I know, I know, this whole debate happened in the end of February, but since it is the General Election coming up and I’ve got a terrible backlog of things to get published here on the blog, I thought it was just as good to get it out of the way. And furthermore, this is not a debate that gets old, it is highly topical and it is about gender, bodies and control. Which is basically stuffs that gets written about in this blog.
First of all, I am not suprised that he is wrong. It is not something unusual, and usually I would not give a toss about him in this blog, but his recent outbursts caught my attention.
Apparently, he is very much against the sexualisation of kids and don’t allow his daughter to listen to Lily Allen. Bloody hell. Ok, so here we go again. First of all, I’m not very much a fan of small girls underwear that is geared towards making them into ‘sex kittens’ from the time they are 7,8,9 years old. Nor am I a fan of poledancing kits for kids in the same age. But that is not because I am against sex or believe that pole-dancing is the most evil thing ever. We live in a fantasy world if we think that kids are ‘innocent’ because of their age. There is nothing there to ‘protect’ or rather, the only thing we need to save kids from is from ourselves. Our own rotten appreciation of sex and lust. There is no age in which you are ‘innocent’ and then after that you turn into someone who is ‘guilty’. You don’t wake up one morning with a scarlet letter ‘S’ for sinner.
And while there could certainly be stricter restrictions on how advertisement is geared towards children, I don’t think the most harmful one is just the sexualised kind of advertisement and products. If you walk down on the high street, or to Hamleys, you will notice what expectations there is on children today, according to what gender they are perceived as belonging to. We all know of the colors, the activities and the attitudes this foster and pointing fingers towards a padded bra or outspoken singer.
And this is where the populist idiot David Cameron comes into the picture. Because what he is complaining about is nothing new under the sun. Au contraire, it is something that goes along the line of the argument like But-think-about-the-children! And we all know how very well that works.
Because Cameron has a daughter, the focus has been there pretty much, but it is also symptomatic of what I have written before about a body that is female. No matter what age, a female body is a site of regulation, strangulation and modification.
As one of journalist so brilliantly expressed, this is not so much about the kids. It is true, that they live in a reality that is sometimes dangerous, and there are threats to those who are not mature to handle life on their own, but that has more to do with us. And when a kid explore the dress-up drawer, they do not do that because they want to have sex or shoot someone in the stomach with a AK47. But it is still the girls that our dear Cameron is so concerned with. Because they dress in feather-boas, they apparently become Heard of fantasy? About creativity? The sad thing is that we are working very hard to constrict that very fantasy and that creativity already.
But this is not only about the kids, or female children. This is about a larger picture, and it is one in which there is a constant worry about what is happening to females everywhere. Ariel Levy’s ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ is one which questions the very base on which the ‘raunch culture’ lies, a base which is perceived as ‘liberating’ and fulfilling.
And I can agree with many of the criticisms, I’m one of those who pretty much is so fed up with burlesque, fed up how streamlined the bodies that we see are. It is the 21st century version of the 70’s but the problem is that there is nothing in sexuality to liberate, there is nothing that is trapped or needs to be unleashed. There is nothing deep in there in our bodies that needs to be found and put on display. Instead we need to know how we make ourselves understand sex and what possible consequences this might have. It is not a project that one can finish, never ever. Instead it is a journey and a endless exploration, and I would prefer if there was something more open in general, not making sex in to something special, something threatening, something incredibly powerful. By giving sex so much importance it becomes so important. And by importance I mean sex in a sex-negative, hetero-normative, binary way of looking at it.
And it is here that I can’t really say what I want to say as good as I would like it to, so I’m going to quote my favourite blogger Penny Red:
Young women and girls are blamed for their concessions to misogynist, ‘pornified’ sexual culture even as we are told that we’re so thick we can’t help but be complicit. Apparently, there is no middle ground between being an independent, dynamic young thing who makes joyful millions selling her body and the subsequent book-deal, and a cringing, broken victim of porn culture crying tears of shame into her cleavage. Elements of this binary thinking reinforce a stereotype which is just as damaging to young women as the ‘happy hooker’ fantasy beloved by bourgeois filmmakers. As the furore over ‘raunch culture’ escalates, all this baby-boomer moral hand-wringing is beginning to sound less like radicalism and more like priggishness. It’s sounding less like genuine concern, and more like good old-fashioned slut-shaming.
I’m not arguing that raunch culture does not hurt young women. It hurts us deeply. It encourages us to lessen, cheapen and diminish ourselves, to think of ourselves as vehicles for the sexual appreciation of men who still hold economic sway over our lives. It makes us understand that what we look like is as important or more important than what we do, whether we’re lap-dancers, librarians or lazy-ass freelance journalists like me. It warps our understanding of power, intimacy and desire and urges us to starve and torture our bodies and neglect our intelligence. It sells us a fake, plasticised image of empowerment that, for most of us, is deeply disempowering – as many wealthy and powerful middle-aged men and women have recently observed.
I am not asking for us to pretend that raunch culture is unproblematic, or that it’s uncomplicatedly fun to be a Southend lap dancer. I am asking for honesty. I am asking for an analysis that is more rigorous, more grounded in an understanding of the gendered basis of capital, an analysis that is less focused on recalcitrant sexual morality. I am asking for an analysis that addresses itself to young men, who also consume and are affected by the brutally identikit heterosexual consensus. Most importantly, I want a consensus that actually gives a voice to young women, not just those who work as strippers or glamour models, but all young women and girls growing up in a culture steeped in this grinding, monotonous, deodorised sexual dialectic.
Censorship should never be an alternative to challenging the roots of patriarchy. Instead of slapping a blanket ban on pictures of tits, we need to look harder at the economic basis for sexual exploitation and at the reasons why many women make the choice to comply with raunch culture. Today’s young women are neither soulless slags nor tragic victims: we are real people with real desires and real agency, trying to negotiate our personal and sexual identities in a culture whose socio-economic misogyny runs far deeper than conservative commentators would have us believe.
I am not even sure that strippers have that much of a voice, but rather the corrected version of something that can best be resembled to the Belle DeJour version of sexwork, further exploited by the crappy television show. And with this, I’ll leave you for a nice Sunday, and hope the may-weekend is as nice as you want it to be.