“I swear to god I will lose my mind if I hear the “sex sells” fallacy one more time. Sex does not sell. If sex sold, we would see penises where we see boobs. Naked men would be on everything that naked women are on. Sex isn’t what they’re selling you. They’re selling you an impossible, pornographically fueled misogynistic idea of the perfect woman.”
I found this quote floating around on Tumblr. I don’t know who the originally posted it, but it perfectly summarises how I feel at the moment.
Earlier this evening, Alchemy Nightclub posted an advertisement on their Facebook page. It depicted a woman pulling down her underwear with the slogan “If you’re not up for it, don’t cum” written across the top of the image. A female user commented: “Wow – this is a perfect example of a sexist advertisement against women” to which the Mondays At Alchemy page admin replied “Maybe you’d be more suited to a nightclub like the kitchen.” It was at this moment that I became so enraged that steam began to emanate from my ears.
There are so many things wrong with both the poster and Monday At Alchemy’s comment that I find it hard to begin. To me, the poster says that your presence in Alchemy on Monday nights means you’re “up for it” – basically giving every scumbag the right to say “But she was asking for it! If she doesn’t want to be pawed and groped, why did she ‘cum‘?” I don’t even need to list the ways in which this is wrong wrong wrong, but I’ll just say that it further reinforces the idea that we live in a culture which teaches us “not to get raped”, instead of “don’t rape”.
At the time of writing, the number of likes on the “kitchen” comment has now risen to twelve. This comment is offensive not because of its content, which is pretty standard let’s-all-ridicule-the-feminist fodder, but for how it completely trivialises the issue, making it impossible for her to reply without seeming like a shrill, bra-burning harpy. The fact that so many people agree, basically telling her to sit down and keep her dirty opinions to herself, is extremely disheartening.
It’s apparent from the response to the poster and comment that we are completely desensitised to the objectification of women in the media and advertising. We see it so often, it has to be right, doesn’t it? Sex sells, we all know this. But, as said in the opening quote, sex doesn’t sell. If sex sold, the Alchemy poster would have a man unbuttoning his fly or undoing his belt, maybe. Sex doesn’t sell. The “pornographically fueled misogynistic idea of the perfect woman”, who doesn’t have any of those annoying opinions and is ready to be used at will, sells. Recent ads for Ryanair and the mobile phone service provider 48 are further proof of this.
Alchemy is not the only nightclub that uses an unhealthy attitude to sex to promote itself. The Big Tree in Drumcondra has club nights with names like “Forget the Shift, I Want the Ride” which say the same thing: you’re here, which means you want sex, which means I have license to do whatever I want to your body without needing to ask. This, frankly, is frightening to me as a woman. You may say that people have respect, that they don’t take stuff like this seriously, but I’ve been felt up enough in nightclubs to know this is not true. Being a woman in a nightclub is already difficult enough without the clubs themselves giving permission to grope the female patrons.
The thing about talking about stuff like this nowadays is that you are constantly told you are “overreacting” or being stupid, that this is just a funny joke. The fact is that this is not funny at all, and I don’t feel I’m overreacting to what is essentially a command to shut up and accept the blatant objectification and abasement of women. If saying this makes me a shrill, bra-burning harpy and the subject of a hundred “get back in the kitchen” jokes, then so be it.