Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Final Project: Two Viewpoints of Female Teen Prostitutes
This final project analyzes two perceptions of female teen prostitutes in the media. The first viewpoint is female teenage prostitutes are victims of abuse, trafficking, and other forms of sexual slavery. The second viewpoint is of female teenage girls willingly and knowingly prostituting themselves for material gain. Both viewpoints are the most common representations in today’s media whether it’s film, news, television, or advertisements.
Throughout the media, many teen female prostitutes are viewed as victims. Within this role, we often see lower class girls being from homes where they have ran away from abuse, neglect, or other problems. In order to support themselves, they use their bodies as a way to gain finances. Unfortunately, this leaves females vulnerable to being hustled by pimps, being abused by Johns, and being vulnerable to the darker elements of American Society whether it is trafficking, drugs, alcohol, or disappearances-these girls are particularly vulnerable.
The media viewpoint of girls as victims comes with a double-edged sword. Media often highlights the girls vulnerability to violence yet rarely introduces the fact that many prostitutes report being raped repeatedly day in and out. Further, for girls under the age of consent, every sexual act between this girl and an adult is an illegal act of statutory rape. Yet the girls who are referred to as victims are also penalized for being “used”. This idea is reminiscent of an article by Tolman and Higgins, How Being a Good Girl Can be Bad. The authors state, “the story of male aggression and female responsibility suffuses the culture and operates to regulate human sexuality…by discouraging women’s sexual agency and men’s sexual responsibility, these culture norms encourage coercion and violence.” Media portrayal in this light still holds the female teenaged prostitute responsible for the actions of Johns and pimps.
The alternative viewpoints of female teenaged prostitutes are middle class females who sell their bodies in exchange for high-end goods or money. These prostitutes choose other venues to sell their bodies. For example, some use Craigslist or backpage.com as a place to sell themselves to upper class clientele. They also advertise by word of mouth and choose particular events in order to have access to higher pay in exchange for sex. This sort of media representation affirms SCWAAMP’s hold even in “alternative forms of employment”. These prostitutes are often white, from middle class to upper class households whose parents swear by their family’s high moral standing, affluence, and straightness. These girls are using their abled bodies to gain property and power through capitalistic ideas of female power. This may not be exclusively an American idea however, in very few other places in the world are females able to choose this as a means of status.
Further, these girls are an example of the very problems we see during the post-feminist era. Susan Douglas acknowledges these consumer issues in her piece Enlighted Sexism. Douglas notes that there are ways to earn power and money however, “television, the movies, and in advertising also insist that purchasing power and sexual power are much more gratifying than political or economic power. Buying stuff-the right stuff, a lot of stuff-emerged as the dominant way to empower.” Teenaged female prostitution is a byproduct of the idea of sexual and commoditized empowerment. Since teen girls are the targets of marketers and advertisers, it only makes sense that females would feel empowered to sell their bodies in order to be able to keep up with the media enforced ideas of power for girls.
Both of these media viewpoints of female teenaged prostitutes may be different but are still not fully analyzed by root of the problem within society. Media sends messages to girls and men about sexuality constantly. In the piece, Master Your Johnson, the authors examination of the media describe the essential argument from male and female magazines: “a man who has a difficulty finding sexual partners should feel free to manipulate or target vulnerable women, or seek sexual entertainment through strip clubs, pornography, and prostitution. Sating one’s sexual appetite is the only important consideration.”
The American society has a fixation on sexual acts and sexuality but it is regulated through patriarchy. Female teenaged prostitution is one symptom of the greater illness that patriarchy instills. Female bodies are the victims of this patriarchy and media is the chief weapon in the oppression of female teenaged prostitutes. Due to the lack of power these females have, men who are almost always the recipient are not held accountable for their participation. They are not held accountable for the exploitation of girls' bodies whether it's as a pimp or as a marketing executive.