Female genital mutilation is a horrific violation that causes pain, humiliation and severe health issues for millions of women around the world. That reality is lost, however, on three men who think the answer to FGM involves getting American women to ride sex toys in public.
In their latest YouTube video, controversial trio Simple Pickup promises to donate $5 for every second a woman can stay on a Sybian, an intense vibrating saddle designed for female sexual pleasure. They proceed to approach women on the beach, some of whom take the guys up on their offer. What follows are intensely uncomfortable scenes as the bikini-clad women scream and giggle while leering men in baseball caps nudge each other as they ogle. One woman writhes and moans in a porn-inspired orgasm, leading to even more adolescent mirth from the boys of Simple Pickup, not to mention gaping from passersby.
It doesn't help that the so-called comedy trio has a history of objectifying women for dubious causes — sometimes without their consent, such as when they massaged unsuspecting women or kissed them without permission. In a video filmed at San Diego Comic-Con, one of the guys even motorboats a woman after she expressly told him no. As Katie J.M. Baker noted over at Jezebel:
There's been a lot of discussion lately about whether "nice guys" can be rapists. The answer is no; you cannot be "tricked" or "confused" into raping anyone. That's why, even though Kong, Jesse and Jason aren't the first pickup artists out there and they won't be the last, they need to be called out for trying to rebrand pickup culture as something that's not only for creeps who want to get laid by any means possible, but for the average well-meaning Joe, too.
There's something extra sinister about these "pick-up artists," (some have even called them sex offenders), using female masturbation to raise money ostensibly for a serious and wide-spread human rights infringement that affects women's sexual health and freedom.
For one thing, the video does not mention any details about the cause for which it is purportedly raising money. To do so would have been informative, although perhaps not very humorous. Female genital mutilation is a painful procedure whereby a woman's clitoris is cut off, her labia are removed and/or her vaginal opening is narrowed. It is usually done to young girls, mostly before the age of 5, and can lead to infection, infertility or complications in childbirth.
Not half as funny as playing with sex toys, is it?
More than 125 million women alive today have been subjected to 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.
Image Credit: Unicef
But let's give the guys over at Simple Pickup the benefit of the doubt — maybe they did want to donate money to charity. It's been argued before and we'll argue this again: Ultimately, not all fundraising endeavors are created equal. A stunt is not inherently good or helpful just because it raises money for charity, particularly when it promotes unpalatable ideas or degrades and sexualizes women. And charities seem to agree; when Simple Pickup donated more than $2,000 from motorboating women on the street, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation refused to accept their money. And now it appears the Orchid Project has rejected the $1,335 Simple Pickup raised this time around, saying their fundraising method "is not appropriate and more importantly is not respectful to the communities we work with."
Not necessarily known for its progressive editorial strategy, Cosmopolitan gets it right this time around, noting that while raising money and awareness is admirable, "context is important, and at the end of the day, money raised by potentially exploiting women made the charity uncomfortable. Us too." Anyone who would like to support the prevention of FGM should instead 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.