Sex sells

But who wields the power?

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I am not sure what upsets me more, the Back Alley advertisement on the back cover of the 2008 University of Calgary agenda or the support of women for the way female sexuality is portrayed in advertising. First of all, without question, the ad is offensive. It features a topless woman, photographed from behind and across her back is an advertisement for the Back Alley Saturday Night Sex Party. The ad demonstrates that exploiting a woman's sexuality for commercial reasons has become common-place. Marketing 101 tells us that sex sells and that is clearly true. My problem is that women have allowed their sexuality to be stuffed in the g-string of money-hungry marketers and then claim it actually gives them power because they have some sort of control over it, that it is now done on their own terms.

A lot of women have bought into the idea that their sexuality is their most valuable characteristic, or their most powerful tool, and that they are using it on their own terms. The portrayal of women in advertising becomes less offensive because a woman feels that she is controlling some part of it whether that be her own personal involvement, her sensitivity to it or the extent to which she buys into sex being used to her benefit. However, when we are talking about sex being a powerful tool, we are asserting that it is powerful against men. Therefore, we are admitting that she is in some sort of battle where there is a winner and a loser. If a woman's sexuality is her most powerful tool, what is she using it for? Obviously, sexuality is used to get ahead in her career, to make more money, to get what she wants from men and to hold that attention long enough to be valued for other characteristics, the ones that really matter.

A woman's sexuality holds power because the most effective way to get a man's attention is to openly flaunt it. In this case, who really holds the power? Is a woman actually wielding power because she can convince a man to notice and desire her sexually and then withhold sex? If so, a woman is powerful because she is a cocktease.

Or do the men hold the power because only women who are willing to exploit their sexuality get noticed? It is not really power if it is given to you by those you intend to use it against. In the end, a woman does not control her sexuality as much as she believes. Men have defined what is attractive about female sexuality-- tits and ass-- but it is women who validate that definition by willingly displaying them. The kicker is that a woman will do this believing that she is experiencing her sexuality on her own terms. She says experiencing, I say exploiting.

This week at the Women's Resource Centre:
Thursday: Yoga 10-11 a.m. in the prayer space
Friday: Potential volunteer open house 12-3 p.m.
Monday: Knitting circle 12-1 p.m.
Tuesday: Women's Global Voices Event 12:15-1:45 p.m.
Wednesday: Belly dance workshop 12-1 p.m.

Where to find us:
MH 318- 3rd floor, up the stairs from the Den
Phone: 403-220-8551
E-mail: women@ucalgary.ca
Website: ucalgary.ca/women