AlterNet: Sex R Us: The Rise of Enlightened Sexism

Sex R Us via AlterNet: Sex R Us: The Rise of Enlightened Sexism.

I know this may not sit right with some of my readers, but many young women have been totally snowed by the patriarchy into thinking that dressing in the skimpiest of clothing is empowering and equalizing while it is neither. How many men do that? The male gaze is having a feast and not having to put in any effort on their part. Dr. Douglas explains this so clearly in her new book (excerpts below, more at AlterNet). Wake up, girls.

The following is an excerpt from Susan J. Douglas’ new book, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism (St. Martin’s Press, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Susan J. Douglas

Here’s the twist that emerged. Some young women wanted sexual equity with men: that’s a claim for equal power. They didn’t want to be mere sex objects, they wanted to be active sexual agents. But while true and total sexual equality between men and women is still too threatening, it has nonetheless proved lucrative to flatter women that they have it. So the media began to highlight this message: it’s through sex and sexual display that women really have the power to get what they want. And because the true path to power comes from being an object of desire, girls and women should now actively choose—even celebrate and embrace—being sex objects. That’s the mark of a truly confident, can-do girl: one whose objectification isn’t imposed from without, but comes from within. You have to admit, this is a very slick contortion.

The best way to gain this kind of power is to cater to what men want. And you’re not acquiescing to men or to patriarchal sexual requirements: by submitting, you’re in the driver’s seat! Thus, in the hands of, say, Cosmo, the sexpert appreciates the ultimate requirement to please him (even at her expense or discomfort if necessary), to reassurehim about his performance, and to constantly monitor and refine her ability to look sexy and to do what he wants and needs. This persona of the sexpert is almost always white, young, heterosexual, slim, busty, beautiful, and middle- or upper-middle-class (i.e., the media’s target demographic). She is ideal for the age of enlightened sexism because she is a hybrid of empowerment and objectification. In this way, women’s hopes for sexual equity have become wrapped up in glossy images that sold jeans, underwear, magazines, music videos, and TV shows and allowed Victoria’s Secret to conquer the malls of America. And as the image and prevalence of the sexpert colonized more media outlets and hailed ever and ever younger girls, her image polarized women and men, especially along generational lines.

To check for this book in a library near you, here’s the link in WorldCat

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