Is female wrestling worse than stripping?

Florida, and Miami especially, has some of the laxest legislation regarding strip clubs in the States. Here, you’re allowed to touch the dancers, they can touch you, the venues can sell whatever booze as they want, and they can do so till 5 or 6am. There’s not many rules about advertising either, and one quickly becomes inured to flicking past the pages promoting establishments that offer ‘full liquor, full nudity, full friction’ in the local free sheets and listings magazines. Occasionally, though, there’s something egregious enough to startle still. This was the Miami New Times’ recommendation for how to spend Monday evening this week:

Witness the glorious return of female wrestling.

Sick of spilling cheese at the strip club? We have something better for you. Allow us to paint you a visual picture of the sights, sounds, and smells you are certain to behold when Nastie’s Female Wrestling returns tonight to Studio A. Scantily clad women will be rolling around in baby oil, pulling each other’s hair, and eventually ripping off each other’s bikinis. The oil will glisten off of their smooth skin, as testosterone-fueled onlookers chant things like “Fuck her up!” Good stuff.

The two contestants will be naked and kicking as the drooling crowd moves closer to the custom-designed wrestling ring. How do the brawls usually end during Nastie’s events? Video footage from a previous match featured a brunette putting a blonde in a head lock. Then the blonde broke free, rolled over, and sat bare-bottomed on top of her opponent. She fondled her pierced nipples as the referee counted to three. All of this awaits you.

I was first flabbergasted, then disgusted, then curious at my own reactions. Why is this enough to shake me whilst I’m complacent about the strip clubs?  (Studio A isn’t a strip club, it’s a mid-size nightclub that more normally puts on bands and DJs).  Is it just the article – the violent overtones, the horrible pack-animal imagery (drooling, chanting), the fact that a respected publication is helping to promote it? Or is there a significant ethical difference between this kind of thing and strip clubs? I’m no ethicist; my intuition is that yes, there is a difference, this stuff is worse. But I’m finding it hard to articulate why, beyond the fact that this adds stupid violence to stupid objectification. Help, anyone?

11 thoughts on “Is female wrestling worse than stripping?

  1. Interestingly, my intuitions are the opposite of yours. Yes, the description’s pretty ghastly. But in this case the women are doing a planned, staged performance, and being touched only by their fellow performers. (I’m assuming it’s like standard pro-wrestling in that regard.) So that seems probably better from their perspective than being groped by random drooling idiots.

  2. > But I’m finding it hard to articulate why, beyond the fact that this adds
    > stupid violence to stupid objectification.

    Perhaps because, once again, women and women’s bodies are used as a screen for projecting aggressiveness and internal conflicts, in order to bring some relief to the (presumably, male) on-lookers?

  3. I think Jender’s right that the actual essentials of the event are probably less bad, for the reasons she gives. But the advert, and description of the atmosphere, is so sickening that in this respect it seems even worse. It’s actually a really well written advert for the purpose it wants to serve. The idea of the crowd moving towards the ring like they’re closing in for the kill – that’s not the kind of thing you’d put in without some serious thought on how to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s a really disturbing thing to read – and insofar as the atmosphere at the event encourages those kinds of attitudes, perhaps more so than the atmosphere at a ‘normal’ strip club would, that leads me to agree with Cornsay that this is worse.

  4. Also, what seemed behind Jender’s thoughts – and this is what I agree with – is that making the women be active participants with one another is better for them than making them be active participants with the men in the crowd. Relegating the men to mere observers rather than participants is better. But the tone of the advert is that the men aren’t being so relegated. Even if they don’t actually get to touch the women, the description of them moving towards the ring chanting and drooling is to reintroduce them as participants in a really disturbing way.

  5. I’ve been reading this blog with great interest for a very long time, and think it is amazing. This post is one of the reasons I appreciate it so much, because it bring to my attention things that offend my feminist sensibilities and force me to examine my gut reactions.

    For me, one — of the many — problems is that this is a prime example of heteronormative expropriation of ‘lesbian’ acts for the pleasure of men. It pushes all of the same buttons that get pushed when I see ‘lesbian’ pornography produced for men.

    While I would agree with the above comments that note it is better for women to be active agents in scripting their performance without direct interaction with their audience, the ‘male gaze’ is so omnipresent in forming that performance in the first place that it any freedom is usurped by the deep presuppositions about women’s — and in particular lesbian — sexuality.

    Thanks for posting this!

  6. I wonder if there is something like a difference between performer and spectator perspectives that is relevant. From the performer’s point of view, I’d put random groping high up on the list of undersirables – it means an unpredictable invasion of one’s personal space, personal contamination, and so on. From this perspective, the staged performance seems a lot better.

    On the other hand, for a degrading objectification of women, it might be that the scenarios are at least equal, for reasons like Kira’s.

  7. It may be because we still connect stripping to performance art, while this event description evokes a roman circus vibe where you would not be surprised if the spectators beat the contestants to death at the end.

  8. I think you should allow for liberty to take hold as it should in most things.

    If two girls want to get together for a consensual match, let it be.

    If a publication feels that what they are doing is ok, and wants to advertise it, let it be.

    If you want to boycott the publication, and let the publication know you will no longer buy their product if they continue, let it be.

    It should always be remembered that when examining another person’s standard……….it is always while looking down.

    Have a nice day. :)

  9. …of course, not the kind described in the above article. As far as the link between women’s wrestling and “lesbian” pornography goes, you’re probably right about that.

  10. I really don’t see the issue with female wrestling. It’s fun, it’s competitive, the combat between the opponents is consensual, and if it’s non nude, it’s no worse than Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, the women wrestlers on TV, or even Roller Derby girls. If dressing sexy was bad, why is it that most sexy women in the world want to put on something sexy at one point or another? Some may like doing it more than others, or doing it in private, or maybe even in public, but it doesn’t change the fact that THEY like it and men like it. My girlfriend is a performer in my wrestling promotion. Yes, guys out there love her. I take it as a compliment. So does she. The writer here might say she is being “objectified”, but for one, it’s consensual, she likes it, her quality of life is improving, and more and more opportunities are coming her way then ever before.

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