I saw the video below for the first time, posted to Facebook by one of my loves. It’s about empowered sexuality in women, not men.
Bear with me, I’ll get to the part about men.
“Astonishingly beautiful.” That was my first thought.
And then the second thought: “Why should it be astonishing to see women expressing themselves, sharing themselves freely?” No reason other than that it’s still something we have to fight for. So no, not astonishing, but really, really beautiful.
Third thought: I noticed the NSFW warning, and thought, “But why?” I realized that the only reason that this is NSFW (Not Safe For Work, in case you didn’t know) is because corporate computer filters can’t tell the difference between graphic sexual content and a beautiful, empowering video that happens to also be erotic. Involving women.
Not that I believe there is something inherently wrong with graphic sexual content, which I don’t, but that’s a different post.
It’s about choice
Be that as it may, we can tell the difference, and if we can’t its it’s damn sure time we figured it out. It’s time to move past the idea that women are automatically degraded by being visibly and publicly sensual or erotic, or even graphically sexual. The issue is one of being able to choose; the issue is not the choice that a woman ultimately makes.
I dare anyone to say this video is sexually graphic. I dare you to say this video isn’t about empowering women, by which I mean women reclaiming for themselves the right to do with their bodies exactly, precisely, and only what they want to do. Whether that’s running a marathon, getting launched into space, dancing erotically, being pregnant, being a corporate executive, getting naked in public, staying home to raise a family, deciding not to have a family, and yes, as far as I’m concerned also the choice to terminate a pregnancy, the issue is the right to choose, not the choices women make.
Is this video hot? You bet. Degrading? Not on your life.
So assuming you’re not at work, go watch the video and enjoy it for what it is: a celebration of women claiming for themselves their own power and beauty. Then, if you dare, come back and let me ask you something.
What about men?
Did you watch it? Really, if you haven’t seen it you should, and then come back. Spoiler alert. Really.
Because what I want to ask you is this fourth thought that I had: “Would anyone find this video equally powerful if the dancers were men?“
Um, ah, uh, um ….
I admit it, the question, even inside my own head, made me squirm. But why?
I had a few more thoughts in rapid succession:
I thought, “Well, I know some bisexual or gay men who would.” Cue nervous laughter. Under that thought, I’m embarrassed to say, I realized was lurking the impulse to say, “I’m not gay.” I’m not proud of this thought, but I admit that I recognize it. If you’re a straight man reading this, do you recognize it, too?
I thought, “Would the women I know find it powerful?” I’m sure some, my loves included, would find it hot, but would they find it powerful and empowering? I don’t know, but I wonder. If you’re a woman reading this, would you, really? Be sure to imagine it with men of the variety of sizes and shapes and colors that are included in this video, since that’s one of the things that makes it so powerful. Would you?
Why have we come to the place – finally – where more and more often both women and men are realizing that empowering women is the right and necessary and very overdue thing to do; the place where more and more we are recognizing that everyone should have the right to marry, regardless of gender or orientation; the place where we can finally start talking about people as people instead of as a gender or a race or a sexual orientation; and yet we still aren’t at a place where we’d be as comfortable with this video if it were about empowering men to express themselves?
Because we’re not.
And it’s not because of male privilege; that’s a very real problem, but this isn’t about that.
I think it’s about the fact that we – both men and women – are still uncomfortable with men being more than “one of the guys.” Women want men to talk about themselves openly, and men want to be able to talk to one another in a more meaningful way, but in truth most of us squirm when the topic turns to sense and sex. And wish they’d shut the hell up.
So, do me a favor and watch the video a second time. Only this time imagine that the stars are men of all the different descriptions that you see here. Then tell me: did it feel different to you this time? Why, or if I’m wrong, why not?
Dr. Les Kertay