Monday, December 6, 2010

Double standards: What's the difference between Russell Brand and Superhead?


I am (blessedly) very close to finishing British comedian Russell Brand's second memoir Booky Wook 2. While Brand's first foray into writing, Booky Wook, was funny, literate and self-aware. The continued story feels self-aggrandizing and cobbled-together to capitalize on the star's growing fame (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek). Two books in, Brand's "beautiful fucked-up man" (TM Sarah McLachlan) schtick begins to wear thin. Ultimately, you win no points for admitting that you are a predatory, selfish, womanizing asshole (albeit using flowery, anachronistic turns of phrase) if these self-revelations don't lead to changed behavior. I was struck last night that Booky Wook 2 stands as a testament to society's double standard regarding male and female sexuality. A young (white, straight) man can write two books regaling readers with tales of two-, three- and foursomes; obsessive masturbation; spitting in a woman's face; hiring prostitutes (and making one cry through aggressive behavior); carelessly dispatching sexual partners; and, famously, calling an aging sitcom star to slyly allude to having had sex with his granddaughter. And this all makes him just a lovable cad--one who gets much shine over on the ostensibly feminist site Jezebel. And folks buy in to the notion, advanced in Booky Wook 2, that Brand has been saved by the sweet, sweet love of a "good" woman--wide-eyed pop star and Christian-when-it's-convenient Katy Perry, who Brand recently married. Brand can wear not just his promiscuity, but misogyny, as a badge of honor and be feted not just by the media at large, but in spaces reserved for women.

What woman has that sort of freedom? Consider Georgina Baillie, the victim of "Sachsgate," the controversy that ended Brand's BBC radio show and which he writes about in Booky Wook 2

From Wikipedia:

In a previous Russell Brand Show episode, Brand's guest co-host David Baddiel recalled having met "the Satanic Sluts" [a burlesque troop] at Brand's home, one of whom told Baddiel that her grandfather was actor Andrew Sachs and said "Don't tell him I was here!"[4]

On Thursday 16 October 2008, Sachs, best known in Britain for his portrayal of Manuel in the television comedy Fawlty Towers, was scheduled to be a phone-in guest on Brand's evening radio show.

On opening the segment of the show due to feature Sachs, Brand stated "In a minute we're going to be talking to Andrew Sachs, Manuel actor. The elephant in the room is, what Andrew doesn't know is, I've slept with his granddaughter."[5] After being unable to reach Sachs on his home phone, Brand and his guest, fellow Radio 2 DJ Jonathan Ross, left four messages on Sachs' answerphone. During the calls in question, Brand spoke of his prior sexual relationship with Sachs' granddaughter Georgina Baillie, burlesque dancer "Voluptua" with the dance group "The Satanic Sluts".[6] Ross also shouted out "he fucked your granddaughter".[7] Later messages included further claims of the nature of the sexual encounters, and then sung apologies to Sachs, and Brand jokingly asking to marry Baillie.[5] Read more...

In the furor that followed, which included debates about obscenity on public airwaves, the humiliation of a comedic icon and an edgy comedian's right to be edgy, lost seemed to be the fact that a young woman's sexuality was being leveraged in a dick-swinging contest between two famous men. That the episode was, in Baillie's own words "humiliating," because society does not afford her the sexual  freedoms of men. The tale of Brand cavorting with a troop of women who call themselves "sluts" simply reinforces his stature as a master "swordsman." The fact that the comedian did so, as Baddiel's story went, with his mother also present in his home, makes him even more bad ass. But the very same situation is used to sully the women involved and their families. How is it that Brand's mother should feel proud of, or at least benign, about her son's sexuality, but Georgina Baillie's grandfather should feel ashamed of hers? 




Long after the so-called Sexual Revolution and several waves of feminism, men remain the only ones who are truly free to make sexual choices without concern for reputation. And race adds another layer to the way sexuality is perceived. For instance, while black men have far more sexual freedom than women do, no black man could blithely write, as Brand does, about procuring a prostitute and terrifying her by becoming angry and throwing her mobile phone against a wall without triggering all kinds stereotypes about black men's sexuality and aggressiveness. 

Women of color remain, arguably, the most constricted of all. I debated using the name "Superhead" in the title of this post, because I think it is a demeaning nickname that reduces its owner, self-proclaimed "video vixen" Karrine Steffans, to her sexual prowess. But I wanted to make clear the gap between how straight, white, male promiscuity is privileged. Steffans has also written several memoirs. They explain how she has exploited her own sexuality, but also how, at a young age, her sexuality was exploited by wealthy and more-powerful men--up-and-coming hip hop stars and their entourages. And while a lot of ink has been spilled on Steffans' past, no one thinks her story is charming. And I would be surprised if the public will offer Steffans redemption, even if she "reforms" and settles down with a "good" man. She will always be the video chick who gives "super head." 

I am not advocating for chastity or promiscuity. Whatever my thoughts or your thoughts on "acceptable" sexuality, our values ought to be applied across the board--equally for men and women, regardless of race. What is the difference between Russell Brand and Karrine Steffans? There is no fundamental difference. (Well, except that, based on his books, many of Brand's past sexual relationships seem demeaning to his partners.) The difference is how we view these media figures through the lens of gender and the color of their skin. These biases dictate that, in the eyes of society, one remains a superstar, the other a slut.

14 comments:

Kelly Hogaboom said...

This was hard to read as I was not familiar with these details of Brand's career. Thank you so much for putting this together. You are, as usually, correct. It's sad in raising new generations of daughters and sons how this double-standard still persists, waiting to ambush them.

ac said...

I've never gotten Brand's appeal. After hearing of his a**hattery, I'm glad I'm not contributing to continuing his 15 minutes of fame.

Escarondito said...

There truly is not double standard for sex when it comes to men and women because both have different, completely different, stations in the sexual marketplace. Different scenarios must produce different outcomes for both parties along with different consequences. If men could get sex as easy as women then men could be called sluts. As it currently stands, that is not the case. And this is because men of Russel brands stature are the exception to the rule. Russell brand can be called a slut because he gets with different women, but russell the grocery sore clerk is a conqueror.

bananacat said...

Escarondito,
It's a myth that women can get sex easily. I don't know anything about your sex or appearance, but have you tried getting sex as a non-attractive woman?

And men can get sex pretty damn easy because female prostitutes are so common. For ugly (straight) women, they can't just go down to a streetcorner and buy sex like men can. So why aren't men called sluts when they have sex with a bunch of prostitutes? Hell, even poor college boys can afford to go to strip clubs, but it's much harder for a woman to find male strippers.

Escarondito said...

@Banannacat

agreed in the ugly girl logic except...it is still easier for an ugly girl to get sex than the average guy, and incredibly easier if her competition is an ugly male. She can go to any bar find a guy who has the necessary intoxication level, or help him to it, and go home with him. She may not feel any dignity at all but she can get it. So when you say it is a myth women can get sex easily what you really mean is that it is a myth ANY woman can get sex easily. Ugly girls only have to try harder.

But more to the point, it is still a mistake for people to continuously say there is a double standard for the average female to average male. And bananna cat your making the same mistake many women do when they say, "Oh men can get sex easily go to prostitutes". That's not the same. Prostitutes are essentially a tool for sexual pleasure. Rather, a service. The equivalent for women is a rent-a-dildo service. Comparison doesn't fly. But even to discuss that is besides the point as no one is talking about buying sex.

elly higginbottom said...

@escarondito - I'm not sure if you're a male who hasn't come to grips with the privilege you have been born with (merely by being born your gender), or if you're a very young & naive female who doesn't want to accept just how different life is for women (and not so much by being born our gender, but by being born not male). i mean, you've got to be kidding when you state there "truly" is not a double standard? and what's this "stations in the sexual marketplace"? for the sake of argument i'll go with your wording & make this statement: these said "stations" exist BECAUSE there is a double standard.

Escarondito said...

@higginbottom
Here's why I say there is "truly" no double standard. And for this I'm going to break down my mental process so you can see where I am coming from. And so you can see why Superhead is considered a slut and Russell Brand is a stud.

Let's take this to the time where Superhead wasn't the book writing child taking Karrine but SUPERHEAD the rap groupie. Russell is always a man-whore so there's no use going back in time. Karrine was a slut, whore, slore(choose what you will) at that time and you can't refute that. She even admits so herself.She bedded and performed her oral namesake on many many many men. She was willing all the men were willing. Russell gets with as many women as he can(keyword:can). He does whatever probably lewd activities he can with them. But even worse, he tells the world about them. My guess is he told anyone he felt close enough to about some girl he was with last night, and judging by his character he could feel close to an ice cube. I'm pretty positive, that until her book release Karrine was made to keep her oath of silence as is customary to rap women.

So why not more derision for Russel the loudmouth whore over Karrine the "friend with benefits"(as she pretty much was). Russel has to try, put forth effort, push back obstacles, achieve a high enough status through massive amounts of trial and error to get the same results that Karrine got. Karrine is a beautiful woman, is it hard for her to have sex? So when Russell beds lots of women, how is that not an accomplishment? Because men have to work extremely hard to get the same level of ass a woman can get since puberty, they are considered studs because they accomplished something. Because a woman has a massive amount of sexual options she can have in a day, what is the value in her having sex? Or lots of it? If she wanted it to happen it happens? Do we congratulate a normal kid for turning on the light switch when he is standing next to it? Or do we congratulate the kid who is halfway across the room and flicks it on with a bouncing of a rubber ball "just right"? You tell me.


And for the "stations in the sexual marketplace", for the sake of the analogy let's put it this way. From the day we are born Women have a million $'s to invest(Up and down in numbers based on attractiveness), Men have one thousand $'s. Every company in the market wants to get the women to invest in their stock, and it's the women's job to find the best one with the most return. Man have to build their company to a good enough level to make it desirable for investors, and the more investors he gets the greater the status of his company. He can be two types of very succesful companies, He may short sell some share and piss off some investors, but because of his current high status investors will keep on coming until the .com burst(Russell type). Or he may have a smaller batch of better regarded investors, and his company stays at a high value for an extremely long period of time (George Clooney type). But either way, to be very successful at what he does he would have more than one investor. A women would be foolish to invest in too many companies because her regard as an investor is terrible, what company wants some one to invest in them who's invested in his competition and even some allies. A man would be stable in taking one investor for his company but he'll never have that very successful enterprise.

Analogy was kinda long, but I think you understand what I mean right?

Tei Tetua said...

I think you're wrong to call the incident involving Georgina Baillie "dick-swinging contest between two famous men". There was no confrontation between the two men, just messages left on Andrew Sachs' answering machine, and what he said afterward was quite dignified and he didn't blame Georgina Baillie at all:

"I have not seen or spoken to Georgina yet. She’s very upset at having put her family through this and she feels very guilty," he said.

As to seeing her in the newspapers, he said: "I do not like it, would you? But it's her life and I just let her get on with it."

It seems to me that he's treating her as an adult who has the right to make her own mistakes (mistakes as in getting within a thousand miles of Russell Brand, not mistakes as in being less than sweet and virginal).

It's actually worth recognizing that if there are some men who act like jerks (and make a fortune doing it) there are other men who can act pretty decently.

Tami said...

Tei,

You're right about the way Sachs conducted himself. The "dick swinging contest" was between Brand and Ross, who continually tried to outdo each other in schoolboy tittering and vulgarity.

Kjen said...

back to Karrine - I thought when she came out with her debut novel that she was trying to present herself as 'reformed', in the only avenue allowed for respectable women - by saying that all such behaviors are wrong and now behind them.
and for awhile she was allowed a certain modicum of respect from blogs/media outlets.
its only when a woman does not "repent" for her sexual liberties that she is shamed from all corners.

Escarondito said...

@Kjen

That's a great point. The thing that always gets me, is that when Karrine is brought up in the media her Superhead days have to be talked about, but whenever Kendra or Kim has a new endorsement, no one talks about "Superstar" and "Riding Heff to fame".

Some Chick said...

@Escarondito - You do realize that the women-investing in a man-business is only an analogy that works *where* women are not considered real/equal humans to men?

If we all just keep assuming that your analogy is "how it really works", evo psych style (particularly in western countries), it'll just keep being that way... but then, it is a self-perpetuating system that benefits (it seems) you. Your analogy 'works' only because alot of societies tell women over and over and over and over and over and over and over that if we're pretty and accomodating we're doing good, and it tells boys to just bang the prettiest thing they can to get 'cred'. Remove that crap, and your analogy falls apart.

Escarondito said...

@ some chick
well then you fall into the camp that would deny very real differences between the sexes. The main difference being the cost of sex between men and women. Pregnancy. Now if you said the pill is the equaliser in that cost. I'd absolutely agree with you. The other difference is the is cost to long term coupling attractiveness from the opposite sex. Frankly, a womans number could be the same with a man and even though she may not be disrespected on the short term a man will have second thoughts about making her a companion or wife.

There are two things that are odd about your second argument. You fail to make a case to why men wouldn't want to get with the prettiest girl with the best personality. In fact you say it as if its a bad thing. Don't women also want a hot guy with a great personality? There is nothing wrong with either sex in going for that. Also you fail to take into account another point that some chicks dont. Women dont like to get with men who have gotten with women who are uglier than them. So with those two things combined a man who strives to get the best woman always will go for the hottest chick. Also women have hypergamy and go for the best guy as well. As many as my female friends say no one wants the guy no one wants.

Teon Brown said...

Tami, your "Double Standards" was so accurate it should have it's own mathematical formula.

Society seems to allow and accept certain behavior from certain race and genders and even glorify them in some instances. Whetheer Brand or Ms. Stephens, the acceptance margin is light years appart.

Sadly, despite this being a lasting paradigm for many centuries (better yet...forever), Can we actually say that there is hope for some kind of enlightenment?

Who do we complain to? Who should we inform? What do we highlight, in order to see some kind of progressive light at the end of the tunnel?

Not one to subscribe to the "That's just how it's always been" articles...But, when it comes to double standards,
catch 22's, or ignorance period. Sometimes it's best not to give it any fuel so that it won't spread.

After it's all said and done I guess after reading your article, I can only agree with a resounding AMEN! And until a solution is offered I will part with these three letters...SMH!

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