I think we can all agree that raunch culture has become certifiably main stream, from Britney Spears to the Playboy Bunnies to Miley Cyrus (in a search for ‘raunchy’ on Google, Miley’s name pops up immediately). It’s not just in pornos; it’s everywhere. Mainstream media (television, film, magazines, and music) glorifies raunch and profits from it, big time. And this is all fine and dandy, except there is now a movement – a feminist movement no less – that equates this raunch with empowerment. Supposedly this public objectification of women is not objectification at all. Instead, it is sexually liberating. Stripping is empowering, flashing is fun. They are forms of sexual expression, and anyone who supports sexual liberation surely agrees that this expression should be permitted. But alas, the problem is that rather than being ONE form of sexual expression among many, raunch culture has become THE form of sexual expression.
Personally, I’ve always had a strange aversion to all things raunchy. Going back to my high school days, I never wanted to participate in the “grind trains” at youth conventions and school dances. Part of my hesitancy came from my lack of dance skills, but then again, is grinding really dancing? The thought of having some dude rub his dick on my ass just never sounded appealing to me, despite my friends’ insistence that it was fun. For one thing, I don’t see how that is pleasurable for the female at all…the guy gets his junk rubbed as he latches on to her hips. I don’t see where pleasurable sensation for her comes into this scenario. Guys would try to grind with me, and time and time again I would refuse. Pretty soon I gained a reputation as the girl who would not grind, and also the girl who would not hook-up (random hook-ups were a big part of my youth group’s culture). So essentially I was a prude, because of my refusal to participate in the raunchy aspects of my supposedly religious youth organization.
In college I made one trip to your standard club (as I have written about previously) and was again faced with raunchiness that made me uncomfortable. Something about the thought of grinding with guys that I barely knew just didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t convince myself to just do it for fun. I couldn’t convince myself that the women humping each other on the caged platform were “sexually liberated.” I couldn’t convince myself that the drunk girls making out with each other were experiencing some kind of empowerment as frat boys gawked over them. Something was not right. And it’s not that I’m anti-sex; not at all. I think that sex is a wonderful part of being human and it can facilitate immense pleasure and emotional connection. But I feel that rubbing up against strangers at a bar hardly equates passion. Even at gay clubs the raunchy theme is evident, albeit less severe. There is certainly an attempt at more sexual equality, but raunch culture is still employed. Drag performances are almost always raunchy and sexy, from lap dances to tit-grabbing. It’s all in good fun, I’m told. But I can’t shake my feelings of discomfort nonetheless.
I guess the most disturbing part of all of this is that people like Hugh Hefner are claiming that raunch culture is liberating women. Hefner believes himself to be a feminist. And yet he profits from the blatant objectification and sexualization of women. Which by the way caters overwhelmingly to MALES. Not to say that women don’t buy into it as well, because they do, making the problem even bigger. But for Hefner to say that he is empowering women by dressing them up like bunnies and locking them in his mansion to strut around half-naked…that’s a stretch. In some ways it feels like it’s either Hefner’s way, or being a prude. The normalization of raunch culture has left us with only one way to be sexual – by exposing our tits to drunk guys on the beach. By dressing up as sexy bunnies and sexy kittens. By grinding with strangers and humping our girlfriends on the dance floor.
Not to say that we should stop expressing ourselves sexually – and I understand that everyone has their own preferences. I don’t mean to say that my way is right and others are wrong (it is right for me, but not necessarily for everyone). But I cannot believe that raunch culture has made any positive contributions to feminism. This “liberation” that Hefner speaks of contradicts everything that the feminists of the 60s and 70s taught us. We can’t pretend that our work as feminists is over and we certainly can’t pretend that strip-teases and pole-dancing will achieve what we’re working for.
See: Female Chauvinist Pigs, by Ariel Levy