Raunch Culture and Mormonism
Watching an amusing older clip from the Colbert Report introduced me to Ariel Levy and her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs. I picked it up at the library and was impressed with her thesis. Citing pop-culture and the waves of feminism, Levy concludes that the feminist and sexual revolutions of our parents’ generation have resulted in a raunch culture, where women idolize porn stars, strippers, and other sexual idols, like Paris Hilton. Instead of shunning the red light district and the Playboy bunny symbol, many women are embracing them. She explores the depth of this trend and the rationale behind it in startling detail.
A journalist by trade, Levy’s writing is precise and engaging. She explores the difference between sexiness and sexuality and explains that they aren’t always the same thing. Our culture has come to see sexiness as the same as worthwhile, with business and military using the term, “sexy” to describe something that has nothing to do with arousal.
She interviews women in “Girls Gone Wild” and teens who flaunt their sexiness only to find that they don’t do these things for any personal sexual gratification. They’ve taken to imitating women who’s job it is to fake sexual arousal. What kind of a role model is that? It’s as though the turning on of others is the sole purpose of their sexuality.
As a Mormon and feminist, I was a little shocked at some of the trends she points out in her book, but also glad to see the puzzle pieces that I’ve noticed put together in a coherent picture. Abercrombie sells thong underwear to girls ages 7-12, Girls Gone Wild is a hit, Paris Hilton is a star because of her porn, and I’ve received coupons inviting me to have my vagina surgically altered to look more attractive (like a porn star). While I don’t think Mormon women are as extreme as some of the examples in Levy’s book, many are deeper in that we admit. The focus on tanned skin, bleached blonde hair, breast implants, and sexy clothing (albeit garment worthy) are part of many of the LDS women I see around me.
Like other national trends, Mormon women don’t seem to be excluded from the “raunch culture” but just affected to a lesser degree. Just like the average teen is sexually active before high school, my experience is that Mormon teens are also increasingly sexually active, as evidenced by the increase of civil marriages with the intention of temple sealings later.
So, following the instruction to remain chaste until marriage is a difficult thing to do by any measure, but is it impossible in our current ‘raunch culture’? Can LDS moms with tans, fake boobs, and clever phrases etched over the behinds of their too-tight sweat pants really pass on the message of chasitity to their teen sons and daughters? Or, maybe it doesn’t matter. Perhaps the sexiness is part of our liberation, as many in the newest wave of feminism seem to believe.
I’m, not convinced. As Levy writes, “The rise of the raunch culture does not show how far women have come, it only shows how far they have to go.”