Friday, May 28, 2010

I just read a post on Jezebel, Why the Kendra Wilkinson Sex Tape Should Make You Angry, and I definitely am upset. I have never seen any of Kendra Wilkinson's tv shows, and have no desire to view the tape in question, but I have felt a bit of a kinship with her over the last year or so because we had babies around the same time, and I would see her pregnant belly on the magazine racks growing at about the same rate as mine. Even if we didn't have this connection, though, I would still feel for her right now. I know there is some speculation that she was complicit in leaking the tape to the public, but it's hard to believe that after reading about its contents.

Supposedly in the tape, Kendra doesn't want to be filmed. She asks her partner several times to turn off the camera, tries to push it away, but he persists. His obvious disregard for her concerns, his need to put his desires before her own, is deeply troubling to me. In my novel Delta Girls, something quite similar happens. One of my characters is 18 and in her first serious relationship; her partner pulls out a video camera, which makes her incredibly nervous, but she goes with it because she feels pressured, and thinks that she needs to do whatever her partner wants in order to "keep" him. Some of the footage he takes later comes back to haunt her in ways she never could have anticipated.

As the author on Jezebel writes:
This isn't a sex tape, really. It's that thing we talk about that happens to our young women. That thing that we, as grown-ups, write about and research incessantly and condemn broadly, but don't remember so vividly. It's right here on video.

It reminds me to some extent of the Paris Hilton sex tape, but even more so here. It's that space where young women have discovered and perfected their sexuality and its value, but haven't yet figured out how it's empowering. They just know that it's something people want from them; it's something people expect from them. Something young men expect from them; something, perhaps, that young men haven't learned how to ask for politely. It's uncomfortable and new and everybody's learning, and what happens, more often than not, is that the male partner's desires come first and more forcefully, and the young woman is disrespected and disempowered and left with a sense that she's less valuable and less capable of demanding respect and control than her male counterpart - a sense than lingers into her twenties and beyond, even though she might not recognize it as such.

You should not be turned on by this. You should be pissed off.

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