Monday, February 12, 2007

Eleven Minutes 2

Well, I finished 11 Minutes, and it was a lovely little story! Apparently based on a true story, Paulo Coelho explores prostitution through the life of a young Brazilian lady named Maria. Maria travels to Geneva to become a showgirl, and ends up working as a prostitute after her contract turns bad. Her reflexiveness is astute, and her diary entries gave the story that same magical feel we loved from The Alchemist.

I do have an issue, however, with the fact that as reflexive and introspective as she is, she never questions society's damnation of prostitution. This seems out of synch with the rest of her thought process, in which she appears to question many other issues she deals with in her journey. As a result of this unthinking acceptance of the "inherently bad" nature of prostitution, the story becomes an almost moralizing treatise on why sex for the sake of sex is bad. There are no substantial arguments or points behind this moral stance, rather, it stands alone unchallenged; as a result, she at times seems to feel properly chastised for her choices.

Clearly, I do not share Maria's thoughts on this issue. This blind acceptance of something as inherently "bad" with no substantial support is why the whore stigma remains so terribly prevalent today. When a person points a finger at a woman and calls into question her sexual choices, that person is perpetuating the whore stigma. The accused then instantly tries to convince her accuser that she is a "good girl," distancing herself from the (imagined) implications of her behavior (thereby perpetuating the stigma herself). It is a knee-jerk reaction, and all women, at some point, have experienced this form of societal "discipline." We are properly kept in our place by the whore stigma.

One can see this in any part of the sex industry, too- women use this stigma to enforce class/position heirarchies. The topless dancers look down on the nude dancers, who look down on the peep-show performers, who look down on escorts, who look down on prostitutes, who look down on street workers. This system is reinforced every day- should one dancer get too close to a customer, the others label her "whore." She will then proceed to try to distance herself from whatever (perceived) action she took to garner the label, and try to shake off the label any way she can.

For example, Paris Hilton- because she dared to appear in a home video depicting her sexual exploits- has been trashed across the media. Does anyone even know the name of the man she appeared in this video with? Has his reputation or character been called into question for his sexual choices? Of course not. The whore stigma is saved especially for women (and especially perpetuated by them). Behave, or you are vulnerable to censure.

But what would happen if women decided to disallow the whore stigma from bothering them? What if, instead of, "Oh no- I'm not like that," she were to say, "So what?" The stigma would lose its power- the power to discipline and control women's sexuality.

Once when I was leaving a night club, a woman walking out after me shouted out "You whore!" I don't know what made me think to say this, but I simply turned around, smiled, and said, "And I am very good at it!"