Rebecca Watson over at skepchick has done a 180 degree switch and now doesn’t think women should pose nude or semi-nude in calendars anymore. She lists several reasons for her switch and I don’t think any of them are strong arguments. Hemant Mehta over at FreindlyAtheist asserts that, “It’s possible to rebut individual points, but the overall idea still stands.” I disagree and so while I will rebut a few of the individual points, I want to stay focused on the overall idea.
I get why someone wouldn’t want to pose in these calendars and if anyone were putting pressure on people to do so, those applying the pressure would definitely be wrong. But that isn’t the issue here. My issue is with people telling other people what they should or shouldn’t do with their bodies. That crosses the line. Don’t do that!
If a guy sees a woman dressed in a provocative outfit or no outfit at all, and then that guy gropes or harasses that woman, it is not her fault; it is his fault. Posing in a calendar or dressing in any particular outfit or no outfit isn’t “asking” for anything. Expressing one’s sexuality is not an open invitation to be mistreated… ever! That is the whole point of slutwalk and it is a really good point which has been missed in this discussion.
Just as there is nothing wrong with people expressing their sexuality and dressing in a sexually provocative fashion, there is also nothing wrong with being attractive to someone physically either. We are all sexual creatures. While we aren’t just sexual subjects, we are also sexual subjects and there is nothing wrong with accepting that reality as long as we don’t treat each other as mere objects in our interactions.
Sexualized calendars don’t cause sexual harassment any more that wearing an attractive outfit causes sexual harassment. If someone chooses not to pose in a calendar or chooses to wear unflattering clothing because they don’t want to attract attention to themselves, that’s fine. No one is demanding that people wear their sexuality. No one is demanding that women must pose in calendars either. My criticism is with people who are trying to shame other people into being ashamed of their sexuality.
Watson’s last two reasons for opposing these types of calendars are also problematic. Contrary to her assertion that no one uses calendars any more, I still use calendars and so do many other people who have families. While I don’t generally hang sexually suggestive calendars on my refrigerator, the anecdotal claim made is still false. I might however hang such a calendar in an office setting for the same reasons Watson pointed out, “because I love the people who made it and want to show support.” I might also add that I love the cause that the calendar supports.
It is her opinion that these types of sexually provocative calendars aren’t edgy, interesting, or clever. Obviously calendars like these are still edgy because if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Whether or not they are interesting is completely subjective and so I think we can all make up our own opinions on that based on our individual tastes and interests. Are these sexually provocative calendars clever? Why does that even matter. In fact, why does it matter at all if these calendars are useful, interesting, or clever? Everyone has the right to express their sexuality or not to express their sexuality in any way they feel comfortable without fear of being shamed. If someone isn’t comfortable expressing his or her sexuality on a calendar, then don’t do that. But don’t tell other people how they should or shouldn’t express themselves. Don’t tell other people what they can or can’t do with their own bodies.
Finally, it has been religion which has traditionally made people ashamed of their sexuality. Let’s not forget that. It is disappointing to see prominent atheists take on that trapping. As long as the calendars are being made by and with consensual adults, I have no problem with them. Go forward!