Last post on the con-models thing

Getting some good, thoughtful comments and having some good discussions on the first post in this chain, but they’re getting a bit meta. I’d kind of like to steer this back to the original topic, which is my assertion that cons are not strip clubs and therefore strippers and amateur porn stars shouldn’t be plying their trades there. My biggest objection to this practice is in the hostile environment it creates for other women–especially young ones–but even outside of that damage, heavily sexualized performance art simply isn’t appropriate in generic con spaces.

Some of the objection to this argument has been based on the idea that denying these women the opportunity to express their sexuality in these spaces is denying their sexuality itself. That’s absolutely not the case, any more than asking a guy in a grocery store to put his peen back in his pants is denying him the right to masturbate. As I mentioned in comments, this is all about context, and the fact that some behaviors just aren’t appropriate in spaces that are intended to be comfortable for a huge range of people of all ages. We all have a right to our sexuality. We don’t have a right to include unwilling strangers in our expression of it.

Specific con panels, sub-events, etc., most definitely can be sexualized. Room parties, hookups, etc., can of course continue apace. But generic con spaces should be comfortable for everyone–a 12-year-old kid shouldn’t have to go through a gauntlet of heavily sexualized models just to buy a T-shirt or get to a panel on The Legend of Korra.

Most cons already have policies of this sort in place re: dress codes, behavior, etc., and some–thank you–have even banned booth babes. Taking that extra step to ban amateur porn stars/bikini models/etc., from plying their trade in an inappropriate space shouldn’t be this controversial. If we wouldn’t allow escort services to have a booth on the trade floor–and gods, I hope we wouldn’t–we shouldn’t be allowing strippers to stand around in the lobby handing out business cards, just because they’re wearing a costume that vaguely resembles a pop culture character.

Banning this behavior isn’t banning those people nor denying them their sexuality. It’s just telling them to express their sexuality somewhere more appropriate. If we’re OK with telling a couple in a heavy makeout session in the corner to take it to their room, we should be OK with telling a barely-clad porn actress to put some clothes on and move along. Hell, if nothing else, these people get in the way of traffic flow by standing around and attracting clots of photographers; easing crowding should be something every congoer can appreciate. ;)

One last note, to address another common complaint: Some folks are saying that aiming this admonishment at women is inherently sexist, as if there’s some major epidemic of self-marketing male models running around in next to nothing in the lobbies of con hotels. Yes, there are a few of these guys, but they’re maybe 5%–10%, tops–of the people who do this.

Acting as if this is a gender-neutral problem is a denial of a simple fact of sexism: outside of gay-aimed spaces and marketing, male objectification is more or less non-existent. Men are considered sexual subjects–the person who gets to make the choice–and women are considered sexual objects–the person who waits to be chosen. Add in the common perception (if not a biological fact) that male arousal is heavily visual, and of course the vast, VAST majority of passive, half-naked people in a space like this will be women. The rare few guys catering to the gay men and straight women in these spaces are a problem, yes, but they’re not the biggest culprits by any measure. Nor, for that matter, is a guy standing around in a Superman-branded Speedo doing anything to further the sexual subjugation of women, nor to create an environment in which asshat het guys think they’re within their rights to catcall any woman they see at a con. This appeal, therefore, is aimed at the women who do this because they’re A) the biggest culprits and B) might be remotely willing to change their behavior to accomodate the needs of other women.

So, the bottom line:

Generic con spaces shouldn’t be heavily sexualized–especially when the flavor of sexuality in question is damaging to women. This means that con organizers need to start enforcing dress codes and traffic-flow policies that keep out the faux-cosplaying bikini models while allowing genuine cosplayers to enjoy the event. Honestly, even something as simple as creating a dedicated photo-op area off in a corner, so people who don’t want to be bombarded with boobs can avoid it, would help.

If these models/strippers/etc. want to start their own adult-aimed events, they’re more than welcome to. Heck, they’d probably get quite a lot of business by setting up a geek version of a porn con that happens down the street from SDCC or D*C. But the cons themselves should be PG, mayyyybe PG-13 at the most, and lobbies filled with half-naked strippers are pushing the upper end of that. Time to dial it back, please.

 

(Small post-script: I’m not going to entertain any arguments saying that nudity/partial-nudity itself shouldn’t be considered inherently sexualized, or that people should have the right to express their sexuality in any public space they choose. Like it or not, Western culture sexualizes nudity in most contexts (outside of locker rooms, breastfeeding, etc.), and most of us prefer to experience our sexuality only in private spaces with other willing partners. Just as freedom of religion ends where it requires the unwilling participation of others, free expression of sexuality ends there, too. People who want to see wall-to-wall T&A know where to go to do so. The vast majority of people at a con aren’t there for that, and shouldn’t be dragged into someone else’s boobs-galore fantasy.)

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About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
This entry was posted in Ethics, Feminism, Geekery, Human Nature. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Last post on the con-models thing

  1. I followed you here from the comment section where this all started, just to see if you were for real, and if so, to tell you this-

    I am not a excessively attractive woman. I am overweight, have acne problems, and have a bit of a stooped neck from growing up with my head hung over a book. I have never followed trends (even in geekdom), do not wish to get married or have casual relationships, get skeeved out when complimented on my appearence most times thanks to negative experiences…. And it wasn’t hot girls who made me hate my body for years.

    It was people like you who create this false division between being a feminist and dressing sexily. It was people like you who act like being pretty meant that you were buying into something, had to be doing it for attention, etc. It is people like you act like only those with your vision of women are feminist where everyone else is stupid/playing along/causing harm that took me forever to get over myself and discover how sweet, funny, and downright awesome a lot of these girls are. Sure, there are some bad apples in the bunch. But then again there are also women who like to feed off of a superiority complex next to all these ‘stupid sheep’ in other circles, so everywhere you go you get women who cause harm. Like how everywhere you go there are men who cause harm in groups. It’s like, gasp! A point of view doesn’t determine if you are stupid, buying into the patriarchy, or etc!

    Now? I love my body and dress it accordingly. Sometimes? That’s in bikinis are swoop-cut tops. Because screw the people who judge my fat, screw those who objectify me, and screw those who judge me for showing off what I do love about myself. (Oh, and if dressing conservatively helped feminism, then how on earth were Victorian women, current Saudi women, and so on not the most free women on earth? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s a false equivalence that is used to judge others. Whoop!)

    • I’m not sure whose point you’re arguing against, but it’s not mine.

      Unless you’re one of the strippers/models/etc. who work as booth babes or stand around at cons in next to nothing just to promote themselves, then these posts are not aimed at you.

      I’m not saying these women can’t dress as they like in appropriate spaces. I’m just asking that they limit the heavily sexualized stuff to adults-only spaces, so people who aren’t comfortable in sexualized environments can enjoy the event.

      If you’re arguing that cons should be considered adults-only spaces, then you’re arguing against my point. If not, then you’re arguing against someone else.

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