Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Flowers & Candy

You can see a lot of stuff on British TV that would be considered too risque or offensive for Canadian TV. The first show that jumps to mind is a supposedly medical show called "Embarrassing Bodies." I have never been able to watch more than five minutes of this. It is appalling.

There are a lot of bare breasts on British TV. In fact, I am so used to this that it didn't strike me until later than maybe I shouldn't have watched "Sex, Lies and Rinsing Guys" with my husband. This was a documentary about British women who charm men into buying them expensive stuff, or paying their bills, simply by asking. And two of the women were "glamour models", which is a British euphemism for women who pose topless for sexy pictures, and one was an exotic dancer. In a few scenes, viewers are invited to admire the sexy photos of the prettiest, Danica, as Danica admires them herself. Sorry, B.A.

The show is edited and scripted to make these women look like extremely pathetic and hard-hearted gold-diggers. And maybe they are. It is hard to defend women who go out looking for men to buy them stuff, especially when, after the men buy them stuff, two of them laugh scornfully at the men and shrug contemptuously at the idea that the men might expect favours in exchange. (Danica, who operates from some sort of business ethic, is a lot more respectful of her fans.) The show calls these women "rinsers", but I think the word "grifter" applies. At any rate, the creators of "Sex, Lies and Rinsing Guys" are exploiting these women, just as these women exploit men.

One typical online comment about the rinsers is that they are worse than prostitutes because prostitutes give something back. I can think of some really good retorts to this, but that is not important for this post. What is important to this post is the fact that many men do expect sexual favours in exchange for their gifts.

And this is why women who do not practise prostitution have always been careful about the presents they have been offered by men. When I was living in my parents' house, my mother's rule after I was 14 was that I was allowed to accept only flowers, candy and trinkets from boys. Later she amended this to books. I could also accept books.

Flowers, candy, trinkets, books.

I broke this rule in my early twenties and accepted a pair of opera length gloves. I was really, really sorry about this later because it began a new stage in a relationship with someone who wanted to control what I wore and how I acted. Sometimes gloves--e.g. short ones--are just gloves, but sometimes they are a lot more sexually charged than the average NCG might think.

Come to think of it, you can probably tell a lot about a man by the presents he gives (or tries to give) you. Woolly panda because you just came home from China--aww... Black leather boots with 45 buckles--eek! Ten carat gold chain with your name on it--aww... Diamond bracelet from Tiffany's--hold on there, buster. Where do you see this relationship going? Unless marriage is on the cards, that Tiffany's bracelet may have just too high a price tag.

One nasty aspect of hip-hop culture is perpetual groaning about the women who take all of the singers' money. I do not quite understand this because it is not like women slip singers knock-out drops and steal their wallets. Obviously, for whatever reason, either to feel magnanimous or in the hopes of getting sex or out of sincere affection, men who subscribe to a hip-hop way of life buy women stuff and the women say, "Thanks!" I am not sure why the women should be blamed for this, especially if they come from a deeply impoverished culture, where it's every man or woman for him or herself.

However, there it is. Male generosity, unless absolutely disinterested, is too often followed by "Bitch stole my money!", which is one really, really good contemporary reason not to accept expensive presents from men.

Another good reason, which B.A. and I discussed this morning, is that it is really bad for a woman's character to see men predominantly as present-givers. You can see the results etched into the women of "Sex, Lies and Rinsing Guys", particularly when they are denigrating the men who give them stuff.

I don't know what it says about me that as I write I keep thinking, "But I love presents!" I also love shopping scenes in films. I think they are very exciting, and I love window-shopping. When in last night's show one of the women tries on a pair of neon orange Jimmy Choos, I felt a keen desire to possess them, even though I never wear neon orange. What on earth is this impulse?

I think it might have come from all the fashion magazines I've read, and all the brilliantly shot advertisements on television, and all the artfully arranged shop windows. Somehow all those things together have invested objects and names with a magic power. Harry Potter has a cloak of invisibility, and I have Chanel No. 5. Hop O' My Thumb has seven-league boots, and I have brown suede boots from a fancy Edinburgh shop. (N.B. They were on sale.)

("Excuse me," said a young woman at my gate in Toronto's Pearson Airport. "May I ask where you got those boots?")

Anyway, the glamour of status objects is a false religion, and Nice Catholic Girls should do our darnedest not to get sucked in. Oh, and I suppose we should also slap down all men who suggest that we do subscribe to the mercenary point of view. Most of us do not.


healthily sanguine said...

I feel you are under a misapprehension about reality tv: namely, that it represents reality. I know you are all about staying grounded in reality, so I thought I might point that out. ;)

healthily sanguine said...

On the other hand, that comment about long gloves is rather insightful . . .

Jam said...

When my brother was 17 or 18 he wanted to buy his girlfriend a gold heart necklace from WalMart for Christmas, which scandalized my mom. (Dad didn't see anything to object to, as long as my brother had the money.) Mom thought jewelry, and particularly jewelry with pretensions to be "fine" jewelry, was only a gift for engaged couples to exchange.

Seraphic said...

It wasn't reality TV! It was a documentary about three women. It claimed to be talking about a movement, but I doubt that.

My mother would probably have categorized Walmart gold heart necklace as trinket and therefore okay.

A whole other issue is what you can accept from male friends when you are married, which I only add now in case they are reading my blog, when they know they shouldn't be, to freak them out. ;-)