Thursday, August 23, 2012

Strippers, Maxim and porn – you suck. {Part 1}



I’ve been working on this post on and off for a long time. I started it, then I started over, then I edited it a bunch, then I started over again. Then I decided not to post it at all. It was just too hard.

Then a while back, I happened upon this post by Single Dad Laughing, and my fire reignited. His post helped me find the words my heart wanted to say. Here are a few of my favorite lines:


I ask you seriously, men. Do we not realize what we have done to the women of this world? Do we not recognize the atrocities we have committed? We have destroyed the very beauty that women are….

It doesn’t take opening your mouth to propound these things. It doesn’t take flapping your lips to make a statement. It doesn’t take verbal anything to spread this vicious ideology. All it takes is you and me, stopping and looking….

It is not the impossibly air brushed females on magazine covers who are causing women to hold themselves against a standard of perfection… It is the men that stop and look at those magazines.


I thought this perspective coming from a man was really cool. You should take a minute and read it.

So thanks to SDL, I finally got these words out of my head. (And I warn you, there are a lot of words.) Many months later, I finally found the courage to actually publish them.

So. Here goes nothin’.


For as long as I can remember, the whole concept of strippers and porn has really pissed me off. For example, when I was still in grade school, my friend’s dad kept a few copies of Playboy in their bathroom. Even though I was curious about what was in there, I didn’t look. I felt this mixture of fear, anxiety and anger that is still confusing to me now as an adult, and even more so back then. All I know is that it kept me from using the bathroom at her house.

I’d like to say that my emotions around this issue have changed as I’ve gotten older, that I’ve made sense of them. But that’s not the case. Although socially acceptable by many people, I find the whole sex industry appalling. And by “sex industry,” I mean damn near all of the media we come into contact with today.

You might think I’m just a prude, but I assure you, I am not.

You might think I just don’t have enough self-confidence in my own body. Yeah, there may be some truth to that, but I think even if I had a physique sexy enough to grace the cover of Maxim, I would still feel this way. The two are mutually exclusive.

Even after talking about this in therapy a few years ago, my anger about the issue remains, but I’m starting to understand why I feel the way I do.

I’m also learning that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

To me, strippers, porn, nudie magazines – they all represent a feeling of entitlement a lot of men have to women’s bodies, which results in power over our bodies and our spirits.

The days of the Mad Men era have long past, and women rarely have to worry about men chasing them around the office trying to get a peek at their panties. (Yes, that happened in one episode, one of the many scenes that made for a very “Mad Mel.”)

But though its appearance has changed since the 1960s, the entitlement still exists.

I’ve experienced sexual harassment in the office several times over the years, and in four instances, the harassment was ongoing. I was young then and too afraid to say anything. Eventually each situation resolved itself, as many things do in time, but not without taking its toll.

In my young, naïve clubbing days, there were the guys who loitered around the women’s restroom and grabbed your arm when you walked by. Many girls giggled coyly and playfully admonished them. I was not one of those girls, and my admonishment was neither coy nor playful. I snatched my arm back and shot them evil looks. They would call me a bitch or something worse as I walked away.

There was the gas station attendant who got intimidatingly close to me at the pump as he tried to back me into my car. The only witnesses were his three laughing co-workers. I yanked out the hose and sped away. That was the only gas station on the way to my school from work, so I drove well out of my way to get gas after that.  I no longer had the simple freedom to go to the most convenient gas station.

There was the drunk who grabbed my wrist as I walked by him after having dinner with co-workers at a nearby table. “You can’t leave yet,” he sneered. “I have plans for you.” I jerked away and hurried out the door as he and his friends laughed and my co-workers stared. On top of feeling afraid and angry, I was humiliated.

There was the strange man who wouldn’t accept no for an answer when I declined his offer to walk me to my car on a dark street. I had just left a restaurant alone in an unfamiliar part of town when he appeared out of nowhere. When he wouldn’t stop walking next to me, I turned and confronted him with my keys in his face, and he backed away as my voice got louder. I cried and shook the whole drive home.

There was the well dressed businessman perusing a suggestive magazine one morning at the 7-Eleven near my office. He peered over the pages, winked at me, then looked me up and down. I quickly paid for my items, and glanced back at him as I walked out. He was still leering with a smile that makes my skin prickle when I think about it. I felt as naked as those girls in the magazine. He intended to make me uncomfortable, and it worked. He had power over me using just his eyes, and he knew it.

Sadly, I could tell you many more stories. Too many stories.

Almost every woman has stories like these – moments when she felt afraid, powerless, dehumanized, reduced, violated or small. All because a man felt entitled.

I know there’s a very broad spectrum here. Most men probably don’t feel entitled at all, and there are some men who are mostly harmless and just stare a little too long… and then there are some men who are not so harmless….

That’s why I have such a hard time being okay with strippers and porn and even Maxim. I don’t think these things cause that entitlement mentality, but I do think they perpetuate it. Men are told that it’s okay, normal. “Boys will be boys,” and all that bullshit. I think the seed gets planted when they are just boys, and as they grow up surrounded by sexually charged images and messages – and the message that these things are perfectly acceptable – the entitlement mentality gets watered and nourished, and it grows and spreads like a weed.

Some may say it’s women’s fault. We’re the ones who pose for magazines and dance on poles. While I don’t think we’re are innocent in this, we don’t shoulder all the blame. It’s simple economics. Where there is a demand, there will be a supply. And there will always be plenty of women with daddy issues, or who are desperate for attention, or have low self-esteem, or who need money for drugs or just to feed their children. There will always be that woman who allows men on Howard Stern to throw cupcakes at her. (Oh yes, that really happened. I’m not even going to link to it, it’s so disgusting. Don’t get me started on that fucking asshole.) There will always be women who will allow themselves to be objectified.

I think for women to stop meeting the demand, we have to raise the collective self-esteem of women in our society. From a young age, girls are bombarded with messages that their value lies only in their physical appearance, and that a man needs to deem a woman’s body attractive for her to have any worth. That’s why nine year old girls are bulimic and giving blow jobs. It’s beyond sickening.

That’s why I found SDL’s post so refreshing – someone’s finally talking about men’s responsibility in this.

That’s also why I’m a little nervous about raising a son. Of course, I would have a slew of different, yet related, reasons to be nervous about raising a daughter.

But more on raising children in Part 2 of this post next week. This one has turned into a novella, and I still have a lot more say.

I know you have a lot to say too. So let’s hear it. 



14 comments:

  1. working in the club industry for a year when i was about 21 was both empowering and dehumanizing. it was a strange mix of feeling like i could control men just by how i looked and moved and also seeing that i was nothing but a visual steak to them, feeding a kind of hunger they had.
    i was one of the lucky ones who got away and didn't get sucked in by drug addiction or a baby i had to feed.
    it's an ugly world sometimes.

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    1. Thank you so much for your candid response. I always imagined that a dancer felt power and control over the men in her audience, and that was part of the allure to the profession. In those moments, she is able to be the manipulator, feed on his weaknesses, and take him over. But only in those moments. Once her shift if over, it real world sets in, and the men have all the power again. I'm so glad you got out of that world. I bet you have an incredible story.

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  2. I get where your coming from, I agree on many levels. i think it starts with allowing girls and boys to defy stereotypical gender rolls. You know the one that say all girls wear pink and play princess and all boys crash trucks and are brutes. We have to start by empowering our girls to be themselves outside of the perfect princess routine. We have to start teaching our boys from very young that respect is paramount.( can you tell this is a hot button for me)

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    1. You and I share that hot button, Annemarie. Part 2 of my post next week will be all about how we raise children to create a better society. Of course, I have no idea how to do that, so it's mostly just a lot of questions. I look forward to hearing more about your perspective.

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  3. Great post... I have been involved in so many moments, so similar to what you described. Super uncomfortable work environments, where the men "teasing" me were in charge of how my day would ultimately go - my bosses, co-workers. It's appalling. I went so far as to shyly mention the situation to the big boss, and he basically waved me off. Definitely humiliating and dehumanizing for a young, shy, single mom who needed her job. It took agonizing weeks to work up the courage to go to the big boss. And he could not have been more condescending. Actually, that's even kind of minor compared to a few other things related to this that I was unlucky enough to experience that shaped my entire life, in ways that were so not wanted.
    Ugh. I have a 15 year old son, and 3 daughters. These kids are bombarded with images on a daily basis - things that seem to be way out of my control as a parent. Even parental controls on the computer don't keep them from seeing disgusting images that no kids should see. Nick Jr has some great kid shows, but geez, it's like every girl represented is "perfect," super skinny and almost impossible to measure up to. My 11 year old perfectly average daughter got teased for being "fat" in FIFTH grade last year, because she is not a beanpole. My older daughter, in middle school got slapped on the butt every freaking day by boys. When I spoke to the principal about it - he acted like I was overreacting!
    Sometimes I wish I could whisk my kids away to an island, where they could spend these years being KIDS and PLAYING and not worrying that they are going to get harassed on their way to the cafeteria every day.
    Oh boy. This is a sore subject. I better stop before I write a book! Anyway, thanks for the post. Definitely thought provoking.

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    1. Oh, Jessica. I would read any book you wrote, on this topic or any other. It's awful that you experienced all those dehumanizing events in the work place. It's awful that your daughter is already experiencing similar treatment from boys. Sounds like that principle needs a slap!! Oh, that makes my blood boil. I would join you on that island if I could. *hugs*

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  4. I just have boys and I don't want them to grow up thinking that it's okay to treat women as objects to be grabbed or even leered at.

    I do think that it's such a part of our society- men looking at women's bodies- whether it's naked, with little clothing on, or fully clothed. And not just looking, but judging and wanting. And as time goes on, it seems to become more accepted. It's sad.

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    1. You're so right. The looking is just the beginning. I want to teach my son the same things you want to teach yours, and it's not going to be easy. Part 2 of this post next week will be all about that very thing.

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  5. This is a powerful post. Your examples are so realistic and I have experienced some of the same scenarios. Now that I have a young man of my own (almost 14 years old.), I have a whole new perspective to add to my already opinionated thoughts on porn, suggested magazines, and all the crap that's out there!

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    1. Thanks so much, Adrienne. All of those examples actually happened to me, and I could list several more. I'm sure most women could write a similar list. Raising boys to become men who are "better than the rest" is no easy task. Thanks for coming by!

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  6. I so frickin love this I want to print it out on and paste it on giant bulletin boards Everywhere! And let it scroll non-stop for 1 year in Times Square. and every sports area Jumbo-tron. Would that finally get the message across? Friend...you need to get this post syndicated somehow. it's a message our world needs to hear. that same world where a novel like 50 Shades of Grey is the hottest thing right now. A tale that is akin to pedophilia, but attractive because the "entitled" male in the tale is attractive and rich. Would this story still be considered "hot" and all the girl suffers at his controlling and manipulative hands romantic if he was creepy looking and poor? disfigured? I think not.

    This is what our world has come to: grey, grey, grey...everywhere grey. what was once abnormal, is now normal. there is no wrong - it's all in how you spin it. And if there's an bloody fantastic orgasm at the end of it: the end justifies the means.

    you know there is a popular saying among Christians that the greatest thing the devil ever did - was to convince us he didn't exist. I'd say the greatest thing entitled men have ever achieved - is convincing woman how bad we "want it", and that its okay - powerful even - to get it any way we can. Just like them. And that as long as it's making us feel good....it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong.

    Except, it's not making us feel good, is it? not in the long haul. If it was truly satisfying something within our spirits (as opposed to our panties), we wouldn't keep pushing the boundaries. searching for the next better, hotter more satisfying thing. we'd be satisfied. we'd be enough. we'd be "whole."
    And this world is far from whole....it is so unbelieveably broken. And the worst thing about it, what saddens me the most: is that the vast majority don't know it. And the only thing sadder and more pitiful than being a captive --- is one who is unaware they are held captive.

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    1. If only more people shared our passion about this topic! I really appreciate you taking the time to write out your thoughts on this. I actually refuse to read Fifty Shades, and that's one of the reasons why. Perpetuating the stereotype much??

      I also love the way you described "whole" and "broken." That is such a great way to put it. We really are captives. Thank you for choosing to share your beautiful words here. I am honored.

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  7. Enjoyed your post. Thanks for saying what needs to be said! I am trying to teach my three kids to be respectful of themselves and others, which can feel very counter-cultural. I think it helps that we don't have cable and our area doesn't have billboards, which lowers our "advertising intake."

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    1. It's such a hard lesson to teach. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for stopping by!

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