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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Artless Kissing Spectacle Places Humor In Dangerous Context

Author: Gillian Wood

As a friend of a girl who has been prostituted against her will, I had to walk out of "The Art of Kissing" show when master of ceremonies Michael Christian so casually and bluntly insinuated that "the majority of men prefer bad girls. Pay her if you have to, like a prostitute." As a matter of fact, he is right on target. The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that 1 percent of American women are involved in prostitution (the majority not by free choice as most of us would understand it), while according to the Kinsey report on sexual behavior, 69 percent of males admit to buying sex (Kenneth Cauthen, 1999). This is an overwhelming number of men exploiting the most vulnerable women in our country. To try and counter-argue that most prostitutes are not exploited and vulnerable is both nauseating and factually incorrect. My problem with this comment made by Mr. Christian is that he took a very real, serious issue that affects many of us and made it into a joke.

He also made other suggestive comments such as "Oh, Daddy" (a reference that triggers incest for many) and "80 percent of women prefer men who do bad things to them." (What kind of sample did he use?!) Considering that between a quarter and a third of women are battered in their homes by men and that 38 percent of girls are sexually molested inside or outside of their families (Catharine A. MacKinnon, 1987), this does not strike me as something about which to joke. There were probably many women in the audience who may have been taken aback by these issues portrayed in such jest. I was one of them.

It is not the humor itself that is the problem, nor is it that people cannot tell the difference between humor and seriousness. It is that here the humor was placed in a dangerous context. There are too many people in the world and on this campus who have to deal with abuse and its repercussions every day of their lives. It is utterly appalling to have the seriousness of such crimes trivialized and thrown back in the face of its victims time and again. Is not once enough?

The words stated by this man seeped into the ears of everyone who was there. Whether people recognize their own desensitization or not, every time violence against women is presented in such a way, as comical and acceptable, especially without objection (which was attempted but silenced!), it is reinforced. By joking about this type of violence and prostitution in such a humorous and entertaining context as was seen Saturday evening, he desensitized people to these very real issues, and desensitization leads to inaction, if not more drastic repercussions. If you were not taken aback by such comments as these, you live in a protective world where ignorance is bliss and you are lucky. If you were offended by these comments, I am truly sorry that you had to be reminded … again. It should not be so.

If no one speaks out, if no one challenges or protests, nothing will ever change and society will go on, driven by the 'moral majority' and its sexist, racist, heterosexist, classist rhetoric and values. I take a lot of crap from friends and enemies alike for being a radical feminist, but it is worth it to me. If it makes one girl feel safer in this world, if it means one survivor's shattered heart can find solace in what I have to offer; if I can un-blind some eyes and un-deaf some ears along the way, if it means one more gentle-man or one less hurt woman, then it is worth it to me.

On behalf of the other concerned women and men offended by comments made in the show and on behalf of all of the women on campus who have been hurt and silenced either by fear, shame or policy, I am speaking out. You are not alone. Silence is the voice of complicity, folks. You are either part of the solution, or you are part of the problem. There is no in between.