Monday, July 14, 2014

Take the Sex Out of Sports Entertainment

This feud has always been problematic, but Saturday, it took a turn for the gross
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
If JT Dunn and David Starr winning the Women's Superstars Uncensored Tag Team Championships at the promotion's United event Saturday - the first since Denver Colorado sold his shares of the company to DJ Hyde - was the most egregious thing to happen, things might not be too contentious right now. Sure, the fedora-clad, evangelically atheist "Men's Rights Activists" might say what's good for the goose is good for the gander, but the reason why companies like WSU, SHIMMER, SHINE, and nCw: Femmes Fatale among others exist is so that women have a place to grow and exist without the encroachment of men and the implication that the only legitimate wrestlers have dicks and balls.

The idyllic situation in pro wrestling is that the women's-only promotions in the future will become superfluous as everyone in the industry will eventually overcome the institutional misogyny and thus see women as equal performers no matter what the differences in body mass or genital makeup should exist. But in all honesty, the Juicy Product will more than likely meet a cathartic comeuppance that will help put over whatever team, whether it be the unfortunately nicknamed team that comprises Kimber Lee and Annie Social or some other enterprising duo.

But on a show where Hyde threatened to make Jessicka Havok blow him in the middle of the ring if she lost a match, I can't be bothered by how sexist or "equal" men winning women's titles is. Hyde's first major act as sole head booker of WSU hit the plaid of major grossness with ludicrous speed.

For those who are not in the know, Havok, the longest-reigning WSU Champion in history, was stripped of her title a week or so before she was set to defend against LuFisto at the prior event, the Queen and King of the Ring tournament. Havok took a booking to wrestle at the TNA One Night Only pay-per-view series rather than defend her strap, so it was taken from her. LuFisto ended up winning it anyway against Athena in a Best Two-out-of-Three Falls match for the vacant title. At the time, the move appeared to be real, but the way the cards have fallen indicates that it was a planned turn in the feud between Havok and Hyde, one that has been brewing ever since Colorado initially partnered with the Combat Zone Wrestling owner, one that was established by one party not liking the other one and devolving into a series of sneak attacks, gendered slurs, and spitting. Oh man, the amount of non-romantic spit-swapping going on between the two during the last year or so has been grimy to say the least.

But the dynamic of extreme sexual harassment as a heat-garnering mechanism seems too much to me. I don't want to make any grand judgments about how Havok is being exploited because for all I know, she was on board with the idea 100%. Wrestling has a way of attracting strange creatures, ones who don't think twice about pushing the edges no matter what it might say about them. It's all a work, right? Plus, I doubt that Havok was ever in danger of getting down and performing a sex act on her boss as the result of a wrestling match. Even if she lost, she wasn't putting her mouth on Hyde's member as much as she was shoving a fist onto it. But none of that matters. The fact that sex was introduced into the story in the fashion that it was implemented is pretty unacceptable.

Regardless of who's okay with what among the performers, stipulations like those more often than not end up perpetuating the awful, societal view that women are nothing more than playthings for male sexual pleasure. The ideas of agency and equality don't just mean men and women get to work programs against each other, and maybe the men put the women over at a healthy clip. Women need to be treated just like men in the process. A man is never threatened with oral sex against his wishes in order to keep his job, partially because wrestling stories play to homophobic tendencies and because women authority figures are few and far between. Then again, would anyone be okay with the roles being reversed? Even in the vacuum of power dynamics and sexual politics, acts of intimacy being used as warfare feels gross on any level.

It's bad enough that most major religions have criminalized sex to the point that fornication has been deemed as mortal a sin as homicide. But the extreme reaction to it, to plaster sex as recklessly and tawdrily as possible throughout any form of popular entertainment is just as unhealthy. I'm not speaking from a position of morality; sex is a part of humanity and needs to be addressed maturely. OF course, "mature" is not an adjective that can be used to describe most wrestling promoters, from the Vince McMahons of the world all the way down into the indies. Hyde is one of the worst offenders, and whether or not his booking treats men and women "equally" as bad as each other, his presentation is part of why wrestling is seen as such a lowbrow form of entertainment.

Truth is that nothing in the genetic code of pro wrestling says that it has to be garbage, but the people in charge of most of the big and influential companies have awful track records when it comes to the things that make entertainment progressive and not recursive. So maybe all wrestling companies, starting from the bottom and working up to the big fish, ought not to handle sex at all for awhile. Since it's clear no one can really handle interpersonal and intimate relationships between the sexes (or among same sexes given the nasty history of the portrayal of lesbianism in various companies), then maybe it should be retired as a trope for a little while. No promises of HLA, no fated love triangles, no women threatening to show their bosom as a distraction, and ESPECIALLY no commentary of a male wrestler wailing on a female one by describing it as her "asking for it." All of it needs to disappear from every company until relationships and sex can be written into stories in a way that doesn't leave decent people with their skin crawling.

Once sex is removed from promoters' arsenals as a toy that a toddler misuses is taken from him or her, then the other problems can start to be addressed. The hand-wringing over Juicy Product winning the WSU Tag Team Championships might seem like it's as daunting as the problematic blowjob theater was, but in reality, it's far more innocuous and probably will end in a healthier manner even if it's far from the ideal. However, in no world is implied forced fellatio okay, not even for a second. It's sad proof that DJ Hyde is far from ready to handle sex in a healthy manner, and it's a stark reminder that most other promotions aren't too far ahead of his. The only way to rectify it is to remove it from the equation altogether, at least for as long as the current crop of promoters is in charge of the respective companies.