A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine took to working as a skimpy (a barmaid in a bra and g-string). She raved about the great money she was getting – $25/h and as much again in tips – and the convenient hours, and that the men treated her much more respectfully then the customers at the restaurant we used to waitress for. It sounded like such a cushy job that in the beginning, I was tempted myself.
Until I watched the job erode her self-esteem and sense of value – of herself and the world around her – all while she convinced herself it was good for her ego to be a piece of meat for men to drool over. She claimed it motivated her to keep in shape, and having men pay her compliments made her feel good. She bragged when one publican specifically requested her (well, her FF boobs) and told her to wear something revealing. She began sleeping with men just because they adored her (well, those FFs at least) and showered her with gifts. Never money, though – she wasn’t a prostitute, so she told everyone who would listen.
After a year she gave it up because it was “˜too demeaning’ – following a year of her insisting it was good for her self esteem. By that point, the damage had been done. She’d become incredibly materialistic and obsessed with her looks. And she still sleeps with just about any guy who will make a show of adoring her (boobs) and giving her gifts. When she goes out with girlfriends, it has to be a competition over who can get the most guys. I haven’t seen her in two years; I have more secure friends to hang out with.
I was thinking of her when I read Traci Lords’s autobiography, Underneath it All. One of the final paragraphs jumped out at me; she spoke about how the advent of women in front and behind the camera like Jenna Jamison had created the argument that their creative presence had made pornography more empowering for women. Lords’s rebuttal was that all pornography is degrading to women, no matter who’s directing, and that not only was it disempowering to the woman performing, it was disempowering to all women, because it let men think that any woman was prepared to accept such crap.
I thought about her again when I was reading an article in Marie Claire about Karrine Stephans, who once made a living out of being one of the dancers in RnB video clips (you know the women – they wear bikinis that would be banned on most western beaches and gyrate against the misogynistic singer). She lifted the lid on the lifestyle recently, revealing that she and the other dancers would perform sexual services for the stars and their entourage in return for an entry into that world – and they all had such low self esteem that she considered herself loved to be giving Jay-Z a blow job. She was passed along to any man who would have her, and did it because she considered it an honour. Despite tarnishing the names of several big stars, no-one has sued, which says a lot about the validity of her claims.
Once she got too old and too drug-adled to be of any used to anyone, Stephans was dropped from the lifestyle, and has since been on a crusade to enlighten women. She entered the profession because of low self-esteem, and says of the situation:
No-one who values, loves or knows herself would allow herself to be placed in such a degrading position.
Right on. Because I would rather scrub toilets for $10/hour then be paid $10 000 to star in a porno. Because I would rather deal with the arrogant attitudes of some customers as a waitress then the false adoration of men who think my face is a foot lower then it actually is. Because I would rather go to bed with a man who stimulates me intellectually then buys me expensive things.
Because I have a sense of self-worth.
And it scares me how many women don’t.
I still think of my friend from time to time, and hope she finds her way. She never will so long as she continues to sell herself sexually. Despite all her protestations that she was not a prostitute, I believe that by doing what she did, weather it was flaunting her breasts for money or a guy, she reduced herself to a woman who was only worth anything as a sexual being. Women must stop selling themselves as sexual beings and start selling themselves as intelligent, capable beings. It’s the only way, as a gender, we will become anything of real value.