I've been brought up by my Nan and my Mum to believe women are my equals. I work in an overwealmingly female workplace (and industry). The people I know personally who I most admire are all women. But the messages I've been getting from feminists over the last weekend seem to be completely at odds with my beliefs.
What do I mean? Well it seems "young girls" (for which read 18 year old women) aren't capable of making decisions about what to do for work until they are 21. Doesn't anyone think this infantalises women somewhat? Are you really saying that a 20 year old man doesn't have the ability to choose whether to get photographed naked (as Chris Mears, not a model, did recently)? Because you must think that is unacceptable if a 20 year old woman couldn't choose the same thing.
Some feminists are saying women don't actually have the capacity to choose because of their socialisation and the fact that an individuals right to choose is trumped by society.
• But what if it’s a woman’s choice to be glamour models or lap dancers?
Mainstream media outlets glamorise the ‘porn star’ life. For example even though much research shows that prostitution is overwhelming abusive and exploitative, the media friendly story is still one of the ‘Belle du Jour’ fantasy of a successful and glamorous call girl. Instead of showing the realities of lap dancing, page 3 or prostitution, the media focuses on discussions on women’s choice to participate in the sex industry.
Actually, the issue of choice is complex. We have to look at all the factors which influence our choices, including the way that the media and popular culture glamorises the sex industry. Even if we could establish that it truly was a genuine and empowering choice of a woman to go into one of these industries, the harmful impact that their normalisation has on society makes the issue much bigger than one of individual choice.The pro-life activists out there just nodded in agreement.
Homosexuality and male objectification really throw a spanner in the works of these arguments. To accept that women are unable to make a conscious, fully aware decision to work in the sex industry, porn or as a glamour model, one must hold that either:
1) People such as Zeb Atlas are also unable to make this decision. He's a straight man who does gay porn. If men and women are equal and sex work is always (or mostly) exploitative, he must be a victim too.
2) Men and women are inherently unequal and that men can choose this for themselves but women (for some unknown reason) do not have the ability to do so.
Perhaps there are other options, rendering this a false narrative, but I really cannot accept either one of the above proposals. Men are quite capable of choosing to flaunt their bodies for the pleasure of others as a job without being victims (which is not saying some aren't, nothing is so black and white). And, I believe, women are equal to men and thus also quite capable of making informed choices about their lives (whilst some may well be exploited).
I've spoken before about the lad's mags issue but it has reared its head again with the Co-op threatening to drop them unless they "cover up" in some sort of magazine burqa. Why not Attitude and Gay Times? Do they consider heterosexuality more "dangerous"? Or do they just think women should be covered up but men can flaunt their body all they like? I'd go as far to suggest that by treating male homosexuality as "safe" in comparison they are being somewhat homophobic. I know that seems a bit topsy turvy ("Oppress me please!") but sometimes I find some "right on" people think us gays are all safe and cuddly and desexualised. Really we are just as sexual as any other man.
I'm never, ever going to stop fighting for the individual. The right to choose how you live your life is paramount. I believe women have the right to choose what to do with their bodies. More importantly, I believe women have the capacity to choose what to do with their bodies. Can we please stop acting as if women are delicate little flowers who don't know what is good for them? It is extremely patronising and if you think men get the wrong messages from porn, can you imagine what messages boys are picking up from some of the arguments I've pointed out above?