-by Rebecca Christiansen
For as long as “feminist” has been a label women have worn, there have been two very separate feminist philosophies when it comes to women and sex. The first, “sex-positive” feminism, is that sex is freeing, and that it’s every woman’s right to have as much of it or as little of it as she wants with minimal judgement from society. Sex-positive feminists think a woman’s right to choose to have sex is integral to her freedom. Those feminists tend to have a somewhat favourable view of consensual, safe sex work. The other philosophy, “sex-negative” feminism, is that sex is a tool of the patriarchy and that woman is giving in to oppression when she expresses her sexuality in a way that’s appealing to men.
I have my problems with both sex-positive and sex-negative feminism. Sex-positive feminism can sometimes ignore the dignity of women who choose not to have sex, instead glorifying those who choose to have a lot of it. It can be emphatically promiscuity-positive, at its most rampant. Despite its problems, I definitely identify more with sex-positivity these days, because it isn’t the strain of feminism actively trampling on women’s rights.
In January, Formula 1 announced that it would no longer employ “grid girls” at its grands prix, beginning this year. The Professional Darts Corporation also announced that they would no longer use walk-on girls. The sports’ governing bodies cited advertisers not wanting their brands to be perceived as approving of objectifying women. That’s a reasonable conversation to be had. What’s not reasonable is so-called feminists jumping down the throats of intelligent, consenting women who choose and enjoy that kind of work, like this woman did on Good Morning Britain. “Some jobs become obsolete in the name of progress,” she said, after hearing four promotional models voice their grievances and complaints about not being supported by so-called advocates for women. She said it in direct response to one grid girl who rightly pointed out that in this situation, womens’ choices are being taken away.
Can you imagine a more authoritarian, holier-than-thou retort than “Some jobs become obsolete in the name of progress”? Look, no one has a right to any job. Grid girls and walk-on girls are not entitled to employment by F1 or the PDC, but it’s hard not to wonder whether the governing bodies axed these programs because of their actual market’s feedback or due to social pressure from sex-negative activists who live to decry patriarchy’s so-called oppression. I’m no F1 connoisseur or habitual watcher of professional darts, but I doubt their regular viewers take offence at advertisers’ logos slapped over the breasts and abs of a good-looking woman.
The commodification of womens’ sexuality is a subject worthy of discussion, but I think that’s beyond the scope of this situation. If dedicated viewers of these sports don’t have a problem with it, and the women themselves give their full consent and enjoy the work, I don’t believe there’s a valid reason for the sports’ governing bodies to end the programs—they’re just submitting to pressure from authoritarian busybodies.
Feminist are the first to cry foul over low representation of women in STEM fields, and often link it to misogyny in those fields. When politicians—usually male—make decisions surrounding reproductive health, feminists spring into action advocating for the rights of women to make their own choices. You’ll often hear them talk about “bodily autonomy,” which is the right of each person to decide what happens to their own body. Their temple, that physical representation of individual sovereignty. Bodily autonomy is so widely accepted in feminism that it’s baffling to me that so many can’t see the hypocrisy in dictating to women what they should and shouldn’t do with their own bodies in employment.
Authoritarian busybodies who call themselves feminists should not celebrate the limitation of employment options for women.