Pornography, Prostitution & Pole Dancing – The Feminist Divide/The Dilettante Revolution

I have read so much about rape culture in the past week, that quite frankly, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. I’ve heard extreme views from both sides of the argument, I’ve heard a lot of ignorance, and I’ve heard a lot of people frustratedly trying to get others to see their point of view. It’s difficult to put yourself in another’s shoes, particularly when you don’t want to believe what they are saying — particularly, in this case, that women are afraid of men.

I’m not going to talk about recent events. He’s dead, let the monster stay dead. Instead, I’m going to talk about something that is probably going to get me booed off the stage, as it were, and no, I’m not playing the devil’s advocate as I’m prone to do — I’m just going to talk about something that is going to be hard to hear — and people often get angry when faced with difficult truths. People get offended when they are asked to hear something they don’t like.

I’m going to talk about how women contribute to rape culture.

And now, with just those few words, some of you are already seething, that or just waiting to see what I’ll say next.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not placing blame, I’m just examining the issue, and shedding light on something that I see as an enormous contradiction within feminism that I just can’t ignore.

Women are not objects. We are not just pieces of flesh to be used for men’s gratification, we are not just holes for them to shove their dicks into. They are not entitled to our vaginas. We don’t enjoy being ogled — we resent that men think they have the right to stare at our tits, and we should be free to dress how we like without being sexually objectified or treated like walking talking pinup girls.

Ah, there’s the rub. Pin up girls.

I’ve heard the word empowerment a lot among the feminist crowd. Empowerment.

Now, I would think that empowerment would mean living with dignity, and taking a stance against those misogynist views, and refusing to be treated like a piece of meat. That would be powerful. I think of someone like Ani Difranco or, to use an example less vague, Jennie Saia.

But that’s not always where I see the word empowerment being used. I see it being used to describe women who pose for Playboy, or who make pornographic films. I see the word empowerment being used to describe strippers, arguing that they are using their sexuality as a way to upset the power structure — they are in control, taking money from silly men with more blood in their penises than in their brains. Further, I read an article about a woman who was working as an escort to pay her way through university, and when people reacted badly and judgementally toward her, feminists cried “slut-shaming” and applauded her freedom of sexuality, how empowering that was for her.

I put forward this question — are women simply objects of masturbatory fantasy or not?

Of course not, right?

Now, step out of your self for a moment, and TRY to become a man.

Pornography is everywhere, available in today’s world at the click of a mouse — every colour, shape, size, fetish, age. Advertisers use sex to sell everything from shampoo to cars, using models as objects of desire. If you live in a good sized city, chances are there’s at least one strip club, where you can go and leer at a perfect stranger as she not only takes off her clothes, but shakes her tits and ass in your face, or sits in your lap and rubs herself all over you. If you want more than that, you can either cruise a street and look for sex-workers, or open the phone book, find an escort service, and have a girl delivered to your door. Like a pizza.

This is something that women voluntarily take part in. Posing nude has become something fashionable to do. Actors and musicians are celebrated for posing in Playboy. Now, just to make a distinction, so you don’t think I’m being some sort of Puritan. I’m not advocating shame of the female (or male) form. But there’s a huge difference between an artful nude — something intended to showcase beauty — and pornography — something intended to arouse. And no matter how many feminists praise porn stars or porn models, and talk about how empowering it is, that’s really just re-branding. Men don’t see it that way. No man opens up a porno mag or website and respects that woman with her legs spread. No man thinks “wow, what an empowered woman.” He just jerks off to her. To him, she’s just a hole to put his dick into, if only in fantasy. No man lies on some stage with a dollar bill in his mouth while a stripper sits on his face and pulls it out with her crotch because he just has so much respect for that girl that he felt he wanted to give her some money. Call it what you want, but no man pays an escort for sex because he thinks it’s just fantastic that she’s so sexually liberated and empowered. He doesn’t think about her feelings at all. She’s just a hole for him to put his dick in. No matter how you try to justify it or explain it — no matter whether you believe 100% that it IS empowering — the truth is in perception, and in this case the audience is men. And the audience doesn’t see it as empowering. The audience sees it as objectification. To the audience, these women are — I repeat — just holes to put their dicks into.

Rape culture is real. But it’s not something that some corporation invented, or that some group of men got together and thought would be a good idea. It’s something that’s been brewing for centuries, and in our fast food consumer culture, where women are being treated as just another item on the menu, it has been brewed to sick perfection. But it’s not something that only men created. What I’m trying to point out is women’s part in this, and the responsibility that we need to take — because we CAN take responsibility for this, and change it.

Every time a woman poses for some porno picture or film — she is contributing to rape culture.

Every time a woman strips for money — she is contributing to rape culture.

Every time a woman has sex for money — she is contributing to rape culture.

Every time a model either poses nude — or furthermore, just acts like a sex object for some advertisement — she is contributing to rape culture.

Every time you buy some magazine where women are objectified, belittled, or told they are too thin, too fat, too hairy, too old — you are contributing to rape culture.

Rape culture will exist as long as women are treated like objects. My argument is that women either allow themselves to be treated as objects, or else stand by silently and accept this treatment of others, some going one further and labelling it empowerment.

If you don’t like a restaurant, you don’t go. If you really don’t like a restaurant, you tell all your friends how awful it is. Then they tell all their friends, and if enough people don’t go, the restaurant goes out of business. I would argue that participation in rape culture is, ipso facto, compliance. Refusing to participate is the first thing we, both women and men, can do to fight rape culture.

As long as the internet is full of pornography, there will be rape culture. As long as there are strip clubs and escort services, there will be rape culture. As long as women’s bodies are used to sell perfume, lipstick and chocolate bars, there will be rape culture.

You can’t have it both ways. It’s either okay for women to be objectified and put on display for the purposes of masturbation, in which case we are all just objects — just holes for men to put their dicks into — or we are human beings with dignity, and sexuality is something personal between two people (or more, hey, I’m not judging) that is not simply something pornographic. We cannot, with one breath, accept, or even advocate pornography, stripping, prostitution, sex in advertising, and then in the next, complain that men treat us like sex objects. A change needs to come.

So how do we, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, make that change? First, refuse to participate in it. Boycott pornography, speak out against it, rather than advocate for it, calling it empowering. Same goes for strip clubs — don’t go. Speak out against prostitution. Don’t just accept it as something that’s always going to happen. That’s defeatist, in my mind. The next time you see some advertisement where some model is using her body to sell some product, grab a red marker, and in great big letters, write RAPE CULTURE over it. Actually, this might be a good eye-opening exercise. Grab any magazine — whether it’s Rolling Stone or Vogue or Cosmopolitan or whatever (okay, okay, I’m guessing Architectural Digest and Field & Stream might be poor choices) and count how many of the ads objectify women — women who, may I remind you, signed up for this. This is something they aspire to, and sorry, but I think that’s just fucking sad. I’m reminded of the Radiohead song “Just” — You do it to yourself, just you, and that’s what really hurts.

I’m speaking to both men and women here — many of the articles I’ve read have been terribly divisive — I believe we are in this together, and that rape culture hurts men as well as women. Women feel that they cannot trust men, and they live in fear. Men — all men — are seen as Possible Rapists Until Proven Otherwise. This helps no one. It’s dysfunctional, and it needs to change. Women need to empower ourselves by demanding respect, and men need to show that they see us as more than just sex dolls.

But Helena, you say, I like pornography.

I didn’t say it was going to be easy to change. We have been conditioned, programmed, and trained very well. But you really can’t have it both ways. I’m sorry, but you can’t.

And now, feel free to disagree with me, but please try to remain respectful.

Also, don’t make any assumptions about me in your comments. You don’t know me, or what I’ve been through, or who I am. I’m not trying to be some extreme straw-feminist in order to start a big argument. I’m merely pointing out an aspect of this topic that many do not want to admit or talk about.

People like to rant about such things without offering solutions. I’m offering you a revolutionary solution, and it’s certainly not an easy one or a quick fix, but it is a start. Refuse to participate — join the revolution. I want to see a billboard with a half-naked woman standing by a beer can with giant red letters spelling out RAPE CULTURE. I want to see hundreds of these, until finally some misogynist ad man gets the point. I want to be standing in line at the supermarket and look at the magazine stand, and see the words RAPE CULTURE jump out at me from the cover of COSMO.

I want to live in a world where I don’t ever have to read again that women are afraid of men. I want to live in a world where I never have to read some man’s manifesto about wanting to kill all women because they won’t have sex with him.

Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.


44 responses to “Pornography, Prostitution & Pole Dancing – The Feminist Divide/The Dilettante Revolution

  1. Brava. As in almost any discussion about any topic right now, there seems to be a real disconnect between the ‘sides’. And it shouldn’t be about sides, it should be collaborative. We all bear a responsibility. All of us.

    • Tribalism is human nature – the tendency to divide along lines of us vs them (I actually read an interesting article explaining — not condoning, but explaining racism in terms of tribalism.)

  2. Bravo, Helena! I think dressing little girls and allowing teens to dress like prostitutes doesn’t set a very good tone. When boys see their fathers, male relatives and/or friends acting in enabling ways, that’s what they learn is not only all right but normal As you say, everyone is hurt by the rape culture and we should all be standing up against it.

  3. I’m with you on the concept although the term “Rape Culture” seems to be a bit general and to some may mean different things. To be afraid that all men are potential rapists is another sign of generalization. General labels are the kinds of things which produce stereotypes which lead to discrimination and censorship. Wouldn’t it be better to publish the kind of material in which positive messages can be broadcasted, serving to pull the misogynist ad man or woman to the readership. Your well said treatise was of the revolutionary nature and hopefully will serve to start an evolution.

    • Unfortunately, I think that trying to convince advertising ad men that sex (does not equal) money – or at least that it shouldn’t – is akin to trying to convince Muslims and Jews to stop hating each other.

  4. Very well said Helena. I agree with you 100% if not more. It starts with one person, then spreads. This should spread as much as a sick man’s hostility toward women. I hope it does, but I’m afraid it won’t. But still you said it well and it so needed to be said.

    • Not that I wish for hate mail, but I hope that enough people read it to warrant hate mail — as well as spreading the message. There are things that we don’t like to admit, because doing so makes us examine ourselves and our own contradictions.

  5. I hear you. The revolution you encourage, while applaudable, is not so very new. It just hasn’t been very effective. I don’t know about the term “rape culture.” I think as long as men have dicks and women have cunts there will be “rape culture”, and it is not simply men who enjoy recreational sex, women do too. It’s just not as obvious because of the double standard that has existed for centuries. As for rape. I’ve been raped twice. Once in high school by a horny little teenager who probably had not had a great deal of exposure. Again, as a thirty-something y.o. woman in my own home by a casual acquaintance. The first thing that needs to occur to prevent rape is to get it into the minds of both men and women (women can rape too) NO means NO.

    • No, I know it’s not new — but someone needs to keep saying it.
      No does mean no, and punctuation is very important. “Don’t stop” is not the same as “Don’t. Stop.”

  6. Fantastic piece of work Helena, beautifully written, to the point and without a doubt will piss off all the feminists, but it’s true, so very true.

    • It’s not my intention to piss of the feminists — just to clarify that people have to realize the effect of their actions on others, and that the dysfunctional culture we live in was created by all of us, not just one group.

      • I realise that, but the fact that you suggest that women are also complicit in rape culture will definitely get a few noses out of joint. I totally agree with you, my ex was a huge fan of porn, that industry marked the destruction of my marriage in part because of his expectations of what women “wanted” were not what women actually want. We are actively creating the problem, condoning it and extending it. Honestly, I often feel it’s like shooting someone, then telling them not to bleed. All you have to do is look at the sexualisation of our little girls (which I saw referred to as prostitots the other day, awesome description) to know we’ve gone horribly wrong somewhere

      • But it needs to be said, well done! *bows in awe & amazement at balls of steel shown by Helena*

  7. Helena, always with the thinking and the truth telling and the willingness to say it like it is…courage without bravado…intelligence without condescension…you are the embodiment of nobility. You’re right, you and John, you’re not alone. This “culture” is much more pervasive than the ads, media and various industries that revolve around “sex” would convey, it’s as insidious and undetectable as the moisture in your breath that can only be seen on a very cold day. The obvious aspects of rape culture that you suggest we rail against are the out-workings of a society that goes far deeper than merely men objectifying women, or even, as you rightly point out, women objectifying women by either active participation (whether for “noble” reasons or not) or passive acceptance…where to start though? How to make a difference? How does one turn the tide? I have strong feelings on the subject myself and have railed against these and other contributions to the demeaning of women in my world at various times and in various ways with little to show. I have ended up settling for a small, long term approach by triplicating my own values on the matter via my 3 boys…it’s a work in progress. May we never walk alone.

  8. We are being taught as society nowadays that we need to follow living guidelines, because our leaders, our schools and so on do not educate or give us the option of growing mentaly into what we can call people – because money.
    There is 2% of the human population cashing in on our dicks and vaginas, simply because people keep buying these magazines, services and so on.
    I watched porn. Spending 15 hours a day in an internet caffe for about 12 years of my life it was inevitable. I watched it at home too. I see it on the street, every bilbord right now has a naked chest. But it was never nor will be clear to me how can people use it to arouse themselves, when what I can think of in my imagination is so much better. The brain is this awesome,overpowered thing that can even make you feel things that are not really there. I cannot believe that we are wasting money, resources, air to pay for man and woman to fuck so we can videotape it. Over and over again,
    I have heard gazillion of arguments over my life.”If they like to fuck on camera, let them,why does it bother you!”. Besides the obvious reasons such as that I do not think that is what should be on TV and internet constantly on 90% of places – I always wondered, if they like to fuck on camera so much, why do they need my confirmation, my money for their dvd or website revenue etc. In all these topics, everything is a mere shit, a delusion and a waste of everyone’s time.
    That is what bothers me the most, when it comes confirmation time. If you are a healthy individual doing what you like and feels good to you and it does not bother me physicaly or my lifestyle – why do you care that I think fucking for money on camera is shit? Because its wrong and you know it, at least, this is how it looks to me.
    I aint even gonna go to the kids fashion shows, I would seriously beat those parents with a shit-stick, and say what you want about me for that, putting 10 tons of makeup on a 8 year old child is enough to say to see whats wrong with that picture.
    I can write a book on this topic, but the comment is getting rather too long, so I will close it with this, regarding the photos.
    It is easy to simply start doing nudes. I browse deviantart daily searching for art and there is not a single page without someone on bed with just their legs opened. I always wondered why. Yesterday, an event stirred my brain a little. I was outside with family and husbands big,pro camera. I stopped by the wall of my building to take a photo of a flower. In a milisecond, security runs out and starts yelling at me, like I was there doing gods know what. I pay for them, a hefty bill each months and this is not the first time this happens, in fact, it is the third time in the neighborhood where I live. They looked at me and addressed me like I am a waste, inhuman, trash, time waster, man in suits and guns treating me like I am a narco boss they’ve been trying to capture for 50 years – I thought I was trying to do art, photography, inspiration, life enriching. Same can happen if you want to take a picture of certain architecture, even monuments, a stray dog in front of the bakery. I was pretty shaken, where I live, you can get killed for this stuff.
    That’s when it hit me. THIS is why a 16 year old feels like all she can take photo of is her tits, her vagina, her knee, her lips. Herself and her body. Because we, as a society, are telling her or him that their body is the only thing they own. Then we try to buy it.
    Want to take photos of people? Hire a model with money. But you cant take the models photo near coca cola can, this building, in 500 meter distance of someone elses car, in that t- shirt by (insert name)!BUT, she can be naked on your sofa , as long as the sofa is not visible. I am pretty sure you get my point.
    This scares me, it was like being hit with a brick straight to my face. This shitty lifestyle and mindset is what we are giving out to the world today.

    • I’m definitely in agreement with you on the freedom to do what you will — I’m not down on sexual freedom. I am just opposed to sex being packaged and sold — in any format.

  9. Jackie P sent me over from her site. I agree and would like to see it change. We have a LOT of cultural changes that need to be made. It starts in the cradle. Well written and too true.

    • Of course. We’ll never be able to change everybody, that much is clear, but if we can change ourselves first, and then others, the hope is that it will spread far enough to make a difference.

    • I consider myself a feminist, too, Marie, though I probably have my own twist on the definition of that. I don’t believe in -isms. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, she should believe in herself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus.

      • I admit I don’t know what Feminism may mean now. Back when I accepted the label, the focus was on reproductive rights, fair pay, equal treatment. Brittney Spears wasn’t a gleam in anybody’s eye. I remember seeing Desperately Seeking Susan (Madonna) and having a very uneasy feeling that the tide was turning.
        Anyway, while generally I don’t embrace -isms, Feminism is one that I don’t want to give up. Call me a relic, but it meant a lot to me when I was growing up and wanting a future that didn’t require me to be barefoot and pregnant most of the time.

  10. This needs to be read out loud and published somewhere!! The message is powerful in print but I think with the right person reading it, the message could be even stronger!!

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