I recently found myself engaged in a brief but civil exchange with the person running @FRONTmag, the official Twitter account of FRONT magazine. For those who don’t know what FRONT is, feel free to use the search engine of your choice, but be aware that what you find might be classed as ‘Not Safe For Work’.
Anyway, we’ve hosted guest posts discussing FRONT before (like this one, from the wonderful Nathan Stephens-Griffin), but I reckon there’s a lot more to be said on the matter, so I’m inviting anyone with a view on the topic to get in touch with ideas for guest articles. Here are some possible starting points:
- How do you feel about FRONT’s history as a publication, and how that history relates to the way it is currently presented and perceived?
- Do you feel that FRONT has a legitimate contribution to make to punk and hardcore?
- What are your feelings when bands you enjoy work with the magazine?
- How does FRONT as a phenomenon fit into contemporary discourses around pornography? Do you feel that it represents female sexualities in a positive way? Do you feel it represents male sexualities in a positive way?
I’m aware that a lot of these questions could be read as leading questions, but I really do want to present a range of perspectives on this one. I Live Sweat was always intended to spark intelligent and respectful debate and reflection within punk and hardcore (and comics), so if you’ve got an intelligent and respectful view, whichever side you come down on, if indeed you do have a firm view, I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re interested in sharing your thoughts, please get in touch via ilivesweat AT gmail DOT com.
(Note: If you’ve got an idea for a guest post that has absolutely nothing to do with this, get in touch too! Always looking for new writers.)
“…where you’re only allowed to be sexy if you’re playing at it, and playing at it in the right costume.” Ces Pearson takes Ann Summers to task over their advertising.
‘Drop a dress size. Boost a cup size.’
This is the text shown on an advert (see above) for Ann Summers new range of ‘sexy control lingerie’, alongside a woman appears to be so pleased with her new shape that she is verging upon climax. Ann Summers actually has a mission statement, surprisingly. It is as follows:
‘TO HELP EVERY WOMAN FEEL MORE SEXY & HAVE MORE FUN.’
OK, so they’re on our side right? Ann Summers is run by a woman too, and every woman likes to feel sexy and to have fun once in a while. The problem is when we step back and realise that Ann Summers is defining ‘sexy and fun’ in a pretty offensive and destructive way.
Drop a dress size, boost a cup size is a perfect example of this (not that we need one after the years of objectifying advertising campaigns and window displays. I just got pissed off by it and decided to write this). We can’t be sexy and have fun unless we manipulate our bodies with various poor quality satin and lace contraptions, filled with wire and goodness knows what else to help keep our love handles at bay and our breasts jiggling around underneath our chins. Fuck it, why not start selling home liposuction kits and scalpels so we can just slice off our wobbly bits and chuck them in our uplifting balcony bras? I bet I know why the woman in the advertising campaign is pulling that face – she’s in pain. The wire in that basque is digging into her hips and she’s having to hold that position so that everything that’s been squeezed into the black lacy number doesn’t spill over the top more than is intended by the gel/air/padding in the bra. Being physically uncomfortable is not sexy and it certainly isn’t fun. Ann Summers, you’ve failed in your mission statement, and I’ve come to that conclusion by skimming over the advertising behind just one of the items you’re selling.
I personally would naively like to think that the CEO of a company would have a bit more sympathy with the women she is selling bras, knickers and sex aids to. If you really want to help women feel sexy and have fun, why tell them that, unless they are thinner and simultaneously grow bigger breasts (impossible), this just won’t happen? It’s already bad enough that your shop windows scream that we aren’t sexy without adorning ourselves with what looks like cake decorations, and medieval torture devices, now we’re being told that there’s no point in doing that at all unless we’ve got the right body shape. Sex is great, and so is encouraging women to experiment with their bodies, and their partners, and enjoy it, but the problem here is that this enjoyment is being confined to a paradigm in which women are trussed up, dressed up, disguised, and made to feel as though the body they were born with and have lived with their whole lives doesn’t measure up somehow.
Sex is an act we are all capable of, so it’s particularly infuriating when it is the heterosexual woman who is seemingly the only one thrust in the spotlight here. What about gay women and their sex? What about gay men? What about heterosexual men? Everyone’s doing it. Advertising campaigns such as Ann Summers’ not only objectify and disrespect heterosexual women, they also put on a pedestal this warped, gift wrapped, notion of the archetypal kind of sex and sexuality. Women can only pleasure themselves if it’s with a nice glittery dildo, named after a nice fluffy rabbit. That way it doesn’t threaten the great cock too much. Or does it? I think it is a bit of an insult to a man and his penis when its assumed a woman doesn’t ever want to pleasure herself with an icky replica of the real object and opts for a safe, cute, pretty barbiefied option instead. While these toys and their presentation is allowing women to be sexual, it’s still restricting it to this Ann Summers sex box where you’re only allowed to be sexy if you’re playing at it, and playing at it in the right costume. It is defining sex and women’s sexuality through the objectification of women’s bodies, through a heterosexual gaze, and setting the cutesy/vampy, non threatening, non realistic, boundaries of what is allowed to be sexy. We’re encouraged to disguise how our bodies look and how they smell, even how they feel. I can’t speak for everyone but being made to think that my body requires all of this tat adorning it and warping it does not make me feel sexy, and squashing myself into some kind of breast enhancing girdle doesn’t make having fun an option.
This rant is only scratching the surface of what needs to be examined in terms of sex, sexuality, how we perceive it, and how we are coerced into feeling about it. I’m sure not many reading this were ever under the illusion that the majority of Ann Summers products really helped us to feel sexy and fun at all in the first place. It’s not nice to be told you’re lacking in something, or that what you do have is either too much or too little. It’s even worse when you’re then exploited into working for money to buy what you’re told you need by adverts like the one that sparked off this article, only to find you’re still that one step/dress size/cup size away from sexual perfection, yet again.
If you see this window display, please tear it down, stick something over it, egg the shop, do something (but don’t get caught). No one would stand for a campaign to change skin colour to increase sex appeal (in the UK – the skin bleaching industry is huge in China and other parts of Asia, a huge issue for women and men), nowhere would put up a sign so blatantly advertising increased penis size and men’s inadequacy on the high street, so why should we put up with this? Dropping a dress size and gaining a cup size simultaneously is physically impossible, and even if it wasn’t – who the fuck is anyone to say you should do so to feel sexy and have fun?
Ces is 23, from Lincoln. She likes being a geek and reading about social policy, welfare and gender issues. She likes punk and hardcore and is angry because she’s waiting to hear back from a job and has channeled this anxiety into feminist rage, resulting in this article.