Erotica, Objectification — Thoughts on Preston Street

Worker gives final dressing to a piece of new sidewalk on Preston.

A few months ago I read a 1980’s book by Camile Paglia. In it, she thought construction workers would never stop whistling or hooting at passing females. In Camile’s mind, this was good; feminists who objected to this behaviour were bad/deluded.

This year I have noticed how well trained construction workers along Preston have been. They are polite and helpful to pedestrians, especially the elderly. They stop moving big intimidating pieces of equipment when we approach. They do not hoot nor holler at women or school girls in kilts. They make construction sites passable.

I was walking along the gravel bed that will someday be a sidewalk, about 30′ behind a very fashionably dressed woman (skirt, heels, a real “looker”) when a parked car beside her flashed its lights and tooted its horn. A few seconds later, the next car in the row did the same. I watched more closely, and as the woman approached the next pickup truck it too “tooted” and batted its eyes. I glanced back, and there was a cluster of workers, hands in pockets, enjoying the scenery. Expression via remote control.

Was Camile right? The less subtle behaviour has been replaced by new expressions. The 80’s (and 90’s)  was full of crude political correctness and behavioural modification attempts. Awareness of women-as-object has forever shaped my consciousness and how I perceive what I read or see. We are shaped by the environment we mature in. (And it is of course an ongoing process).

I recently read two books by West Wellington author Sharon Page. These are best selling books (they are available in the Library too) in the fast-growing “women’s erotica” category: romances with sex. Lots of it. Graphic. They contain the usual themes previously lamented by feminists in the previous generation’s criticism of male-oriented “porn”: bondage, coercion, exhibitionism, first time, reluctance, teacher-pupil, etc, but with much of the focus directed at male anatomy and functions. The romance element adds a good veneer of respectibility, so they don’t feel “dirty” .

So who wins? Camile wanted construction men to notice women, and they still do. The “noticing” is more refined. Do female construction workers ogle male pedestrians and cyclists? — I never noticed. Fem-lib wanted objectification of women ended, and we’ve come a long way, baby.  And now best-sellers celebrate men as sex objects. Romance glues it all together.