Thursday, February 4, 2010
My debut release isn't out 'til the 19th, so this will be a pimp-free inaugural post from me.
I adopted the slogan Cara McKenna: Smart Erotica, Copious Torsos shortly after I was offered my first contract. And that's what I want to talk about this week—copious torsos. Specifically, the copious torsos dripping off the pages belonging to many of my fellow erotica writers' sites and blogs. I don't actually have an answer to the question implicit in this post. That question being, I suppose, Why do female authors get free reign to be sexist she-pigs?
I've noticed some [obvious] things since becoming a part of the erotica industry, some double-standards that favor us women and which I must admit, I rather enjoy. If you scroll through many an erotica author's blog you'll see pictures—sometimes whole galleries—weekly or daily, of major beefcake. Here's but a tiny PG13 sampling donated by my gracious (and perverted) Ellora's Cave cohorts:
You get the gist. There's a page out there for every taste. Hot cowboys. Hot dukes. Hot wereponies. Hot sous chefs. You'll see rampant objectification in the posts and comments. "Man, he can toss a saddle on me and ride me into the sunset any day." It's a girls' club in here. And to quote author Adele Dubois, owner of the last link in that list, "…that page is the top grossing page of all time on my website—by a factor of about five to one. I get so much traffic on that page it baffles me." Oh, don't act so coy, Adele. We're none of us baffled.
So romance authors have their chocolate indulgences, and we erotica writers seem to have, as Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell would say, our man-titty. And we enjoy our chocolate, too, I'm sure. Actually, I prefer a nice slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese. Is that strange?
Now getting back on topic. Let's pretend for a minute that we visit a man's website, maybe a guy who works as an editor for a Maxim-type magazine. Maybe we see his blog's daily offering of busty hotties and his buddies' horny comments. Would we call it sexism? Chauvinism? Say it's tacky and degrading? Would it give us that nasty squirminess in our solar plexuses (I checked, it's not "solar plexi"), that feeling many of us have been putting up with since we were fourteen and first realized just how overheated our panting male counterparts are? Not all of us would react with anger or hurt, of course, but I bet you dollars to D-cups women would be far more outraged than men if it was their gender being objectified.
Speaking of reversed…why do I suspect that if a woman in a TV show sexually harassed a male construction worker, the audience would applaud it? Did that happen in Sex and the City? Well, it could have. Modern women have a license to be pigs. And I'm discovering that we use it.
Now forget about the theoretical Maxim editor a moment. What about our partners? If a woman discovered her husband or boyfriend kept a blog featuring a Nubile Hottie of the Day, how might she feel and react? Yet lots of heterosexual erotica authors flaunt the other side of the scantily-clad coin and our men are presumably expected to shrug it off. We may be different animals, though, we proud smut merchants, and our long-suffering partners may or may not have known that when they signed on for the long-haul with our charming asses. I'm also willing to bet we're not as condemning of our partners finding other women attractive.
Just looking at what we write, I know many of us are less invested in the [personal opinion alert] myth that once you find the love of your life you'll never find anyone else attractive ever again. Like a zillion other young women raised in our fairytale Western media culture, I suffered from that expectation for the first few years of my dating life. Admitting I'm a mammal and that my body isn't opposed to the notion [though I forego the actual practice] of banging the brains out of men I'm not committed to—and quite often don't even know—may have taken a while, but it ultimately took a ton of pressure off. Pressure not just on me, but on my partner of the moment. These days I hover somewhere in the middle between callous beast and starry-eyed idealist. My husband and I are both fully aware that we're both going to find other people bangable over the course of our shared life but we do our mutual best to not drool too openly.
As I was saying, we ladies seem to get a free pass in the way we're allowed to objectifiy men. There's oodles of possible reasons why… Because our foremothers spent millenia as second-class citizens. Because the men posing for steamy pictures on the web are less likely to be Ukrainian teenage runaways stripping to support their narcotics habits. Because men don't experience body insecurity as acutely as we tend to when compared to a superior physical specimen of our sex. Because we've put up with men doing it to us all these years and we deserve a little revenge ogling. Because it's emasculating for a man to admit he feels intimidated or belittled by his mate's objectification of another man, so he's less likely to kick up a stink.
So what are we? Hypocrites? Feminists? Self-promoting professionals giving our salivating audience what they want? I'm no expert on sex politics. The only credential I can muster is a passing grade for my art school course in Race, Gender, and Class in Film. I just find it odd that we can hoist our collective damp panties up the flagpole when Hugh Jackman's on Oprah, but hetero men so often get glared at by their mates if they say a female star's got a nice figure. I don't want to travel back in time to the sixties and get my ass patted for being a good secretary (or perhaps a good masseuse, as in that outrageously wonderful "man talk" scene at the beginning of Goldfinger), but when and why did we flip-flop on this?
Like I said, I don't have any answers or agendas. Let's open up the phone lines and turn this into a discussion! I'm going to play devil's advocate mercilessly, so I hope no one will take any response comments I post personally. I'm just looking to get a good debate going. Okay, operators are standing by.