Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pornification: Nothing More Indicative of Peak Capitalism Than the Commodification of Sex?


glamour |   If 1994 was the Year of O.J.'s White Bronco, 2013 was the Year of the Very Visible Vagina.

Let me say up front: I am not a prude. I love sex; I am comfortable with my sexuality. Hell, I've even posed in my underwear. I also grew up on a healthy balance of sexuality in pop stars. Yes, we had Madonna testing the boundaries of appropriateness, but then we also had Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Cyndi Lauper, women who played with sexuality but didn't make it their calling card. 

And for every 2 Live Crew "Me So Horny" video girl, there was Susanna Hoffs singing tenderly about her eternal flame.Twenty years later, all the images seem homogenous. Every star interprets "sexy" the same way: lots of skin, lots of licking of teeth, lots of bending over. I find this oddly...boring. Can't I just like a song without having to take an ultrasound tour of some pop star's privates?

I'm not gonna lie. The fact that I was accused of "slut-shaming," being anti-woman, and judging women's sex lives crushed me. I consider myself a feminist. I would never point a finger at a woman for her actual sexual behavior, and I think all women have the right to express their desires. But I will look at women with influence—millionaire women who use their "sexiness" to make money—and ask some questions. There is a difference, a key one, between "shaming" and "holding someone accountable."

So back to the word whore. My hashtag was "stopactinglikewhores." Key word, acting. Like I said, I'm not criticizing anyone's real sex life; as George Michael tells us, "Sex is natural, sex is fun." But the poles, the pasties, the gyrating: This isn't showing female sexuality; this is showing what it looks like when women sell sex. (Also, let's be real. Every woman's sexuality is different. Can all of us really be into stripper moves? The truth is, for every woman who loves the pole, there's another who likes her feet rubbed. But in pop culture there's just one way to be. And so much of it feels staged for men, not for our own pleasure.)
I understand that owning and expressing our sexuality is a huge step forward for women. But, in my opinion, we are at a point of oversaturation. It's like when TV network censors evaluate a show's content. Instead of doing a detailed report of dirty jokes or offensive words, they will simply say, "It's a tonnage issue." One or two swear words might be fine; 10 is too many. Three sexual innuendos is OK; eight is overkill. When it comes to porn imagery and pop culture, we have a tonnage issue.And then there's this: What else ties these pop stars together besides, perhaps, their entangled G-strings? Their millions of teen-girl fans. Even if adult Miley and Nicki have ownership of their bodies, do the girls imitating them have the same agency? Where do we draw the line between teaching them freedom of sexual expression and pride in who they are on the inside? Are we even allowed to draw a line?
Some people think not. Sinéad O'Connor got blowback after writing an open letter to Miley Cyrus, warning her of the dangers of her constant sexual imagery: "The music business...will prostitute you for all you are worth...and when you wind up in rehab... 'they' will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body, and you will find yourself very alone." Miley responded by basically calling her crazy.