This morning Trump released a barrage of tweets speculating that former beauty queen Machado had made a sex tape. Of course, as with most of his claims, there is no evidence to back this up (as of this writing), but he managed to rile up the interwebs.
This exchange and the response of thousands of other people elucidate so much about the way we treat female sexuality in the United States. As women, we are supposed to use our sexuality in the service of ad men and to meet unrealistic standards of beauty for others to consume us, but we are shamed for claiming our own sexuality.
Let’s look at this incident.
Beauty Pageants Commodify Female Sexuality
Machado competed successfully in beauty pageants. I know these competitions claim to focus on brains and empower women, and some may do that in part. But the main focus of these competitions is a woman’s appearance. If they were about talent and brains, there would be no need for swimsuit and ballgown segments of these competitions.
The producers of the competitions, hotels and casinos which host them, and the vendors which supply the contestants with gowns, bathing suits, carpet tape and beauty products make serious money because these women are willing to parade around in narrowly-approved looks in hopes of titles and some cash.
Each of these businesses is making money from women’s sexuality and from the millions of women who want to look like a beauty queen so they can be sexually acceptable to society. However, if one of the contestants engaged in activities she enjoys, is consensual and takes command of her own sexuality, these groups disown and disavow her. They call her a slut, say she does not meet the ethical standards, and is not an appropriate representation of female sexuality.
The sin here is not having sex. It is having sex on your own terms in a way that does not produce money for a capitalistic enterprise. Women can have their sexuality exploited but never claim it for their own. That is the American way.
Women can have their sexuality exploited but never claim it for their own. That is the American way.
That is what we see with Trump and this made up farce. Trump has, for years, been associated with a variety of beauty pageants. He has hosted them in his hotels and casinos and been featured in photos and media with many of the contestants. He has made money from women trying to reach a defined and limited standard of beauty. What he is mad about here is that a woman associated with these events did not cow-tow to his idea of what a sexual female should be.
His tweets were an attempt to shame Machado for making a sex tape. Let’s look at that. Sex tapes in the age of personal camcorders were popular. In the age of cell phone cameras they are as viral as herpes. There are no reliable statistics on how many people have shot some form of video of photos of a sexual encounter, but I would guess it would be quite a few, and the numbers would be huge for people under 30. Anymore it is more rare to meet a man who has not taken a dick pic than it is to meet a man who has not.
So, why are sex tapes seen as a big deal? First, we like porn. Most people won’t admit that, but Americans like porn. For people too embarrassed or ashamed to log onto a porn site to find what they are looking for, a celebrity sex tape gives them an excuse to go looking for porn. A woman who does not want “MILF, anal, Asians” in her cookie history will have much less of an issue searching out a sex tape by a celebrity. It allows us to legitimately look at what we really want to see.
Sex Tapes, Leaks, and Crimes
Second, when a tape was made without the intention of being released (I am convinced a number of celebrity sex tape “leaks” are planned) it gives people a chance to see what other people are like in bed. A lot of us are curious about how we stack up in the area of sex. In the kink community we actually get a lot of opportunities to see other people have sex or engage in kink play. Most vanilla-ish folks don’t have this opportunity. Sex tapes allow us to see what other people look like in the act.
This would be all fine and dandy if the sex tapes released were done on the participants’ terms. In the case of an actual leak, however, the power it taken from the participants and given to the leaker and the public. And that is what Trump is trying to do here. He alleges a sex tape (assuming someone out there has some footage) hoping it will be leaked to the internet without Machado’s permission. He is trying to take the power she has over her own sexuality away by egging on some ex to leak a tape to give him power of Machado’s sexuality.
To me, this in the same field as other sex crimes. Sex is consensual. Rape is not. Making a private sex tape is consensual. Leaking it without permission is not. When Trump eggs on any partner of Machado to leak a sex tape, he is asking someone else to engage in a sex crime. Period. Its that simple.