Sexual exploitation as liberation

Sexual exploitation as liberation

Another day, another liberal feminist article making the argument that any criticism of sexualization or objectification is proof that men are ‘afraid of women’s expressed sexuality’ and that women are ‘jealous’.

What an innovative, original and previously unheard of idea.

This particular article argues for the ‘agency’ in Amber Rose’s recent twerking video on You Tube and Beyoncé’s pole-dancing at the VMAs.

The author writes, of Beyoncé’s “sometimes provocative dancing”:

‘”What is she teaching her daughter?” some asked, pearls tightly clutched. I would answer, “Agency. Independence. Talent.” But others, it would seem, say watching her mother dance and sing in front of millions — while making millions — is teaching Blue not to respect and value her body. Even when married and a mother — the supposed safeguards against being called a whore — Beyoncé’s “goodness” and motherhood are called into question.”’

Definitely empowering
Definitely empowering

According to liberal feminist gospel, twerking is actually a sign of all things “agency,” as is pole-dancing on stage in front of your two year old child.

“Agency” being that elusive concept that only those with a four-year arts degree student seem to understand. The rest of us, informed by empirical evidence, are slightly concerned about the statistics showing younger and younger girls increasingly dealing with eating disorders, anxiety and pressure to perform sex and sexuality that often includes coercion and peer pressure. But anyway, AGENCY.

The liberal feminist representation of “agency” proposes that anytime a woman performs using “sexuality” she proves her independence, power and agency. If you don’t agree, it’s because you are: (1) a fear-ridden sex-deprived male, (2) a pearl clutching sex-deprived conservative, (3) a jealous female, possibly sex-deprived also.

Despite the fact that the article claims to smash gender stereotypes and dichotomies, it actually seems to do the opposite, promoting negative, anti-feminist stereotypes of women and reinforcing the “virgin-whore” dichotomy.

Feminists have been arguing against the virgin-whore dichotomy since the dawn of feminism. The article purports to smash this dichotomy by pointing out that Amber Rose and Beyoncé are wives and mothers, but also twerk.

The author asks the reader:

“…are you angry because [Amber Rose] is standing with one foot firmly in the mother-wife camp, and the other in the camp that is half-naked and booty-shaking?”

But I thought there was no virgin-whore dichotomy? Why did you just tell me there was no virgin-whore dichotomy while simultaneously presenting an image of Amber Rose splitting herself between two separate camps, one of “virgins” and the other of “hos”?

Amber Rose, Beyoncé and indeed all women have the right to live without sex-stereotypes. ‘Virgins, prudes, pearl clutchers’ and other degrading labels have no place in an equal society. Whether these slurs are being hurled by misogynists on YouTube or supposed feminists, none are acceptable.

But, women do have the right to critique the culture that affects them, isn’t that kinda the point of feminism?
So how many tertiary-educated feminists does it take to see that celebrity culture produces (and is a product of) harmful cultural norms including sexism and racism? Cultural trends that deserve to be interrogated rather than uncritically promoted by feminists?

It seems to me that liberal feminists are stuck in the mindset that there are only two ways to do sexuality: (1) the conservative way — people who NEVER have sex, and ALWAYS wear pearls, and (2) the liberals who are pro-anything-sex.

Interestingly, many of these liberals are critical of capitalism but are entirely uncritical of the capitalist exploits of sex and sexuality. How can you be anti-capitalism but pro-commodification of sex?

There are a million and one ways to own sexuality and be sexual and they don’t always require pole dancing in front of millions of people. Women who are critiquing the pressures put on ever-younger girls to sexualize themselves for the male gaze are not necessarily anti-sex or pearl-clutching — it’s more complicated than that.

There are people who like sex but who are also critical of sexual exploitation — as it turns out, some people can envisage a sexuality that doesn’t require market-driven displays of pornographically fueled performance.

Take Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist who went undercover to examine how the sex trade was recruiting younger and younger children to fuel the demand for more extreme porn. Lydia felt it necessary to state, “I love sex and eroticism,” during a recent talk she gave in Sydney — probably because liberal feminists would have dredged up the “pearl clutching” line dare she breathe a critical word on porn or anything-goes sex. Cacho explained how the broader culture was leading to younger children being taken advantage of and exploited, whether it be by the pimps in Mexico, or the kids who accidentally stumble across child-rape porn, due to porn sites linking kid-friendly search terms to their images. Her investigations have seen her kidnapped, tortured and threatened. Yet Cacho clearly states that she very much supports healthy sex while being critical of the global exploits of the porn and sex trade.

Cacho is an example that shows how people can love sex, yet still be critical of a culture that uses a one-dimensional view of “sex” to sell anything and everything (increasingly to younger and younger boys and girls). Despite liberal feminist rhetoric, there doesn’t have to be a dichotomy that positions sex as either all good or all bad.

In spite of the oft-repeated line about sexual repression, sex is no longer hidden or repressed by Puritanism. In fact “sex” has become a ubiquitous cultural narrative, online and available 24/7, being used to sell everything from porn, to mini pole-dancing kits for children, to peaches at the supermarket (yes, that’s actually a thing).

One might expect “feminism” to be critical of these patriarchal constructions of sex and sexuality. But quite the opposite — liberal feminism is promoting this market-driven one-dimensional view of women’s sexuality. Rather than promoting diversity or dissidence in women’s sexuality, liberal feminism is doing nothing more than enamoring the patriarchal status quo with the label “agency.”

Though it may be tempting, assigning “agency” to anything and everything achieves nothing more than eschewing a more critical analysis of the structural realities of oppression. Tacking the idea of “equality” onto a system that is founded upon structural inequality does nothing but solidify and disguise the inequality. In fact, it is usually misogynists who deny systemic oppression and claim women should just ‘feel empowered’ (aka agency) by the patriarchal status quo.

Liberal feminism is essentially doing PR to whitewash the ongoing systemic oppression of women. And for those who question this, liberal feminism will dredge up old and worn sex-stereotypes to throw at you.

It’s not as simple as agency vs. non-agency. Expecting women to “feel agency” in situations of structural oppression does nothing but pacify true resistance. Liberal feminists are doing women the ultimate disservice by conjuring up stereotypes of pearl-clutchers vs. pole-dancers. Expecting women to toe the line lest be labelled ‘jealous pearl-clutchers’ is the work of misogynists, not feminism.

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