Last year, I went to visit the Susan B. Anthony house and mused afterwards about what Susan B. Anthony might have said about the reality show, “The Bachelor”, in which women basically throw themselves at a man in the hopes he’ll pick them to be his wife. I likened it to emotional prostitution and pondered the idea that maybe women have forgotten the battle their foremothers fought for equality and respect.
Yes, women in America now have the right to educate themselves, prosper, and express themselves in ways women 100 years ago could only dream about. But have we taken those rights to such an extreme that we’ve enslaved ourselves to a celebrity driven/sexuality saturated culture?
I bring this up again because I saw a story in today’s entertainment headlines that makes me think yet again that we women have misused our freedom and set women’s rights back a few steps.
This summer, VH1 premiered a series called “Dating Naked”. The premise, according to a press release: “Do you find love easier when you truly have nothing to hide?”
This season a rotating group of frustrated singles answered the show’s challenge to “bare it all” in the quest for love. After embarking on a series of blind dates, twelve people currently consider themselves “in a relationship” with someone they met on the show … Filmed in a remote exotic locale, each close-ended episode follows a man and a woman both going on three naked dates, including two with other suitors and one with each other.
It is an interesting premise, to consider what would happen if two people were left to woo each other without the material trappings of technology and social conventions. But when you take away the clothing? There are going to be problems.
Today, People.com reports that “Dating Naked” cast member Jessie Nizewitz is suing Viacom, the parent company of VH1 and the channel that airs the show, for $10 million in damages after the producers allegedly failed to blur out a shot of Nizewitz’s crotch.
In other words, the naked contestant on a televised naked dating show is upset because she was shown … well, naked.
In a story in the New York Post, Nizewitz also laments that the show cost her a potential relationship with a man she’d been seeing for a month.
“He never called me again after the show aired. I would have hoped we could have had a long-term relationship. He was employed, Jewish, in his 30s and that’s pretty much ideal,” Nizewitz said.
So here’s the question.
What expectation of privacy, outside of the FCC regulations, should one reasonably expect when one willingly becomes a contestant on a reality show like this? Yes, the failure to blur her naked fanny may be a violation of FCC regulations and maybe even her contract, but is it really any more embarrassing than romping around naked in front of cast and crew? There’s even an image in various media outlets in which Nizewitz appears to be letting her date rub her naked breasts with mud. I don’t know many men of integrity who would tolerate that kind of behavior in a woman they were interested in long term.
This isn’t sex trafficking. This isn’t slavery. No one held a gun to her head and told her to strip down for the amusement of television viewers. So where is the line between sexual freedom and exploitation when a woman chooses to put herself in such an exploitive situation? Who is actually causing damage to her reputation? Are women selling themselves out in search of a love that’s built on shifting sand? (In this case, literally shifting sand; Nizewitz and her date are shown wrestling naked on the beach.)
Susan B. Anthony and the legion of suffragists fought for equality for women. Equal pay. The right to own property, vote, serve on a jury, defend themselves in their own court cases, participate fully and equally in all forms of life, government, business and community. And yes they fought for sexual freedom.
They fought for respect, because they respected themselves.
Are women today honoring that fight? Do women respect themselves? Do they act in a manner that demands respect from others?
Yes, we have freedom as women and that includes sexual freedom – to date, to explore our sexuality as we see fit for us, and yes, appear naked on television. But might we not consider that some restraint imposed on ourselves by ourselves – not forced on us by men – is better way to respect that freedom? A better way to meet a man worthy of our affections? And not just be equal to men but rise about the minimum bar set for us by men?
What would Susan B. Anthony say about “Dating Naked”?
Related post: What Would Susan B. Say: “The Bachelor”
This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.