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Christopher Wilde
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The New Prostitution

By Christopher Wilde

The following story is based on real people and actual events though the names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Angie sent me a text message telling me she was at the bookstore by my house. ‘Come show me your body.’ I’ve recently lost weight but what she really wanted to show me was her, fit and trim body. Angie is thirty, bright, attractive, and speckled with freckles across button cheeks. She’s a phenomenon with word and number puzzles, and after a few quick lessons learned to play an acceptable game of chess. She’s the proud girl next door who leaves the shades open just long enough for you to know it too. She’s works full time, raises two children with her ex-husband, has a boyfriend, and an active social life.

Her attitudes as a real life woman in Salt Lake City bear examining against a national portrait of women in the media. Hillary Clinton is running for president, “Sex and the City” is about to be released as a feature film on May 30th (Angie’s an avid fan), and for the first time four women made it as the final contestants on “Survivor” after dominating the men. Survivor just closed out its 16th season.

The premise of “Sex and the City,” the television show that broke ground on HBO, is best ascertained from the pilot episode in just four lines of dialogue. The following lines establishes a general motivation,

“You have two choices: you can bang your head against the wall and try and find a relationship or you can say SCREW ‘EM, and just go out and have sex like a man"

"Noooo. I mean without feeling!”

In addition to laying out an expectation that is also a central conflict for the characters the lines establish that all men have sex without feeling. It seems unnecessary to further define the quality of these men, in a television show you would expect them all to be good looking men, but never-the-less the characters are only interested in a certain kind of man,

“There’s not one woman in NY who hasn’t turned down ten wonderful guys ‘cos they were too short, or too fat or too poor.”

“I have been out with some of those guys, the short, fat poor ones. It makes absolutely no difference. They’re just as self-centered and unappreciative as the good-looking ones.”

The rest of the show is just a series of 400 dollar shoes and pure soap opera. For that reason it shouldn’t be faulted for lacking higher moral ground. That doesn’t mean the show isn’t making an accurate statement about the attitudes of women especially given its enormous popularity and appeal; it may have shaped and reflected the popular opinion of its audience.

It was quite a sight to see four women outplay every man in the last episode of “Survivor.” In the past men and women have used the affections of the opposite sex equally, this was the first time four women ganged up and systematically eliminated each of the men. As they said it they, “black widowed the men.” It’s easy to excuse their behavior knowing the prize was for a million dollars, but the game doesn’t need to be played along sexist lines in order for either gender to win. The girls beat out the guys by manipulating them to believe they were in alliances when in reality they weren’t. They were so successful at lying they convinced the nicest guy among the entire cast, Erik, to give up immunity as an act of good will to prove they could trust him, and then voted him out. When you watch the interviews with each of the girls they readily brag about the depth and level at which they manipulate the men and where not above doing so by revealing their bodies. A good example of this comes from Amanda, who was one of the final two, talking about Erik the final man to be cast off,

“The whole time I was with Erik I was trying to pretty much, tried to manipulate his mind. That’s what I do best, manipulate the minds.”

Then there is Natalie who waxes philosophically about her methods:

“Women are the smarter gender…But women have a manipulation and a um emotional vengeance about them that can drive them mentally that I don’t think men have. And it’s not even necessarily smarter versus not smarter gender it’s an emotional stick it to you that drives a woman’s thought process that gives a woman possibly the upper hand. Do I think it’s impossible to get five women together to stick it to the end, no, do I think outside my vision is it hard for women to get along? 100% I love women I would love to have women on my side. I’ve got some girlfriends at home that are my life line. We bounce off, we support each other that’s the way women should do and if women could do that they would rule the world cause women have so much power they have sexual power, they have intellectual power, they have the underdog, feeling power. There’s so many different elements to a woman and so many different layers were women are so powerful if they would stick together. And that’s were they’re idiots that’s where we are all stupid. Um so looking through my eyes is it possible, absolutely. Though probably normal people in the world, normal women in the world, no, women are so competitive so catty and not smart enough to think big picture and that’s what’s proved itself in this game.”

There are probably a lot of men who might be threatened by statements like Natalie’s. What she is saying is true except that in every case where she’s defining a woman’s power she is defining a woman’s power to manipulate. When she is speaking about a woman’s intellect she’s not talking about mathematical ability or the ability to learn languages or any other rational measure of intellect she’s talking about the power to emotionally “stick it to you” and in the video she makes a knife with her fingers and twists to demonstrate.

There is one major flaw in this theory of operation; it’s the same flaw that exists in “Sex and the City.” In both cases it assumes an opponent and that he is unaware or unsophisticated. The kind of manipulation she’s talking about is the grifting of the classic femme fatale. Manipulating people works a few times but eventually decent people stop trusting. When a grifter comes through and takes the town the next innocent stranger takes the suspicion and blame. In this case the next innocent victim is the next woman that comes into the life of the man that’s been injured.

If you are out to sleep with men for fun and leave them in the morning because that’s what you believe guys do it simply ups the ante for bad behavior. In the next round of “Survivor” why would the men not take every advantage to stick together and wipe out the women early?

These are just examples of how specific attitudes trickle up, down, and across from Sex and the City, to the television reality show Survivor, and to the Presidential Campaign of Hillary Clinton. In the article Hilary Clinton: A Major Setback for Feminists and other articles on this site I’ve talked about Mrs. Clinton’s “say and do anything to win” attitude. It’s the same attitude reflected in the women above.

The question women need to ask themselves is if this is the kind of behavior and attitude that they want to absorb, reflect, and defend. If you agree with this behavior then you have to fight it or be painted by it.

In many ways Angie’s behavior is much more honest. It’s straight forward, all the parties having sex are in agreement, and there’s no overt manipulation.

“I’m going to sleep with Jack.” I give no expression. Angie continues, “And make him pay my mortgage.”

“Good for you. What about his wife?” He’d been remarried about two years.

“Oh, I’m not the first. He’s a cheating bastard.”

“Well. OK, I guess that’s some consolation, and he’s going to pay you?”

“Alright, I already slept with him. It was really good.” Angie paused looking for my reaction.

“Did he pay?”

“Yes, over a thousand dollars.” And she could see I was beginning to laugh.

“He paid to have sex with his ex-wife, unbelievable.” It was hard to suppress a laugh.

You have to know something about Jack. He’s a well paid salesman. It’s not about the sex, or not just about the sex. This was about a feeling of power, of getting to have the woman who left. Not any woman, the wife. She enjoyed the sex, the money was a bonus, but to him the money was a way of buying a piece of her. He doesn’t mind paying the money. Now, he can have her whenever he feels powerless. The complexity of this illusion staggers me. I know Angie; I’ve known her a few years. This won’t last.

“I know–can you believe it?”   She’s laughing and twirling around looking at books at Barnes and Nobel.

The kids are over in the children’s section, later I’ll go over and read to her little boy. She’s lost weight; the twirling is to remind me.

“Angie, you look hot.”

“Thanks.”  She says. I’m glad I don’t have any money.

“What about Charles, he’s not moved out yet?”

“No, but he knows about Jack. Charles might stay. For the bills, but I’m not letting him make the rules.”

“No, you are not. You don’t let anyone make the rules.”

We walk over and check on the kids. They’ve been piling up books and when she comes over they hop up asking her to buy them.

“We’ll see.” She says. The youngest has found a small stuffed animal. “No, were not getting that.”

I check the price tag. It’s under five dollars, but there’s a larger, better looking one on the shelf for ten. Her daughter has three items, the little boy has one. I take down the larger stuffed animal and convince her to buy it for him. He’s so happy. I rub his head and he goes back to the table to look through his books holding the animal. Angie punches me in the arm, hard. I think she’s mad about the stuffed animal.

“What?”

“That cute guy over there was checking me out but he thinks I’m with you.”

That’s all? You’d think she was twenty-three. Is that what it is to have had two kids, worked your ass off to get in shape, and know your own mind? Never passing up a chance to get some attention? Her problem is easily solved. After a few minutes of talking to the guy, the second I let it slip that she and I are just friends, he abandon’s our conversation and sprints over to get her number.

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