Friday, 12 October 2012

Pimps, hoes and the university campus

On Tuesday, I had the always dubious pleasure of being invited on to BBC Bristol to discuss with their Breakfast Show team the forthcoming ‘Pimps and Hoes’ party organised for the city’s students by Carnage. 

Anyone with a glancing familiarity with this blog can imagine my reaction to Pimps and Hoes parties, a frankly pathetic attempt to glamorise an “industry” that, globally, is responsible for the trafficking, rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of women (a claim that Steve LeFevre disputed but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and deciding that he didn’t understand I was talking global figures). If we just take trafficking into the sex industry as one example, according to Stop the Traffik up to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked over international borders each year – 80% of which are women and girls – and many of whom will be trafficked into the sex industry. These men, women and children will be raped every day.  Further, a study quoted in The Equality Illusion found that of a survey 1500-ish deaths of women in prostitution in the US, 50% were as a result of homicide. A study quoted in the same book in Canada found that 79% of women asked had been raped. 

So yes, my argument on the radio was that Pimps and Hoes parties glamorise an industry that fundamentally hurts all women and gender equality. An industry where, in my own city where this party will take place, a woman was gang raped by ‘punters’, chucked off a building and left for dead, and she still had a fight on her hands to get criminal compensation because she was seen as just a prostitute, and juries don’t understand that women in prostitution have the right to consent and bodily autonomy too. The right to live free from violence. 

I had a lot I wanted to say on the radio about pimps and their often violent attitudes towards women, but the discussion veered more into whether it was the party-goers’ choice to wear skimpy clothes on a night out. Which of course it is. I couldn’t care less about what women wear when they go partying. What I care about is the normalisation of sex industry, which the bandying around of words like pimps and hoes as something fun and glam does.

But it did make me think a little bit about what exactly the attendees would be wearing – particularly the men. What do they think pimps wear? Because, the reality? Those gangs in Rochdale and Derby? They’re pimps. It’s not sharp suits and trilby hats. It’s ill-fitting jeans and anoraks, worn by men who sexually exploit women and girls for profit. There’s nothing cool here. There’s nothing aspirational and desirable. There’s that guy from Punternet, complaining because the woman he bought didn’t seem to find him attractive, didn’t seem to want to have sex with him. Is that really who you want to identify with, to dress up as on a night out? 

The Pimps and Hoes party seem to be part of increasingly sexist and misogynistic entertainment on university campuses. 

Now, I was at university in London between 2003-2006 and I honestly don’t know if it was the same back then. My university social life consisted of three-day long house parties, drinking in the local pub and going clubbing at drum n bass nights. Me and my friends drank at the union but being a bit of a party snob, I would never go to the Union Party Nights which seemed to be boring people dressing up and doing belly-button shots. I know there was a ‘chav’ party which outraged me and my friends, and I think there might have been a Playboy night. I did go to a party in Oxford where men and women were dressed in their underwear (not a pleasant experience, I left when a bloke in just y-fronts started trying to grind-dance with me) (FTR I didn’t just wear my underwear, I wore a short knitted black dress). 

So perhaps it was the same back then, I just wasn’t interested to see it. 

But whether it’s new or old, Pimps and Hoes parties are just one aspect of campus social life misogyny. This week I’ve also been reading about Slags and Drags parties, and CEO and Corporate Hoes gatherings. All of these parties use sexist and degrading language to identify the women who attend. All of them rely on men keeping their clothes on, whilst their women counterparts have to take theirs off. 

There’s something I find particularly chilling about the CEOs and Corporate Hoes party. Because the message is clear – despite girls doing great at school, despite young women doing well at university, the men still get to be bosses. It doesn’t matter how fantastic her analysis of Milton’s depiction of God, the woman shouldn’t aspire to CEO, she should just be a hoe. 

And when you consider how unequal gender representation is on company boards, and the prevalence of business deals done in strip clubs, this kind of party sets a depressing tone for how women aspiring to be big in business will be treated. We don’t have the power. The man will be the boss, and keep his clothes on. The women will be the hoe, and take her clothes off. 

I find it unutterably depressing that in 2012 student parties are upholding and strengthening the idea of sexism in the city in the guise of “fun”. 

Another uni-life phenomena doing the rounds at the moment is known as ‘slut dropping’. Now, to be clear, there’s only one example of this actually known, so it might not be a phenomena so much as a group of total dickstands who hate women being allowed driving licenses. But one thing I noticed about slut dropping, that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere, is that it’s an abuse taken straight from a strand of porn, where men pick up a woman, have sex with her and then dump her miles from no-where. I don’t think the slut dropping incident involved sex, but it does involve the humiliation and cruelty that makes that porn series so popular. 

And at its core, that’s what so much of this horrible, misogynistic behaviour is about. It’s humiliating and shaming women, characterising us as hoes and sluts whilst men get to emulate those with power. It’s the lads at Unilad writing hideous little articles about why you should try and have sex with a ‘slut’ because she’ll be good, but don’t forget she’s a ‘slut’ and so is therefore disgusting and dirty. 

All of this disturbing misogyny is existing in the context of young men growing up thinking that no doesn’t mean no, and neither does being pushed away, or a girl crying, or a girl being asleep.  It’s existing in a world where 1 in 7 women students report experiencing sexual assault and violence. 

So, hoes, slags, sluts and more hoes. It isn’t a pretty picture is it? 

University is a wonderful time of life. It’s a time when you learn a lot about yourself, and the world, and that six pints on no food isn’t the best diet for getting to a 10am lecture the following day. But this awful misogyny and violence is not what university should be about. It’s not acceptable that university life teaches women that whilst her male housemates can aspire to be CEOs, she can only aspire to be a corporate hoe. It’s not acceptable to pretend that a pimp is a cool thing to want to be, when the reality is that a pimp beats up women in order to intimidate them into making him more money. It’s not acceptable to tell young women that the best thing they can be is a hoe. 

And it’s not acceptable to silence the millions of women in the so-called sex industry, the women who are treated violently by pimps and clients, by making-believe that the way they are treated is something cool. It is, quite frankly, pathetic. 

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