Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Female Chauvinist Pigs

Yesterday, NPR's Fresh Air had a very interesting interview with Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Raunch Culture embraces this all-consuming trend of commercialized sexuality, of 5 year-old girls wearing Playboy bunny logo t-shirts, of women treating both themselves and others as sexual objects, a culture that is fast becoming (has already become?) the New Identity for just about every girl over the age of 12. I highly recommend giving the interview a listen.

Some interesting points made by the author:

- Porn stars like Jenna Jameson (and other less professional "stars", like Pamela Lee) have become celebrity role models of sexual freedom and success. Yet these women are paid to simulate sex, to imitate enjoyment of sex, of one fake orgasm after another. Why would others want to imitate an imitation? Shouldn't women's sexual role models be those who actually get the most out of real sex, the most pleasure, the most fulfillment - rather than the ones who get the most money to imitate it?

- Indeed, porn movies (or, a la Vanessa Williams, Former Miss USA, a simple video of two women kissing) used to be something women had to "recover" from. Williams had her crown taken away. Today, porn is something that makes you famous, something that gets you noticed and gets you money and gets you that all-American gold-seal of approval: celebrity.

- Whether it's due to the commercialism of the day or this "raunch" culture (and I'm not certain that they're very separate), sexuality has been reduced to breast implants, thongs, lingerie, boots, PVC, and brazillian waxes - all things women must buy. The media does not tout self-awareness, or even sensual knowledge, as a prerequisite to sexual satisfaction. Nope - just buy some boobs, and you'll be okay. You'll automatically find sex - and life - more rewarding. It's frustrating because I know several girls like this.

- The author talked about visiting a middle school dance, where the girls began to kiss each other and give the boys simulated lap dances. First of all, WTF!?!??! but I can also totally see that, am not surprised. Girls are becoming aware of things so early these days (and why not, when everything they see tells them it's okay to, to jump in with wild abandon). But it's not a true sexual awareness - those girls kissing each other aren't exploring some animalistic, wild sensuality, they aren't doing this in an act of true, free love. They're giving a performance. And they know it (apparently they admitted so to the author). They are, yet again, imitating. Creating a reality before the true reality begins to sink in (if it ever does - I am reminded of an Australian tourbus driver who took tourists to see Uluru / Ayers Rock. He said that people would descend from the bus in wonder, but instead of standing there and soaking in the sight, they'd raise their cameras, take tons upon tons of photos, and then, at the end of the day, some of them would actually go up to the Rock and see and touch it, begin to experience it truly).

- But why all this imitation, this performance? It's true that we do imitate in an attempt to wade through the unknown; children do it all the time. But shouldn't there be a point at which the imitation ends, and true sensuality/knowledge begins to take hold, to be explored? A point at which celebration of imitation is shrugged off? The author thinks that women do still crave acceptance from men, and if you can't beat them, join them. They don't want to be thought of as prissy, or as a prude, because they think that drives men away (gaggh arg blek). So they embrace raunch. It makes sense, I suppose, but just because it makes sense doesn't mean it's smart (like that prison logic: "I'm a convicted felon, therefore I'd never touch a gun! Think of how much time I'd get for that!" It makes sense somewhere, but . . . )

Of course, it's so difficult to talk about sexuality - all theories cut big swathes that don't truly apply in people's minute-to-minute life. But it is fun to think about, anyway.

Incidentally, for the sake of a smoother read, I repressed the urge to preface the word "sexuality" every time with "American". There is a wide, wide gulf between American culture and that of just about everyone else on the planet. I do not mean to imply that as America goes, so goes the rest of the world. Other cultures really do laugh at us, especially at our obsession with big fake boobies. Oh, and big fake teeth. As if you didn't already suspect.


Blogger pdwannabe said...

Yea - I saw her on Daily Show. Interesting point she makes...

11:30 AM  
Blogger i heart public defense said...

I need to get back into the swing of the world, seriously, she was on the Daily Show? I'll have to look for it. I think some of what she says is quite rebuttable, but it's an interesting theory that at least is getting some air time. I was wondering when someone would start commenting on this sort of thing.

It's also like Susan Faludi's book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Really interesting read, a lot of theories that make total sense, but in the end it's not all that applicable to the majority of men.

I think a lot of these theories apply to us on a deeper symbolic level, which, while being an important level, is not, by its nature, rooted in the real world. I'm finding this a lot, and it's frustrating to me. Because these theories just make so much sense! And you can see them working all over the place! But then you start talking to people, and bye-bye out the window.

Alors, "nothing explains anything", and all that . . .

12:06 PM  

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