By KELSEY TRIBE
My head is pounding; my throat dry; my stomach feels like a bag of hot, roiling, bubbling water; my knees are painful and swollen; my feet dotted with blisters. Eyeliner is smeared under my bloodshot eyes; my mouth tastes like shit. Along with a dissatisfaction with the human race in general, I am experiencing the side effects of the youth clubbing and hook up culture.
I went out with the intention of fully participating in this hook up culture. My friend and I, we’ll call her Em, are both young, single feminists. We have spoken often about the straitjacket of the cultural construct of passive female sexuality, a powerfully manipulative force in our society, and one that limits those actions, behaviours, and discourses that I feel are available to me if I don’t want to be ostracised by male and female peers, colleagues, bosses and figures of authority in society. So we decide to revolt, to go out and join the mass of anonymous bodies gyrating under the fluorescent lights with the intention of getting laid. Revelling in our transgressional plans, we break out of our permitted female discourse. The phrases “like a cat on heat” and “get my dick wet” are thrown around, and we feel delightfully taboo.
It was more difficult than I had anticipated. From the beginning, as I dressed in my bedroom and prepared for the night ahead, I had the wrong mindset. I felt too aware of the subtext of everything, too conscious of how constructed and fake everything involved in the night suddenly felt, now that it was here.
I wanted to look feminine, available, sexually enticing but not aggressive, never aggressive. I’ve read that men find women wearing red dresses more appealing, so I put one on. Then the feminist voice in my head pointed out that I was deliberately dressing for the male gaze. I settled on my usual black, compromising by wearing high heels and an inappropriately light cardigan for July.
As I made my way around Manly, my stilettos forcing me to abandon my natural walk for an unnatural, suggestive strut and a blister bursting spectacularly on my right foot, that voice invades my mind again, and quite unbidden. I have practically disabled myself for someone else’s idea of beauty. If there was an emergency I would be literally helpless. “I don’t want to think about feminism tonight”, I say abruptly to Em. “Oh god, yes”, comes her reply. She wipes lipstick off her teeth, and I band-aid my foot.
To say that the night doesn’t go as planned is an understatement. At 3am we’re on Oxford Street, a smudged club stamp on the back of my hand. A friend of Em’s has escorted us there, responding to her distress call from Manly with a swiftness bordering on over-eagerness. This well dressed, dapper young guy wants us to go back to his place, to party. We politely decline. So he pays for a cab to Kings Cross, saying he knows someone who is friends with someone at a club, enabling us to dodge the cover charge and the ire of the “door bitches”. Dapper Friend starts buying drinks and Em starts on the stripper poles, conveniently located on a raised stage between the bar and the DJ. “How are you still single?” he screams at her over the music. To the left a young guy drunkenly hauls himself onto the platform and gyrates against a pole, a grotesque parody of the female sexual display expected and normalised here. A bouncer drags him off with alacrity- the poles are for the girls, the poles are for voyeurism, for the male gaze, and girls are lining up to engage in this behaviour under the guise of feeling empowered by turning people on.