All Sex, All the Time

Well hello there. It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything – the last year or so has been pretty crazy, and I haven’t had a lot of time to write. But a few days ago, I read an article that I really enjoyed and on which I wanted to comment.

In the January 2014 issue of Glamour magazine, actress Rashida Jones wrote an article entitled “The Pornification of Everything,” in which she addresses the growing cultural acceptability of pornographic (or borderline pornographic) behavior by celebrities (and as a consequence, by regular people as well). Here’s a link to the article online: It’s not a long read, and if you have a moment, I highly recommend it.

If you don’t want to read it, here’s the basic gist: Ms. Jones came to the realization that over the past couple of years, pop stars have made it their job to present themselves in as sexual a way as possible. She cites as examples Miley Cyrus twerking on Robin Thicke at the VMAs, Rhianna grinding on a pole in one of her videos, Nicki Minaj wearing pasties as a Halloween costume, and the cover art for one of Lady Gaga’s songs. She points out that this is largely boring – that we basically become desensitized to these oversexualized images. She also states that it feels inauthentic, and is not a true expression of most women’s sexuality but is instead an effort to sell sex and cater to a male idea of what is sexy. The only issue I have with her article is that she does not give a lot of attention to what I believe to be her most salient point – that these woman are role models, whether they want to be or not. Little girls are watching, and what they are seeing is appalling. It is this particular point that I want to expand upon.

These pop stars, particularly ones like Miley Cyrus who got their start on TV shows aimed at children, have large numbers of teenage girls and pre-teen girls as part of their fanbase. Many of these ladies claim to not want to be role models, but regardless of that, millions of these girls look up to them for their fame, their physical beauty, and their talent. And many of those girls do not have a great deal of guidance at home that will say, “That’s inappropriate, turn it off,” when Miley is shaking it on some guy. When a 12-year-old girl sees Rihanna pole-dancing and there’s no one around to talk to her about it in a reasoned way, she internalizes that behavior and thinks to herself (consciously or unconsciously), “Rihanna does it, she’s beautiful and successful and boys like her. I should do that too.” In her mind, there is no distinction between the fact that she is 12 and Rihanna is in her mid-20s. Young girls see images like that and it exposes them to a range of actions and feelings that they are not emotionally or mentally prepared to deal with. Often they deal with them anyway, by emulating what their idols do. This is especially dangerous in today’s social-media-filled world, where photos and videos live forever in the bowels of the internet.

Over the past 5 to 8 years, with the rise of Smartphones, Instagram, and texting/sexting, the number of incidents of underage girls taking and sending inappropriate pictures of themselves and each other has skyrocketed, resulting in a vast increase in child pornography. Basically, we as a culture are very gradually accepting the sexualization of young girls. And often, the girls themselves are the source of this material. They take photos of themselves in compromising positions and send them to friends, boys, or strangers, because Nicki Minaj got her picture taken in nothing but pasties, so why not? We owe it to our daughters, little sisters, and nieces to reject this hypersexualiztion of our culture. In her article, Rashida Jones quotes one of her own Tweets: “Sure, be SEXY, but leave something to the imagination.” I agree. What happened to Old Hollywood sexiness? Sophia Loren could melt a man with one glance, no pasties or pole-dancing required. I’m not saying that we should walk around in burkas, but there is something to be said for a little mystery.

Not everyone shares the same opinion, however. In the article, Ms. Jones mentions that she Tweeted several times about this issue and was accused of “slut-shaming,” misogyny, and being judgmental. She responded to this by saying that “there is a difference between ‘shaming’ and ‘holding someone accountable.'” I agree. These pop stars and actresses have to realize that their actions have consequences beyond themselves. I don’t know a great deal about Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss in the Hunger Games movies), but I saw a quote from her that I absolutely love. In an interview she said, “I’m never going to starve myself for a part. I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.'” She gets it. She understands the impact that she has on young girls as a role model and how her behavior affects them. She takes responsibility for that, even though she didn’t ASK to be looked up to as someone to emulate.

I know that our culture is largely in decline. Prior to the fall of Rome, sexual immorality (as well as general immorality) was rampant. It is my hope, however, that for the sake of our young girls, America can get itself together. Maybe she can stop snorting lines off the coffee table, put a shirt on, and make sure she’s wearing panties before she goes out for the night.

Seven Assumptions of Highly Successful Magazines

As I’ve mentioned before, I have acquired a number of magazine subscriptions through a few different programs. I currently subscribe to 3 women’s magazines: Marie-Claire, Glamour, & Cosmo. Before I moved to Tennessee, I ended up with a subscription to Allure, but I no longer get that one. After perusing these magazines for several months, I have come up with a list of assumptions these magazines make about their readers, many of which are probably largely inaccurate.

1. All or most readers live in major cities. Most of these magazines assume that you (the reader) live in a large city – namely NYC, Chicago, or LA. But mostly NYC, since that’s where most of these magazines are based, and where most of the writers, editors, and other staff live. It is a reflection of their bias, but not necessarily a reflection of their readership. Where is middle America? Do they think that no one in Nebraska reads their magazines?

2. All or most readers hold an “office job.” Do you work at an office? I don’t mean a doctor’s office or a law firm. I’m talking a Dunder Mifflin-style office. A “business office,” if you will. For some reason, these magazines seem to think that there are no doctors, teachers, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, soldiers, retail-workers, or any other professions among their readership. It is assumed that the vast majority of their readers are cube-dwellers, hellbent on climbing the corporate ladder to become CEOs of major fashion labels, publishing houses, or paper companies.

3. All or most readers are LOADED (or live like they are). Do you, as an average woman, own a pair of Christian Louboutin heels? No? How about a Louis Vuitton purse? A dress by Balenciaga? Makeup by Dior or sunglasses by Chanel? I didn’t think so. Most of my clothes came from Walmart, Target, or a department store in the mall. My shoes come from Payless, my purses come from Walmart and my makeup comes from the drugstore. I refuse to buy a pair of sunglasses that costs more than $10, because it’s a guarantee you’ll lose them if you do. These magazines seem to think that all their readers have huge amounts of disposable income to blow on name-brand clothes, accessories, and makeup. That, or they assume we are all up to our ears in credit card debt from purchasing such extravagant clothing. With the impact of the recession on nearly every sector of the economy, one would think they would advertise less expensive items. Granted, some of these magazines have “steal” options to counter the “splurge” items, but even these are sometimes woefully out of the price range of many, especially young twenty-something’s like myself who are just getting started.

4. All or most readers are single (or have a boyfriend). I suppose the mentality on this one is that once you get married, you will no longer subscribe because you’ve already permanently hooked a man and you no longer need the tips on how to dress sexy, act sexy, have sexy hair and make up, or be amazing in bed. Don’t let them know I’m on to them, as they will find this revelation to be highly embarrassing as it is very un-feminist of them to essentially be all about how to get a man. But, aside from the embarassingly un-feminist subtext of the magazines, there are hardly ever mentions of “marrieds” in them. Co-habitors? Sure. Engaged? Occasionally. But married? Rarely, if ever. I once heard a song that had the line “You don’t find Cosmo in a happy home.” Perhaps the magazines know it’s true, and so they ignore us marrieds who just read them for the LOLs.

5. All or most readers are “pro-choice.” During election season, these magazines are full of informative articles encouraging readers to exercise their right to vote. However, the information presented almost always shows any pro-life candidate in an unfavorable light. They are talked about in terms of their voting record on “women’s issues” (code name for abortion, because let’s face it, breast cancer & heart disease really aren’t contentious issues), and inevitably those who do not favor stabbing unborn babies in the head come out behind those who DO favor abortion. Some of us females have made peace with biology and realize that as women, we carry the babies. Sometimes this might suck, but such is the way things are. It isn’t the baby’s fault that I got pregnant, so I don’t think I’ll kill it. I’m sure many other readers feel the same way.

6. All or most readers are sexually incompetent. This is evidenced by the fact that in every issue of all of these magazines, there is an article on the undiscovered wonders of girl-on-top sex. Really? How many non-virgin women in the civilized world have not tried it by now? Aside from the reverse cowgirl redundancy, just the sheer number of articles on how to have better sex are mind-boggling. Most of these tips are common sense. They come naturally during the act.

7. All or most readers worship at the alter of the Shoe Cult. Call it The Cinderella Syndrome, Part Deux: The belief that the right shoe can change your life. There is always heavy emphasis on shoes in these articles, particularly very expensive designer shoes. I, for one, hate shoes. I would rather be barefoot or in flip flops, perhaps because I have wide feet and can never find any shoes that fit my foot properly (another post to come on that later). I know many women LIKE shoes, but the devotion to footwear in these magazines is almost slavish – like, regardless of how uncomfortable or impractical, all women have to wear fancy stilettos and high-heeled strappy sandals, and they must cost upwards of $500 a pair. Redonkulous, if you ask me.

Perhaps I judge too harshly. Perhaps the point of these magazines is to celebrate the fun frivolity that comes with being female, especially a twenty-first century, liberated, independent, Pill-popping female. Perhaps their purpose is to help us escape the drag of everyday life by allowing us to look at pretty people in pretty clothing, doing fun and exciting things, and having delightfully unmarried, girl-on-top sex in outrageously expensive footwear, without worrying about the responsibilities of giving birth and raising unwanted babies. Clearly they appeal to a wide audience, even if they do have some bias and set unattainable fashion and body image standards for their average reader. After all, I’m getting 3 of them a month, so can I really judge?