For day sixteen of the Blogging “Yes” project, I read Latoya Peterson’s essay, “The Not-Rape Epidemic.” This was another of the most powerful in the book for me on first reading, and it’s informed a lot of how I think about rape culture and my own experiences. Peterson, the editor of Racialicious, tells the story of her own “not-rape” and a later experience in finding herself at a later rape trial of her “not rapist.” She also talks about the common experiences of young women with molestation, harassment, and statutory rape and the myth of the “cool older boyfriend.”
For the eighth day of the Blogging “Yes” project, I read one of my favorite essays in the book. It’s called “A Love Letter from an Anti-Rape Activist to Her Feminist Sex-Toy Store” and it’s written by Lee Jacobs Riggs. The piece is fairly autobiographical, focusing on Riggs’ experiences working both with a rape crisis center and at Early to Bed, a feminist sex shop. What’s amazing about this piece is how Riggs articulates the importance of giving people the sex-positive language to enthusiastically consent to sex as an alternative to just teaching people about the bad stuff that happens and how to say no. In this post, I’m just going to highlight some of my favorite parts of the essay.
Today’s sexism in the media rant focuses on a disturbing trend of sexualizing children. Now I admit I have some somewhat old fogie-esque views on this topic, because I think the longer people wait to have sex, in most cases, the better. As much as I embrace sexual freedom in some ways, and am uncomfortable saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have sex if you’re under eighteen (and definitely don’t think we should demonize those that do), it bothers me that children and young teenagers are having sex. Maybe this is part of my middle-class privilege, in that I was “protected” from that in ways (and also just exempted by the fortunate fact that I was not a gorgeous fifteen-year-old), but it creeps me out when I see children marketed as sex objects.
Feministing recently posted two examples, here and here. The poster’s focus in showing the first ad, a creepy television spot demonstrating how a new cell phone can be used for stalking your sleeping neighbor, was that stalking/objectification is wrong. The poster’s focus in the second ad, a BMW magazine spread, is again the objectification of the woman pictured. Both perfectly good points, but I was surprised that neither poster noted that the “women” shown are teenaged girls. The actresses themselves may be eighteen, but I would pin them both in the 12-15 age range. What creeps me out is not only that we’re objectifying women, but that we’re objectifying kids, more or less. Especially in the second ad, the whole “yeah, you know she’s not a virgin” message nearly made my mouth drop open. Sure, in today’s culture perhaps it’s not inaccurate to assume that a teenager or preteen has probably been abused in the past, but should we be celebrating it?