Everybody is being super enthusiastic about Anna Holmes's article "The Disposable Woman" in The New York Times. Everybody, except me, that is. I only discovered who Charlie Sheen is last week, so I'm a very poor judge of whether Holmes's criticisms of this trashy TV actor are correct. The following passage, however, has made me doubt whether this article has any value at all:
On reality television, gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality are not only entertainment but a means to an end. These enthusiastically documented humiliations are positioned as necessities in the service of some final prize or larger benefit — a marriage proposal, a modeling contract, $1 million. But they also make assault and abasement seem commonplace, acceptable behavior, tolerated by women and encouraged in men.
American feminism can always be recognized through an excessive amount of priggishness in its defense of the rights of women. Violence against women is horrible and needs to be condemned publicly and vocally. I am quite shocked, however, to see that Holmes places violence and sexuality together, as if there were anything in common between them. If the moment you write the word "violence" you feel like putting the word "sexuality" right after it, then there is something very wrong with the way you view both. Later on in the quoted paragraph, Holmes talks about assault and abasement, which seem to mirror her reference to "gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality." I have no idea where she sees all that "explicit sexuality" on the prissy and super sanitized American television but Holmes is not alone in her pseudo-feminist concern over the excessive presence of sex on TV.
I have written before about the American feminists' unhealthy dread of sexuality (see, for example, Part I, Part II and Part III of my review of Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs.) Instead of recognizing that there is no true freedom that does not include the freedom to be sexual in a way one wants and as much as one wants, these pseudo-feminists insist that sex is debasing and humiliating for women. They cannot accept that it is possible for women to be sexual (and explicitly so) not for the purpose of placating or pleasuring men but simply because these women enjoy sex for its own sake. In her article, Holmes seems to be wondering where the unhealthy attitudes to women as objects come from. She fails to notice how her own positioning of a woman as a perennially debased object of any sexual act is contributing to this state of affairs.