I don’t watch Mad Men. I’ve never been a fan and I figure that I don’t have the time or energy to try to pick it up now. But you didn’t have to watch the show on Sunday to find out that Christina Hendricks‘ character Joan decided to sleep with a client in exchange for partnership in the firm. (You don’t even have to watch the show to debate about it, as Ashley proved wonderfully.) She prostituted herself out for profit and power.
Now, lots of amazing women who I thoroughly respect and enjoy have been calling this a feminist move. Joan used her sexuality to get ahead. It was her body, her choice and she did what’s right for her. But I continue to balk at all these arguments, because while I consider myself a very strong feminist, I have a serious problem with prostitution. In fact, if we’re being honest here, I have a problem with most forms of this whole “women profiting from their sexuality” thing.
Yes, I consider myself a feminist and I am completely uncomfortable with strip clubs, porn and prostitution. How funny is it that I’m a little embarrassed to admit this?
Let me explain, I don’t want to enforce my opinions on anyone else. I’m not saying that someone else who wants to strip or trade money for sex shouldn’t be able to. I don’t agree with people who want to enforce their morals on others. As long as we’re talking about consenting adults who are making their own choice, it’s really not my business to get involved.
That being said, by labeling prostitution as an act of feminism, does this put me on the opposite side of feminists? Am I somehow oppressing women because I don’t believe that selling sex for money (or power) is a good thing? I’m honestly conflicted about this.
Here’s my problem with selling sex. For me, sex is a private act between two people that love each other. I know, it’s an antiquated and probably unrealistic worldview. But it’s also one that I treasure. I don’t like the idea of sleeping with someone who I don’t actually feel an emotional connection to. I realize that other people don’t have a problem with that. I know that both men and women can enjoy sex without being in a committed relationship. I just can’t do it.
Thinking about using what is a very sacred and private act to get ahead at work is upsetting to me. It doesn’t feel empowering. This woman is smart and capable, and yet she has to sleep with a man who she doesn’t find attractive so that she can get ahead. Sure, you can say that she’s working within the realistic conditions of her era and not in a perfect fairytale land where sexism doesn’t exist. She was using the system to her advantage. But that doesn’t feel like feminism to me. To me, feminism means working to make the playing field fair, not finding a better way to exploit its weaknesses.
For centuries, men have used women’s sexuality against them. We all know the double standards that exist when it comes to sex. A long time ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing stripping. She said, “Remember that Chris Rock comedy sketch that said a parent’s job in life was to keep their daughter from stripping. Yet we don’t say that it’s a parent’s job to keep their son from visiting strip clubs.” Her point was that we shouldn’t ostracize or insult strippers. My thought was that I didn’t want my son ever visiting a strip club.
I’m not saying that we should insult strippers either. But is there a way to say that I want sex to more than a physical act without offending those who don’t believe the same? I don’t want anyone, besides my husband I guess, to have to live by my morals. But I do hold these values as my own. Personally, I find prostitution to be wrong. No matter how long it’s been going on, no matter how many people choose to do it, I feel that selling sex is immoral. For me.
Did I mention that I really don’t want to offend other people who choose to do so? Is there any way to be less offensive when stating that I don’t personally agree with someone else’s choices. Because if there is, let’s pretend I explained it that way.
I’m not sure what it says about our current culture that I’m embarrassed to admit my conservative views when it comes to sex. I realize that they make me look like a prude. But it doesn’t change the fact that I will never think prostitution is okay. I will never enter a strip club. And I will never look at selling sex as an act of feminism.