Pimp Your/My Oppression

[First a big shout-out to Tekanji, Lake Desire and Shrub.com for giving me the chance to guest blog! My name is Luke and I rushed this post out to press once I read jfpbookworm's great post below that I think is a good branch-off point. I warn, however, that this post is a real behemoth in length. The more I went back to it, the more I added on so you might want to pack a ham-sandwich before diving in or something. Anyways, i'd love to get your feedback, thoughts, comments, criticisms, etc.]

We’ve all seen them.

It’s some night-owl hour and in-between reruns of Roseanne and ElimiDate you see for 30 seconds the uniquely American bazaar of young, thin, often blonde women with flowing hair and large breasts: In some form, you see “The Yes Girls.”

All-too-discreetly advertising itself as none other than a phone-sex line for men where young women dressed (or undressed, for that matter) in lace and satin seductively grasp their phones, bodies supine with eyes gazed towards the camera whispering lines of “We always say ‘yes’” like they know exactly what customers of the phone-sex line would want to hear in some meta-rape fantasy sort of way.

But phone-sex lines aren’t by any means some taboo cultural anomaly servicing the closet desires of perverts or deviants. Rather, their persistent popularity speaks largely to the ways in which men’s (and women’s) sexual identities are shaped—let’s make it “warped”—by what they’re told their fantasies are and in turn reinforced to fantasize again and again.

So placed between Roseanne, perhaps the lone television representation ever of a working-class white America with a stereotypically unattractive and wholly uncompromising woman actress at the helm who articulated a big “fuck off, Dan Quayle” season after award-winning season and ElimiDate, the “reality-TV” hit where petite, scantily clad women compete in a lascivious macho fantasy for the attention and affection of a man, usually tall, white, muscular and unable to hold a non-sex ridden conversation, in order to avoid getting “eliminated” each round, watching The Yes Girls gives us a jump-off point as to how men specifically are taught/cultured/socialized to think about women and sex. The two seemingly become synonymous if you begin to imagine what such commercials essentially say to men: “They’ll do anything…they never say no…they only wants sex…I must have her…I must have them…I must have sex.”

Even as I’m writing this, I’m hearing about how yet another season of The Bachelor is coming to ABC. Forget that every, and I mean EVERY relationship post-Bachelor has crumbled, forget that there is hardly a gender-equality of male and female bachelors and bachelorettes (didn’t ABC only make ONE The Bachelorette?) people love to see not just the paternalistic Cinderella chivalry fantasy anymore, they want to see one pimped out for the new age.

So if that’s what men are conditioned to want, to see as the ideal fantasy and to revolve their sexual and gender identities around, how do they go about achieving a constant state of sex with young women (who are often white, Latina, or mixed race)? If that’s the fantasy, then what’s the situation of the reality and what men are advised and told to do about it and how to go about it?

Based on the flurry of men’s “how to get women” books published largely in the past several years, you sense that what was once the immediate concern of meeting a soulmate, a wife, a husband, a life-partner has become one centered on men meeting and sleeping with as many “girls,” “bitches” or “chicks” as possible.

Like Samantha Jones drawing on the so-called liberating power of no-strings-attached sex (or “sex like a man”), the goal of “getting laid” then comes at a cost of women being seen as new hybrid of animal-commodity. That is, “animal” in the sense that these men’s advice books weave an intricately bullshit guide which adheres to the beliefs that #1, the behavior of women, like animals, is by nature predictable which involves a lot (and I mean a lot of animal watching), and #2, women’s bodies are the only things valued that one must possess through the consummation of sex—and I mean a lot of sex. And “commodity” in the sense that women, reduced simply to women’s bodies, are seen as goods that exchange hands through “purchase” by way of deception, backhanded-coercion and manipulation by men under the guise of having “skills” with women.

Just read the titles of some of these books that have boldly emerged recently in a symbol of immediately impressive yet ultimately fleeting macho bravado based identity:

-What Really Works With Women: Do What Works, Get What Matters To You (2005)
-The Complete A**hole’s Guide to Handling Chicks (2003)
-The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists (2005)
-The Layguide: How to Seduce Women More Beautiful Than You Ever Dreamed Possible No Matter What You Look Like or How Much You Make (2004)
-How To Succeed With Women (1998)
-Seduce Me! What Women Really Want (2003)
-How To Get The Women You Desire Into Bed (1992)
-The System: How To Get Laid Today! (2003)

The covers alone of many of these books tell a story in itself. On the cover of The Complete A**hole’s Guide to Handling Chicks, we have the classic macho trucker/truck mud flap decal and sticker of a caricatured large-breasted woman with hair flowing in the wind.

In The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, we see another silhouette this time of women sprawled out in sexual stripper poses while the shape of a man twice their size stands proudly drawing upon celebrations of pimps and the prostitution of women.

Perhaps most ridiculously in The System: How To Get Laid Today! is a drawing of a young woman dressed in a corset, leather thigh-highs and cat-ears on knees and elbows seductively drinking a large bowl of what appears to be milk.

Dare venture into the book descriptions and you’ll find the animal-commodity storytelling continues flavored with the old “nuts and sluts” mentality made famous during the Kobe Bryant rape trial:

“We’ll take you from the day you’re born to the day you die and show you how women can be manipulated, frustrated, and ultimately dominated throughout the course of a man’s life. By illustrating the insanity of the female mind, we’ll show you why the flawed chick psyche causes them to continuously fall for the a**hole, no matter how many times they get burned.” – From the book description of A Complete A**hole’s Guide to Handling Chicks

Or you check out similar-themed websites like FastSeduction.com where you see things like:

“You have to be the MAN who has all the sexual power. And when a woman (no matter how hot) sees and feels the presence of a man whom she recognizes as the dominant one while SHE isn’t, she does what every woman does – that is SURRENDERS to the more powerful being. And all that acting like she’s hot and knows she’s the stuff and all those other “head up in the air” tricks are just a test and a way to weed out all the men who are less powerful than her and don’t know their role as a MAN.” – FastSeduction.com’s “Be the Alpha/Dominant Male”

Ultimately, these books provide a crude and patriarchal and thus attractive-to-men analysis of why, if they haven’t “gotten any,” the women they want aren’t attracted to them. Of course it’s the same spiel that’s been revolving in pornography for year and only now seen in the forms of Eminem’s celebrity and the pandemic spread of “pimp” in the American lexicon: Women must like being treated terribly and that’s why they deserve what they get. Women must like bad-boys. Good-guys and nice-guys “finish” last.

To women, of course, the message then becomes that they should validate and be attracted to these images. Women must like being objectified and degraded, why else would they allow themselves to be put on a meat-rack on shows like ElimiDate? Why else would women like the delinquent Mark characters or the abusive Fischer characters on Roseanne and why else would women send love letters to convicted killers like Scott Peterson. He’s a bad-boy misunderstood with a soft-spot inside, really. Women, remember, it’s your job to change him and take away the beastly exterior. Or in other words, be like Belle before he runs out of rose petals and runs out on you, right?

Read the back-pages of any so-called “Magazines for Men” like GQ, Maxim, FHM, or Stuff and you see it’s older cousins in shady black-and-white rectangle ads: “Pheromones proven to drive women wild!…100 pick-up lines guaranteed to work with the hottest girls.” Listen to any recent episodes of Tom Leykis and you’ll hear “Leykis 101” in which men are taught specifically how to “bang chicks” through deception and macho posturing.

The message is clear: This is how you get that and we know this works because they instinctively respond to it—it’s in their DNA. You’d almost think you were learning how to catch Sockeye salmon off the Alaska coast. What lure do I use? Where do I go? When do I know to “go in for the kill”?

Head off into Amazon’s “Bestsellers” or autobiography section and you find the hugely popular I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell by Tucker Max. Max, a Duke law-school grad who writes about his supposed true-life escapades, proclaims proudly

“My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead. But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way: I share my adventures with the world.”

Again, even more telling than the subject of controversy itself is often the cultural response to it. Read any of the many five-star reviews in which men and women have bought, read and proudly promote the book to others and the attitude of praise and dismissal of any criticism of such praise is unbridled:

“Make no mistake, Tucker Max is a vile vile person, but his own admittance. And if you try not to think to much about his victims…er…marks…er… girlfriends/hook-ups, then this is a hilarious book.” – Jake Mckee

“For the people who think that he’s some terrible person who has sex with poor innocent girls, give me a break. It takes 2 to tango as they say. As my wife put it, if there weren’t so many whores in the world he’d have a lot less to write about.” – Travis Stroud

“Tucker Max is pure genius. An excellent writer, and even better comedian, he has Michael Jordan’s bball skills when it comes to women, and an eclectic, highly exciting group of friends and adventures he chronicles in this absolute must-read book.” – Michelle Park

“This stuff can make you laugh until you pee your pants, but I would only recommend it for those who can take racist, sexist, and despicable jokes lightly for that seems to be the life of Tucker Max. In other words, this book is beautiful.” – Samantha Miller

“I loved this book. The stories are funny and remind me of my college days. Good times, good times.” – Jeff White

So the response then isn’t that his behavior lacks repulsive qualities deserving of unflinching dismissal but rather that his life is humorous to women and men and a cause-of-envy to young men in particular. Like he says, summoning all the bad-boy machismo he can, “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell.” He knows he’s going to hell (well, assuming one believes in it) and that’s why he couldn’t care less. He’s a bad-boy and a “rebel” engaging in behavior so supposedly gutsy that it is suggestively a this-is-how-I-did-it guide as to having “success” with women. Why else would many aspiring sports-athletes read biographies and autobiographies about Michael Jordan, Brett Favre or Tiger Woods? “Know the legend, be the legend” as the saying goes?

But this type of macho posing behavior isn’t new and Tucker Max, as much as I hate to say it, doesn’t deserve all the blame. Look at what he probably grew up watching. Films like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Old School, Road Trip, American Pie and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder all celebrate the stereotypical prime of sexual masculinity through the oppression of women: have as much sex with as many women as possible regardless of consequences, engage in high-risk drinking and drugs without any negative repercussions, feel no emotions, display little conscience and give the middle-finger while yelling “feminazi man-hating pussy faggot!” to anyone who says different. It’s college and that’s what you’re supposed to do in college, right? Or, as the Sean Michael Scott character in Road Trip says with his famous Stifler charm “Think about it Josh, you’re in college. The window of opportunity to drink and do drugs and take advantage of young girls is getting smaller by the day.”

The unfiltered Virginia Slims message here is the same. To women and young girls, this says that there’s a proper way to act as women and to have fun, to have some sort of an authentic experience. Worse yet, the message is that the only thing they have going for them is their bodies and by extension, the approval from men of their bodies and the use of those bodies for sex.

But to men, the message isn’t as closely examined or seen as having any sort of significance. Just as women are taught in this way to self-hate and reduce their own human being to an ass, breasts and vagina while validating so called “bad-boys,” the message to men is that this is what men do, this is what an authentic manhood looks like and this is what you want…this is how you’ll be happy. To so-called “nice guys,” the imagery leads to some dumbassed and disturbing deductions: “women like to be objectified, degraded and essentially treated like shit so even though I know something aint right, there’s no moral dilemma if I’m going to objectify, degrade and treat women like shit. Hey, at least I’m not a bad guy!”

So it’s clear then that young men are buying into these books and misogynistic attitudes in hopes of navigating the social scenes with some sense of direction in terms of women. And that I think is where a significant amount of unseen danger is. Not only does this supremely hurt women through yet again another form of men’s oppression of women, but it also denies men and young boys the ability to engage responsibly, honestly and freely.

We’ve all seen this. This reinforced sexist, homophobic and racist socially constructed cultural norm to nurture men simply as emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive whose only purpose is to engage in macho high-risk behavior, see women as animal-commodities and to have misogynist meta-rape fantasies by removing feeling any sort of personal human emotion, all sorts of attachment or desire for more in things like sex or relationships.

And this, to deprive men (and women) from living real lives and identities of free-choice without inflicting pain and suffering on others…to me nothing is more anti-male, man-hating or male-bashing than that.

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This entry was posted in Books, magazines, etc., Feminism, Gender issues, Media and journalism, Popular Culture, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Pimp Your/My Oppression

  1. Darth Sidhe says:

    I recently Googled for sex etiquette, and it seemed to me that the advice geared specifically toward men all had varying degrees of “well, we know you don’t like actually doing things for her pleasure, but if you make her feel good then you can go ahead and use her to get your rocks off, so suck up those 10 minutes of foreplay.” I wonder how much articles written with that distasteful attitude in mind imprint that kind of selfish attitude on their readers.

    I suppose it’s a step above “oh, just don’t pay attention to what she wants,” but that’s small comfort.

  2. tekanji says:

    Helluva introductory post. There’s more I could say, but it’s already past my bed time (I was a bad person and went to karaoke today instead of doing my homework…).

    I know you were worried about taking too long writing this, but it was well worth the wait. :)

  3. calfaile says:

    Just a quick note:

    As someone who has actually read “the game”, let me say that it’s not what you think. First of all, it’s not a manual, it’s a story. Surprisingly it’s a story about the ultimate mysogyny and stupidity of the pick-up world. Second of all, the author (who was apparently voted top pick up artist), eventually gives up the game in favour of a real relationship (where his extensive pick up experience gives him no help).

    I think that it’s a book that should be given to any guy who believes in those pick-up manuals. Not a feminist book by any stretch (what do you expect from the guy who co-authored “how to make love like a porn star”), but not as mysogynistic as it initially appears.

  4. Luke says:

    tekanji: thank you :)

    calfaile: I vaguely remember some news piece saying the guy himself didnt “follow the game” anymore and while i do think the ending certainly is a less disturbing and realistic point..i think the damage has already been done because while it may have a better ending, the glamour is already there from pages 1-99 excluding #100. my concern is that I see this the same way films like Scarface, goodfellas, the godfather are received in popular culture. in every single story, their lifestyles are immediately envy inducing…but it’s all smoke and mirrors. it all leads to crap and suffering. but the message people walk away with, what they choose to mimic is not always the moral…it’s the fantasy image that is so seductive. Scarface, for example, has been imitated in hiphop culture for years and even though many artists realize that things end very, very poorly for Tony…the message they carry is one of lavish lifestyles, not taking no for an answer, respect through blood money, etc.

  5. duck says:

    I agree 100%, and I also believe that on a broader level, this “commodity” programming is not entirely gender-specific. We live in a society that has become a curious combination of celebrity-worship and populism. We are fascinated by the behavior of the rich and famous, but we also believe that we are equally entitled to what they have. This is why people with $30,000 salaries are going deeply into debt to lease BMWs. It’s why people with no basic health insurance will plunk down a few thousand dollars for cosmetic surgery. After all, movie stars and aging rockers date Victoria’s Secret models, so why should the average guy settle for less?

    But this attitude is not confined to men. As a girlfriend of mine said the other day, “When you’re not thin and cute it’s so hard to find someone who ‘clicks’ with you.” What she meant was, “When you don’t look like Angelina Jolie it’s hard to get Brad Pitt’s attention.” Beautiful people, it seems, are in shorter supply than BMWs, and unfortunately they have superficial standards of their own. Enter the commodity fantasy. Maybe there’s some magic way to “trick” the system. Some pickup line or cool automobile or cellulite cream that will enable you to attract a bigger “hottie” than you really deserve. This is the notion that the entire advertising industry is built on.

    Ironically, at the end of the day women may actually have it slightly easier. Rather than telling us how to exploit the simplistic minds of beautiful men, our “commodity” messages tell us what’s wrong with ourselves. We’re barraged with the notion that men may not find us attractive if we have wrinkles or wide bottoms, and that we’re on the downhill side of life after age 30. While those messages are certainly degrading and unfair, in the end they may actually force us to become a bit more focused and realistic in our expectations.

    Men, on the other hand, receive the exact opposite message. The world is full of con artists peddling the notion that any man can have his choice of the world’s most perfect women, as long as he has the right “abracadabra.” So why settle? “Live it up,” say the hucksters, “sow your oats. Once you perfect your ‘line,’ you’ll have a whole stable of flawless women. You have all the time in the world. Look at Jack Nicholson and Mick Jagger and Hugh Hefner.”

    The result is a large pool of lonely “average” people (of both sexes) who find themselves incapable of being physically attracted to other “average” people. I’m not sure I agree that the majority of them see the opposite sex as simply a commodity. The media may present it in that light, but that’s largely because the media is in the business of selling commodities. I think most of us want to find a deep and lasting relationship…. with someone who is ridiculously gorgeous. This is because “ridiculously gorgeous” has become our society’s baseline standard for physical attractiveness.

    I don’t presume to pontificate about superficiality, because I myself have been guilty of the same mentality. But I do think it’s critical to ask how we, on a personal level, can step back from this self-destructive approach to sexuality, in the face of so many societal messages that reinforce the contrary. The alternative is a world where the fast majority of us will find it imposssible to start and maintain healthy and satisfying relationships.

    Ideas?

  6. J.J. says:

    This blog is superb, congrats! But- I read “What really Works with Women”, after hearing Katalin Conway presenting. She blew me away: stunning looks, super smart, successfully married but constantly hit on, incredibly powerful insights! She distinguishes machos, without lasting success, and master players, who get any women, even the ONE they really want.

    She taught me to see dating/relationships NOT as war between sexes, but a fun Game of two equal but different partners. And the better you know the rules (and the cheats!), the better you play!
    Never found any greater guide/cheat book to women than “What really Works….!” J.J.

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