One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Sex “Trade” May 2, 2011

Filed under: gender norms,healthy relationships — Women's Studies Intern @ 3:52 pm

Recently, men’s lifestyle magazine GQ published an article entitled “Sex Trade“, which details how women should use sex as a commodity in their relationships. The author, “hottest and most salacious mom in Canada”, Kelly Oxford, explains that in order to spice up a long-term relationship, women should use sex as a bartering chip in order to make their partner do chores, parent or buy them things. While the article is written in a light-hearted manner, it does create some issues that should be acknowledged.

First of all, the title of the article is horribly inappropriate. The sex trade is a horrific industry that exploits, abuses and destroys the lives of young women and men all over the world. To make light of this is tactless at the very least and insensitive to the fact that the industry of sex trafficking is a billion dollar modern slavery business that affects children and adults, both internationally and here at home.  According to Polaris Project, there are 100,000 minors in the commercial sex trade in the US.

Secondly, the article feeds into female stereotypes of women that are problematic on two levels: 1) women use sex as a weapon against men, withholding it unless they are given some sort of commercial good and 2)  women only want sex if they are getting something else out of it.  In the article, the author makes it seem like the woman’s enjoyment comes only from seeing how much she can get from her partner. Note that the woman is never the one offering sex in exchange for anything, she is only the one who withholds it unless she can get something out of it.  This is a passive, troubling depiction of women which reinforces the idea that it isn’t okay for women to want sex.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the arrangement that the article talks about sex as a slippery slope in some relationships. Instead of being seen as something healthy and enjoyable by both partners, sex is shown as a commodity to be bargained over.  The commodification of sex will always leave  one partner feeling pressured into sex or feeling like they “owe” sex to their partner. In any relationship, having sex because you feel pressured often leads to feelings of abuse or violation.  It is not healthy to be in a relationship where sex is used as currency and affection is withheld unless certain conditions are met. While I believe that the author of the article did not intend for it to be taken very seriously, it is irresponsible to feed into destructive female stereotypes and to normalize behaviors that, taken out of the context, for which it was written.

What do you think?  Instead of resorting to sex as a bargaining tool, what are some other ways you and your partner negotiate problems, desires or challenges that arise in your relationship?  Leave us a comment!

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