Thursday, January 6, 2011

'Braxton Family Values' May Include Posing For Playboy

Toni Braxton successfully inked a deal with Bravo, to get her own reality television show Braxton Family Values.  Recently Braxton tweeted the following.


She went on to say:
"I would love to pose with Hugh Hefner though. He's the sexiest guy I know over 30 ;-)"
She went on to say that the Playboy spread would be "tastefully done" and would just be a "lil T and A".  (source)

Well, since Braxton decided to ask what I thought, who am I deny her my opinion. Braxton is in the process of going bankrupt for the second time and is said to be some fifty million dollars in debt.  Let me repeat, 50 million dollars in debt.   I understand that some women get into sex work because it is something that they enjoy, but in Braxton's case, I cannot help but question how much agency is involved in her decision to pose. I further do not believe that playboy suddenly became enamored with Ms.Braxton; it seems like a case of convenient timing.  This reminds me of when it was reported that Nadaya Suleman was experiencing technical difficulties, and the porn industry suddenly became interested in signing a contract with her.  The moment a woman becomes vulnerable, the sex industry is always ready to capitalize.

In practice, I have no problem with Braxton posing partially nude, or even nude, but I do think the predatory nature of the sex industry needs to be a part of the discussion.  I am also concerned with her description of Hugh Hefner as the sexist man over 30 that she knows.  Hefner has built an empire on the exploitation of women for the pleasure of men.  While he seems to be fine with his own aging, apparently the same is not acceptable for a woman, because he routinely changes his involvements more often than he changes his underwear.  I will absolutely credit him for suggesting that social pressure caused people to marry, rather than explore their sexuality during the fifties, but that was a small benefit that hardly makes up for the decades of exploitation. People don't read playboy for the articles, they buy playboy to literally consume images of women.

I find my self struggling to write this because I feel it is necessary to recognize the story of the oppressed,  sex worker is not universal, but at the same time, the predatory nature of the business itself is inescapable.  Braxtons desire to pose nude for Playboy feels so opposite to when Erykah Baddu stripped down for the video of Window Seat.  One was filled with agency and power, and the other just feels like desperately grasping for money, though both were attempting to earn a living. When agency becomes murky, decisions no longer come from a place  of autonomy, and in a world in which patriarchy is quick to exploit, this can be disastrous for women.  The sex industry is always waiting like a hungry monster for disposable bodies to consume, and the twin evils of patriarchy and capitalism ensure that there is always fresh blood.