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October 17, 2011

Slut-Shaming on VH1's Tough Love

Before I write about this, I just wanted to make it clear that I don't really watch VH1's Tough Love. I don't. I have watched a few episodes over the years here and there, but I really disagree with the whole premise of the show.


However, sometimes shows like these can be a guilty pleasure so while I was flipping through channels the other night, I stopped on VH1 and caught a few minutes of Tough Love: Miami.

I didn't get any "pleasure" whatsoever (guilty or otherwise)... rather I got really pissed off. So pissed off that I ended up watching 3 episodes in a row so I could fully grasp (and report back to all of you!) how fucked up the show really is.

We write about slut-shaming a lot and therefore have become very attuned to finding it, even when it is presented in a subtle way. We always seem to find it everywhere, especially on shows like this... so I wasn't shocked that "matchmaker" Steve Ward (the creator and star/host of Tough Love) was dishing out plenty of it. What really surprised me was how blatant it was and how quickly Steve was able to convince the woman he was slut-shaming to "change her ways".

And it made me mad.

First, let me introduce the "slut" in question... This is Chasity (yes "Chasity", no "T").

The VH1 website describes her as a "contradiction":
This sweet Southern Belle also happens to be a go-go dancer in Las Vegas. And her biggest goal in life? To raise a family in the next couple of years. This dancer has babies on the brain and a ticking clock that would send any potential boyfriend running. With her racy occupation, most of the men she meets are only interested in getting her into the sack. If Chasity can’t figure out her priorities in life, she’ll never find love.

Hm. If Chasity can't figure out her priorities in life, she'll never find love? Once you actually watch the show, you can see that her priorities were already totally figured out. Steve Ward just didn't agree with them.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Steve:
Chasity is the youngest of the bunch, and clearly the most immature, she shows up with this baby fever and I don’t think she has the first clue what it would take to be a mother. So because of that she is in a point where she needs to start coming to grips with reality, basically I was pointing out the fact that, I don’t really understand how you expect to be a mother to a newborn child while being a go-go dancer. So let alone the toll that having a child is going to have on your body, and the fact that she has baby fever which is a turnoff to guys in and of itself, I was more concerned about how unrealistic she was, like she really expects to be a mom and have a stay at home lifestyle and be there for her child and yet she wanted to be a sexy go-go dancer.
So her priorities aren't in order because she wants to be a go-go dancer and find love. She wants to be a mother and still be able to feel, look and act sexy. I don't recall Chasity claiming that she was going to simultaneously go-go dance and care for a newborn child. Note to Steve Ward (who as far as we can tell is single and has no children): Children don't stay newborn forever. I don't think Chasity really thought she'd be go-go dancing with a big pregnant belly, take a few days off to give birth, and then get right back to dancing. It is downright condescending that Steve would even imply she thought that.

The truth is, what he's really getting at is that it's unrealistic for her to think she can ever become a mother as a sexy go-go dancer. Because it's unrealistic for her to ever find love as a sexy go-go dancer. It might sound like I'm making a pretty big leap here, but I'm not. He explicitly spells this out for her on the show.

Near the end of Episode 2 (where I first tuned in) Steve outright asks Chasity "Do you think it's possible to have a go-go dancing career and the healthy relationship that you want with the kind of man you want to have it with?" She answers, "I still wanna keep that same sexiness and find a man that's accepting of it, yeah." Well, it doesn't matter what she wants, because Steve quickly informs her that it isn't possible.

"I think there's something to be said about dancing for tips, okay, and getting men to pay you for attention. Okay, so... if I introduced you to a great guy today, in the situation that you're in, I think this is what would happen..." and then he cuts to a video of clip of her date Al giving feedback on the date:
Steve: What did you think when you first saw her?
Al: Well, I thought she was, you know, good looking.
Steve: Was there an initial attraction when you saw her?
Al: I was interested. You know, she told me what she did. She told me what the-- the go-go dancer thing, and that kinda threw-- you know that kinda threw me of a little bit.
Steve: Do you think it would be kinda hard to have a serious relationship with a go-go dancer?
Al: I think so definitely. I think so definitely. Because I mean, who wants, you know, your girl that you're with you know, dancing. Nobody really wants that. That really was like a deal breaker for me. I definitely would not, uh, be able to um, continue a relationship with that.

Steve asks Chasity how she feels now, after having seen the video. "I feel like absolute shit. I'm just... I'm confused over all of this. I didn't know he felt that way. He could've told me straight up and then I wouldn't have been waiting around here for him to walk through the door."

Steve: "This is what happens every day in the real world. That's how men really think. I'm just here to keep it real for you ladies. I personally think that, if you were really serious about it, you'd quit the dancing. As of now. Do you think you can make that decision today?"

Chasity declines, "Right now I don't think I can make that decision."

Steve is obviously unhappy with this answer. So he threatens her by saying "But until you do, each guy that I match you with is gonna know you're a go-go dancer... and we'll see how far it goes. Think about it." Yeah, don't let her tell the guy on her own, in her own way. He's going to out her - in probably the most judgmental way - to guys who he has hand-selected to judge her.

This really pisses me off. Despite being a total dick, Steve sometimes actually gives some good advice about how these women behave on dates/in relationships (not always, but he does occasionally produce a few words of wisdom amongst all the sexist rubbish). He tells one woman that she was being rude to her date (true). He warns another of moving too fast too soon (which in her case, seems to be decent advice). However, with Chasity he is making a judgment about her job, which has nothing to do with her dating life. It doesn't. Sure what she does outside of her love life does affect what happens within her relationships, but his criticism is about her chosen profession - not how she behaves on dates. I can't imagine he would tell any other woman in any other kind of profession that she has to QUIT HER JOB in order to find love.

This isn't advice. It's judgmental slut-shaming and it's wrong.

If he is such a good matchmaker, he should be looking for guys to pair her up with that aren't as judgmental and closedminded as he is. He should be looking for guys that appreciate a sexy woman, that respect a woman's right to make choices about her own life, and are secure enough in their own selves not to feel threatened by their girlfriend being a go-go dancer. Of course, in Steve's mind these men do not exist... but I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would beg to differ. Anyone from Momentum could probably testify to this - there are men who aren't insecure, aren't uptight and don't feel the need to control their significant others. (Except maybe in a totally consensual BDSM kind of way.)

But since Steve doesn't think that a go-go dancer is good enough to get a decent man, he won't help her. The only lesson is quit your job or you'll never find love.

In case Chasity didn't get the slut-shaming message fully... it continues in Episode 3. Steve and his mom Joann go through all of the girls' stuff and pull out a pair of Chasity's shoes and call them "stripper shoes". Later when she is questioned about them, Joann asks "Where are you going to wear these? To a strip club?" Chasity answers "Maybe" and Joanna is clearly disgusted by that answer. "Okay, if that's the kinda man you wanna attract."

In Episode 4 (the "Flirting" episode) Steve really sends the message home. Chasity mentions that flirting is easy for her because she does it at her job, in order to get tips and Steve says "It's funny. Every day I find another reason for you to quit this job." When Chasity admits that the only man she felt attracted to so far was Al from Episode 2, Steve takes this as another opportunity to shame her into quitting.

Look, it is only Episode four. She's had only a handful of dates so far. It's not as though she's met 50 men and Al was the one shining star. Of those few dates... they weren't great picks. Is this because Al is so amazing or because Steve just set her up with a few crappy guys? I wouldn't put it past this show to have purposely matched her with duds to make Al look better, just to prove Steve's point that a good man - the kind of man Chasity wants - wouldn't date a go-go dancer. But come on, this guy is not god's gift to women. He's just a guy. A semi-judgmental, not-very-articulate regular guy.

Also she's only had one date with this guy. So she was attracted to him, but is he really great enough to quit her job and change her life for AFTER ONE DATE? Steve seems to think so. So much so, that he basically brow beats Chasity to quit her job.

Steve: What would you say to him, given the knowledge... given what you know about his views and his impressions? But you also know that he liked you and he was attracted to you.

Chasity: I guess I would just tell him that I don't plan to make this my career. I don't plan on doing it too much longer. So he can take it or leave it pretty much.
Steve: That's your approach? That's how you're gonna approach it.
Chasity: How do you know that I'm not just gonna lie to you and say that I'm gonna quit, just so I can meet him again.
Steve: You would lie to him?
Chasity: I might.
Steve: What the ****? You can sit there and honestly say that with conviction?
Chasity: Yeah. I don't see anything wrong with what I'm doing right now.
Steve: How is it helpful towards the things that you want to accomplish? How does it help you in any way at all?
Chasity: I'm probably not gonna quit right now. I'm just being honest.
Steve: Are you done with the boot camp?
Chasity: No, I'm here for help.
Steve: Here's your chance for you to help yourself. Okay? You want to continue seeing a guy that you have a connection with. But you want to continue doing what you're doing. I'm telling you that if you want to continue seeing that guy, that's the first thing that you need to discuss. Are you ready to do that?
Chasity: I'm gonna have to think about what I want to say, but yeah.
Steve: Okay, well you know what - sometimes you don't have much time to think. Al come on in.

Apparently Steve magically knew that Chasity was going to say that she was only attracted to Al so far... because Al is waiting backstage! (I know that reality TV is rarely "real" but at least it gives the semblances of reality. But I totally have to question the validity of all of this whole scenario.)
Steve: Chasity has something that she wants to tell you.
Chasity: Okay, first I just want to know why it bothers you so bad that I'm go-go dancing. I'm covered up completely. So I just wanna know why it bothers you.
Steve: Like I told you before, I wouldn't wanna get serious with someone who's doing that. Introducing you to family members that you're doing go-go dancing is something that I don't, you know, wanna get serious with. I really like you, but that's the main thing what's the problem for me.
Chasity: No guy's ever turned me down for being a go-go dancer or even came close. So nobody's ever really cared that much. Hearing it from him is a whole different ball game.
Steve: What's it gonna be Chasity. Guys like this, they don't just fall out of the sky everyday.
Chasity: I'm done go-go dancing. I swear to God, Steve. I'm done.
Steve: You're not just blowing smoke here right?
Chasity: I'm done. I'm seriously done, pinky swear.
Steve: Al, would you like to see Chasity again.
Al: I sure would.
Steve: I have high hopes for you now.

What. The. Fuck!?


So now that Al sees how easily he and Steve can manipulate Chasity to give up something she enjoys and doesn't see anything wrong with just for the fucking privilege of dating him, I wonder what he's going to demand she change about herself next. Sounds like the beginning to a wonderful, healthy relationship.

Thanks Steve!

Crossposted at ESCTVblog.com

5 comments:

Jezebel said...

I look forward to Steve and Al pooling their resources to cover all of Chasity's bills or help her find a "respectable" new job now that they've browbeat her into quitting her job in this crappy economy.

DD Sullivan said...

I really like this post. I just tweeted you a question about slut shaming and what it meant. Now I'm understanding it a lot better. Thanks. DD

RedHead said...

This reminds me of a discussion I had with a male friend about how (HYPOTHETICALLY) I'd have far more self-respect doing something like that than going on benefits. Well done, Steve - so you'd be more proud of a lazy benefit-claiming mum than one with a job (albeit this one)? Nice work. I hope you're happy.

Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

Ugh.. another reason to hate reality television. And another reason to be glad I'm single.

MissyMe said...

Steve is just fucking awful about the slut-shaming. I really hate how he told that Latino-actress to stop wearing fishnets, because it's hard for some stupid, narrow-minded men to take her seriously for a relationship.

Or, even better, when the 1st season of Tough Love, he told the stripper, who was of course, sexually liberated, that by being that way, she was encouraging men to "rape" her.

Steve's got some problems.