Female Chauvinist Pigs

I just finished reading a book called Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, which provided a great commentary about how popular culture uses feminism to justify blatant T&A and gets women on board.

It’s all accomplished with the word ’empowerment’.

Apparently, feminism has made it so women are empowered enough to show our boobs to the Girls Gone Wild camera crew, have earned the right to make out with our friends to attract men at the bar, and are liberated enough to pose nude for Playboy. What we would normally condemn as frat party behaviour, we are now labeling ‘sexual freedom’.

In Levy’s words:

“How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish good for women? Why is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? And how is imitating a stripper or a porn star–a woman whose job is to imitate arousal in the first place — going to render us sexually liberated? ‘Raunchy’ and ‘liberated’ are not synonyms. It is worth asking ourselves if this bawdy world of boobs and gams we have resurrected reflects how far we’ve come, or how far we have left to go.”

What I found most interesting about the book was that it brought us back to the original purpose for sexual liberation, which was all about female sexual pleasure and autonomy. For example, before the 1970s, few gave credit to the clitoris. “Standard intercourse” (e.g. the missionary position) negated female satisfaction. So, part of the movement was a biology lesson to remind society that the clitoris a) exists, and b) is a necessary component for female sexual enjoyment. Other aspects of sexual liberation included redefining women’s roles from being passive receivers of sex to active partipants. Bodily autonomy and reproductive rights also fit into the initiative.

The message I got: sexual liberation is about being active in one’s own sex life, being comfortable expressing idiosyncratic desires, and being respected by one’s partner in the process.

The message I did not get: sexual liberation is about conforming to society’s standards of “hot” and then leveraging those achievements to get what you want, such as attention/affection/money/career. (The opposite end of the ‘sex as a commodity’ continuum would be the religious right, who tell girls to hold on to their virginity in exchange for a good husband.)

It might not be the kind of book that you’re into, but I read a few parts of it to Jon, a man of more Classical taste, and he thought it was pretty interesting. She’s equal-parts funny and smart, and I think readers will enjoy that the topics she discusses are timely.

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3 thoughts on “Female Chauvinist Pigs

  1. What a great review, Jen. Here’re my two cents on the whole ‘raunch as liberation’ thing…raunch CAN be liberating for a woman who’s using to liberate herself. it’s not the ideal that EVERY woman should strive to attain. it simply is one of the modes, just as celibacy and monogamy and polyamoury are other modes of liberation. unfortunately we live in a world where a) raunch is touted as the be all and end all of liberation, and b) where issues are more comfortable existing in distinct dichotomies: i.e. if raunch is good, then non-raunch must be bad, if raunch is liberation then non-raunch must be anti-liberation…

    Perhaps I’ll pick up this book as a post-thesis “fun read” for my upcoming beach vacay!!

  2. I also feel I should mention that empowerment women get from leveraging a man’s desire is specific to one domain.

    Take strippers, for example. While she is dancing, she is in control of the room. She has something her patrons want. But outside of that strip club, she is (sadly) just a “slut”.

    Another one: A woman at work sleeps with the boss and gets a raise. She’s ahead in her career, but everyone knows she didn’t earn it, and thus looks down on her.

    Sexual power is limited to a certain time and place.

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