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Meanwhile, Back At The Raunch...
Finally, somebody bitch-slaps Ariel Levy, author of the book, Feminist Chauvinist Pigs, a rant against "raunch culture," which Levy thinks is "the new women's liberation." Oh, how tiresome. I couldn't bring myself to read more than the reviews of the thing. But, to the rescue comes Kate Taylor, author of A Woman's Guide To Sex, who writes in The Guardian:

In the book, she argues that the recent trend for soft-porn styling in everything from music videos to popular TV is reducing female sexuality to its basest levels. In short: "A tawdry, tarty, cartoon-like version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular."

Which is all fair enough, until Levy starts to list the ways in which today's women are allowing their sexuality to be sold short. Thongs, for example. Crop tops. Lap-dancing classes. Maxim and FHM. Playboy T-shirts. The word "chick". Levy thinks raunch culture is a feminist movement gone terribly wrong. We are, in her eyes, doing all these things merely to show the men that we are "one of the guys" and "liberated and rebellious". Naturally, she finds this confusing. "Why is labouring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering?"

The answer is, labouring to look like Pamela Anderson is not empowering. We're not trying to be empowered. The twentysomething women I know don't care about old-style feminism. Partly this is because they already see themselves as equal to men: they can work, they can vote, they can bonk on the first date. For younger women, raunch is not about feminism, it's just about fashion.

Another reason for the rise of raunch is that women are rediscovering the joy of being loved for their bodies, not just their minds. Today sexes mix a lot more than they used to, so boys grow up having girls as friends. They tend to listen to what women have to say, and when they marry they don't consider sharing the housework to be castrating. Instead of desperately longing for the right to be seen as human beings, today's girls are playing with the old-fashioned notion of being seen as sex objects.

This is not terrible news. In fact, to me, this is the ultimate feminist ideal, which Levy would realise if she stopped shouting at MTV for a moment and thought about it. She proclaims that boob jobs and crop tops "don't bring us any closer to the fundamental feminist project of allowing every woman to be her own, specific self". But what if a woman's "own, specific self" is a thong-wearing, Playboy-T-shirted specific self who thinks lap-dancing is a laugh and likes getting wolf-whistled at by builders? What if a woman spends hours in the gym to create a body she is proud of? Is that a waste of time, time she should have spent in a university library? No.

She's exactly right. It's because I don't feel any lack of personal power or power in business that I can wear tight dresses, hot pink lipstick, and high-heeled boots (which I wear pretty much everywhere but the shower). Am I a sex object? I sure hope so. Am I only a sex object? Um...a girl who's as big a bossy/loudmouth/pain-in-the-ass as I am? Unlikely.

Posted by aalkon at March 24, 2006 10:10 AM

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My GF: love her brain,her brattiness, her dry humor and absolutely dig her joobs!!!

Posted by: mbruce at March 24, 2006 7:01 AM

It sounds like the feminist author is also missing the obvious fact that there are numerous male counterparts to Pamela Anderson, Lil Kim, et al. They show less skin, but they are no less amusing. Regardless of gender, everyone is free to act out whatever kind of hypersexualized cartoon character they wish. Who are we to care if their choices about how they present themselves mean that some people will take them less seriously? This world is big enough for the gangstas and geeks, the ho's and librarians.

Right now, Maureen from Rent is singing in my head:

"A tiger in a cage
Can never see the sun
This diva needs her stage
Baby, let's have fun!"

Posted by: Lena at March 24, 2006 8:21 AM

I agree with Taylor and with Amy, but hypersexualized culture has some downsides. And they're most troubling to those who are youngest and unable to respond with savvy.

Mbruce and his GF would have done well no matter what the popular vibe was.

Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2006 9:03 AM

Wow, time to open a hot cocoa concession in Hell. Crid actually said something I agree with. I agree with Taylor and with Amy, but hypersexualized culture has some downsides. And they're most troubling to those who are youngest and unable to respond with savvy.

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2006 12:24 PM

Hey Crid and deja, do either of you care to elaborate or give an example? Are you talking about too-young girls walking around wearing T-shirts with "sexy" on the front of them or something? (I call those kids "kinderwhores.")

It's kind of funny - I find that my reaction to crop-tops probably has most to do with the age of the person wearing them, and it is definitely more of a fashion reaction than some high-brow feminist thing. If you're a nubile late-teens or early-twenties Hooters girl, I say flaunt it while ya got it. But it's annoying/creepy on prepubescent girls who aren't even old enough to drive yet.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at March 24, 2006 1:03 PM

I think naive girls (age 14-37, usually fatherless) view sex this way: They've figured out that masculinity is a useful and (less often) amusing thing to have around. And they know it has something to do with what's happening in their underwear. But other than that they're screwed... They have no understanding about why a man might regard a future encounter as the most important thing in the world, yet regard one from the recent past as I regard yesterday's NY Times in Starbucks ('Why don't these animals clean out the trash at night?')

As a 47-year-old, what I hate most about "crop-tops" is not even knowing what they are. Children wear all kinds of silly fabric as fashion, and I resent being too old to have even masturbatory interest in the trends. While not actually aroused, I was OK with the leg warmers, high-lined blush, and iron-curled hair during Reagan's first term.

Yeah, sure, Honey... What a feeling.

Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2006 2:02 PM

Hmm... So, Amy, what's your phone number? :-)

Posted by: Gary Steiger at March 24, 2006 2:22 PM

Yeah, I'm mostly talking about oversexualized adolescent and pre-adolescent girls. When I see a 10-year-old in eyeshadow and a Playboy bunny t-shirt, I just cringe.

The other aspect of this that I've also seen among young women is that there's so much focus on being "sexy" (looking and behaving a certain way) that they don't learn how to be "sexual" (what sexual situations are comfortable for them or not, what pleases them, turns them on or off). I'd bet good money that the 14-year-old giving blowjobs to a bunch of guys at a party isn't someone who's in tune with her own sexuality.

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2006 7:03 PM

Dej, I strongly agree with you. So strongly that I said almost the same thing here months ago(5:40pm):

What makes you think we disagree a lot?

Posted by: Crid at March 24, 2006 7:42 PM

Crid, I don't often respond to your comments directly, but I do disagree with a lot of your views. My leanings are rather to the left of yours. :-)

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2006 9:28 PM

At least politically...

Posted by: deja pseu at March 24, 2006 9:29 PM

"the 14-year-old giving blowjobs to a bunch of guys at a party isn't someone who's in tune with her own sexuality."

Give her some time. She's only 14, after all! Young people need our patience and guidance.

Posted by: Lena at March 24, 2006 10:18 PM

The burka and the shador in the middle east are signs of repression to us westerners. However, I think wearing one would be rather freeing. I wouldn't have to worry about fixing my hair or my makeup. I wouldn't have to shave my legs or under my arms. I could put on a few pounds and you wouldn't be able to tell. I wouldn't have to buy the latest fashion and spend money on name brands. I might even be considered alluring and mysterious. The only trouble is, I'd be considered a muslim and unfortunately lots of Americans are antimuslim. I wonder what would be peoples' reactions. Hmmmm. I have a question, why do we wear veils in our weddings. Seems very Islamic to me, a throw back to simpler times perhaps when women were property?

Posted by: thechicknlady at March 29, 2006 11:51 PM

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