In many parts of the Western world, Halloween (for adult women, and increasingly for girls too) has morphed into an opportunity or imperative to dress sexy. These costumes for women and girls are par for the course, where men usually go for scary, funny, or creative. Brandi H., however, found a link to “sexy costumes for men” at msn.com that claims “There are sexy options for men, too.”
Let’s take a look. While women’s sexy costumes are typically decidedly sexy (tight with lots of exposed skin), these men’s “sexy” costumes are simply suggestive. In two cases, they “suggest” that men should be sexually serviced or played with (the “breathalyzer” and the “ring toss”):
In a third, the joke is that he is a perfect candidate for casual sex (the “one night stand”):
In a fourth, the costume is simply sexy because it’s related to (stereotypes) about prostitution (the “hustler”):
So, when women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others. When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of “sexy” entirely.
The other two costumes are simply non-sensical in context. I suppose policemen (and men in uniform in general) are supposed to be sexy in American culture. And I guess bunnies are related to Playboy bunnies? But the costume certainly misses the mark.
In this short video, Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapSCIENCE discuss the neurological processes behind porn addiction. High levels of porn consumption, they argue, can create a feedback loop that molds sexual desires and behaviors.
Looking at porn, then, doesn’t just reflect a person’s existing desires and preferences; it’s a mechanism for creating new ones or channeling them in particular directions. This is the problem critics such as Cindy Gallop see with the narrow, unrealistic (and often violently misogynistic) set of messages about sexuality that porn offers us.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
John Millward, a self-described “ideas detective,” has done something intriguing. He cracked the Internet Adult Film Database (IAFD) and used a sample of 10,000 porn stars to tell a story about porn. Here are some of his findings.
The average female porn star, he discovered, was 5’5″ and weighed 117 pounds. She doesn’t have a double-D bra size; she’s a 34B. And she’s not blonde:
She’s also not disproportionately white. Millward found that the racial breakdown among porn actresses somewhat matched U.S. population demographics:
Race % of actresses % of the population
White 70.5 78.1
Black 14.0 13.1
Latina 9.3 16.7
Asian 5.2 5.0
American Indian no data 1.2
The average woman begins her career at 22. This has been unchanged for the last 40 years. The average age for men was 29 in the ’70s, but it’s dropped to 24. Careers were longer in the ’70s. Men quite after 12 years, women after nine. Today men quit, on average, after four years and women after three.
Interestingly, success for male porn stars is much more concentrated than for female. There are fewer of them (70% of all porn stars are women) and they’re less interchanged. Millward reports that 96 of the most prolific porn stars of all time — measured by number of films — are men. Women, on average, do fewer films each. Just over half (53%) do three or more.
The IAFD records all of the sex acts that actors do on film. Accordingly to Millward’s analysis, this is what actresses do:
And here are the roles they play:
Wives in porn, by the way, are not typically having sex with their husbands.
In this post I’m happy to feature two short clips of sociologists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas talking about the sex industry in Las Vegas.
First, in this two-minute clip, Barb Brents discusses the way that the sex industry in Las Vegas is set up in ways that protect “referral services” (the organizations that arrange for what often includes sex work), while exposing sex workers to policing and criminalization:
Second, Crystal Jackson, takes two minutes to explain that the stereotype of sex workers — women who have sex with men — makes male sex workers invisible and transgender sex workers seem deviant. This has consequences. It means that men in the sex industry are more able to evade the police (who aren’t looking for them), while transgender sex workers are even more likely than women to experience abuse from both the police and clients. This means that patriarchy is an insufficient theory with which to theorize sex work.
by Guest Blogger Margo DeMello, Oct 12, 2011, at 12:00 pm
Katrin sent in a link to a series of ads created by an organization called Stepping Stone Nova Scotia. Their mission is to advocate on behalf of, and offer resources and services to, prostitutes in the Maritime Provinces of Canada.
The ads, as you can see, depict quotes by friends or family members of prostitutes (“I’m proud of my tramp, raising two kids on her own”) which are intended to humanize sex workers; the bottom of each ad reads “Sex workers are brothers/daughters/mothers too.” They’re also intended to shock the reader into really thinking about prostitutes. The juxtaposition of words like “tramp” and “hooker” with the white middle-class faces of the speakers makes the viewer question our culture’s ease with using those terms, and forces us to see the person behind the prostitute.
Stepping Stone’s executive director, Rene Ross, points out that every time a prostitute is killed—sex workers have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the Canadian national average—media accounts emphasize that the victim was a prostitute, but not that she (or he) was also a mother, daughter, friend or, for example, animal lover. By thinking of sex workers only in terms of their stigmatized occupation, we don’t have to care about them as people.
In New Mexico, where I live, the remains of eleven women (and the unborn fetus of one) were found buried on a mesa outside of Albuquerque in 2009. The women had disappeared between 2003 and 2005, and most, according to police, were involved with drugs and/or prostitution. Why did it take the police so long to find the bodies of these women, and why do their murders still remain unsolved? Some observers have suggested that because the women were—or were alleged to be—prostitutes, there was less pressure to find them after they went missing, or to solve their murders once their bodies were found. As long as the victims were sex workers, then the non-sex worker public can feel safe in the knowledge that they are not at risk. We know that prostitution is dangerous, so it’s expected that some of them will die grisly deaths, and be buried like trash on a mesa outside of town.
I love the motivation behind the ads, and they do make me smile. I hope they have the effect that Stepping Stone intends—making people think of prostitutes as people, not trash. But they’re also funny, and I wonder if they won’t also have an unintended effect, of making prostitutes seem like a joke.
This week I watched the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. During the roast, most of the jokes dealt with his well-known history with drug use and prostitution, and “prostitute,” “hooker” and “whore” were used as punch lines in the majority of the jokes, and each “whore” reference incited additional laughter. Sure, many of the women that Sheen paid to have sex were doubtless “high class” call girls, paid well, and not living on the street. But we also know that at least some of these women, as well as the non-prostitute females in his life, were subject to violence and threats of violence. He is alleged to have beaten, shot, shoved, and thrown to the floor a number of women over the years, but because many of these women were sex workers (or porn stars, which is the next best thing), the women were “asking for it.”
Let’s hope that Stepping Stone’s campaign does some good, making us think about sex workers as people, rather than punch lines and faceless victims.
Margo DeMello has a PhD in cultural anthropology and teaches anthropology, cultural studies, and sociology at Central New Mexico Community College. Her research areas include body modification and adornment and human-animal studies.
Aliyah C. wrote to us about a series of photos on a website for a product called Punjammies. The images offer a stark illustration of the racial, classed, and gendered nature of many “development” initiatives.
According to their website, Punjammies claims to offer Indian women who have escaped forced prostitution a chance to rebuild their lives by providing them with the marketable skill of manufacturing clothing.
Images in the Punjammies catalogue make it clear who the target market is: They feature exclusively white women, luxuriously lounging about in Punjammies attire.
Meanwhile, images on the “About” page depict the women purportedly empowered by this operation, conducting manual labour to produce Punjammies products.
Consumerism-driven development initiatives like Punjammies fail to challenge the inherent inequalities at play in a situation where wealthy, white women in the developed world are seen as benevolent and charitable for making a purchase, while women in developing countries manufacturing the products are portrayed as beneficiaries. Furthermore, as Barbara Heron might argue, Punjammies is a prime example of how development initiatives often play into notions of white female subjectivity as compassionate and caring, dependent upon the Othering of women of colour in the south. In fact, since colonialism, the advantages that accrue to those of us in developed countries have been linked to the disadvantages faced by the rest of the world. Our economies are not separate entities, they are intimately linked.
Reflecting upon images like these should remind us to remain critical of the ways in which “development” is marketed to us, and how it can perpetuate rather than challenge inequalities.
Reference: Heron, B. (2007). Desire for Development: Whiteness, Gender and the Helping Imperative. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press.
Hayley Price has a background in sociology, international development studies, and education. She recently completed her Masters degree in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
I suspect that U.S. citizens and policy-makers have a hard time imagining that modern-day sex slavery is prevalent in our country, and an even harder time understanding that the vast majority of trafficking victims here are U.S. citizens. In fact, the State Department estimates that, of the world’s 27 million trafficking victims, about 100,000 live in the U.S.
Yet, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, only 2,515 investigations of suspected incidents of human trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010, leading to 144 arrests so far. This means investigations were opened on only 2.5 percent of human trafficking cases. Federal efforts to address human trafficking in the U.S., it is clear, are simply not effective.
The U.S., however, still gets a top-notch rating from the State Department, which just-released the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, which evaluates worldwide efforts to fight modern-day slavery. The State Department uses a three-tier system. Tier 1 countries are in full compliance with the TVPA, Tier 2 countries are making “significant efforts” to comply and Tier 3 countries are making no efforts whatsoever. The U.S. is ranked as Tier 1, which begs the question: How useful is this rating system if a 2.5 percent prosecution rate gets us to the top?
Instead of giving us useful information about what countries are most effective in prosecuting trafficking, this map simply gives the illusion that the U.S. is doing a bang up job. If we were more honest about U.S. efforts, though, it would expose the U.S. as less than the ideal society we think it is. In fact, federal efforts to address human trafficking are an abysmal failure.