Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Humbly Concede That UFC Fighters Are Better Off Than Prostitutes

After my first exposure to the brutal and sometimes bloody world of Ultimate Fight Championship, I hypothesized that the fighters competing in UFC might have decided to do so as a result of a lack of other viable career alternatives. Having never encountered a boy who wanted to grow up to beat someone to a bloody pulp in a UFC ring (maybe I'm strange like that), and presuming that given the choice most people would choose an occupation that allows them to keep their bodily integrity intact, it seemed reasonable to conclude that UFC fighters were likely fighting because they had to, not because they wanted to. Similar to sex-workers. Yes, it's true, I compared UFC fighters to sex workers.

My brother, Bacchus, and Ben wrote thoughtful, convincing comments refuting my basic assumption - that UFC fighters fight because they have to, not because they want to - and challenging my comparison between UFC fighters and prostitutes. Bacchus pointed out that many of the UFC fighters had been all-American wrestlers and had had the benefit of college scholarships, and were thus not necessarily economically or educationally challenged. Assuming Bacchus is correct, he brings up an important difference between UFC fighters and prostitutes. Prostitutes certainly don't get scholarships for their sex work. Their sexual skills do not bring them educational advantages. And, young women who excel at sex in highschool are not recognized as anything other than all-American sluts - the sexual double standard being what it is in our society.

Ben also challenged my comparison of UFC fighters to prostitutes by arguing that UFC fighters pursue and achieve glory, whereas prostitutes, far from attaining glory, experience only a violation as a result of their occupation. He pointed out that "little boys are taught that being tough is good, while little girls are taught that having sex with strangers is very, very bad." Good points, Ben. Little boys who grow up to be UFC fighters are pursing a socially acceptable career path for them, while at the same time attaining the pinnacle of masculinity; a state highly valued in our society. Prostitutes, in contrast, are actively devalued for their participation in a highly unacceptable (though incredibly well-utilized) and (hypocritically) disdained occupation. In that respect prostitutes and UFC fighters are very dissimilarly situated. One might even argue that UFC fighters are rewarded for being ultimate men, whereas prostitutes are punished for being ultimate women (in a highly stereotypical, generalized sense).

Bacchus and Ben are right, comparing UFC fighters to prostitutes was not a fair comparison. I gave far too much credit to UFC fighters. I was presuming that reasonable, rational human beings - even if they are men - would not willingly choose to put themselves in a position where they had to either beat the crap out of their opponent or face the possibility of getting the crap beaten out of them. Ben calls this "intellectualizing" my own tastes. I call it emphathizing and hypothesizing.

It's true that I could not imagine myself pursuing the life path of a UFC fighter. However, that has nothing to do with my gender, and nothing to do with my general feelings on violence, which basically boil down to an uneasiness with our culture's desensitization and erotization of violence, particularly with respect to violence against women. I also, admittedly (with the exception of "Fight Club" which is one of my all time favorite movies), have developed a rather weak stomach for violence; something which I see as a positive character trait. I have become sensitized to violence, and so have a hard time not imagining what UFC fighters must experience when their noses are broken and blood starts pouring down their faces. Putting myself in their position and imagining the pain that UFC fighters must often experience - even in training I would think - it is difficult to imagine willingly choosing that career path. Hence my hypothesis that coersive forces were at work.

My hypothesis also failed to give UFC fighters, and specifically their maleness, enough credit. (Note: I'm assuming they're all men, but even if some women compete, the profession is still unquestionably male-dominated). UFC fighters are men, and as men, even the most underprivileged among them has a plethora of occupational options - which are not necessarily available in the same way to women. Men, left with only their bodies with which to make a living, can work in a number of respectable, physically demanding, male-dominated professions. Construction workers and soldiers come to mind. Women, of course, can and do enter these male-dominated professions.

However, arguably, the "easiest" route available to women without other options - easy in terms of entrance - is the sex industry. The demand and the possibilities, if you're a woman and you are willing to take your clothes off, are endless. You could become, for starters, an escort, a stripper, a lap dancer, a topless dancer, a street walker, a high-class call girl, a dominatrix, a porn star, a blow-job queen, or a happy-ending masseuse. The sex industry requires no training, you can start right away, the short term return is immediate, and it's always looking for a few good women to fill one of it's female-dominated occupations. Men can and do enter the sex industry, but not on a scale anywhere close to the number of women who enter the sex industry. What has become even clearer to me, through this examination of UFC fighters, is that, in part, this is because men have other options. They can make their money fighting each other in rings. They can strive for the glory of becoming a UFC fighter.

Women should have that option to. They should be able to strive for glory in all of its forms. So, for the moment, I'm throwing my support behind all the female boxers, wrestlers, and wanna-be UFC fighters. Kick ass, Ladies. I'm rooting for you.

One last point of Ben's that I couldn't let pass without comment. Ben contends that "What is repulsive to [Buttercup] [violence] is attractive to most men," and goes on to say that "most men generally enjoy watching people do violence to each other in the context of entertainment." What?? Say it ain't so!

Growing up with two brothers, boyfriends, and male friends, I had noticed that men did not share my discomfort with violent displays. However, I had always thought that it was a result of their ability to distance - you know, their infamous stereotypical ability to unemotionally detach - themselves from the violence, not as a result of a genuine enjoyment of watching violence! Can this be true? Does this sound accurate to the rest of you? Thinking about this question, suddenly hockey comes to mind, one of the only sports I enjoy watching. Fans certainly seem to enjoy, rather than distance themselves from, the violence that goes on in hockey games. Perhaps I'll have to concede this point as well. Damn.


R'acquel said...

Hi Buttercup,

This is going to take me a few days to digest and ruminate over so I might engage in dialogue with you via blog if my life finds the spare time for it ;)

Have you ever watched the film,

"Beautiful Boxer"?

It's a great gender-bender film - from the perspective of a man who wants to become a woman and uses kickboxing to earn enough money to afford a sex change. I think the male/female gender divide that's involved in this film might raise your eyebrows and give you food for thought.

Based in Thailand, with fantastic cinematography/music too - so that way, you can have a mini-holiday via the TV box and maybe knock two birds with one stone ;)

More when i can. Speak to you soon ;) TC until then.

R'acquel said...

Btw, i can't stomach the violence in the Fight Club movie at all. 555 It makes me feel ill because we own a copy of it on DVD. I wish i could chuck it in the bin or hide it somewhere for it to get lost forever! [shudders]

Actually - i probably can't stand watching anything in general now. I've lived for a few years without watching TV for so long that my skills in desensitisation are not up on par compared to a lifestyle that sees alot of audiovisual input non-stop ;)

Gypsy said...

Almost all the men I know enjoy competitive violence (football, boxing, wrestling, UFC, etc.).

The type of violence that starts to become problematic for them is when it gets cruel. So, movies with kung fu fighting? Lancelot is all over them. Movies with cruelty, like a lot of horror movies? He won't watch them.