Bettie Page, And the Rage of All Flesh
In the latest issue of Society (March/April 2006), sociologist Ronald Weitzer writes about the current moral crusade against prostitution that has joined conservative Christians and radical feminists in common cause. In April, The Notorious Bettie Page will be released in theaters, a film about the famous 1950s sexy pin-up model who disappeared at the height of her fame in 1957, became religious, went insane, and stabbed a married couple who lived next door to her trailer in 1979, and, after being released from a mental institution, stabbed an elderly woman for whom she was working as a housekeeper. The second attack kept in her in a mental institution until the early 1990s. It is theorized that these attacks, clearly the work of a paranoid schizophrenic, was generated by repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father. The current crusade against “sex slavery,” as the reformers call it, and the Page biopic represent the Janusfaced attitude our society has about commercial sex. This is true even if the Page movie is a cautionary tale of some sort. After all, like all exploitation movies, both high brow and low class, sensationalism precedes the lesson; indeed, sensationalism is necessary to get an audience for the lesson.
Weitzer has his doubts about the global crusade, spearheaded by American reformers and a conservative, Republican-dominated U.S. government. He feels that attempts to stamp out prostitution, Prohibition-style, is wrong-headed because it disregards the fact that many women volunteer for this sort of work (the radical feminists insist that volunteering for this work is not cognitively or psychologically possible), actually prefer it to other forms of work that may be available to them, and can be safeguarded in this profession through legalization. He cites the examples of the Netherlands, Nevada, Australia, and New Zealand as places where legalization seems to safeguard the women and, in fact, discourages trafficking. He also writes that the alarming statistics used by the reformers are largely unsubstantiated and probably fictitious, made to create public outrage in order to raise funds: “The reality is that there are no reliable statistics on the scope of the problem. Even ballpark estimates are problematic, given the hidden nature of the illegal sex trade” (italics original).
I have no idea if Weitzer is right about dealing with the problem of prostitution; although, after having spent a year working in the municipal court system in Philadelphia about thirty years ago and meeting a number of prostitutes as well as reading a ton of vice cop reports, I became convinced that legalization was the only sensible alternative. Catching people in sex crimes requires virtually that vice cops must entice the person to do it.
Moreover, most of the women who were prostitutes who were arrested worked the streets. They were mostly drug addicts, diseased, and did not constitute the majority of women who did this for a living, most of whom worked in houses, massage parlors, and the like. Prostitution is a crime that can only be, at best, poorly policed, and usually at a disadvantage to the women themselves. If one were to have a rigidly enforced Prohibition
of prostitution, it would involve not only great expense in augmenting police forces but a huge government intervention in the private lives of citizens.
Full article link to PDF file:
I like his conclusion...
The conclusion sums it up well:
"What I dislike about the United States is our hypocrisy about sex. We deplore it and yet cannot sell anything without it. We see it as sin and as liberation, dirt and fulfillment. We have had several autobiographies by female porn stars come out in the last few years, by Traci Lords, Jenna Jameson, and others. Perhaps looking back over the years of the publication of such books tells us something about the various conflicting attitudes we take about sex and women: Tina Russell, a porn star of the 1970s, is credited with the first autobiography by someone in that line of work, called Porno Star, a loopy narrative about the early days of the porn industry when free love was good for a failed repressive society. Linda Lovelace, probably the most famous porn star before Jameson, wrote Ordeal in the early 1980s, a feminist exposÚ of the industry that was filled with violent male creeps that forced women to be raped by dogs (as she claimed she was), among other things. Finally, last year, Jameson published the longest, most detailed look at the life of a porn star, entitled How To…Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale. Among the bull-slinging here is gossip about Hollywood and rock stars, an inside look at the stripper and nude-photo industries (apparently feeders for porn), an inside look at the porn film industry, tips about stripping, and having anal and oral sex. But beneath it all is a woman who wants true love (the book ends with her marriage) and who wants to control her business interests. Jameson, in the book, becomes a kind of meta-woman: bitch, whore, victim (she was raped when young and she was also a meth addict), dominatrix, feminist, traditionalist, survivor. The range and nature of these books sum up our attitude of fascination and disgust with sex vividly and compellingly. I suppose in the end the only thing that we can say about sex is that we’ve gotta have it because we love it, but we hate that we do."
Interesting that an article about prostitution makes no mention of Xaviera Hollander - "The Happy Hooker" (1971) and a long list of follow-up books by Ms Hollander.
If interested go to:
The Happy Hooker
Originally Posted by eastender
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