Sunday, 5 June 2011

Parents, stop Sexualising Your Children

So I'm sure everyone who reads the papers is aware of Cameron's big new initiative, halting the "sexualisation of children". On the surface, it's something we can all get behind. No one want to see eight-year-old girls in padded bras and Playboy knickers, under t-shirts reading "Daddy's Little Porn Star" - apart from, presumably, the people buying them. As Barbara Ellen beat me to saying this morning, they don't jump into little girls' underwear drawers all by themselves, do they? I'm a liberal, and as such am supposed, apparently, if you listen to Tories, to be all in favour of any and all governmental supervision of personal matters. And I'm not opposed to this plan per se, for the reasons stated above, but I can't help but thinking it's kind of pathetic for parents (the plans were drawn up by the head of the Mothers Union) to whine that the government needs to sort out a problem that is almost entirely of their own making. So henceforth, I offer you my handy print-out-and-keep, two part parenting guide to stop the sexualisation of children:

1.) When your daughter asks why she can't have a Playboy branded pencil case, choose the most appopriate of the following three answers:

*For the under 12's - "Because the man who makes them is a very bad man who wants to hurt women and little girls like you and we musn't let him."

*For the tricksy 12-16 demographic -" Because I bloody well said so, that's why. Now stop complaining or I'll make you start taking the Westlife one you had when you were 11 to school."

*For the over 16s (imagining you retain any shred of control over what they do) - Presuming you have been a responsible parent and already given them a grounding in the basics of feminism, start introducing them to statistics on the number of women working in the sex trade who were a.) trafficked, b.) victims of childhood abuse c.) drug or alcohol dependent d.) all of the above. Ask if they want to lend tacit support to an industry that preys on vulnerable young women and does nothing to offer them the support they actually need. Show them evidence demonstrating that rates of rapes and sexual assaults increases dramatically in areas with a preponderance of sex-encounter establishments (the new Playboy club, for all its claims, is nothing but). Explain to them, if they don't already know, that Playboy and its ilk objectifies women. Ask how they feel about being judged on their looks above anything else. Ask if our cult of beauty ever makes them feel bad about themselves; explain that this is a direct effect of our pornified, Playboy culture. If, after all this, she still wants Playboy branded anything, consider disowning her.

Take control over your daughter's underwear drawer. You buy her bras until she starts earning enough to buy them herself - don't buy a nine-year-old a bra except in the unlikely event that she needs one. If she complains of feeling immodest, buy her a vest. When she does need to start wearng a bra (not that anyone *needs* to, but you know what I mean), select non-wired, unpadded ones. Explain to her that breasts come in all shapes and sizes and small ones are just as nice as large ones. Instill her with self-confidence. Similarly with knickers - do not buy your child thongs. Do not buy your child lacy, see-through knickers. Do not buy your child knickers that have anything approaching a sexual slogan. If in doubt, avoid anything with a slogan at all.

Which brings me to t-shirts saying "So many boys, so little time", "Future porn star" etc. Ask if she understands what any of these slogans mean. If she doesn't, she's too young to be wearing it. Institue a no-lying-through-slogan-t shirts policy: only allow her to wear a t-shirt proclaiming her to be the next big thing in porn if she shows demonstrable desire and determination to forge a career in the adult film industry. Make her prove herself by sending her to meet with a few sleazy casting directors. If this does not scare her straight, you may wish to refer back to the advice on dealing with teenagers who wish to own Playboy branded products.

Re: the Christina Aguilira prime time X Factor performance and Rihanna's uncensored music videos (and music). Turn the television off. With older children there is only so much you can restrict their viewing if they spend time at friends houses, etc. But under your roof it's your rules; if Christina is writhing around in her underwear at 8pm, turn the television off or change the channel. If Rihanna is writhing around in her underwear moaning derivatively about how she likes to be spanked, turn the television off or change the channel.


2.) The slightly harder part. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself who's responsible for creating a culture in which the under-tens view Katie Price as a role model, tits and all. Got it yet? It's you, dumbass. Stop deliberately encouraging a porn culture. Turn the X Factor off when it showcases female or male artists sexually degrading themselves in a desperate bid at increased sales. Stop consuming pornography. Stop buying lads mags. Stop buying tabloid newspapers. Stop buying fashion magazines like Vogue and Elle that feature spreads using models unlikely to be above the age of sexual consent, pouting and half-naked and air-brushed to the extreme. Stop visiting strip clubs, stop buying music by recording artists who make promo videos that look like the Adult Channel's Midnight Teaser. Stop going to see films that treat women as sex objects. Stop treating women as sex objects. Just bloody stop it.

There, problem solved. You can thank me later.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Language of Adultery

This is going to be another of those posts where I essentially think out loud, and propose answers to ny own questions, as though this were an essay or thesis that someone might actually read. Sometimes I think I should have been an academic (heck, maybe I still will be one day, I'm smart and I enjoy writing essays, weirdly enough), but then I remember that I didn't much care for students when I was one, let alone devoting my entire career to them. I worked out a little too late that you don't actully *have* to teach, but even locked in the cosy security of my office, I'd still know they were out there. Thousands of them. *Shudder* So anyway, do please feel free to ignore me prattling on.

Anyway, I know I'm about a week late with this (and you know how much I procrastinate) but I've been thinking about the public reaction to Ryan Giggs' affair with Imogen Thomas (well-known football player and ex Big Brother Contestant, for those of you lucky enough to live unencumbered by the burden of celebrity culture) and how the language (and sheer level of vitriol) directed at Thomas is pretty worrying for women in general.

It started with a comment on a fairly innocuous joke a friend had as his Facebook status about Giggs "playing away". Another friend of his, whom I don't know, simply replied "I hope the whore gets AIDS and dies." Gender non-specific, I know, but we all know who was implied by the word "whore". When I countered that Giggs might in fact bear some responsibility for his own actions, I was met with the response "she was worse, because she knew he was married" - presumably it had slipped his mind then.....?

Other words I have seen applied to Thomas across the interwebs: "slag", "slut", "tart", "prostitute", "bitch", "cow" etc. Nine times out of ten, any and all approbriation I've seen has been levelled soley at Thomas. The only times I saw Giggs even mentioned in all the condemnation of Thomas' behaviour was when someone opined that while "she's a cheap little tart, he should be left alone because he's a legend."

See where I'm heading with this? A man and a woman have an extra-marital affair. The woman is judged, derided, ostracised and the only time the man is even mentioned it's to call him a legend. Doesn't seem right, does it? And here's the kicker - almost all of the abuse that I have seen has come from women.

I hate cheating, and I've never been any part of it, but I just think, to quote the old adage, that it takes two to tango, and both parties involved in the adultery should take equal blame for it. Not a difficult concept, is it?

The part where I answer my own questions: if I were to surmise why women are so quick to turn on women who have affairs with married men, I'd say self-preservation through denial. It all feeds back to the pretty life-changing explanation the wonderful Ms Saunders gave me as to why my own friends were so quick to belittle my feelings when I stood up to the sexist dicks on the BSP forum who had taken a photo of us from a website and proceeded to start making vile comments about our appearance by appearing *after* it had largely calmed down and those involved had even gone so far as to apologise to say how they hadn't been at all offended and thought strangers ranking their fuckability out of ten was just hilarious, actually. That's self preservation, side with the dickhead and he won't be a dickhead to me any more. In this case, women side with the man because for their own sake they want to believe that men never ever cheat unless some evil harlot woman forces them to. Seduces them against their will. That way, they can believe that their boyfriends would never betray them, so long as they're on guard for scarlet women; and even if they do, it won't be their fault, so it'll be fine. Sadly, this insecurity probably stems from another relationship mistruth: that all men cheat. I hear that phrase a lot and I staunchly believe that the people who say it are men who do cheat and are either projecting their flaws onto all others, or trying to justify their own actions to themselves. Bollocks all men cheat. All bastards cheat, maybe. A lot of people were saying "oh, but it's understandable, she's fit." Have they seen Giggs' wife? She's stunning. She looks like a French movie star from the 40s. I'll wager sexual attraction ahd little to do with the affair on either side, but particulalry his. Same as Tiger Woods, it's hubris. I'll cheat because I can. And because I'm a dick.

Away from the microcosm of Facebook status comments and to the world at large, I think the tendency to blame mistresses for cheating husbands is obviously yet another facet of how women are expected to curb male sexual desire. You see it everywhere. In religion, where women have to cover their hair, their faces, their entire bodies because otherwise they might whip men into a frenzy of sinful lust. In our ever-present rape culture, where the Slutwalk protests currently going on all over the world demonstrate how we as a society still think women 'invite' their own rapes by not dressing modestly enough. In cultures where women are stoned to death for commiting adultery and their male sexual partners mildly chastised or let off completely. To this day there's still a "lie back and think of England" thing with sex. Men are supposed to be ones who want sex and women are supposed to either deny them it or bravely suffer it. We're petrified to ruin the little virgin/whore dichotomy we've got going on with out attitude to women by admitting that we actually like and actively want sex too. I wonder if this idea that men are incapable of controlling their own desires was invented to protect rapists (rape, after all, being as old as sex) or if it was merely designed to keep women in their place (at home, covered up, neither seen nor heard) and the rape get-out-clause is just a happy co-incidence.

What all this means is, if you're happy to call Imogen Thomas a slag and pass no judgement on Ryan Giggs, not only are you a sexist, you are propping up rape culture. So yeah. stop doing that please. As my good friend and penny philosopher Don Piano once said: "infidelity is about two deceitful sacks of shit." Two.