Simple Pickup, an all-male group that advises men on topics such as how to pick up women when you’re high, documented their public use of a Sybian, or “vibrating saddle for female pleasure,” to raise awareness for a “serious issue, in a fun way…” Simple Pickup pledged to donate $5 to prevention of female circumcision for every second that a woman stayed on the Sybian.
The men were filmed walking around Venice Beach, asking women questions like, “Do you like your clitoris?” in order to encourage women to participate in their fundraising efforts. Let’s take a moment to reflect on this situation: I happen to be a woman. I love my clitoris. BUT if a random stranger, namely a male stranger, approached me on the street and asked me to masturbate in a public space in order to raise money for a this cause—or any cause—I would be fucking offended.
Why would I subject my body, my dignity, my sexuality to mistreatment for the viewing pleasure of others in order to raise awareness about the EXACT mistreatment of the female body this fundraising effort is supposedly trying to prevent? Unfathomably hypocritical. By expecting, or even asking, a woman to agree to make a public display of her intimate sexual arousal, pleasure and potential orgasm, Simple Pickup communicates the hegemonic idea that supports male control over female sexuality. Sidenote: Did you notice that almost every single onlooker caught on film was a male? (If you didn’t, watch again. It’s true.)
Nevertheless, the root of the issue lies in the opening proclamation: “Raising awareness for a serious issue, in a fun way.” The fact that they dub this objectifying of female arousal a “fun” way to raise money quite frankly makes me nauseous. First of all, there is truly no need to incorporate “fun” into an issue that concerns the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. There is nothing fun about young girls being subjected to pain, infection, infertility or complications during childbirth. There is nothing fun about this statistic:
More than 125 million women alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) in the 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. It’s not just a problem in those countries, though; each year 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK, while the Centers for Disease Control estimates that up to 200,000 girls are at risk of FGM in the U.S.
Secondly, what the hell is so “fun” about sexually demeaning women? Well at least the Simple Pickup got one thing right. Female circumcision is a serious issue (…so is male circumcision) which is why this kind of “fun” should have no connection to it. This stunt effectively undermined a devastating human rights issue in overtly sexually demeaning way.
Some clarifying points:
- I understand that the women featured in the video quite possibly complied and gave consent to be filmed on the Sybian. But let’s be honest here, there is a high probability that was not the case. The surprise on many of their faces, and subsequent reactions after riding the sex toy, questions the agency these women had in the situation. Most who tried it displayed feelings of discomfort, embarrassment or surprise.
- I think the men strategically used the term “Sybian” when asking women to participate. There is a reason that they didn’t ask, “Hey! Would you like to sit on this sex toy, quite possibly have an orgasm in front of everyone in this park, then let us post it all over the internet where it will most likely be viewed by millions of horny people surfing the web to raise money for female circumcision??!?” I had never heard of a “Sybian” until watching this video then Googling it, and I am willing to bet that most of the women interviewed had no idea what the hell it was until they felt it vibrating in between their legs.
- I also understand that there is a possibility that some of the females who hopped on that thing actually wanted to be pleasured in public. They showed one woman actually having a full-blown orgasm, during which the guys conducting the event were like, Dude I think she’s having an orgasm right now.”…To which I respond: What the fuck did you expect to happen..? Why are you surprised?
- I know some might argue that this behavior could be perceived as a woman taking ownership over her body and her sexuality, but I still have a huge problem with that in this particular situation. I am all for the “own-your-body-own-your-sexuality-twerk-or-die-I-can-dance-how-I-want-wear-what-I-want-Queen-Bey” agenda HOWEVER the idea of public masturbation is not cool with me. If I saw a dude jacking off in a park, I would not appreciate it, throw something at his penis and probably call the police.
Simple Pickup, I appreciate your efforts (not really) to raise money for female circumcision. It was a valiant (disgusting) gesture, but your sexual objectification of female sexual pleasure ruined it. Absolutely shit on everything. If you want to support the prevention of FGM, feel free to donate directly to the Orchid Project, the Desert Flower Foundation, 28 Too Many or any of these charities that seek to eradicate this harmful practice.