Monday, February 12, 2007

Eleven Minutes 2

Well, I finished 11 Minutes, and it was a lovely little story! Apparently based on a true story, Paulo Coelho explores prostitution through the life of a young Brazilian lady named Maria. Maria travels to Geneva to become a showgirl, and ends up working as a prostitute after her contract turns bad. Her reflexiveness is astute, and her diary entries gave the story that same magical feel we loved from The Alchemist.

I do have an issue, however, with the fact that as reflexive and introspective as she is, she never questions society's damnation of prostitution. This seems out of synch with the rest of her thought process, in which she appears to question many other issues she deals with in her journey. As a result of this unthinking acceptance of the "inherently bad" nature of prostitution, the story becomes an almost moralizing treatise on why sex for the sake of sex is bad. There are no substantial arguments or points behind this moral stance, rather, it stands alone unchallenged; as a result, she at times seems to feel properly chastised for her choices.

Clearly, I do not share Maria's thoughts on this issue. This blind acceptance of something as inherently "bad" with no substantial support is why the whore stigma remains so terribly prevalent today. When a person points a finger at a woman and calls into question her sexual choices, that person is perpetuating the whore stigma. The accused then instantly tries to convince her accuser that she is a "good girl," distancing herself from the (imagined) implications of her behavior (thereby perpetuating the stigma herself). It is a knee-jerk reaction, and all women, at some point, have experienced this form of societal "discipline." We are properly kept in our place by the whore stigma.

One can see this in any part of the sex industry, too- women use this stigma to enforce class/position heirarchies. The topless dancers look down on the nude dancers, who look down on the peep-show performers, who look down on escorts, who look down on prostitutes, who look down on street workers. This system is reinforced every day- should one dancer get too close to a customer, the others label her "whore." She will then proceed to try to distance herself from whatever (perceived) action she took to garner the label, and try to shake off the label any way she can.

For example, Paris Hilton- because she dared to appear in a home video depicting her sexual exploits- has been trashed across the media. Does anyone even know the name of the man she appeared in this video with? Has his reputation or character been called into question for his sexual choices? Of course not. The whore stigma is saved especially for women (and especially perpetuated by them). Behave, or you are vulnerable to censure.

But what would happen if women decided to disallow the whore stigma from bothering them? What if, instead of, "Oh no- I'm not like that," she were to say, "So what?" The stigma would lose its power- the power to discipline and control women's sexuality.

Once when I was leaving a night club, a woman walking out after me shouted out "You whore!" I don't know what made me think to say this, but I simply turned around, smiled, and said, "And I am very good at it!"


Blogger Gillette said...

I have The Alchemist and had heard of this book but never knew what it was about. Will have to check it out now..thanks.

As per the whore thing- I wholehearedly agree. I have gone from calling myself a Courtesan to mostly "whore" for the very reason...I be feeling a bit uppity these days. I'm excited about embracing the shock value thing a bit more to confront people's notions of accepting the status quo idea that being a whore is a bad thing.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Excellent, Gillette!

It is amazing how powerful the shock thing can be. When I was a dancer, and I would meet someone new, after a bit of chit-chat they'd as me what I do. I would look them straight in the eye and unapologetically tell them I am a stripper. "Stripper" is so much stronger than "dancer". It was fabulous, because you don't give anyone the opportunity to judge you. You own that. Compare that to someone who would lower their voice and meekly say- almost apologetically- "I'm an exotic dancer". Too many women do this- they anticipate judgment and apologize before they open their mouths.

I understand that being so up front about such a finge professional choice is not easy, and takes great personal strength. But if we are to assume an equal position with men we MUST incapacitate the whore stigma- which does not exist for men. And in order to do this, more of us have to be willing to stand in unity and identify with all whores, sluts, and other similar groups of women currently denigrated by society.

We have to learn to never flinch when someone calls us a whore, slut, etc. For most women it is a knee-jerk reaction to flinch and deny her sexuality; this must end.

How can we empower women to stand strong in the face of a whore accusation? I have many ideas...

2:15 PM  
Blogger Gillette said...

Would love to hear them some day in a post!

10:58 PM  
Blogger James B. Logwriter said...

Good article, though I don't think I agree with your comments about Paris Hilton and her male partner.

The reason she has so much media attention is that she is a wealthy heiress of a well known brand name (Hilton hotels).

She seeks out media attention with a whole variety of silly, immature stunts and uses this to market various products associated with her name to other silly immature young women.

Her male partner in the video is called Rick Salomon and he is apparently quite well-known in Hollywood circles as a lover of young female celebs. He was married to "bad-girl" actress Shannon Doherty before he departed for Parisa. He actually has his own entry in Wikipedia.

As far as I am concerned he and she are birds of a feather and equally worthless, and I am sure that most people think the same.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

Thanks for his name, Mr. Logwriter. I hadn't realized he had his own wikipedia page (but I wonder how many people write their own WPs).

In your comment,

"The reason she has so much media attention is that she is a wealthy heiress of a well known brand name (Hilton hotels),"

are you saying that the reason for the media attention is her fame, or are you saying that because of her status as an heiress, her actions are deemed inappropriate, and as such garner the media attention?

But regardless of how little the public thinks of either of them, there is something to be said about the media's attempts at shaming her. We only think she is silly because that's how the media portrays her.

This is interesting: Compare the US media treatment of Paris to the UK media treatment of Jordan. Jordan is unapologetically sexual, and I believe her "who cares what anyone thinks of me" attitude stands her in good stead. She comes across as strong and almost invincible. The more the media try to shame her (as I believe they used to), the less she seems to care. Paris doesn't seem to care either, but the media here still has succeeded in portraying her as a silly little rich girl. Maybe the British public are more sympathetic to a working-class girl than the US public are to a rich heiress.

11:28 PM  
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