Friday, 23 March 2007

Encounters of the debatable kind

I was in the gym just now and while on the cross-trainer I was recalling a conversation I had with a friend last night, and I suddenly saw a different side to it. I got so distracted thinking about it that I then managed to knock myself across the knees on the rowing machine. Twice. You can't say I don't take this stuff seriously!

So the other night we were in an 'alternative' club which I hadn't been to before. The fact that it's 'alternative' basically means that the music is more Fall Out Boy than Five, there's more black clothing, it's darker and dingier than your average club, and there's less lipgloss when you look around. I feel at home! The alternative nature tends to also mean, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, that it's a bit less touchy-feely. Which can only be a good thing. So I was there, after we'd been there a while, dancing with this guy. And I'm aware of my mate dancing near us, and she's obviously looking over to check I'm alright or whether I want her to interrupt. We were joking about this last night, saying we should work out a secret signal to say "yes I'm ok" or "no, come and drag me away". I mean, I'm perfectly capable of walking away from someone when I want to go back to dancing with my friends (and as a rule this takes about 2 minutes to happen) but it doesn't mean that you don't meet guys - usually at the bar, bless 'em - that are a bit persistent.

The thing which occurred to me earlier was that I can't imagine your average bloke going through the same process. Sure, I've seen girls drunkenly throwing themselves around, and it isn't pretty. But the impression you get is that power on the dancefloor is the male prerogative. To take a more extreme example, there certainly are some men that will go up to two women at the bar, or whatever, and offer them money to kiss. But I have never ever seen or heard of a woman going up to two men and offering them money for the same reason. Because that's not what we do in society, is it? In prostitution, where money is offered for sexual favours, 'prostitute' is an unmarked term for a female. 'Male prostitute' is the marked term for a man. This is significant in linguistics, because it's one way that inequality is embedded in language without us realising - if someone says something about a prostitute, you will tend to assume it's a woman that's being referred to. Granted, I believe there are more females in prostitution overall. And, whether they come to prostitution through trafficking or not, I can only assume that the reason there are more women involved than men is because there is more demand for them. Indeed, to take a current example about the 2012 Olympics, the BBC paraphrase the Home Office in this article as saying that "An influx of young male sports fans, such as happened during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, could see a rise in demand for prostitutes".

I know it's a bit of a stretch of imagination to compare clubbing culture to prostitution, and obviously I'm aware that plenty of couples meet in clubs and it's all happily ever after. And my night out never gets spoiled by a bloke...I'm hardly suggesting that I can personally relate to the pressure or environment that prostitutes face! It's just that I've never really thought about it so much before. I mean, a guy coming onto a girl in a club isn't noticeable. But a girl making a move on a guy is a lot more likely to get comments about it.

Pffft, I just thought I'd have my little debate with myself on this one! I should probably add that student culture is always a bit of a world of its own. And I'm not protesting at people being able to openly admit that they're attracted to each other. It didn't work for the Victorians so I'm not suggesting it will now. But, you know, it just feels a bit one sided these days. And, to be honest, a bit more grace and respect all round wouldn't go amiss. It feels a bit trite to moan about guys making moves on girls, and I know that not all of them are hoping to get sex out of it. But I feel that it's a relatively harmless level in a bigger scale of things. Abusive relationships. Date rape. Prostitution. Trafficking women. Trafficking children, for that matter. One blog that I read recently, which I sadly can't find the link to, talked about the problems that come up in date rape cases because the (typically female) victim may have consented to one sexual act but not another. There is controversy over this, with the courts often seeming to imply that consenting to one act means that the other must have also been consented to. Or, put differently, that saying 'yes' to one act means that the woman is expected to be happy with another. The feminist blogging circuit understandably argues that this is simply not how relationships work, and a woman should not have her rape case thrown out because she consented to some level of foreplay and then wanted to stop there.

Of course, there is a flip side to everything. Women manipulate men into things too. Women domestically abuse their husbands too. We know that. But, as far as I'm aware, the stats say that it is women that bear the brunt of these kinds of problems. And anyway, it shouldn't be happening to anyone, regardless of gender, age etc. This inequality business makes me want to change things, but until I figure out how to I can at least articulate my feelings, right? Good good.

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Listening to: Ta-Dah - Scissor Sisters
About to: Cook chicken with chopped tomatoes, red pepper, peas and rice
Next task after that: Find my Charmander on Pokemon Yellow

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