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  1. #1
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    Female Chauvinist Pigs

    Seems like a lot of people I know are reading Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, so I thought I might start a discussion of it here. I just picked it up at the library today and finished the first chapter. I found myself nodding my head and feeling sad.

    The book also reminds me of an interview I heard on Morning Sedition (Air America Radio) a few weeks ago. Mark and Mark interviewed Frederick Kaufman about his recent article in Harpers, "Debbie Does Salad: The Food Network At the Frontiers of Pornography," in which he argues that the "style" of porn now dominates news and food tv.

    So, who's reading/read it? What did/do you think?


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  3. #2
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    Female Chauvinist Pigs really struck a chord with me. It always pisses me off when I see these girls who think that acting stupid and dressing skankily (hey, I just invented an adverb!) and having sex will make boys like them, but to quote To Sir, With Love, "No man likes a slut for long." Yes, it's a sexist disgusting thing to say, but it's true, as is the saying, "Men want a whore in the bedroom and a lady in public." Men may fantasize about strippers and porn stars, but there aren't many who would actually endeavor to start a loving relationship with any of them. Strippers and the like are not people to be envied, they are not "empowered", most of them aren't doing it for fun, they are doing it because they don't have many marketable skills and sex work pays better than McDonald's. I think that if a woman is doing sex work or having promiscuous sex because they enjoy it ala, Xaviera Hollander, then more power to them! In that case it can be empowering because they are doing something that they enjoy despite the fact that society may disapprove, but the sad fact is that most of these women are not doing it because they enjoy it but because they have to.
    There's also the issue of all these girls who are trying as hard as they can to be "one of the guys". They're just buying in to old notions that anything feminine is bad and anything masculine is good and that by distancing themselves from their feminine characteristics, they become better people. Grr! It makes me so mad!
    That's just my two cents. I kind of have conflicting feelings on the issue because while I do think that it is expoitative more often than not, I really really REALLY like porn. Maybe I should break down and buy a subscription to one of the more female friendly porn sites....[/i]

  4. #3
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    I thought that her critique of the porn industry was really one of the best I've read - that it is bad because it doesn't really promote a better sexuality. And the idolizing of porn stars? I liked her comment that looking up to Porn Stars as role models for sexuality is like looking up to shark victims as lifeguards.

    I understand that her title implies she only cares about women participating in this culture, but I thought she went a little easy on men ("boys will be boys" type attitude) and also didn't give men the credit for being conscious consumers. I was summarizing the chapter on "Girls Gone Wild" for my husband and he was agreeing how that wasn't actually "sexy" or even titillating - that its about performance, not attraction.

  5. #4
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    i've given in and put myself on the waiting list for this book at the local library. knowing me, i'll have a lot to add to this thread after i read it. i'm wary, but trying to go into reading it with an open mind.

  6. #5
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    Re: Female Chauvinist Pigs

    Quote Originally Posted by brdgt
    Seems like a lot of people I know are reading Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, so I thought I might start a discussion of it here. I just picked it up at the library today and finished the first chapter. I found myself nodding my head and feeling sad.

    The book also reminds me of an interview I heard on Morning Sedition (Air America Radio) a few weeks ago. Mark and Mark interviewed Frederick Kaufman about his recent article in Harpers, "Debbie Does Salad: The Food Network At the Frontiers of Pornography," in which he argues that the "style" of porn now dominates news and food tv.

    So, who's reading/read it? What did/do you think?

    I've read some of it. I think porn- namely the commodification of objects in a heightened erotic manner- has become the leading cultural trope in the US. It's capitalism taken to the nth degree. Anything that cannot or will not be easily exploited is undervalued or devalued- art that takes time and an education to understand, smart people, older people, science that doesn't produce techological toys, and so on.

    I agree that young women have in a sense given up what they feel is a losing battle- if they are going to be commodified anyway, why not turn it into self-exploitation? While I think that this is both wrong and sad in many ways, there is a glimmer of logical reasoning behind i that in the right mind-set could be useful. Movie stars like Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Ida Lupino were part of an exploitative movive system- but hey made it work for themselves and were among the first stars, male or female, to crotrol their own images without losing their dignity. Hattie McDaniel also refused to be humiliated by the studio system. Present-day women could learn a lot from these images. Dressing like a whore does not make a woman valuable. It just makes her cheap.

    Which brings me to another point. Having known women who have paid off their Manhattan condos and college diplomas from work in prostitution and professional domination, I wouldn't say that such women don't have 'marketable skills', any more than a model lacks 'marketable skills'. Top-level and mid-level whores and Mistresses are experts at manipulating male desire. There is a great deal of mutual exploitation. Not all women are victims. That is also very different for doing it for 'pleasure'. Most of my professional research informants (I studied, in part, women who work in sexually-oriented businesses) were not unskilled or ill-educated. Several had MA degrees or professional degrees, and one had a PhD. Nor did they see the money they received as easy, and they did not necessarily derive 'pleasure' from most of their work sessions, any more than a lawyer always enjoys reading briefs. What they enjoyed was the money, the excitement, the entrepreneurial aspects, the ability to make their own hours, the confirmation o their desirability, and being paid to be transgressive. That many of them were also wives and mothers, and that more than a few were lesbian or bisexual, made the work even more exciting. Like good professionals in any line of work, they looked forward to the interesting clients and jobs, because those were the ones that kept their interest and solidified their desire to stay in the profession.

    Sex workers fall in to a wide variety of economic and aspirational categories- a lot of strippers are working their way through college and grad school. Most prostitutes only work part time, and do it for extra money to supplement the rent or pay for luxuries. Judging sex workers by women one sees on the street is like judging criminals by who one sees in a lock-up; successful sex-workers often fade into society after a short full-time of long part-time stint 'in the life', just as most successful criminals never get caught and live otherwise normal lives. What usually brings down people in the demi-monde is excessive drug use and/or greed. If you combine those with a poor education and a lack of skills, then you get the people who are easily identifiable.

    While I am no great lover of whoredom (it's more dangerous for the sellers than for the buyers), my problem with the present day is the vulgarity and lack of sophistication. If one is going to be a real free spirit, do it the way women did in earlier eras- by using it as a pathway to an education and economic improvement. Men exploit themselves all the time, but the smarter ones do it for higher stakes than appearing in a male equivalent of a Suicide Girls calendar. Having had the experience of loving a man older than myself without benefit of clergy and getting an apartment out of it (I suppose in some circles that would qualify me as an 'adventuress'), I'm not going to criticize women for using youth and beauty as stepping stones- so long as they realize those commodities have a short and delicate shelf-life, and that being a whore of any kind is always more profitable than being a slut of the highest kind. It's also more respectable in the long run- the world (especially 'nice' women) have always adored women who present themselves as reformed whores, but reformed sluts are usually just seen as being stupid. Even though I'm a feminist to the bone, I do think that this is a crucial fact that conventional feminists have chosen to ignore because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

  7. #6
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    Looks like something I have to read! I'm taking a library trip tomorrow!

  8. #7
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    Someone said in a review of this book that Ms. Levy acknowledged no middle ground between priggishness and sluttiness, and I found that to be true when I read it. While I agreed with much in the book--her comments on the porn industry and its pervasiveness were spot-on, I thought--I think there's more shades-of-gray in women's sexual lives than she gives us credit for.

  9. #8
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    I remember when I was still reading for my field work. I was reading about prostitution in the 19th Century- how many working-class women worked part time as prostitutes in order to make money for their dowries, and were none the worse for wear. They didn't become depraved drug addicts, they didn't sell their children into white slavery. Many Eastern teachers during the same period were rumored to go West to supplement their non-existent summer incomes- and again, they all didn't get raped or bashed in the head. Meanwhile, the same middle-class ladies who were working themselves into a frenzy over 'hussies' of all kinds pretty much turned a blind eye to the clients, who were usually middle-class men- that is, their husbands, sons, and brothers.
    I read Jenna Jamison's book. I like her. I think she gets a raw deal. She sounds like she'd make a good friend or neighbor. If I had kids, I'd trust her to watch mine. I wouldn't trust the kinds of men who go to whores and then put them down, though. Nor would I trust the priggish women who cover up their dirt for them, because they seem to find it impossible to realize that women will make choices to go into the sex-industry for a wide variety of reasons, including money, adventure, the desire to have men worship them, a dislike of men as sexual beings, self-hatred, self-love, travel opportunities, drugs and clothes, better housing, boredom...

    I went to a friend's birthday party recently. She a professional dominatrix and a legitimate masseuse. She's been 'in the life' for about 30 years, and she's never had intercourse with a client. She's 60, and there are men who fly into the US just to spend a weekend in a cage at her house. She's travelled all over Europe and has a closet full of clothes. Tons of her female ex-lovers showed up to her party. She's never made a man do anything he didn't want, and she's one of the most honest people I know. Her male ex-lovers have been sent away- she divorced the last one a few years ago. She looks 40 an has never had a drug problem- and she's typical of women in her line of work. For an unskilled illegitimate girl from Philadelphia, she's done quite well for herself. She's also a feminist and a philanthropist, but she won't give to NOW because they act like women like her are evil. I think she could teach those women a thing or two about empowerment if they'd only listen.

    Is she perfect? No. Is she messed up in some ways? Yes- she's neurotic about changing clothes and having enough food around her wherever she goes. I think all of this is most likely to be because of her poverty-stricken childhood, though. And men love her- you should have seen all the well-off and middle-class men who came with their wives or dates. I could name quite a few more women like her. I just wish that society didn't force these women into hiding, because they get to see both sides of relationships. Women can enjoy all kinds of sex and erotic expression without being sluts, and they can be against bad and debasing porn without being prigs.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by spiderlady
    I think there's more shades-of-gray in women's sexual lives than she gives us credit for.
    That was my one problem with the book. Parts of it I was horrified by (um, the whole Girls Gone Wild video girl masturbating on a bar? Gross.) and parts I thought were just kind of silly. But there are a lot of shades of grey and her arguements don't hold water say...if you're a woman turned on by women who look a certain way, or you're a woman who gets turned on by looking a certain way.

    Extremes in all cases tend to be sad - and a lot of the stuff she describes are extremes.

  11. #10
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    But there are a lot of shades of grey and her arguements don't hold water say... if you're a woman who gets turned on by looking a certain way.
    I didn't really read it so much as her scolding women who actually get sexual pleasure out of these sorts of behaviors as her scolding women who don't get sexual pleasure out of them but do it anyway because they crave the attention. I mean, I read The Happy Hooker and Xaviera Hollander sure was happy about being a hooker. If only all hookers were that happy and it were legal so that it was easier to prosecute people who assaulted them and other sex workers...
    Or maybe I just read it like that because that's how I feel... :)


 
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