Womens Issues

Feminism, from an Ex-Glamour Model’s Perspective

By  

For most of my adult life, I worked in the glamour modeling industry. For those of you who don’t know what glamor modeling is, I can summarize it by telling you that it’s an extremely objectifying, sexualizing subset of modeling. Glamour models pose not for brands and the women they target, but for men and their leering gazes.

During my time doing this type of modeling, I was exposed to a myriad of masculine abuses. This experience became the catalyst –the rock-bottom– that ignited a determination to journey into the world of academia. As the legacy of hundreds of years of feminine oppression and misogyny reverberated into my psyche, I became motivated to enact change.

Last night I watched the film Suffragette and shed a tear more than once. For those who don’t know, Suffragette depicts the plight of the women who fought to get us the vote a century or so ago. The conditions for first wave feminists were tough. The cramped urban areas steeped in poverty coupled with the strain of family life meant that the women of this movement really had to get their hands dirty. There was nothing inevitable about it. It took guts.

Feminism, from an Ex-Glamour Model’s Perspective

A scene from Suffragette

The irony that women had no legal right to be heard even though we lived in a democracy, was not lost on them. The lack of vote was just one in a list of many symptoms of our general subordination at large. This was perfectly encapsulated by the bullying factory boss in the movie, played by Geoff Bell, who exemplified industrialized sexual abuse through his persistent low-level mistreatment of the women workers. In short, he treated them as disposable and sexually available fodder.

The confined status of the women of the first wave of feminist uprising meant that they found it near impossible to break out from prolonged cruel treatment – because of vital needs such as keeping a roof over their family’s heads. Much of this cruelty was at the hand of men in superior positions — such as bosses who were in charge of their wage packet. The persistent touching, the groping, the raping – perfectly okayed, and derived from essentialism, which excuse men as ‘just being that way’.

Feminism, from an Ex-Glamour Model’s Perspective

It’s easy to see ourselves as far different from these women – especially when we take in the period costumes and disparate living conditions which contrast to our comfortable lives today. We have our nice jobs and active social lives, but I suggest our oppression has only metamorphosed, which brings me to…

Pornography…

This highly visual genre depicts human beings as sexually explicit objects who engage in sex for the purpose of entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, you might think, and in general I’d tend to agree. It’s when one gender is depicted in a completely degrading and objectifying manner, while the other is humanized and powerful, that we start to run into problems.

I have a quick exercise for you: take an hour and flip through some of the most popular porn on the Internet. You’ll witness the following: it’s the male who engineers the scenes, sometimes even talking to the camera, smiling as if to a friend. The female? Actively taking orders and being degraded, which she somehow appears to enjoy. I urge you then to have a browse and watch a few more and you’ll see a pattern forming. She is always the spectacle. The audience, the camera, and the male are buddies in this. They all together watch the woman taking it from every angle. We see her do her very best to please, to service; the same old story over and over again.

Feminism, from an Ex-Glamour Model’s Perspective

Illustration by Luis Quiles

This is shown in the titles of these films: MILF; LBFM’s which stands for ‘Little Black Fucking Machines’, girl on girl, pregnant, gaping, schoolgirl, foreign slut, big tits, squirting. One might think we were cattle.

In a pornographic scene that I recently watched, two men were having intercourse with a well-known porn actress. They had sex in the ‘spit-roast’ position while they talked and took pictures from their mobile phones of her ‘deep throating’ while they shared a joke.  They regularly reposition her as they want her – with her then ending up on her knees as she smiled broadly and pretended to love having two big penises slapped hard around her face before her entire countenance, including her opened eyes, were smothered with ejaculation.

The late Andrea Dworkin, a radical feminist thinker stated, “Pornography, by definition, is the graphic depiction of whores – which is a trade in class of persons who have been systematically denied the rights protected the First Amendment and the rest of the bill of rights” (1981). Many will sneer at Dworkins’ comments as being ridiculous and dated and I’ll tell you why: In the current climate we have been lead to believe we’ve reached a utopia. Some of us think that, in Western culture, feminism is no longer needed. After all, we have comfortable enough lives. The commodity culture is at our fingertips; holidays abroad, education, all very lovely. But, to me, Dworkins’ words seem even more frighteningly fitting in this digital age.

Some of us even think that being a part of this vast sexual market equates to empowerment for women — as if it’s truly empowering that we can shout about our sexuality in contrast to the burkha-clad Muslim. But it’s not our sex to shout about. Consider that we are being lied to. That we are grossly and doggedly anchored to these oppressive representations. These views of women are being spoon-fed to our children and shaping the new generations, who unconsciously look at each other in an altogether fresh perversity. The word ‘slut’ has become a meme ascribed to young girls who wears make-up and sports the ‘sexy’ look.

Feminism, from an Ex-Glamour Model’s Perspective

Illustration by Luis Quiles

The selfie predominantly carries connotations of porn chic. You only have to trail through a timeline of a ‘popular’ teenage girl on Facebook to witness the effects on our young, what with her cleavage-baring photos, pouting lipsticked ‘duckface’ lips and sexualized poses. Look around – at the children, who value themselves on their sexual offerings. Imagine if you grew up on a diet of animalistic sex available at the touch of a button, witnessing women pressing giant dildos into themselves and getting gang banged by groups of men. How would it have affected you, or can you not even imagine it?

I believe that women today are blind to their oppressors, who are as strong as ever. Fourth wave feminism is the backlash against the representation of women as fodder – screamingly alive through the ubiquitous graphic display of feminine sexual abuse in the digital age. Speak out, or forever shut up.

Want to take action? Check out Pornography Harms or Anti-Pornography for further reading, and share your comments below.

Vikki Dark is a British writer and academic whose oeuvre spans erotica, biography and transgressive fiction. Her latest book, about an adult film star, focuses on contemporary feminism relevant to cyber culture and sex.

50 Comments

  1. david whitey

    i think a lot has to do with the media and the messages that are directed right at young girls… but males in general need to stop sexualizing women so much. As A guy i catch myself doing just that sexualizing every woman i see. I can probably blame instinct or social norms but i digress. people in general, not just men not just women but both have to evolve past these basic human instincts… but this world is populated by idiots who can’t see that less moral people are using fear and shame to control them. I wish i could start a colony or new state that completely changes the game. but for now ill try and be an optimist.

  2. Cheryl Angle

    Reading you Vikki is such a pleasure. Thank you for bearing witness to “the industry” and for bettering yourself through education so that you can speak with alacrity and authority. Yours is one of the strongest voices – most articulate – on this topic. You don’t speak like an academic, but you have that grasp. After decades of seeing the backlash to women, and the stealth launch of online porn into society – your writing makes me feel hopeful for the human race.

    Many women have stories of harm from porn. Not all just insiders like you. Bedrooms are infected with porn and it has caused so much suffering in its wake.

    I remember when online porn was seeping into male lives. There was a new visible public male smug, the undressing of me in elevators, a new boldness of derision and collective male “gotcha” jokes and palpable collusion. I didn’t know the hold it had over former men in my life. I didn’t know what he wanted for pleasure was another notch in his porn playbook. I’m grateful for the anti-pornography dot org and others like yourself revealing this secret world. A secret world, with beautiful women available to ALL men. A lie. A big fat profitable lie.

  3. Dear Vikki,Thank you so much for this brilliantly written, very honest and true depiction of the porn industry. I applaud your bravery in speaking out! Pornography is such a destructive and pervasive force, that not just exploits vulnerable young women,it affects mens and children’s lives.Pornography is in essence, prostitution and harbors innumerable victims who have experienced child sexual abuse and/or rape. Are drug and/or alcohol dependent or have escaped the oppression of a strict and often religious backgrounds.Most sex abuse victims display high-risk sexual behaviors, including self abuse.Also many young girls don’t realize what they are getting into and are enticed by this hypersexualised culture that we live in. Porn is glamorized and celebrated, but it’s far from that. The most popular porn is amateur/aggressive teen/gagging/anal and choking. This is not’Sex’This is legalized sexual offending. No-one can really know what it is,that they are actually viewing. There are many women like myself who was trafficked and forced into pornography at the age of sixteen. There are domestic/partner abuse victims who are forced into pornography. There is revenge and covert pornography etc…I myself would not object to pornography if I could find an ethical pornographic company, in which certain criteria would have to be met, to ensure that no performer was coerced or abused etc. Please see my blog and links here- http://theartofsuzzanblac.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-porn-proposition.html

    Thank you again Vikki for speaking out and helping to combat this highly abusive industry and reclaiming respect for women who have suffered at their despicable,exploitive and abusive hands.

  4. Well done, Vikki, for having the courage to speak the harsh truth about the harms of pornography! Your voice of experience and your wise insights are urgently needed and should be carefully heeded by all. We support your efforts 100%. Please continue! What you are doing is life-saving for all women and girls in the entire world.

  5. Graeme

    Great article. Like many of todays problems, pornography as described above is a symptom of larger issues. The adult or porn companies are meeting a demand and that demand comes from the consumer! They make what their audience will buy and this will not change. At least, not until society as a whole (both men and women)are better educated into the realities of what they are instigating. More in depth exposures of these realities, much like this article presents are paramount. Education rather than castigation.

  6. Shannon Bradley

    A lot female porn stars will state that they feel empowered by starring in a porn. Notice I said porn stars, and not amateurs just doing it for quick money or drugs. But is it degrading? As already stated, porn is geared towards men for the most part. These women are basically *owned* by whoever pays them for whatever they’re told to do.

  7. Celine Carter

    Although I have nothing against porn or people watching it, I find it doesn’t turn me on that much for this exact reason ~ that I find it a bit degrading to women. And a little tacky sometimes.

  8. Leslie Williams

    Porn is one of few industries where the woman is paid more than the male, but it’s extremely humiliating and degrading. I don’t think it’s worth it.

  9. Amanda Roberts

    I didn’t know all the hitting and violence was all real. I always thought it was just an act. I’m honestly in shock and very upset.

  10. Pearl Nguyen

    As a woman from Asia, I couldn’t agree more. If you saw any Asian porn, then you know what I mean. It’s all about violence, women getting raped, tortured, even killed, although it’s just playing dead but it’s still sickening. If that is what men enjoy seeing, then I don’t want anything to do with men, hence why I’m a lesbian.

  11. Emily Wentz

    I’d personally say that porn can be just as dangerous, if not more. Of course we know it’s not realistic, but the desire aspect is just as dangerous and the desires encountered in porn can be just as bad. And I do believe it detrimentally degrades women.

  12. Diana Hewitt

    Porn is detrimental to the way men see women/sex in the same way that rom-coms are detrimental to the way women view men/relationships. Both set unrealistic standards, especially for people with no experience.

    • Porn governs internet traffic stats so it’s ideology is viral and static all at once. The youth know no different. Those of us in our thirties do. I simply feel embarrassed for our gender. I didn’t realise how bad it was until I went through it myself. Some people are nice but my God in the sex industry most just want to use you. As a previous vulnerable person, I was used and abused. The industry is built to own women, to degrade them.

  13. Nicky Bryan

    Sex isn’t intrinsically dirty, immoral, depraved, or degrading. But it can be all of those things, and often is, in the mainstream porn industry. Referring to women by humiliating names as a matter of course is obviously degrading. In general, mainstream pornography makes women out as receptacles, objects, mindless playthings. How could anyone deny that this is degrading?

    • Totally agree. The porn star construct according to masculine domination is grotesque. The identity is one that is despised and desired all at once. The gouging fan, the cameraman and the actor/s having sex with her all know she’s the focus. She’s owned, violated, humiliated, and on the net forever. She’s stuck. This is the Western patriarchy. We got our freedom to vote; we are nearly on the same wage but we’re humiliation personified at the touch of a button.

  14. Sibel Jenkinson

    I believe mainstream pornography is degrading to women and promotes sexual violence. Mainstream meaning that assembly line pornography that they churn out thousands of a month, and especially stuff like Brazzers.
    It’s gotten to a point where it’s not pornographic anymore, it’s grotesque. I don’t feel anyone in their right mind could find it appealing. I feel it depicts women as objects to be degraded, taken, and used, rather than as human beings.

  15. Catherine White

    I would take up an effort to spread my opinion about porn (i.e., don’t like stereotyping or violence or any of the many images we could imagine), but I think it would be wrong to ban or limit the type of porn produced (so long as two adults). Porn like all movies feature these issues and need to be addressed, but I appreciate the freedom of expression demonstrated by these films and all movies in general.

    • Agree with you on freedom of expression absolutely, so how about the balance of visibility and feminine voice in porn. Surely that’s true democracy.

  16. Andrea Mitchell

    It’s always straight men telling us how we have no room to speak up about anything because “at least we don’t treat you as badly as those women over there!”

  17. Franny Pimms

    Well said! In my opinion porn stars are highly respectable women in a hard profession and should be treated with high respect and if any feminist thinks otherwise, they are not a feminist.

    • This comment falls into the sweeping statement category with all due respect. Most porn stars are damaged people who use drugs and are suffering. I’ve known loads.

  18. Kimberley Foulkes

    Such power illustrations that makes you visualise what you exactly mean. I hate that some women have to take all that abuse just because they need that money.

  19. Susanna Milton

    Wow! I can totally see what you mean. This is exactly why I choose erotica over porn.

  20. Melissa Princeton

    You are such a brave woman! Most women in your position would want to hide their past to themselves, and act like they have always been so high and mighty, but you’re like an open book, and this way you are in fact helping so many women by sharing your experiences good and bad. Thank you!

  21. Sarah Uibel

    The images in this article are incredibly powerful. I suggest you continue to push the envelope in order to get the message across. One of your best articles ever Urbanette, bravo!

  22. Jessica Carlson

    Such a heavy reading. So many things are playing in my mind, I can’t seem to put the words coherently together and express my thoughts. What the author mentioned in this article were mostly in the context of a developed country. I can’t begin to fathom what it could be like in developing countries where societies are highly patriarchal and the laws gender-biased. It may be severe in those countries, but even in the developed countries, women working in this industry may not feel any better.

    There was this petition sent to the UN sometime in 2014. The petition asked the UN to not document women working in prostitution as sex workers but as prostituted women. One contention is that no woman would ever voluntarily choose sex work. If given the choice, they would have opted for an alternative. Survival strategies are not a choice but an absence of choice.

    Another contention is that one should never call exploitation a work, and prostitution is reeking of abuse and exploitation. Further, it is in conflict with the UN standard definition of what acceptable livelihood and labor is.

    The petition also stated that most of human trafficking victims ends up working in prostitution. They are in this kind of living because their vulnerabilities were taken advantage of to seduce, trick, coerce or force them into prostitution.

    The above contentions were based on the context of third-world countries. But I think it is also true even in our country. Women in pornography are as much as abused and exploited as the rest. It’s even more alarming because the exploitation does not stop after the act was done. It is recorded and exchanged. It is uploaded in the internet for more people to view. Whatever goes inside the internet is forever.

    In this age of the internet, exploitation has become more convenient. But in this age of information technology, we may be able to put a stop on the exploitation as well. It has been 200 years since the sacred struggle started. Until we have reached equality… the work, the movement, the fight continues.

    • Kevin

      It goes without saying that main consumers of porn are men. However most men aren’t aware that women in porn are being exploited. There is the illusion created by the porn industry, that the women on camera love what they’re doing and feel empowered by doing it. Men easily believe this fiction because they identify with the enjoyment and because a contrary perspective is rarely available. As a man, my opinion is that if the pain and degradation suffered by so many women in the porn industry was exposed more and more, it would change a lot of men’s hearts about watching porn. Men need to be educated. Vikki’s article does that and does it very well, but there needs to be more.

      • Jessica Carlson

        Totally agree with you Kevin. This is a continuing process and it should all start with realizations, which should stem from awareness and education.

        Those who watch porn would totally flip if it’s their loved ones they would be seeing. But it would be okay if it’s a total stranger. But regardless of who the involved are, porn is a clear violation on the subject’s rights. And the violators are not just those who are doing the act or producing, but includes all those who are watching it. For as long as there’s clear demand for this kind of services, the industry will continue. The porn industry is a purely market-driven phenomenon, and it will continue to prevail unless there’s external force stopping it.

        For us who have seen porn as a gross violation of women’s rights (or of men’s, LGBT’s, and children’sw), our actions shouldn’t just stop with the discovering and the realization. It should issue into an action. We can use the internet as well to disseminate information and awareness. Decreasing the demand from the consumer side, and decreasing supply through government intervention, would surely make a huge (negative) impact in this industry.

        • Yes, we should push this further. We shouldn’t stop here. I think new laws should come into effect. For a start, women who act in porn should after a certain amount of time be allowed to have their images removed, so they are freed to move on. Secondly, their should be greater screening for the vulnerable, that’s mental illness, emotional disorders, and generally those who really shouldn’t be partaking in porn. Thirdly, the women as fodder representation needs total and complete regulation so as to avoid morbid gendered-abusive oppression via the genre.

          • Kevin

            Is there a possibility for legislation like that in the UK? Here in the states, I don’t see it happening. Sadly, no one cares that much. Plus there is a lobby of women in porn who will aggressively argue against such legislation while denying it’s dangers.

          • Kevin, who is the ‘no one cares’ exactly? I don’t understand that comment. Clearly people do just from this thread. This is a sample of a much bigger consensus, trust me.

  23. Lana Urie

    Men should be self critical about their hatred against women to overcome their destructive emotions and acts.

    • I agree that the ubiquitous degradation of women is a symptom of embryonic spiritual attainment; a by- product of insecurity felt collectively by the production companies who are generally male.

  24. Kaitlyn Barrett

    Porn is degrading to any human being despite their gender. That article is so on point! Good to read it from the point of view of a woman who was there, but managed to make such a respectable woman out of herself! I really admire how you turned your life around for the greater! 🙂

    • Thank you for this. I still feel scarred to this day. It’s my distancing from that industry via education that’s piecing me back together. It’s anti-women, no question.

  25. Marina Henderson

    There is porn and porn. Porn as the one described in the blog you posted is like rape, they hurt women and therefore is denigrating. As a woman watching these films is painful; you even can see that women are not enjoying it (and sometimes even suffering) and this is denigrating. But there are few porn films that represent the sexual act as a mutual enjoyment of both parties, these ones are not denigrating, because the woman is enjoying it and is not being treated savagely, therefore it is erotic.

  26. Julia MacLean

    I think that porn in general has a tendency to degrade women by depicting them as pieces of meat and objects to be dominated. I also think that it makes real sex dis-functional when men try to play these roles out.

    • Kevin

      I agree with your comment, especially that it makes real sex dysfunctional. As a man, I can tell you from experience that one of the reasons why I stopped watching porn was because it warped my sense of how sex should be with my partner. Sex based on what I saw in a porn video. Also I realized that I was objectifying almost all of the women that I saw anywhere on any given day. I like to think of myself as a self-aware individual, so fortunately I was able to recognize this problem in my attitude and thinking, and do something about it, which was stop watching porn.

  27. Sydney Nowak

    Porn doesn’t degrade only and only women. Men get their share of degrading too. Femdom porn is very very very popular among both men and women porn fans. Let’s not forget about that.

  28. Colleen Frasier

    the entire idea behind porn made for men is to let them think that women like and enjoy the most depraved acts. Thats the idea; “A woman will enjoy it, no matter what it is, she will eat it up or whatever.” Thats the point. Real woman centered porn is not easy to get/see, not much made, real women enjoying sex with a partner who respects them is seen as a thing that won’t sell. Unfair.

  29. What a great article!!! And I really admire the author for having the courage to tell her story!

  30. Betty O'Leary

    Porn cements the idea of female submissiveness, giving chauvinists everywhere confirmation of their anachronistic views. I hate that!

  31. Olivia Peterson

    99% of the straight porn degrade women!

  32. Another inspiring article from Urbanette! Okay I get it, sex cells and it’s the reason why women are “often” used in an “objectified” manner… they are often portrayed sexually… BUT society should “start” understanding that there is more to a woman than her body… there is a mind that thinks and a heart that feels… I just feel sad that little girls nowadays are being exposed to the pressure of “being sexy” and “experienced” but still looking innocent… Seriously, when can we expect change?! Sigh….

  33. Danielle Wilson

    Good article. Real eye opener.

  34. Sabrina Wellington

    I’m sorry that you had to go all through that.

  35. What a great article! An eye opener! Feminism is something that should be taught to “everyone.” As Cheris Kramerae said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” Self-respect and the ability to distinguish oppressors are keys to a “better change.”

  36. I’m alarmed and worried! I have a daughter and I’m afraid of these things (truths) for her 🙁 Really, I need to guide her more! Knowing and understanding self-worth is very important!

    • Gabrielle Williams

      Being a mom at these days is really challenging. As much as possible, I try my best not to let my daughter watch “visual genre” that can “infect” her young mind. I don’t want her to grow up insecure because of what she sees from media. Motherly guidance is REALLY needed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *