You've probably seen it on WE -- everyone from the guys at Sirius Maxim Channel to our local organic lunch girl to Yvonne's dad, who usually doesn't make a big deal of anything sex-related, is asking: Have you seen that show?? Seems The Secret Lives of Women has been creating quite a buzz lately, with such over-the-top topics as prostitution, sex surrogates, internet strippers, and a wide array of various types of sex workers. Despite the fairly regular infusion of such sexual imagery and banter in our daily lives, most people have been incredulous over the exposure avante garde material being featured, such as: the former dental hygienist and mother who strips down for strangers on a webcam in her bedroom while her son, who basically has no comment, watches TV downstairs; the gal who makes a killing by humoring a man's foot fetish, getting all dolled up to play footsie; or the academic whose therapeutic acumen includes a little more than hands-on sexual healing....
Sure, these stories seem like no big deal, and, to be quite honest, we'd be the first to say "to each her own." However, we must question the messaging this kind of programming sends young women in our society. Despite its almost late hour time slot, this show certainly appears before many pre-teen gals' bedtimes. Lacking any expert commentary at all, and without any other type of intelligent TV talent lending the voice of reason, it's likely that young girls viewing this gratuitous reality exposé on the WE will come away with the following:
* Who needs school when I can make hundreds, even thousands of dollars, every week sweating up my sneakers and rubbing my smelly feet on some dude's face?
* I can make all the money I need, plus look super cute and wear lots of neat little outfits, all in the comforts of my own bedroom. The only thing I need is a webcam!
* Being a prostitute is so much more glamorous than I ever imagined! You get to live out on a ranch and try to look pretty all the time and make lots of money and don't have to worry about anything else in life, except maybe getting an STD... But they test all the time!
Is this the sort of fodder we want to fill young females' heads with? Are we mere ornaments for the superficial, to hell with internal and perennial pursuits? We take issue with the notion that women have nothing more to offer than sexual favors and sex kitten fantasies and wish the show had at least presented some other angle on the "secret" lives of women.
Plenty of gals have plenty of fun and turn quite a profit without engaging in such salacious and, in many respects, self-depreciating endeavors, setting an example for the well-rounded women of the future. Valuing women for more than their sexual prowess and exterior appearance has been a huge post-feminism challenge in our instant gratification culture more focused on the attainment of a quick buck than a long-term character and life building strategy. How boring and blasé to hit the library -- it's much more fun to have carefree sex and strip teases at will!! The message we're sending our young ladies with such programming is loud and clear. Focus on makeup and exterior -- forget your soul, your mind, all of the other dynamic features of women.
So where, may we ask, is the programming on the incredible, awe-inspiring lives of women who have made history, including in the realm of sex, women like... Dr. Mary Calderone, public health advocate and co-founder of the Sexuality Information and Education of the United States; Dr. Betty Dodson, who has openly advocated for masturbation as a form of female empowerment for decades; or Margaret Sanger, who started Planned Parenthood, or you fill in the blank. If we're going to reveal the secret lives of women, and if we must make them "sexy" and salacious, at least give young women positive role models -- people they can look to as far as making a difference, owning their sexuality and expressing it in non-exploitative ways. Every woman has a story to tell, secrets to reveal, and a sexual nature to unveil. Let's try to be a bit more balanced in showing young women the wide range of options they have and the many ways they can make others stand at attention, oui?