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Laurie, it's an interesting subject, but I can't help wondering why it's always incumbent upon women to sex up a long term relationship? And when lingerie moves from accentuating one's assets to a full-on costume for a performance many deem demeaning to those who actually get paid at clubs to do such performances, I conclude that men have been watching too much porn and women are being held to bizarre porn industry standards for what it means to be sexy. Let me be clear--I have no issue with these military wives and what they do or don't do in the privacy of their own homes. What concerns me is the continued--for lack of a better term--vulgarization of love and intimacy. Our society should be looking at why women feel the need to take pole dancing lessons, to wax their nether regions to pre-pubescent smoothness, or tattoong "tramp stamps"on their lower backs.Fashion?--sure. But do we all need to look and act like whores to be attractive to men? To me there's a difference between sexiness and sluttiness. But hey, I'm a woman. What do I know? Hey, guys, is there a distinction in your minds between sexy and slutty? Or do you not make the distinction? Just curious.

Scott Bowen

Inmyhumbleopinion -- I'd hazard a guess that most guys could tell you the difference between sexy and slutty (should I try?), but for some, the two traits often overlap to a degree. Who, however, defines "slutty" these days? Can slutty be sexy when it's a glam put-on, such as, say, PJ Harvey in character during her "To Bring You My Love" phase, versus real-life slutty, say Amy Winehouse on any given day?

Considering the number of women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan, one must ask, where's their burlesque when they get home?


Pardon a momentary digression, but I simply loved "Paris Is Burning." Men trying just as hard to be society's definition of women as most women try to be society's definition of women. I think it's just as tragic an obsession on the part of the transvestites as on the part of the women who try so hard to be society's definition of women.
It seems like it's almost ALL burlesque here in the USA. But where's the farce, Laurie, either in "Paris" or in Operation Bombshell? This is just stripping. Not that that isn't a good thing--just that it's not a political thing. I don't see the liberation in this or the possibility of it.
Also, as a strictly practical matter, I'd be a bit worried about what my wife would do with her newfound unbridled (or bridled, as the case might be) sexuality when my R and R was over and I was back in Iraq.


Alright, this is discussing a rather minute point at the end of the article. I'm writing this from Iraq right now. I do not come from a lower or middle-class family, I joined the Army simply because I was bored with college and wanted adventure. But it's actually worked out so that I will make far more when I get out than I ever would have by finishing school and working in some traditional sector. The market for those with certain skillsets and clearances is astounding. And with the continued escalation of this "war", it seems like those skillsets will be in demand for a long while yet.

In no way do I agree with US foreign policy. I am an avid reader of the books of the American Empire Project. But I go where the money is, just like most people do. So I contest your point that you benefit most from the system, as those who are in it and understand it can take advantage of it in ways you could not. See the littany of contractors. As for the risk, it's rather small. Just take a look at the statistics. As I said before, I don't agree with the politics of it, but the money is certainly there. Take a look at clearancejobs.com sometime.

Laurie Essig

Justinl- thanks for your post. I suppose some (many? hmmm) middle and upper class young people are volunteering for war for economic reasons. But it is more of a "choice" when other options besides a dead end minimum wage job exist. The "choices" for people with few options is more a "dilemma." Still, I got your point. Interesting.

Laurie Essig

These comments are all interesting and they show our confusion over sex, desire, and the market. The way I see it, it's impossible to have sex outside of the economy. Romance disguises the economic terms of most sexual relationships- including marriage- but marriage is also an economic relationship and in many many ways a form of class reproduction (very few people marry outside of their class; even fewer stay married to people from another class). The thing about burleque is it's an openly performative and staged sexual exchange (and yes, often explicitly for money). Is that less human than a "good marriage"? Only if you believe the ideology of romance that says love is floating above the material world and not situated in economic relations. Besides, having watched and even performed a lot of burlesque over the years, I have to tell you that it's HOT, HOT, HOT!!!!


Laurie, with all respect, if you turn a trick as well as you turn a phrase, I think your performances would be something to behold.
You're right about people marrying within their classes. My case is an interesting one. I'm from upper-middle class suburban family, married to an educated Chinese immigrant. Though she was sometimes starving under Mao, her father was a mid-level, better-paid Party functionary and so they were also upper-middle class, even if the official policy was one of equality. Despite the cultural differences our values are very similar.


OK, let's cut to the chase. In 500 words or less, what would the political economy be of burlesque, of prostitution, of plastic surgery, of marriage under an ideal Marxist society? No quid pro quo? Hard to imagine.

Laurie Essig

Trust me Bob, my burlesque performances would make you melt... but I digress. Yes, sex outside the market is difficult to imagine- I suppose it could be for some other sort of capital- like social capital or cultural capital? It's difficult to imagine any human society existing without exchanges of some sort of capital in part because what would possibly cause us to climb into bed together and reproduce????


What would cause people to climb into bed together? Er, mutual pleasure. But then there goes your capitalist context thesis, no? Mutual co-equal consensual benefit/exploitation is a strange definition of a non-capitalist transaction but isn't that where the attempt to find a Marxist context for sex leads?
I'm reminded of a 1969 Shel Silverstein cartoon:
Prostitute to john: "We don't have prostitution here in Haight-Ashbury. I make love to you because I love you. You give me money because you love me."
A late neo-Reichian (read him in manuscript) sociologist friend of mine, (member of the Middlebury Quaker Meeting, btw), wrote a book, The Oceanic Quest, equating the romantic quest with the religious quest. In it he made a critical distinction--that partners are not so much sex objects ast sex *subjects.*
Ultimately, I think we are all both sex subjects and sex objects because people act both on the basis of agape and eros. As we *value* sex, it is natural for it to become, on some level, capital, something we will *barter/trade/pay* for with money or other valuable consideration, I think we agree. But, again, that leaves Marx on the sidelines, doesn't it?

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