Boardwalk Empire didn’t live up to the hype or the recent round of awards in our house. We stopped watching after a few episodes because it was one of those productions that seemed too familiar and therefore lacklustre. It didn’t help that whenever Michael Pitt appeared onscreen I wanted to glass him for unaccountable reasons other than the smug which emanated from him like cartoon stink lines. The series was my introduction to Paz de la Huerta, an actor whom I now see getting lots of media coverage, based on her dedication to being the biggest sex bomb of the moment.
Now I am the first to arch an eyebrow when slut shaming occurs, a ritual more likely performed by women than men, in what must be an attempt to recalibrate the narrow margin of approbation on reserve for women. Call it a survival tactic (if you want to be kind) when women find a reason to shout down or shut out other women for being too slutty, available sexually, scantily dressed. Slut shaming is the way some women prove their bona fides as one of the ‘good ones,’ a way to say she follows the rules and deserves consideration over the other trampy bitch in question. Culture tells women as knee highs that there are only a few contempt-free spots available for the ladies, so they better get busy trying to claim one. And since culture’s invested in equating a woman’s worth in terms of sexual access, it’s a no-brainer that some women will use the double bind of sluttitude however they can. The hoary ‘ol Madonna-Magdalene binary for women clings to pop culture as unpalatably as unsalted butter on toast. Women charge another with the offence or else claim the slattern badge as modernity’s badge of honour.
The first two dozen shots I’ve encountered of Paz de la Huerta in textbook vampy poses are of a piece with the persona she cultivates in interviews. Profiles in Paper and New York Magazine waste no time before announcing de la Huerta as a sexual tigress. Both articles use the actor’s sexuality as the defining point of her person, and sadly, she makes it easy for the dudes and feeds right into it.
She’s reported in NY Mag as rubbing her breasts amid horny ogling dudes in a steam bath, or else in Paper she’s determining character through sex:
“Nudity is a non-issue for me. Sex is a huge part of life,” she explains with a slight, all-purpose Euro accent. “To pretend it’s not is being a liar, and people who are afraid of their sexuality are suffering.”
We get it, Paz. You like the sex. Other women are not sexy enough, not as sexy as your enlightened self.
As I live and breathe, is it too much to hope that we could graduate beyond this simplistic baseline of self-actualisation? I become as weary after hearing the ladies crow about how in touch they are with their sexuality as I do with those who think vigilant hymen protection ranks a woman in the saintly league. Sex is not the lynchpin of your moral compass or personal growth, whether you have no sex, sex with only your life partner, or sex as random and often as you can manage. Sex is fun, feels great and all the rest, but trading upon your willingness to engage in it doesn’t translate into higher being status. Stop defining yourself by how little or much sex you have.
One strain of culture, the flip side of the virgin fetish, renders ladies as the sex class, she’s not really espousing any radical sentiments in a quest to be Ms. Naked & Sexually Open 2011. In fact, it’s a rather conservative stance to take in our pornified society. One won’t get far with the sex kitten role when the window stays open for such a short time in a culture that adds a youth obsession on top of the s-e-x. Also, notice how she qualifies sexual partners as potential husband and father of her children, among all the other warm fuzzy things in order to paint her sexuality inside a traditional and conventional frame.
So Paz: Give It a Rest. Pick up a book. And go watch Bette Davis in Mrs. Skeffington or another cautionary tale on film about the perils involved in putting all over your eggs in one beauty-sexy-times basket.