caring about objectification is so 80s

Some conservative Christian types got Walmart to take Cosmo out of checkout stands. This is how they put it:

Walmart is using its platform to take a stand against sexual exploitation, by instituting a broad sweep of all Walmart stores, removing Cosmopolitan Magazine from each and every checkout aisle. This unprecedented effort will impact more than 5,000 stores across our nation.

That’s over 5,000 stores where families and individuals will no longer be automatically exposed to Cosmo’s hypersexualized and degrading article titles that regularly promote pornography, sexting, BDSM, group sex, anal sex, and more, all while marketing toward young teens with Disney star cover models.

Nationally representative surveys show that the majority of Americans believe that Cosmopolitan’s graphic headlines are not appropriate for all ages, and young girls and boys alike have often reached out to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation reporting how the magazine’s normalization of sexual objectification and pornography compound peer-pressure to engage in more risky sex, which has negatively impacted them.

Speaking for liberal hipster feminists in The Guardian, Jamie Peck thinks this is all sooooo 80s and therefore self-evidently uncool.

Do not adjust the year on your electronic devices: religious right pressures Walmart to pull Cosmo from checkout aisle for the sake of “the children”.

Being a parent is no picnic. Between attacks on the social safety net, the rising cost of housing and education, and looming ecological crisis, it’s a wonder anyone brings children into this world at all any more. But America’s beleaguered moms and dads can relax just a little this week, for the biggest threat to their offspring’s safety has been vanquished. I’m speaking, of course, of Cosmopolitan magazine in the Walmart checkout aisle.

In a campaign straight out of the 1980s, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, or NCOSE (formerly known as Morality in Media) pressured the retail giant to pull the mag from checkout aisles in 5,000 stores across the country. It will still be available elsewhere in the store; presumably you’ll have to sidle up to some roped-off section, show two forms of ID, and carry it out in a brown paper bag. Walmart framed it as a “business decision”.

She’s substituting condescension for critical thinking. The problem is precisely that she cares about being cool from reading too much Cosmo.

Halverson tied the campaign to the #MeToo movement, saying, “This is one less drop of hyper-sexualized media that is going to be bombarding people in their everyday lives, which does make a difference, especially in this Me Too culture that we’re living in, where we really want a culture that will respect women and ensure their dignity is understood.”

This is a disingenuous hijacking, to say the least. As advocates have explained over the objections of certain vocal contrarians, the current movement against sexual violence, coercion and harassment is not about suppressing sexuality, but making sure sex is actively wanted by all parties involved.

Yes, clearly The Beauty Myth had nothing to do with feminism or these issues. What’s at stake is precisely that the media, with Cosmo as the perfect example, distorts the fuck out of what people think they want. Teenage girls want many things, including to please their douchey boyfriends who want to fuck them up the ass. Kind of like the right-wingers correctly pointed out.

At one time, feminism understood obvious things like the fact that objectifying women causes women to be treated like objects, which is a bad thing.

This necessitates the acknowledgment of women’s sexual desires, and encourages everyone to figure out what their own desire looks like – through experimentation, erotica, or even a magazine like Cosmopolitan. Which, as the NCOSE notes with chagrin, has become increasingly inclusive of non-normative – if incredibly common – practices like BDSM, anal, and queer sex.

They’ve even got features on what it means to be gender non-binary. Given that Cosmo has been about sex since the 1960s, this rising inclusivity does not seem incidental to the resurgent campaign against it.

Maybe, but the broader context is a resurgent right wing everything.

Talking about “women’s sexual desires” like they’re a basic fact of life, prior to social conditioning, would be recognized as dumb if it were a man talking about evolutionary psychology.

The idea that BDSM and anal are “non-normative” only makes sense if the idea that men dominating women is sexy is non-normative. Oh wait, that’s what’s considered normal.

That this association seems ridiculous to most rational observers is evidence of how far the feminist movement has come since the 1970s and 1980s, when anti-porn feminists like Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin teamed up with the religious right to wage legal battles against pornography, prostitution, and other forms of sexuality deemed “immoral”.

Even more mainstream feminists like Gloria Steinem drew the line between “good” and “bad” kinds of sexuality, and that line often had nothing to do with consent. But while they were once a marginalized minority within the movement, sex-positive advocates like Annie Sprinkle have since taken over in setting the tone for what most American feminists believe. The mere existence of artifacts like Sex and the City and, yes, Cosmo, in mainstream culture are proof that the Sprinkles of the world have won the war of ideas. (Granted, it helps that the broad liberal value of “sexual freedom” does not necessitate an opposition to capitalism. But that’s an issue for another day.)

The “issue for another day” is exactly why her bullshit is winning. It has, y’know, Cosmo behind it and everything.

Reducing what Andrea Dworkin said to “pornography is immoral” is just lazy and stupid. Being opposed to objectification DOES necessite an opposition to capitalism. Maybe we shouldn’t have small groups of powerful rich people getting together to distort teen girls’ sexuality in order to sell them things. Is that not immoral?

Note that Catharine MacKinnon invented the legal concept of sexual harassment, so all of this actually does have a lot to do with #MeToo. She clearly saw the connection.

She’s claiming to have won the war of ideas, but really she’s just not threatening to capitalism.

“Sex positive feminism” is what happens when you give in to nihilism.

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