At a lecture I was giving at a large West Coast university in the spring of 2008, the female students talked extensively about how much they preferred to have a completely waxed pubic area as it made them feel “clean,” “hot,” and “well groomed.” As they excitedly insisted that they themselves chose to have a Brazilian wax, one student let slip that her boyfriend had complained when she decided to give up on waxing. Then there was silence. I asked the student to say more about her boyfriend’s preferences and how she felt about his criticism. After she spoke, other students joined in, only now the conversation took a very different turn. The excitement in the room gave way to a subdued discussion of how some boyfriends had even refused to have sex with nonwaxed girlfriends, saying they “looked gross.” One student told the group that her boyfriend bought her a waxing kit for Valentine’s Day, while yet another sent out an e-mail to his friends joking about his girlfriend’s “hairy beaver.” No, she did not break up with his; she got waxed instead.
Two weeks after the waxing discussion, I was at an East Coast Ivy League school, where some female students became increasingly angry during my presentation. They accused me of denying them the free choice to embrace our hypersexualized porn culture, an idea that was especially repugnant because, as members of the next generation’s elite, they saw no limits or constraints on them as women. Then one student made a joke about the “trick” that many of them employ as a way to avoid hookup sex. What is this trick? These women purposely don’t shave or wax as they are getting ready to go out that night so they will feel too embarrassed to participate in hookup sex. As she spoke, I watched as others nodded their heads in agreement. When I asked why they couldn’t just say no to sex, they informed me that once you have a few drinks in you and are at a party or a bar, it is too hard to say no. I was speechless – these women, who had just been arguing that I had denied them agency in my discussion of porn culture, saw no contradiction in telling me that they couldn’t say no to sex. The next day I flew to Utah to give a lecture in a small college which, although not a religious college, had a good percentage of Mormons and Catholics. I told them about the lecture the previous night and asked them if they knew what the trick was. It turns out that trick is everywhere.
(…) The reality is that women don’t need to look at porn to be profoundly affected by it because images, representations, and messages of porn are now delivered to women via pop culture. Women today are still not major consumers of hardcore porn; they are, however, whether they know it of not, internalizing porn ideology; an ideology that often masquerades as advice on how to be hot, rebellious, and cool in order to attract (and hopefully keep) a man.
(…) What my conversations with college students reveal is how conformity to porn culture is defined by young women as a free choice. I hear this mantra everywhere, yet when one digs deeper, it is clear that the idea of choice is more complicated than originally thought. To talk about women’s free choice is to enter into the tricky terrain of how much free will we really have as human beings.
(…) To illustrate this point, we can look at women’s “choices” in the post-Second World War era. At first glance, it looked like women were eagerly giving up their wartime jobs to go home and look after their husbands and kids; it appeared that women as a group suddenly and collectively chose to return to being housewives and mothers. It was only after that period, thanks to feminist historians and writers, that we found out that what drove them home was a complex set of circumstances that included women being fired or demoted to make room for men, the inability of married women to find employment, the growth of suburbia, and the lack of child care. What, then, appeared as free will were actually economic and social forces that cohered to limit women’s life choices. Not least of these were the media images and sitcoms such as Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to the Beaver, which depicted the housewife as the idealized woman: feminine, nurturing, and blissful in her role as cleaner, caretaker, nanny, chauffeur, and nurse. This was the dominant image of femininity that was celebrated and perpetuated by the media. The only problem was that the image was a lie. As Betty Friedan revealed in The Feminine Mystique, many real women were miserable, lonely, and overburdened with the daily duties of holding the family together.
– Gail Dines, Pornland, pp. 99-101
photo from Asja Bakic’s blog, asjaba.blog.hr