Thursday, June 16, 2011
Argument: "How Being a Good Girl Can Be Bad"
Tolman and Higgins begin their piece with, "women's sexuality is frequently suspect in our culture, particularly when it is expressed outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage." While this is true, I would go even further and say that female expression of sexuality is suspect. The film Easy A also furthers this argument. When the main character, Olive, is rumored to have had sex, she is noticed. This confusion for females is strengthened by the slandering that occurs where females rumored to have had sexual experience are stamped slut. Tolman and Higgins report from the girls interviewed that they felt the double standard was in place- female sexual expression is slutty, male expression is powerful. In these binaries, females are placed into categories of good and bad. Good girls don't have sexual experiences and bad girls do. Males are powerful when they express heterosexual sexuality and when they do not, they are weak. And again, Easy A illustrates this-Olive and Brandon have a fake sexual encounter because he's being bullied everyday. The only way to end this bullying is by pretending to have heterosexual sex at a party. Olive plays the role of the bad girl and Brandon is given power. This reinforces the idea that females expressing sexual identity is suspect-it is something unhealthy and not good for the general public although no one can really explain why without reusing ideas of good and bad repeatedly.
Tolman and Higgins argue that girls need to have the space and ability to express their desires. Expressing desire for girls is difficult because females have been trained to not be sexual beings. In the United States, historically, the only females given space to express their sexuality have been the working classes. Leisure activities, films, and sexual relationships were common at the turn of the 20th century-but the dominant classes pushed back against the sexual expression and equated working class as immoral and defiant. This can still be seen today-in media representations of sexuality, female sexuality is in direct relationship to male want. It is rarely outside of the heteronormative value system.
Tolman and Higgins also argue that because females are taught to say no to the whole package, females have a difficult time saying that I want to be touched like this or I want you to kiss me or other expressions. This makes sex difficult and it feeds into the no really means yes. This is really dangerous because our society teaches girls that if you kiss a boy and are raped, you wanted it. Or if a girl wants to be held or touched, she is signaling to the boy she wants sex. This reinforces the idea that rape is a consequence of not knowing one's boundaries or inability to express oneself sexually. Rape is not about vaginal/penile penetration. It is about power and dominance. Michael Kimmel wrote that rape was a direct result of the gendered society that we live in. Because masculinity is taught to be brutish, powerful, and dominant, rapists view their victims as weak prey and the physical violation that occurs is to remind the female that she is subject to the will of the dominant.
Both Tolman and Higgins study and the film Easy A assist in presenting the problems associated with the inability of females to be sexual and to discover their likes and dislikes. It will take a massive shift in society in order to accept the sexual expressions of females independent of maleness and heteronormativity. That is not to say all females shouldn't have sexual relations with males, it should not be the reason for expressing oneself sexually.