Scorpio Risen

Ann Summers: A tool for enhancing female sexuality, or female sexual subservience?

Posted on: 27 October, 2007

The title is written in an interrogative sentence structure for a simple reason: I’m not actually sure about where I stand entirely on Ann Summers. It’s a grey area for me. I can see some pros and some cons.

Ann Summers, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a well-known high street chain which not only sells lingerie, but sex toys for (primarily) women, and also organises Ann Summers parties – they’re like dirty tupperware parties, but with lingerie and vibrators instead. This, I think, is quite sexually liberating – it can breakdown taboos, especially with the Ann Summers parties which can also arguably help female bonding and encourage women’s sexuality. These are, in my mind, big pros. 

I have no issues with vibrators – I think they’re great: it is important, in my most humble opinion, to explore your body and your sexuality, and if you need a bit of help, or just want to spice things up, then that’s fine. Better than fine, really. In this way, Ann Summers makes positive contributions to general female sexuality, as it’s easy to buy sex toys there, and there is quite a selection.

 Germaine Greer wrote: “Lady, love your cunt.” I think in many respects Ann Summers does encourage this.  

 However, I think Ann Summers also encourages women, instead of being assertive in defining, and indeed getting, what they want from a male partner, to pander to male sexuality: they sell books such as “How To Give A Mind-Blowing BJ”, “302 Ways To Drive A Man Wild In Bed” and “Tickle His Pickle”. I could not find any books which went along the lines of: “How to Really Get Yours” or “How He Can Make You Come”. True, there were a couple of books which were designed for couples – and that’s better than just pandering to male needs, and I do truly believe that when sex is involved, all the participants should be equally satisfied; it’s all about the give-and-take principle, rather than selfish fuckery. Perhaps the books which encourage women to be sexually subservient to their man’s needs wouldn’t bother me so much if there were other books which gave advice to women about how to get theirs. Mind you, fellatio isn’t exactly rocket science.

Another bone I have to pick with Ann Summers, is the selling of Hustler products. It comes across – to yours truly at least – as something of a contradiction in terms, when a company which supposedly aims to “encourage women to feel good about themselves and their sexuality” sells the products of Hustler, whose aims – I am pretty damn sure – are not to encourage women to feel good about themselves and their sexuality. I just don’t understand why Ann “encouraging women’s sexuality” Summers would support a porn empire, which treats women with such contemptible hatred, and – for the love of god – published cartoons depicting child abuse entitled “Chester the Molester”.
I’ve put it clearly enough times by now that I’m an anti-pornography feminist, so I think you can join the dots here folks. 
I also checked out on their website their listing of the pornographic DVDs they sell, and although I am very well aware that recently there have been a few directors specialising in pornography “specially for women”, most of the DVDs on sale in Ann Summers do not appear to be of that category – in which case, I have to ask: if Ann Summers is really designed to encourage women’s sexuality and boost it, why are they selling pornographic materials largely catered for men? Why are they selling pornographic materials which can damage women’s self-esteem?

The question is, though, how do we measure Ann Summers in terms of the company’s contribution to boosting women’s sexuality? It is quite clear that there are – as far as I’m concerned – positive and negative aspects. Perhaps one could argue that it caters for women’s wide-range of sexual tastes – after all, I’m sure there are women out there who enjoy Hustler’s leathery lingerie, and that’s fine in itself, except for the brand name: if it were Ann Summers products, it wouldn’t be such a problem, it would be more a case of live-and-let-live, for who am I to tell others what to buy? However, the situation at the moment is like this: they sell Hustler products and hard-core pornography, which I am personally not comfortable with.

Perhaps the simple solution would be for people such as myself to look elsewhere if we were to want to buy sextoys – however, it is hardly fair that women should be made to find alternatives; how is it encouraging us to find our sexualities, just because our political consciences do not sit comfortably with misogyny – Ann Summers is not encouraging all women to feel comfortable with their sexualities, if it is making some women feel uncomfortable with the connections with certain companies; they have failed in their aims.

Or, do the positives outweigh the negatives? Months ago – before, to be honest, I realised there were Hustler products being sold – I did buy an Ann Summers product (although I did ask if any of the proceeds of my money would worm their way into any company such as Playboy – I perhaps should have asked if Ann Summers supported any such company). My cousin is hoping to host an Ann Summers party, which she says should be a laugh, where women get to bond, giggle and look at sextoys and stuff. Female bonding is important – heck, I’m pro-sisterhood – this is a positive. Women, learning from each other, bonding with one another, breaking down taboos – it’s great stuff. Does this make my concerns and feelings of discomfort about Hustler products and books which seem to encourage women to pander more to pleasing their menfolk, and pornography largely catered for males insignificant in the scheme of things?

Fuck it – I’m tired.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: