Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sluts and Cock-Teases

In Salon, Heather Havrilesky writes an amusing article about the Pussycat Dolls and the "whoring sea donkeys" who want to be them. I have a rule to avoid all television that isn't animated, so I haven't seen the reality show about these sea donkeys, but Claire has, and she has attested that it is stupid enough to suggest this might be the end of the world.

Apparently, the Pussycat Dolls are a manufactured pop group, along the lines of the Spice Girls or Menudo. The history of rock music is filled with manufactured rock bands, generally called "fakes" or "poseurs" by people who forget that the Sex Pistols were also manufactured. In this case, the record label has put together a group of strippers and written songs for them, the most popular of which is called "Don't 'cha", and features the line: "Don't you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?" I find the assumption that my girlfriend is not a freak to be a bit offensive, and terribly retro, actually. But, I think that people are missing the point when they say that groups like this indicate that the "slut" has become a popular cultural archetype. Most of these pop songs are about cock-teasing, which is different than whoring.

Take, for example, the song "My Humps" by Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas, perhaps the stupidest song ever written, and yet almost totally inscrutable. What could it possibly mean? After some research, I can suggest the following translation from Fergie into English: "One of the nice things about having developed sexually during adolescence is that my body tends to make men think of sexual intercourse. Those men, in turn, give me jewelry in exchange for sexual intercourse. And yet, alas, they are not successful in this stratagem because I will not have intercourse with them. Suckers." Actually, many of Fergie's songs make this same argument. Generally, the response from pop groups whose songs are about cock-teasing is to say that their message is "female empowerment", a particularly strange take on that phrase.

Similarly, I think it's wrong to see young women as idolizing "whores" when the cultural ideal is the cock-tease. Idolizing the supposed "power" of strippers is not romanticising promiscuous sex- it's romanticizing manipulation, the "con", which has always been romanticized in American culture. Promiscuous sex has a very short shelf-life in America, lasting roughly from 1969-1976 (R.I.P.), while the con has a long and sordid past. What's astounding is the celebration (probably implicit in capitalism anyway) of outright manipulation of other people, as a sign of "sophistication" or "empowerment". The ideal has to do more with Gordon Gekko than Annie Sprinkle. Similarly, young men who talk about "bagging" girls tend to see sex as something that one cons out of another person, human interactions as being somehow similar to financial transactions. What's fascinating about "bagging", emotionless hook-ups, and the cock-tease isn't the sexual promiscuity that terrifies patriarchal authority; it's the outright denial of human emotional connections as anything other than a threat to selfhood.

The slut takes a chance on human connections; cock-teasing denies the possibility of human connections. The slut recognizes the beauty of sex; the cock-tease sees sex as defeat. Nobody uses the term "slut" as an epithet who isn't something of a misogynist; cock-teasing is rooted in both misandry and misogyny. Similarly both the slur against promiscuous women and the act of cock-teasing work from the idea that a woman who gives sexual pleasure to another person is somehow 'degraded' or 'ripped-off' simply by the other's orgasm. Both mistake "self-esteem" for contempt for others! But, sleeping around is a healthy and life-affirming act- the natural introduction to the world of adult sexuality; cock-teasing anthropomorphizes dead money, it is an introduction to the market. The pathological form of promiscuity is "nymphomania"- the pathological form of cock-teasing is sociopathy.

4 comments:

gregvw said...

I'm unfamiliar with this "sea donkey" term. They're just another band that goes to show that people think that substance is a bore... and only one of them is really all that fuckable anyway.

Rufus said...

I thought she made it up, but apparently people use this term. People don't recognize substance, or they can't distinguish it from 'attitude'.

gregvw said...

I have a great idea! What instead of fake pron music, we just have real porn and real music separately?

Rufus said...

That's so retro.