressors and the oppressors our victims is just horrible. And while we are drawing comparisons, it’s not men who are being exterminated by women. I always feel the need to point out that it is a deeply offensive misogynistic slur, and men who use this language to silence women who speak against the oppression and abuse they endure are absolutely part of the problem.
American activist Ed Drain also expressed his contempt for the term, on my (personal) Facebook page.
Ed Drain The ONLY connections to Nazis are the wanton destruction of a huge group of people — with Hitler’s Germany, it was Jews and homosexuals, today, it is women of all kinds and colors. The comparison is apt only for the ones supporting rape culture.
Stand-up Comedian Jim Jefferies misogynist jokes fall flat
In his opening sequence he claimed that when a man put his fingers inside the vagina of an unconscious woman it was not really rape. He said women should be flattered to have their drinks spiked and be sexually violated. He criticised the women who challenge his misogyny, callingthem “uptight (insert expletive word for female genitalia here) who can’t take a joke”.
Jefferies then joked about fat women, lying women, ugly women, beautiful but boring women, dumb women, and made plenty of references to the different types of women he had had sex with. He also admitted that he’d like to have sex with a 16-year-old.
During his misogynistic sermon, he asked the audience if anyone knew the opposite of misogyny, and took delight that only one person responded. This lone voice supported his argument that misandry is generally unknown because men have no qualms with being sexually objectified by women. According to Jefferies, men are totally open to the idea of being drugged and sexually violated, and if only women could mirror this relaxed attitude and regard the prospect of being raped as a form of flattery.
Violence against women exists on a spectrum: at one end there are misogynist attitudes, which Jefferies champions. His jokes against women were delivered with passion and conviction, and sections of the crowd consumed them like hungry wolves. These jokes made me feel uncomfortable and angry because they are being told against the backdrop of a society that systematically denigrates women.
Misogynistic attitudes are the building blocks for more extreme forms of violence against women that are endemic in Australia, including: forced sex, emotional, psychological and financial abuse, revenge porn, physical violence, stalking, rape, and murder. Read full article
Let these venues know what you think of them profiting from women hatred
How come the sex industry never has anything to say about the johns and punters – the kind of men, for example, who share their ratings of women with other men in the way you might recommend a meal or place to stay? While they continue to roll out selected prostituted women as human shields* to talk about how wonderful the industry is (for example on Canberra’s ABC 666 last Friday in promoting an exhibition of the sex industry at the Canberra Museum- more to come on this), excluded is any response to the men who treat women in the trade as pieces of meat.
Men who buy sex: in their own words
Men who buy women and children for sex often regard them as less than human. We know this because the men themselves openly say so both in research and on customer review websites where men detail and rank the ‘services’ of the women they buy. These websites showcase the contempt these men have for the women they exploit.
We’ve collected a small sample of quotes from men who buy women. Several main themes emerge.
Regarding the women they buy as mere objects of sexual gratification and less than human
“Being with a prostitute is like having a cup of coffee- once you’re done with it, you throw it out.” Source
“I have an easier time treating them worse.” Source
“For gods sake woman…I just want you to get naked and suck my cock!…If you like big tits, she is your girl. Too much like hard work for me.” Source
“Some of the girls are lovely but most are just holes to f*ck.” Source
“If you want an attractive receptacle for your semen she will do.” Source
“LOL what beautiful girls OMG! WTF are you talking about dogg??? They are all old as fuck and the only young ones are ugly junkies lol rather fuck a blow up doll lol” Source
A sense of entitlement to sex any way they want it with no regard for the woman they exploit
“I don’t want them to get any pleasure. I am paying for it and it is her job to give me pleasure. If she enjoys it I would feel cheated.” Source
“…She said “NO!” Sorry, what do you mean NO, this is what I paid for.” Source
“Well, she certainly knows what she’s doing and how to please a man. And there’s no damn nonsense about ‘don’t do this’ and ‘I don’t want it in there’ either. So, in a word, a perfect whore.” Source
“She was definitely on something…her oral (covered) was mechanical to say the least…No interaction at all. I know not all the girls enjoy it, but I’m not paying them to enjoy it- just to pretend that they are.” Source
“I took the lead and it was like shagging a corpse…Someone should inform her that a part of the job is to show some enjoyment and give some pleasure back to the punter.” Source
An opportunity to control and dominate a woman and perform degrading sex acts on her that their female partners refuse
“If my fiancée won’t give me anal, I know someone who will.” Source
“You get to treat a ho like a ho…you can find a ho for any type of need – slapping, choking, aggressive sex beyond what your girlfriend will do – you won’t do stuff to your girlfriend that will make her lose her self esteem.” Source
“I guess the big thing is the control aspect of it. When you’re with a prostitute you have control over what happens. You get to have control over what you do, when, how, in what order, and I like that.” Source
“I would have no issue making a girl do what I want, after all that is what I pay for. 60 minutes of HER time to make ME happy doing whatever I want. If she doesn’t like it she is in the wrong game. I never spit on a girl but I have raised my hand to a girl.” Source
Recognising that the women they buy are unwilling participants
“I wish she had loosened up or pretended to be into it more. She grimaced as I came on her which was a turn off…Would recommend for those interested in ethnic girls, big boobs…just wish she’d lighten up a bit.” Source
“[She] pulled away, which really put me off. She didn’t seem to like her hair being touched…she just seemed really on edge for the whole, short time I was with her.” Source
“She had the gagging expression on her face…again she just lay there and complained about it hurting.” Source
“I got the impression she was somewhere else, and even though she looked, she wouldn’t make eye contact. Total waste of cash. The management should starve girls like this to make them perform.” Source
“Overall, she is quite attractive, but doesn’t have a great attitude and gives the impression that she doesn’t really want to be here.” Source
Describing signs of women who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation
“Onto the sex which was the best part as Hana was tight and able to take instuctions [sic] well. Her English is non existant [sic] in April but may be better now. Lucky for me i was able to converse in some Korean with her.”- ‘Might and Power’, Punter Planet, 19 June 2011
“The thing that struck me was the absence of the usual cheerful welcoming manner I enjoy with most other Thai girls. She did flash a pretty smile once or twice but mostly made it glumly obvious that my visit was just a chore for her. So although I got my semen extracted, I couldn’t call that a joyful hour.” Source
“Cold and passive. I tried to talk to her to understand if there was an issue: homesickness, personal event? Unfortunately with her poor English, I could barely get a few words as an answer…She remained passive and distant.” Source
“Ukrainian brunette in her teenage years…She seemed disinterested and took off her clothes as if she was merely doing a duty, alarm bells started ringing as she lay down on the bed without a word, no attempt at trying to warm up and break the ice…Her English is poor…[she] seemed nervous and fidgety.” Source
“Unenthusiastic, dispassionate…she claimed afterwards that she was “just tired” but I suspect she’s not cut out for being a WG [Working Girl]. I wonder if it would be stretching a thought too far to question if she had in any way been coerced?” Source
As Mary Lucille Sullivan pointed out in her book Making Sex Work, “The [sex] buyer’s economic power means he determines how the sexual act will be played out. Buyers believe their purchasing power entitles them to demand any type of sex they want.” It is clear that many men are more concerned with the quality of the ‘sexual service’ than the fact that women they pay to exploit are not there by choice.
Earlier this month, ABC’s Lateline dedicated a segment to exploring Sweden’s solution to prostitution and trafficking. The ‘Nordic model’ criminalises the demand for commercial sexual exploitation, decriminalizes those exploited, and provides exit programs for individuals in prostitution who want to leave the industry.
Various human rights campaigners and organisations along with prostitution survivors advocate for the implementation of the Nordic model, with former US president Jimmy Carter calling it ‘the only workable solution’. Nordic legislation has been implemented in a growing number of countries around the world, and the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of it.
Gunilla Ekberg explained the rationale behind criminalizing buyers of sex and decriminalizing the sellers:
“One of the cornerstones of Swedish policies against prostitution and trafficking in human beings is the focus on the root cause, the recognition that without men’s demand for and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able to flourish and expand.”
While there are countless debates over the notion of ‘choice’ for women and children in the sex trade, largely missing from these discussions is the role of men who make choices to buy women and children for sexual exploitation.
Over half are married or in a de-facto relationship
The sex industry attempts to obscure the realities of prostitution, including its gendered nature. It is primarily men buying mainly women and children. According to Detective Inspector Simon Haggstrom of the Stockholm Police Prostitution Unit, in the 15 years since buying sex has been criminalized, they have not found a single woman paying for sex. While the media narrative tends to depict lonely or even disabled men who are just looking for some companionship or someone to talk to, a major international study found that over half were married or in a de-facto relationship.
One exited woman shed some light on why men in committed intimate relationships buy women. She said, “I spent 15 years servicing men and allowing them to use me any way they saw fit. I’ve had clients confess that the things they paid me to do were things they would never ask their wives, whom they respected, or their “child’s mother” to do.
Many are well aware women are exploited
The study describes how men who pay to sexually exploit women are aware of the harms to women they exploit:
“The sex buyers had an extensive awareness of the intimate relationship between coercion, prostitution and trafficking.”
“Many (41%) of the sex buyers used women who they knew were controlled by pimps at the time they used her.”
“Both sex buyers and non-sex buyers evidenced extensive knowledge of the physical and psychological harms of prostitution.”
“Two thirds of both the sex buyers and the non-sex buyers observed that a majority of women are lured, tricked, or trafficked into prostitution.”
“Many of them had an awareness of the economic coercion and lack of alternatives in women’s entry into prostitution.”
“Almost all of the sex buyers and non-sex buyers shared the opinion that minor children are almost always available for prostitution in bars, massage parlours, escort and other prostitution in Boston.”
But this awareness didn’t stop them:
“The knowledge that women have been exploited, coerced, pimped or trafficked failed to deter sex buyers from buying sex.”
They know what would deter them
The men surveyed agreed that the most effective deterrents to buying sex would be being placed on a sex offender registry, public exposure, significant fines and jail time.
Progress under the Nordic model
Since Sweden’s legislation criminalising the buying of sex, considerable progress has been made. According to research from the Nordic Gender Institute, the number of men buying sex has decreased from 13.6% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2008. Street prostitution in Sweden has halved while in neighbouring countries such as Norway and Denmark it is estimated to be three times higher. Police have intercepted phone correspondence between pimps and traffickers who now regard Sweden as an unattractive market and suggest Denmark, Germany or Holland (where prostitution is legal) as alternatives. Reportedly, there has been a cultural shift in Sweden where it is no longer considered acceptable to purchase another person.
As proponents of the Nordic model attest, we cannot oppose sex trafficking of women and children and support the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children that is prostitution. Sex trafficking would cease to exist if men stopped buying women. There can never be gender equality while women are commodities to be bought and sold.
…the reality of prostitution is not a romantic fantasy but a tragic horror story. Sadly, in my work with Exodus Cry, my colleagues and I have encountered young women who have told us that Pretty Women lured them into the sex industry by leading them to believe that prostitution was glamorous and romantic. We interviewed one such girl for our documentary about sex trafficking. Stephanie was sexually abused as a child and entered into prostitution underage. She was dominated by an abusive, controlling pimp and trafficked for sex…. She told us, “I watched the movie, Pretty Woman, and I was like, well gosh, look at her, she’s beautiful, she’s making money, she’s meeting guys, and she fell in love with this guy, and she’s living in this nice hotel suite, and has everything she wants, and she’s fallen in love, man I need to become a ho. That’s what I thought, so, that’s what I did. I experienced nothing like Pretty Woman, it’s totally, totally different. I’ve been held hostage at gunpoint, raped, robbed, strangled, beaten up, everything, by customers.” Read full article here.
*With thanks to Dr Helen Pringle for the ‘human shields’ phrase.
Women should not have to make sexual concessions to have a seat in the boys club.
This morning I appeared on Channel Seven Sunrise to discuss Dr Gabrielle McMullin’s comments that given the level of sexual harassment in the medical profession and the penalties women faced when they complained, it may be better for them to submit than to take matters further. While it is good that Dr McMullin has exposed the shocking reality of gender inequality within the profession, I was concerned that her response suggested women have to make concessions rather than be treated with respect and as equals.
Woman’s Health Magazine editor Felicity Harley had said in response to the furore: “It is disappointing that this has become the focus rather than the phenomenal sporting talents of our Australian female athletes.”
And why do you think that was Felicity? It’s you and Women’s Health who caused this to be the case by sending spectacularly conflicting messages about what you valued in women. If it’s ‘phenomenal sporting talent’ you’re interested in, why pay four topless women to turn up? Were we supposed to overlook these almost-naked painted models parading at a signature event supposedly celebrating the sporting achievements of female athletes?
Since then, as the social media condemnation grew and Danielle Warby, a board director of the Australian Women Sport and Recreation Association, ramped things up with this piece, Women’s Health was forced into an apology.
The fact that at least one man admitted on Women’s Health Facebook page to getting off on the images shows how wrong they got it.
Initial reports left out the image of the model representing Cathy Freeman, painted in her designer one-piece Olympic running suit and she was not referred to. Perhaps this was to protect her dignity, I’m not sure. However, this insult to Freeman must be named. Of the four, her replica is the most recognisable.
I have some questions for Women’s Health. Where did you find the models? Who was the agency? Did Women’s Health make deliberate specifications regarding women’s breast size, for example? Who was hired to painted their bodies (including the logos just above one of the model’s nipples)? Who were the models hired to entertain exactly?
It’s one thing when men do this to women (most of the time). But when women facilitate the objectification of women and do so under a banner of celebrating sporting achievement, it’s even more depressing. Have sexualised representations of women, including women who have achieved greatly, become so normal and mainstream that even women editors of a popular women’s health magazine didn’t see a problem?
The Women’s Health Australia “I support women in sport awards” was held this week to recognise the achievements of Australia’s female athletes.
Women’s Health editor Felicity Harley said the night was “all about giving recognition and telling the stories of Australian sportswomen, who don’t get enough coverage for their efforts and talents.”
A worthy goal indeed. Harley is right – sportswomen don’t get enough coverage for their talents and efforts. The sexual objectification of female athletes is a long-standing problem in our culture which continues to have a negative impact on the health and well-being of women and girls and limits their participation in sport.
This makes the decision to hire topless women for the event – wearing only underpants and body paint -even more bizarre.
Female athletes and advocates for women in sport were quick to call out Women’s Health Magazine for reinforcing the sexual objectification of women in sport:
Danielle Warby, a board director of the Australian Womensport and Recreation Association asked Women’s Health editor Felicity Harley for an explanation. Harley responded by dodging responsibility and blaming the media.
Harley also hasn’t explained why Women’s Health Australia hired naked models.
Speaking to the SMH, Warby said “The sexualisation of women in sport is a massive issue,”…”These women are not athletes, they are naked and I don’t know why they are there.”
Here’s why this is important:
Sexual objectification undermines women and girls equal participation in sport.
Focusing on an athlete’s physical attributes in an overtly sexual manner can create anxiety and embarrassment for the individual. This may be compounded by a heightened body awareness already present in many female athletes. If the athlete does not feel she ‘measures up’ to an external judgment of her physique, her self-esteem may suffer.
A potential consequence of lowered self-esteem is compromised athletic performance. The athlete becomes distracted both on and off the arena of sport, and may be tempted into unhealthy eating habits. In younger athletes, where self-confidence may be less secure, the increased focus on the body because of sexploitation can lead to a poor body image. There is a wealth of research linking poor body image with increased risk of eating disorders or disordered eating behaviours.
(source: Jan Borrie, Shaping up to the image makers, Panorama, The Canberra Times, 27 May 2000)
A Magazine titled “Women’s Health” should know better than to pull a stunt like this. Our elite female athletes – and the young aspiring athletes looking to follow their example – deserve better.
Take Action! Make your voice heard – Tweet, Facebook or email
Tweet Womens Health Magazine @womenshealthaus
Tweet Australian Government is included amoung the sponsors of the event. Contact the Minister for Health and Sport Peter Dutton. @PeterDutton_MP
Have you seen the recent bus “gang rape-inspired” photo shoot in India? Or Vogue Italia’s video showing a woman killed by an intruder in her house? Or the Bulgarian makeup ad showing bruised women with the tagline “Victim of Beauty”?
There appears to be a theme of fashion advertising increasingly using images of women being killed or tortured or violated in some way, usually by men.
What’s this all about?
All these young women were victims of acid attacks in India.
Rupa (right) has now designed her own fashion range. The Herald Sun has featured images from the shoot. It is just the best fashion photo shoot I think I’ve ever seen. Despite their suffering, multiple operations, the cruelty they have suffered, they appear radiant and determined to embrace life. Their courage shines and shames their abusers.
Indian designer Rupa, along with her friends Rita, Sonam, Laxmi and Chanchal modelled the clothing from her new range, Rupa Designs for photographer Rahul Saharan. All five women are the victims of acid attacks, which are very common in India.
In 2008, Rupa suffered extensive injuries after her stepmother threw acid in her face while she was sleeping.
“I always wanted to be a designer but after the attack there was a pause in my life,” the 22-year-old told the Daily Mail . “I was so insecure and embarrassed by my scars, I used to cover my face with a scarf,” she said.
“I always hung onto my dream but I never knew that one day it would be possible and I would be launching my own label.”
Rupa now works with the Stop Acid Attacks organisation, which helps survivors ease back into society.
If you are moved by what you have just seen and read, please decide right now to support Rupa to establish her own business to sell her lovely designs and support herself.
Our Goal is to rent a shop for Rupa in a decent locality in Delhi which Rupa can decorate as her boutique. We want to also provide her with the initial capital for her shop so that she can buy the equipment and employ other acid attack survivors to work with her.
Brothel legalisation: a Top End race to the bottom
…Tollner’s proposal to brothels is particularly cynical, given the population demographics of the Territory. As LNG development proceeds in Darwin, the city will host increasingly large numbers of white, cashed-up men who are a well-worn target consumer group of the sex industry.
Only a small proportion of these men (roughly 15 per cent) are likely to seek out a woman for prostitution, but a greater proportion are vulnerable to “opportunistic” patronage facilitated through semi-prostitution venues like strip clubs, advertising and touting, and all-male group activities like visiting a brothel after a night out drinking.
The sex industry stands to commercially benefit from Tollner’s proposal to legalise brothels through capturing this segment of the market that isn’t inclined to ring one of the NT’s legal outcall agencies.
The sex industry is keen for Tollner’s amendment to be made to the NT’s Prostitution Regulation Act because it would acquire a legitimate shop-front in the Territory. According to research, legalised brothels hamper efforts to detect illegal venues, normalise and encourage public acceptance of the pimping of women for prostitution, and foster an environment that is welcoming of sex tourists for economic gain.
Legal brothels act as “hidden-in-plain-sight” housing for trafficked women, and the Queensland Government has been forced to issue guidelines for “sleeping accommodation for sex workers” to stop the practice.
The Territory is a prime destination for women trafficked from South-East Asia, and also for homeless women, particularly from Aboriginal communities. Sex industry entrepreneurs in the Territory currently run into legal trouble setting up groups of women in apartments to be housed and pimped, but legal brothels would solve this problem….Read full story
Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, and member of Amnesty Australia.
We continue to be sold a line by the promoters and profiteers of Legends Football League (better known as Lingerie Football League, the re-branding means little) that this is a legitimate sport.
Let’s see what the fans think. Here’s a snag of their comments taken at 4.15pm today. Only one comment refers to a player’s talent.
Sportswoman daughter rejected at last minute for being ‘too fat’: dad speaks out
Randy send this comment to Collective Shout’s Open Letter on the LFL. Read it and see the way his daughter was treated and why he no longer supports LFL.
Posted 9 Dec ’13 at 8:10 pm |
Until Saturday night 8 December I was a staunch supporter of the “rebranded” LFL. That was until my daughter who flew to Sydney to represent her State was told that she was not approved to wear the uniform. Previously that month she had submitted a bikini photo as required so that her body shape could approved to wear their skimpy gym outfit. Now she has no problem with the lack of uniform and has for the last 18 months lived for nothing but LFL. At 18 years old and coming from an elite swimming background she wanted to play a team sport that challenged her and she thought LFL was it. Well at the end of the day it does not matter how good you are, if Mitch Mortaza thinks your too fat to wear his uniform. Since the debacle on Saturday night my daughter has been contacted by the coach of the NSW Surge with words of encouragement . My daughter is a large framed girl, that’s why she is unstoppable in defence or so we have been told by many who have seen her. So why would you bench a player who would do nothing but promote the sport as a real game, simple Mitch Mortaza and his cronies only want skinny women in his skimpy uniforms. Sure my daughter is not a size 8, 10 or even 12 for that matter. But she is a very athletic and lethal size 14 and had she played on Saturday night there would a few NSW players hurting still.
Keep adult entertainment off the footy field
Michelle Dean lives in WA and has been speaking out against the Lingerie (Legends) Football League. Here she tells us what she has been doing to stand against sexploitation of women’s sport.
When I became aware of the LFL and exactly what it involved I knew I had to voice my complaint about how demeaning and objectifying it is to women and girls.
I initially contacted the Department of Sport and Recreation in WA. I asked what requirements or processes there are for a sport to set up and be considered legitimate here in WA (with particular reference to the LFL). They advised:
“There is no state government process; the approval process for events rests with the venue/land owners. This is based around the venue owner operator insuring (sic) that the event they are approving in their venue does not break any laws or health regulations. Whilst the activity may be seen as poor taste and sexist it does not breach any laws or regulations. It is therefore up to the venue to determine if suitable to be linked to their venue”. Read more here
The NRL claims to care about treating women equally and eliminating sexism
So how does the Penrith Panther’s official partnership with the LFL help girls and women feel included and not valued only for their bodies? (me and my colleagues have been asking this question of the NRL on twitter, with no reply).
‘Roxy and the “sex sells” agenda of surf corporations a la Big Surfing are completely disconnected from what we know surfing to be about: freedom. We don’t want what you are selling’
When writing my column on the objectification of women in sport, I came across the writings of American surfer and Women’s World Longboard champion Cori Schumacher. I was impressed. Cori can both surf and write. I can only write. But she makes me want to surf! You’ll see why in this piece which she has given me permission to reprint in full.
Crossing the threshold from land to sea, the weights of gender and sexuality attached to the wings of my soul fall away. It is as if the ocean itself has the power to remove the stench of centuries from this form; a body I was born with, did not ask for but have found a way to cherish despite all the messages received from a world that would label me as second-class, nearly worthless, save for a tiny window in time if I were but to follow the intense pressures to submit to an ogling gaze that deems me worthy if I relentlessly give away my true power to embrace an ephemeral faux-power wrapped up in beauty and youth.
Let us be clear as to what this ephemeral faux-power of sexualized beauty entails:
“The answer to who has the power in these videos is blatantly clear.
We are the ones constantly depicted naked or semi-naked, in hyper-sexualized ‘biting-our-lips, batting-our-eyelashes’ demure, weak and submissive poses. It’s a position that signals vulnerability. You can’t be naked, while everyone else is clothed, and be in power. You can’t be naked and be the one in control. You can’t be naked and be the one choosing. To be naked is to be exposed; to be weak. Ultimately, it’s to be powerless.
Even when women are sold the story that their beauty is power over men, it is a deceptive and temporary truth. It’s baseless power. It is the kind of power that only exists in relation to a man’s desire. In this equation, women are defined only in relation to the men in their lives; only to the hard-ons they can incite. In these videos they’re always the cheerleaders to the male ego, standing on the sidelines, prancing around in panties, smiling with a come-hither, non-threatening look…” -Toula Foscolos
When conversations around women’s sexualization rise, the most eclipsing and ignorant of responses seeks to polarize our conversations between those who are prudishly opposed to a woman embracing her sexuality and those who are in-touch and empowered through their sexualized nakedness. Please. Women and men, our sexualities, our genders, our desires, how they are exploited and maintained, expressed and repressed, are far more complex than this simple polarization, both in the good ol’ USofA and abroad (yes, that’s right, even the French are engaged in this conversation). The conversation as it stands is due for expansion.
That is, an expansion in the conversation around the difference between the commodification of sexuality for the gain of profits and exposure for a few elite vs. the truly empowering freedom found in working to release both men and women from this circular conversation of a relentlessly disempowered binary that does nothing to celebrate our complexity as human beings.
Sex Sells (seriously, again?)
When I hear the hauntingly redundant “sex sells, so who is losing here” argument I wonder at the absolute lack of imagination and empathy this entails. Rather than argue abstracts, however, I find that it is much better to use specific examples to illustrate who loses when image and sex become the ideas sold rather than the promotion of agency, efficacy and non-image oriented achievement.
Anna Kournikova became the poster-child for sexualized female tennis beginning in the late 1990s. She inspired quite a bit of debate around image and achievement similar to the conversation surrounding Steph Gilmore’s recent trailer for the Roxy Pro. Though what was said regarding Kournikova cannot be said of Gilmore (exemplified by the use of the “Anna Kournikova” in the lingo of some poker card playing variations meaning a hand that “looks great but never wins”), we can look at the impact of Kournikova and the likes of Maria Sharapova in women’s tennis easily enough now that time has passed and draw parallels to who will lose when we allow this unimaginative and lazy rhetoric of “sex sells” to infiltrate surfing or other women’s sports, for that matter.
Marion Bartoli, who recently won the prestigious Wimbledon championship, has had to deal with the most disgusting and pathetic of the dark side of the sexualization of tennis. After winning her first grand slam trophy, BBC TV and radio sportscaster John Inverdale felt the need to comment that she was “never going to be a looker” to which Bartoli responded with the courageous comment featured in the above image. This however was light commentary compared to the “fans of tennis” who decided to let loose a tirade fit to inspire projectile vomiting. Even in the midst of accomplishing one of her greatest dreams, Bartoli has to deal with the sexism that persists for women in sport. This is a loss, not only for tennis, but for female athletes in the future who are no doubt reading all about this. Sexism persists.
“Sex sells” is regurgitated tripe that should be divested of its cowls. Sex sold product when sex in our culture wasn’t visible. Now that sex is everywhere, it is easy to gaze at it as an artifact of creativity and innovation, and indeed, gazing is all sex-used-to-sell is good for these days. A new generation of consumers (whose views translate to purchasing, which is ostensibly what companies like Roxy want) is more attracted to values-driven companies than lifestyle-fetish fodder (as exemplified by the fact that Patagonia saw growth over the last recession by 25%-30% annually while companies like Quiksilver and Billabong continue to lose millions). Sexy marketing once was an innovative way to fill a vacuum only to be found in magazines tucked under the beds of adolescent males, but with this vacuum filled to overflow in the culture-at-large, it has become as redundant and banal as commercials for pharmaceuticals on television.
“There was this one time that I saw an ad that objectified men and it didn’t offend me…”
I suppose it would be just as impossible to explain what it feels like to be a woman in the world and how surfing can be a moment of respite amidst the sexist noise to some as it would be to explain to these victims of sex-trafficking how Steph Gilmore’s trailer for the Roxy Pro 2013 might exemplify Steph embracing her “power” as a woman.
Although some, like Dustin Hoffman, have honestly delved into this question with moving and resonant results.
Why do women run to the sea? Ask yourselves this. What does it mean to cross-over from a culture-land of trauma into a sea of freedom and how impossible will it be to get others to understand how hard some will fight to retain this space where we can release the weight of gender and sexuality imposed on us by our culture-at-large?
If you want to embrace the ephemeral, it’s your life. No one should tell you what or how to use your body. But don’t pretend we are empowering the future here or that it is good for anyone else. This trend shows a complete lack of regard for the health of future generations of female surfers and does not bode well for the future of men’s surfing either. Do you see it yet? The first rumblings of it in the bare-chested way the top 34 male professional surfers are being presented to fans during 2013′s ASP contests?
Cori has a petition against Roxy at Change.org Sign here
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