All I want for Christmas is an end to porn culture sold as empowerment

Love magazine’s advent calendar teaches women that being “strong” means being objectified.

Emily Ratajkowski, “carb-loading”

In case you were so lucky to have missed it, Love magazine has been unveiling its annual advent calendar throughout the month. And, surprise! We’ve been gifted with a full month of objectification.

Love magazine is a British style magazine, so you might think this would be par for the course. Fashion, after all, doesn’t shy away from objectifying women. But what is particularly noxious about this advent calendar, is that it’s theme appears to be “strong women.” And apparently the thing that best exemplifies female strength is women pretending to wrestle, box, and play tennis in their underwear.

Day two of the advent calendar begins with model Ashley Graham chalking her hands and grabbing her butt cheeks, before pulling a sled down the street in lingerie. As all strong women do, of course.

As if this didn’t set a bad enough precedent, day three brings us feminist icon, Emily Ratajkowski, a model best known for “celebrating women’s bodies” in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video. Ratajkowski demonstrates her strength by “carb loading,” which doesn’t so much involve eating pasta as it does writhing around in and licking it. The video concludes with an inspiring quote from Ratajkowski: “I love pasta and being greased up in olive oil more than life itself!”

What’s even worse than the porny video, though, is the model’s “amazing polemic” Love magazine quotes alongside it:

“To me, female sexuality and sexiness, no matter how conditioned it may be by a patriarchal ideal, can be incredibly empowering for a woman if she feels it is empowering to her. The way I dress, act, flirt, dance, have sex – those are my decisions and they shouldn’t be impacted by men. Being sexy is fun and I like it. I should never have to apologize for that. My life is on my terms and if I feel like putting on sexy underwear, it’s for me. Personal choice is the core ideal in my concept of feminism”

YAS KWEEN. Being sexy is my fun choice and I choose fun sexy choices that just happen to look exactly like pornography. Strong! Empowered! Feminism! Words!

Oddly, she goes on to reference the #MeToo campaign in her defence, saying:

“In the wake of the Harvey fallout and women coming forward with incredible amounts of sexual harassment cases, I have been so disappointed to hear women talk about ‘modesty’ and ‘our responsibility’ as if we need to, yet again, adjust to make it ‘easier’ for the rest of the world. I’m tired of having to consider how I might be perceived by men if I wear the short skirt or post a sexy Instagram. I want to do what I want to do. Feminism isn’t about adjusting, it’s about freedom and choice.”

I wonder, though, who Ratajkowski believes she is rubbing spaghetti all over her breasts for? Herself? Who is she “adjusting” for and “making it easier” for? Who and what does this imagery serve? It’s revealing that Ratajkowski attempts to place blame on women for trying to dictate her choices, avoiding naming men and patriarchy, especially in the context of of Weinstein. She can’t acknowledge that Weinstein’s treatment of women is very much about seeing women as objects for his use, pleasure, titillation, and abuse — an idea demonstrated very clearly in Love magazine’s campaign. She can’t call out misogyny or porn culture because she would alienate her male audience.

Ratajkowski goes on:

“I’ve had men comment on sexy images of me online and say ‘this is empowering to you? Ha! I just masturbated to it so hope you feel good about yourself!’ I guess that’s the way people can react, which ironically, ultimately serves my point. I don’t care about your reaction or what you do with my expression of self. In fact, it has nothing to do with you at all and that’s the point-which is why it feels good.”

Over and over again, women who defend their choice to participate in porn culture or present pornified imagery of themselves claim that are “doing it for themselves” or that they “don’t care what anyone thinks,” which of course begs the question: Why, then, are you offering up this imagery for public consumption? If you truly only enjoyed writhing around in spaghetti “for yourself,” you would simply do it in the privacy of your own home.

Beyond that, it is certainly convenient that “you doing you,” as Ratajkowski says in defense of “girl[s] grinding in lingerie” in front of the camera, exactly replicates the imagery men create and sell to other men in pornography.

As directed by Katie Grand, Editor in Chief of Love, Ratajkowski concludes her “polemic” and video with the words “Stay Strong.”

It is sickening to me that women are being told (by other women, at that) that to “stay strong” means to self-objectify. The entire campaign seems to have a theme of athleticism, which may well have conveyed a message of empowerment, were the women actually engaging in sports or other activities genuinely representing strength in females.

On the 19th day of the advent calendar, Kate Upton is featured “playing tennis” in a bodysuit and stilettos. The camera focuses on her breasts and buttocks. She doesn’t appear to actually hit the tennis ball once. What exactly is so “strong” about pretending to play “sports” solely so that you can be objectified and masturbated to by men? It certainly isn’t for the pleasure of the woman in question (Upton, in this case), because if she actually enjoyed playing tennis, she would be playing tennis. In comfortable and practical clothes and shoes that allowed her to actually play tennis. 

A post shared by LOVE MAGAZINE (@thelovemagazine) on

This thing where women are taught that they are permitted to be “strong” only if they are also sexualized and feminized is disturbing. The last thing women should be thinking about when playing sports or exercising “for themselves” is whether or not men find them sexy. Many of us do, of course, think about this… Mostly because of imagery like that depicted in Love magazine’s advent calendar. This is how we learn to see ourselves through the male gaze and to understand ourselves as only valuable if we are viewed as fuckable. This message not only harms women’s sense of worth and self-esteem, but it teaches men that women exist for their pleasure, first and foremost, which contributes to sexual harassment and assault.

This Christmas, I want an end to this harmful, contradictory messaging. And frankly, I hope Grand and Love magazine are ashamed of themselves for contributing to a culture that breeds attitudes like those of Harvey Weinstein.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • thebewilderness

    Far be it from me to deny these women the right to perform as wank fodder for money. But do not piss on my head and claim it is manna falling from heaven.

    • Kiwipally

      Yeah, given how easy it is for a man to get an erection and orgasm, it’s hardly “empowering” to be wank fodder.

      Doing something that men wank over would actually appear to be the definition of disempowering.

  • fxduffy

    No doubt Dr. Nassar of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State USA Gymnastics who over 140 young women athletes have accused of rape and sexual abuse subscribed to “Love.”

  • polina

    No no no no no 🙁 Why do they do this 🙁

  • Meghan Murphy

    So insulting to athletes!

  • Meghan Murphy

    She is incredibly misogynist, in my opinion. I am so upset that she (and others!) consider her ‘feminist’. Peak cooptation.

    • Marla

      I find her to be vain (which is not surprising for a model) and so fucking clueless to her ideals of what feminism is.

    • will

      Yeah. It’s such a sick twisted position, so dishonest, so Orwellian. This level of lying propaganda really hurts my heart and mind and that makes me very very angry.

      • kfwkfw

        So glad I’m not alone in my very strong feelings about this.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thanks Zoe!

  • Melanie

    So idiotic.

  • Anthocerotopsida

    Ratajkowski, you idiot, you contradict yourself.

    “To me, female sexuality and sexiness, no matter how conditioned it may be by a patriarchal ideal, can be incredibly empowering for a woman if she feels it is empowering to her. The way I dress, act, flirt, dance, have sex – those are my decisions and they shouldn’t be impacted by men.”

    Which is it? Our sexuality is conditioned by the patriarchy and that’s OK! -or- our sexuality shouldn’t be impacted by men?

    Typical libfem word salad.

    You like it. Just say you like it. You don’t need to pretend that it’s feminism. Or better yet, consider the reason why you feel compelled to justify your behavior beyond ‘just cuz you like it’.

    • Leonora

      I think that they do know, but just like prostituted women trying to survive in our porn sick culture chose to justify it by screeching about empowerment and I chose my choice bs. To remain relevant and therefore employable they must escalate their own debasement, shutting down any criticism with third wave feminism mantra of empowerment, choice and sexuality and if you dont like it then you must be a prude!

      It’s sad that young girls looking for role models will emulate these bought women, perpetuating patriarchy and scrapping over the crumbs at men’s table.

  • Wren

    “…not once has anyone called out the toxic influence of porn culture.”
    I was pleasantly surprised to see this article in the Huffington Post recently. Progress, maybe?
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/grooming-the-next-generation-of-metoo-predators-sleek_us_5a28b047e4b053b5525db745?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003

  • Wren

    I feel like this was almost a Saturday Night Live skit. It’s just soooooo silly.

  • Robert Gonzalez

    Exactly. And you won’t ever see that, because it isn’t empowering to anybody – – men or women.

  • Marla

    “…doing the sled pull on a New York sidewalk…is a true expression of self-love and empowers
    women to embrace their own sexuality.”

    Yeah, why just the other day I was thinking “You know, I really haven’t done much in my life that “empowers” my sexuality regardless of self-love. I feel so empty and lost. Maybe if I moved to New York and pulled a sled on a sidewalk.”

    Way to go Ashley Graham. The fuck with fighting for equality or even the right not to be raped, seems women have had it wrong all these years. All we need to do is pull sleds on sidewalks in gaudy lingerie with some technopop playing in the background and PRESTO! I’m EMPOWERED!

    Where do I sign up?

    • Wren

      Who pulls a sled on a New York sidewalk? Is this something people actually do?? Like she’s a sled dog in a thong??
      I’m embarrassed for her.

      • kfwkfw

        The whole magazine here is embarrassing

      • Maria Gatti

        Lots of people pull sleds on Montréal sidewalks, and there might be enough snow in NYC this horrid winter. Usually there are children on the sleds, if not, heavy groceries or other loads. But the people are always wearing normal winter clothing. And yes, an EMPTY sled means absolutely nothing. It is textbook objectification.

  • Alienigena

    “And who the fuck is she kidding, nobody eats spaghetti like that!?”

    I don’t think I ever want to eat spaghetti again based on the model’s performance. Her entire performance is for males despite her claim to be pleasing herself. In my city Hooters restaurants once rated a 9.6 out of 10 for food that was delivered or picked on SkiptheDishes.com. Just ludicrous, men don’t go to Hooters for the food.

    I just don’t understand the butt exposure required to play beach volley ball either. It makes sense that sponsors require it not athletes. I don’t think a magazine in this culture called Love will ever really be concerned with featuring real athletes just fake ‘sexy’ ones. Real athletes (female hockey players, wrestlers, weightlifters, gymnasts, etc.) may not have the kind of bodies the porn fixated men want to see. Witness all the body shaming of female athletes when there are large competitions like the Olympics.

    http://people.com/sports/former-olympian-speaks-out-on-the-gymnast-and-swimmer-who-were-body-shamed/

    http://www.espn.com/espnw/voices/article/20703789/putting-end-body-shaming-sports

    • Po21

      Body shaming jerks are so ridiculous, I can’t get over the nerves of those people. I remember in Soichi though, the russian women team of curling did a photoshoot in lingerie to promote the sport. Because just explainig the rules was not enough, they had to play half naked. Strangely men don’t need to do those things to get exposure. I wonder why, it’s so empowering.

    • kfwkfw

      Sponsors requiring should be taken to task.

    • Maria Gatti

      Don’t blame spaghetti. Imagine an older, competent, scrupulously dressed but unglamorous Mediterranean woman,southern Italian, or perhaps Greek, with her family recipe passed down by her grannies and aunts.

  • pyrite00

    Yes, I got the distinct impression that all the “empowering” stuff was just trolling —- the people putting out this softcore porn know we know it is degrading and they know it is degrading but they know they can have a laugh at women’s expense.

  • Meghan Murphy

    How many women do you know who own calendars like this? Also, how is this a step toward equality?

  • Meghan Murphy

    You become invisible.

    • kfwkfw

      But you’re still expected to live through it fucking gracefully

  • Meghan Murphy

    Totally. Being forced to play sports in your underwear just to get an audience is so humiliating.

  • M. Zoidberg

    Ratajkowski is desperately trying to stay relevant, I see. Remember when she showed her boobies in the ‘Blurred Lines’ video? Gotta get those clicks before she’s replaced by next year’s new model!!

  • Wren

    I guess I see it as progress simply because it was posted in the Huffpost, which is notoriously pro-porn and pro-sex industry. Otherwise, you’re right, it’s not new news, but it’s WHERE it is published that can indicate whether the ideas are being rejected or considered on a wider basis. The author is the director of CATW and it references Vednita Carter. These women are pillars in the abolition movement and usually not welcome on liberal platforms.

  • Wren

    “enemy outposts firmly established in one’s own head.”
    That’s good, I’m gonna remember it.

  • Wren

    Who pulls the sled??

  • Missy

    That was my fav movie when I was a kid and too young to realize just how perverse the Jessica character was. Not only was she way overly sexualized, (especially for a kid’s movie), but she was a human woman married to a male rabbit! I mean, how gross is that? I guess animated beastiality is totally ok with pervert dumbass men who are sexually attracted to cartoon characters.

  • corvid

    Wouldn’t it be great if female scientists managed to find us a new secret home planet where we could all simultaneously beam ourselves and our most treasured belongings? We’d figure out how to reproduce sans men. Before leaving we’d make sure to vaporize all porn ever made, leaving men suddenly alone to face the increasingly putrid hellhole of a world they’ve engineered. Yeah, that would be awesome. Anyone?

    • Yisheng Qingwa

      HELLLLLL yes.

      Read “When it Changed” by Joanna Russ. Where is our Whileaway?

      • corvid

        Oooh! Thanks for the tip Yisheng.
        (BTW I always love your commentary!)

    • Zarah Glass

      HA HA HA As funny as that is it is a good idea

    • Holli Joy

      Take me with!

  • I heard about that. But maybe they did aerobics to improve their health.

  • Anthocerotopsida

    This is why I get so indignant when I or any other woman gets accused (correctly or incorrectly) of man-hating. When women hate men we keep to ourselves. When men hate women they create patriarchy. Then they go on killing sprees when patriarchy doesn’t benefit them exactly the way they think it should. I’m not hearing any of it.

  • la scapigliata

    My father wasn’t an alcoholic, but he was everything else you spoke about. I can relate to your comment so much. I hope you are now safe and well, as am I. xx

  • la scapigliata

    I agree! Being fuckable only paints a bigger target on a woman. When I was at my most fuckable, some form of rape or sexual harassment was my daily experience. Sure, I was welcomed into men’s spaces a lot, which was good for my career, and men pretended to listen to me more, but not one woman showed me any compassion or wanted to help when I tried to talk about what was happening to me. Sadly this included lesbians, and even though I had several good friends they behaved toward me not dissimilarly to men. I remember my most fuckable years as years of me going out into war like a lone warrior. Naturally, the endless battle took the toll, and I couldn’t maintain my career once the damage and exhaustion turned into illness, which was btw. not diagnosed on time because I got to look less fuckable due to emerging symptoms. So it was all for nothing, really, the only loser at the game was me. Most men don’t deserve a place in a civilised society, they are parasites that leech life out of women, children and the land. Wankers!

    • Zarah Glass

      I admire your courage to say these things… although I was never in the industry I have been targeted by men who see I am or was attractive then when they realize I was not “cool” with their perverted advances, I was mistreated Just for objecting to it…. Yes there is women out there who care less to the mistreatment of other women when they speak up which is very disheartening as well…(( because of society who believes that just because a woman is attractive they deserve the abuse))

  • Maria Gatti

    Thank you for that. I remember that terrible story, but not where it was. It hit home because I was writing a graduate history exam at Université de Montréal the night of the Polytechnique massacre. The killer hated women because he was rejected by that faculty and blamed “women”.

    None of the young women murdered that night and none of the many students, female and male, who were wounded, were dressed “sexy”. They were wearing boring warm, winter clothing suitable for writing an exam.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Ah I see. I misunderstood you. Apologies!

  • kfwkfw

    So true…self-worth & validation via male acceptance will never ever ever work out well

  • thebewilderness

    1st rule of misogyny: Women are responsible for what men do.
    You lost me at “they do just as much damage to women’s human rights as the men do…”
    No they do not. Your misogynist slip is showing.

    • polina

      I agree with both of you… what now? Women may have a right to choose to sell themselves and objectify themselves, but people willing to buy them are despicable and a threat to society, and should be treated accordingly. Women do collaborate with the enemy, otherwise the patriarchy would have ended long ago. But @oneclickboadicea you are ignoring the power dynamic influencing these choices. Feminism fights for ALL women.

      • la scapigliata

        I don’t think she’s ignoring it. I think she just had enough of the gaslighting about “choices” whereby women who agree to perpetuate rape culture for cash are seen as “faultless” because patriarchy. I agree with oneclickboedicea, actually. Yes we are all oppressed, but do some of us really have to go above and beyond, metaphorically stepping on injured bodies and corpses of our sisters, not to survive, but to earn millions? I could understand if this was a matter of life or death for the likes of Ratajkowski, Graham etc but it’s not. They could make a living without giving men justification to treat other women as mindless pieces of gyrating meat. Instead, they are throwing us all under the bus in order to enjoy being celebrities, and huge privileges they don’t need, other than to feed their enormous egos. It’s bullshit, I hold them responsible too. And you can tell that they know what they are doing, because they are gaslighting about feminism. Nobody is that stupid, not even Ratajkowski.

  • thebewilderness

    I loved her! She put the blame where it belonged, directly on the men who drew her.
    I am glad to finally see so many people holding the men who write, direct, and produce, misogyny in the movies and all other media. It is long overdue.

  • Yisheng Qingwa

    God, she looks like a pornified Skeletor, it’s disgusting! Trying to appeal to men is a fucking waste of time. I am sure this won’t get published, like all my other recent comments. Why I bother with this shit is beyond me.

  • Yisheng Qingwa

    Me too.

    • Just Passing Through

      Me too and thanks to men, everyone must live in this heightened state of fear because A.M.S (aggrieved male syndrome) can strike anywhere at anytime !

  • kfwkfw

    I agree!

  • FierceMild

    Sexy spaghetti?! Heeheehee, that picture is hilarious! I really thought from the pictures this must be a satire. A person has to be absolutely without a sense of humor to watch porn or get excited by a ‘sexy’ picture of a semi-naked woman who lost her pot holders and decided to use her mittens instead.

    And what’s with the underwear and outdoor gear combo? Were people just confused? I look at that and I think I’m inside a bad dream:
    Underwear? Check. Scarf? Check and check I’m ready for the Iditarod! Wait, I feel like I’m forgetting something…
    No, I’m definately forgetting something. What could it be? I’ve got my scarf, I’ve got my underwear, here’s my sled. Oh no! Where are my dogs?!

  • Second Waver

    A while ago the government of India banned some sites with pornographic content. The whole debate was centred around the right to privacy; it was a matter of “rights” and being “progressive”. Nobody gave a fuck about women; the violence and the oppression that the porn industry subjects them to. That it is inherently exploitative. Porn is violence against women it is not about your bloody “rights”- right to do what, eh? Sit in your bedroom and enjoy your fantasies getting played out while a woman is being objectified!? It is because of this neoliberal culture that sells oppression as empowerment that the reality of the porn industry gets converted into a discourse on freedom and individual rights- while so many women continue to suffer. So stop making everything about yourself all the time.

  • Maria Gatti

    I love pasta as well; I made myself some egg fettucine with cheese, garlic and other goodies (very simple but pleasant meal, with white wine) but I was sensibly dressed for our extreme cold wave and like most cooks female or male, was careful NOT to spill stuff onto my clothes and body. It is objectification, but also regression to toddlerhood. I’m an adult.

  • FierceMild

    A real working apron is a serious tool.

  • la scapigliata

    Thank you for the reminder and your well wishes! I hope you have a wonderful 2018 too. I feel it’s going to be a good year! xx

  • thebewilderness

    “This site is aimed at helping women think about the harms they do and to help each other reject the brainwashing men do to them.”

    Are you sure about that? If so I have totally misunderstood the purpose of this site.

  • Topazthecat

    President Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese Speech On The Harms of pornography February 10,1987

    https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/ag/legacy/2011/08/23/02-10-1987.pdf

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AG TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1987 202 …

    http://www.justice.gov

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AG TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1987 202-633-2007

    Following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Attorney General Edwin Meese III before the …

    The truth is,the whole pornography industry really should have been shut down back in 1986 after The Meese Commission report was released and it *never* should have been allowed to go on the internet and made to seem normal,acceptable and mainstreamed, and they found strong evidence for the harms of violent pornography,and a good amount for what they accurately said is the degrading of women as nothing but sex objects who are submissive,subservient,and subordinated to men,and they said this categorizes almost all heterosexual pornography.

    There were 1,000’s of people who testified in the Meesse Commission hearings in 1985 and 1986, and many were women and children who were sexually abused and sexually harassed in the workplace by men who used pornography as part of the sexual abuse,and forced them to do the degrading and or violent acts,and forced them to pose like the women in the pornography,and there were a lot of cases with playboy too.

  • Topazthecat

    But why do women find such sexist,woman-hating,dehumanizing male dominated things ”empowering”? It’s not a ”choice” at all,if we didn’t live in a very sexist,gender stereotyped,pornographic,sick,woman-hating male dominated society where pornography teaches both girls,boys women and men,that it’s ”sexy”,and ”normal” for boys and men to sexually dominate,use and abuse girls and women for their pleasure,and for girls and women to be dominated,used and abused by men.

  • Topazthecat

    Yeah and it’s always men who are the irrational lunatics doing these crazy horrible things,usually to women and children! It’s never a woman shooting and killing innocent people at music concerts,at schools or even at a church,it’s men and teen boys!

  • Topazthecat

    Except feminism is as far away from what this is as possible!

  • marv

    “the greater discourse surrounding the matter in north america” is predominantly and slavishly liberal outside of minority alternative sites like this one. A new take on the topic couldn’t avoid affirming either porn culture or the abolitionist approach to respecting women’s human rights, which is hardly new. A both ways compromise would also not be new because it would still violate these rights. New is not the issue. The abolition of pimps and johns in conjunction with economic democracy is the solution.

  • Zarah Glass

    You are right!

    • Holli Joy

      loved this “Note how sex-positives always talk about how they want to express their sexuality, but never ask themselves whenever other people want anything to have to do with their sexuality.” So spot on.

  • Matthew Steenburg

    I thought women and men lost fertility as they age, I wasn’t familiar with them necessarily becoming less attractive. I agree that porn is bad, it does seem like we’d be better off without it.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Glad you found us, sister! You are not alone xx

  • davide

    Totally agree. On a broader note though, it is capitalism. That is why this all happens. Nobody will buy a calendar with a woman in comfortable clothes playing tennis, unless perhaps it is a real tennis player, and fan purchasing it. Until we have a different economic system whereby our desires are not easily profited from, and as long as there are billions of incredibly visually stimulated men worldwide, and women who want money, whether because they need it or not, this will keep happening.

    Porn, climate change, access to healthcare, house prices, corruption, you name an issue and you can trace it back to capitalism in its current form (or in any form?). Until that changes, those fighting injustice in all its form will only win battles, not the overall war

    • marv

      A huge amount of porn is free and visible on and offline. Capitalism exacerbates the issues but eliminating it won’t resolve them alone. People also make the claim that without capitalism, racism would end. False thinking as well, even though the economic system intrinsically depends on sexism and racism to function.

      Male and white supremacy came into force well before the current mode of production.

  • Elsa Leon

    I always shovel spaghetti into my mouth with my mittens. Sure, some of it may land on my supple bosoms which is why I also wear a bikini.

  • Elsa Leon

    My daughter is 18 and feels the same as you. You aren’t alone.

  • Elsa Leon

    The mittens really raise it to a spiritual level, though.

  • Leonora

    I can’t stand to watch any of it! Not only is it sexualised but it’s also very vapid and silly. Oooh look at those silly women can’t even hit tennis balls, don’t know how to use utensils, wear inappropriate shoes to play sport /s…so infantilising and infuriating!
    These are smart, competitive and strategic thinkers reduced to body parts catering to men’s boners in the name of empowerment!