My opinions on Raunch Culture took an abrupt turn about four years ago.
That’s when I had a baby daughter.
Now I haven’t experience some of the changes others have upon giving birth. I did not experience any desire to stop working or stop having sex. Except for several unfortunate incidents in the first few months, I tried hard to avoid going out in public with little bits of spit-up on my clothes or hair. Vanity, combined with obsessiveness, compelled me to get back on the elliptical the second my OB gave the OK (well, it may’ve been two weeks before that).
Attachment parenting, while I have nothing against it, wasn’t my thing. After what often was half an hour trying to coax a burp, I longed for (and sometimes sought out) adult problems, no matter how ridiculous. Problems I could solve. Even one of my partner candidates whining about how insulted he was by his $1.3 million income was a relief – with the right book of business, maybe I could find a client with a greener pasture. Often, when I returned from putting out a few phone calls about it, my husband or our nanny would have successfully burped and put the baby to bed and I could relax until I had to de-milk again.
But there were definitely a number of changes.
For one thing, I was never really big into holding babies. Sure, it was fun sometimes, but always a relief to hand them back. But this was my baby, who had come five and a half weeks early and was less than five pounds on arrival, but who skipped the ICU and came home with us the next day (we didn’t know what to do with such a little one!). Her little wrinkled fingers and legs didn’t have that protective layer of fat. She loved breastfeeding, but wasn’t very good at it – didn’t have the sucking reflex. But she couldn’t get enough, and would try, clumsily but valiantly, for an hour at a time.
She gained weight like a trooper. Thick, wavy, brown hair grew. Her dimpled elbows and the ring of fat at her wrists amazed me. She had, and has, a downy, velvety film of small hairs on her shoulders and back.
Here was this little person who was relying on me for knowledge, for guidance. And my husband, of course. But in terms of looking to someone for guidance about being a woman, being female – I am it. Or, at least, for now.
If Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs” had come out in, say, 2003, instead of 2005, I would’ve had a different take. After all, I’ve BEEN a “Girl Gone Wild” in essence, although I NEVER would’ve done it for free – being quite capitalistic about my Wildness.
But while the regret about adult women flaunting raunch struck me as condescending, especially from an author whose book jacket photo looked like it conformed pretty well to patriarchal standards, what struck me was the discussion of children and high-schoolers. Little girls aping Britney Spears. Girls in high school having “rainbow parties,” all about – literally – kissing up to the boys rather than focusing on their own pleasure. This wasn’t a world I wanted my daughter immersed in.
I was a GGW in my early 30s. Old enough to do it ironically (and to know the limits on my ability to do this, as well as the limits to those limits), and make it about what I wanted and how to best use men to get that. Not aiming for the amorphous reward of male affection or loyalty, but the much more tangible one (or more) of Benjamin Franklin.
So, it was the opposite of Wild. It was rehearsed, planned. Often boring, in fact. Not empowering in itself, feminist-wise. But the receipts could be traded for power.
But GGWs, or the younger ones, in Levy’s book were Wild either, and often weren’t getting any kind of power in return. They seemed to be aping adult abandonment to reap some kind of badge of honor. Wild should mean doing something spontaneously, with no calculated need to please others.
I want my daughter to do what she wants, with only her happiness and that of friends, family, or people in need, in mind. If there is some backlash in our culture, inspiring young girls to audition on a casting couch for male approval, that’s something I need to care about, to pay attention to.
And what about fairly tales?
This isn’t some kind of new problem. These things have been around for years. Sleeping Beauty, vulnerable and completely passive in sleep, with only her beauty to charm a handsome prince into saving her. Rapunzel, trapped in a tower, also saved by a handsome prince, by her hair, of all things. Snow White, Cinderella – with the only females nearby typically evil witches or stepmoms, needing handsome princes to “save” them.
We’ve tried to keep these fairly tales away. And to have alternatives, like Mulan, or Brother Bear. But they sneak in. And sometimes become favorites.
Will a girl who reads about a princess having to fit into a shoe or be unconscious or have tower-length hair to find her prince feel that she has to give him a blow job to seal the deal?
Well, I loved these fairy tales and never felt this kind of pressure. But then, nobody in my high school had rainbow parties, either.
I still don’t have a problem with porn made by consenting adults, strip clubs, or sex workers. But I do have a problem with the marketing of raunch culture to children and young teens. We all have to make many compromises in life, and make some calculated trades for the pots of gold we want. Childhood shouldn’t be about that. I watch my daughter dance around the kitchen to Abba, her awkward yet exuberant steps completely free of any artifice, and I hope that can last another ten years. At least.
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PS: Of course, Abba comes with a warning too. But I’m on top of this one:
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man’s world
Money, money, money
In the rich man’s world
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It’s a rich man’s world
- Back to (Slut) School by Jill September 1, 2005
- When Do You Stop Being a “Teen Mother”? by Lauren January 18, 2006
- Stuffed animals will turn your daughter into a whore by Jill July 13, 2007
- Raising a Progressive-Minded Kid by Lauren November 8, 2009
- Gendering Infants by Cara March 16, 2009