I Was a Five-Year-old Stripper

Alright, enough talk of addressing this issue of male fantasy, and time to do it. Weeks ago I promised an essay on male fantasy centered around the topic of dining. It seemed an apt metaphor. All the components are there-taste, appetite, satisfaction. I wanted to write it around this fantastic essay I read on Rage Against The Man-chine (one of my new favorite unapologetically feminist blogs) about something called nyotaimori, which, as the wiki explains, is the art of eating sushi or sashimi off a nude female. Yeah, you read that right-women are now platters upon which food is served.

This is just one example of male fantasy ejaculating itself into the world. I discussed the idea of male fantasy a bit before in Blog Roundup: Truth and Misogyny Edition. As I said then:

As long as men dominate the camera, and let’s face it, they do, we will be getting this kind of bullshit. Watch any sporting event on TV. The game itself is played be men, generally to a crowd that is disproportionately male. But watch who the camera comes back to time and time again during the down times. Women with big tits and slender waists, often dressed provocatively. The camera almost never lingers over the aged grandma, who’s most likely been a season ticket holder for a decade or more, or some ugly guy with a uni-brow. No, at almost every single televised event I’ve ever seen, the camera linger on women the camera guy would like to fuck. And that’s the way it will be, cameras and media feeding male privilege and fantasy to the masses, as long as we continue to take it.

Let me tell you another story, one from my own personal past, which will both mortify you and, I think, really bring the point home. This is the story I’ve been running from telling, the truth I am afraid to speak. It has to be told. I still can’t believe it myself, even though I was there and “helped create” the situation.

Let me begin by telling you that pornography was a staple in my house growing up. I don’t remember a time without it. My father had Playboys stashed around the house. My unmarried uncle kept his stash out in the open. My family also did not have a lot of books, as the only reader in the house until I learned to read was my mother, who satisfied her habit with National Enquirers and Reader’s Digest condensed books. Naturally I was drawn to the magazines my father stashed. I was always drawn to publications, even before I could read. By the time I was three or four years old, I was well-schooled in the typical pornographic images of the time. They were a large chunk of what I knew of the world.

By the time I was five, I had two career dreams: to be a mother and a Playboy model. I eventually even considered prostitution. What can I say? I desperately wanted people to like me. And I had no real idea what I was contemplating. I was always a people-pleaser, and the idea of growing up and making people happy was natural to me. I assumed because of my experience that what made people happy was the naked female form. And I was beginning to have weird fantasies myself, all of which were associated with these images I was digesting daily.

Very shortly after this I began to stage nude shows in my closet, with the assistance of my brother. I remember clearly being five years old and donning nothing but a robe before entering our closet, where three or four boys, including my brother (who was 1 year younger than I, ftr, and who I believe deserves no blame in this) were waiting. I would perform a sort of infantile strip tease, flashing parts of my string-bean, boy-like body while dancing, before removing the robe entirely at the end. I don’t believe the boys could have possibly enjoyed it, since they themselves were also four and five years old, but they pretended they did. They hooted and hollered and made noise like they’d seen their dads do to women on the street. We were playing a game, a game of let’s-pretend-we’re-grown-up-and-know-what-sex-is-about. Everybody played their respective roles.

We almost got caught once. One of the adults came barreling in the room when we were all in the closet, and saw me emerge in nothing by my robe. I remember rushing to put it back on and being scared to death that they would discover what we were doing. But I was not scared enough to stop. That was not the last time I did it. I have no idea why the adults never suspected anything, though I suspect it has to do with that unique denial all parents must guard against with their own children.

The point is that no female child should ever have to come up with the fucked up ideas I had, with the sexual training via pornography I had. In all the talk of free choice regarding pornography, this is what we miss. Oh, goodness, not another what about the children essay, right? Yeah, well, what the fuck about the children? Is my experience appropriate or outrageous? I assure you it was as natural as breathing for me, but it didn’t have to be. If my world had been filled with images of Alice Paul and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, if the literature laying around my house had been about anything else, say, for example, auto mechanics, would I have been offering strip shows to young boys at the tender age of five? Fuck no. A resounding no. HELL TO THE FUCKING NO.

And now I am an adult and I have to look back and think about this part of my life, and I have the double penalty of being ashamed. I was a five-year-old stripper. That’s what I aspired to be at five. Can you even comprehend that? I can’t, and I lived through it. It seems like a movie I watched long ago, or something that happened to someone else, and I just have to track the record of it. I just don’t even like to think about it, let alone write about it, but damn it I’ve got this credo to live by, this idea that being frank and honest and open can move people to change, to see something different. Nothing will ever change as long as people hold that shame in check.

This is the depth of male fantasy, this is where it starts and stops; this is the real face of it. It’s not just images for men to gratify themselves with-it’s also a training tool for maintaining patriarchy, for creating more fuckable bitches. And it is much worse today. Today we have, as I have discussed numerous times before, internet porn. Internet porn has drug pornography, which was already on shaky ground, into the ninth circle of hell. 24 hour non-stop gang-bangs, filmed at your local ghetto or trailer park of course. Plenty of double-stuffing and 5-guys-cum-in-your-face-shots to go around. Huge anal sex archives to choose from. Want to see a 19 year old girl get victimized by 15 dudes? No problem! They’ll even let you see a 2-minute “video clip” to whet your appetite, before they sell you the full 60 minute video. Maybe you can watch it after you watch the video of the dude slipping into his female friend’s dorm room after she’s asleep and watch him feel her up before trying to fuck her without waking her up. There are no barriers on this, no proof of age requirements. Any child can access these images any time they want in an unsupervised moment. The most widely searched internet term, ftr, is “free porn.”

And don’t think they don’t. My father was certain, I’m sure, that we didn’t know about his stash, but we found it. We spent hours and hours–probably the equivalent of days over the years–perusing it. Internet porn is just the world’s stash, catalogued online for pinpoint access. The problem of male fantasy is not just porn, though. Porn is just the most effective example to use because it is the new kid on the block media-wise (at least in terms of legality), and it has descended to outrageous depths in no time, going from zero to 90 in a minute.  Our novels and movies and video games and other narrative vehicles all tell the same story: this is what men like. Be that. And in turn, girls and women come to accept what they see, the images they are exposed to daily, as what beauty is; something of value, something to aspire to. It’s a vicious little circle and it must be stopped.

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9 comments on “I Was a Five-Year-old Stripper

  1. bluelyon says:

    Once again. You’ve taken my breath away. Must go away and think on this now.

  2. madamab says:

    OMG! Anna Belle. I’m so sorry.

    This is why I just can’t get into porn. There is an attitude that “real,” “sexually liberated” women are not offended by it and are, instead, turned on by the graphic, often violent and totally unrealistic portrayal of women and their sexuality.

    I very strongly disagree with this attitude, and I also think it is quite harmful to women, as your example so clearly demonstrates.

    In my clueless stupor, I didn’t even know who Alice Paul was until this year. I am now 41.

  3. sunshinelvr says:

    Very moving story once again! Where do you find the courage to strip your soul so bare?! I always read your blogs, but don’t comment much. There is just so much to digest when I come here! (Btw, I nominated your blog for blog awards, hope you don’t mind.)

  4. Anna Belle says:

    Great question, sunshinelvr. Where do I find the courage? It’s admittedly hard. I was trained in the same world we all were, where emotionality was less desirable than rationality, and often not desirable at all. It took me a long time and a lot of help to figure that out. Telling the truth is the the single most cathartic experience I’ve ever had. Luckily for me, and sometimes to my chagrin, it’s been an instinct running through my core since I could speak. I have no idea where it came from, but I trust it.

    The way I see it, it’s human nature to cover up and lie, especially to ourselves, and speaking out keeps us honest. It’s always in the silent, dark corners of the world where humans are perpetrating abuse against each other. I try to throw a light on anywhere I can.

    Thanks for the comment, S. And thank you for the award!

    BL, madam, thanks for your comments as well. Madam, I have some surprising ideas on porn, which I’ll probably write about in the near future. I want balance. I want female fantasy projected, because it will act as a balancing force. I’m not a proponent of banning porn, but it does need to be highly regulated (way more than it is now), and it does need to be taken down several notches in terms of whats’ acceptable. The stuff I talk about in this essay is available to anyone who wants to search for it. It should not be that easy to have access 15-on-1 style videos, IF those videos should even be made.

  5. dbs008 says:

    Oh! This hits close to home. As the recipient of sexually inappropriate behavior as a child, I can identify with your 5yr. old image of yourself.

    I used sexual titillation as a tool for access to the world of male power for many years. How exhausting and ultimately worthless it proved to be.

    However, it has left me confused about the true nature of sexuality and I occasionally still use pornography as a turn on. There is some that is just too awful for words and that needs to be dealt with in some way. I, too, think access to it needs to be much more regulated, yes, FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN and for humanity.

    This is a brief, scary moment of truth for me too say these things. Thank you Anna Belle for your searing honesty.

  6. ellurian says:

    Hi AnnaBelle..

    I was just stopping in to inquire how the women’s book was going. I kept meaning to over the last couple of days.

    I see you could write many books from your life experience. The question I have for you is… whatever happened to your father? Where is he at this point in time?

    Let me know when you are ready for the story of an immigrant grandma. The feistiest women you ever laid your eyes on…

  7. lisa says:

    Anna Belle I have said it before and I will say it again. You are wonderful.

  8. Anna Belle says:

    Thank you Lisa. You are too kind.

    ellurian, I haven’t spoken to my father since I was 22 (I’ll be 38 in another two months). That’s basically by mutual choice, since neither of us have taken the initiative. My thinking on the matter is that it’s not my work. I accept that he was a piss poor father who was himself a victim of his time and circumstance. I’d probably forgive him if her ever cared to deal with it. Other than that, it’s his job.

    And I am totally ready for the story of your immigrant grandma! I’ll shoot you an e-mail tomorrow.

  9. […] is one of the primary privileges of maleness, and one I’ve written about before. See here and here. Our cultural productions are riddled with evidence of it, and this finds particular expression in […]

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