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The sex didn’t sell, but the effort was disturbing enough

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to witness one of the more profound (and depressing) examples of women being objectified, and of women objectifying themselves.

I happened to be working across the street from a car dealership where a high school girls track team was offering car washes for monetary donations.

The girls, who could not have been any older than 15, promoted their venture through the usual means: holding up signs, waving at cars, dancing around a little. Obviously, none of this is out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, the girls were not receiving much business. I’m not sure why. It was a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon – the perfect time to have your car cleaned. Plus, since it was a donation drive, you can pay as much [or as little] as you like.

Nevertheless, zero cars volunteered for the car wash from the girls.

Soon, their advertising techniques became more desperate. What had begun as harmlessly waving at cars quickly devolved into rampant, awkward obscenity.

Visibly frustrated by their failure, the girls began adding a little sex into their routine. It began with a little butt shaking and slapping toward the ongoing traffic. Then they would go to a stop sign and try pole dancing. At one point, they used a foam noodle (the kind used in swimming pools) to act as a mock penis on one girl while another stroked it. One girl even briefly flashed a few cars.

Traffic would come and the girls would perform their show; traffic would go and the girls would stand around looking dejected. The cycle kept repeating. If it weren’t so sad, it might have been comical.

I began to notice that even for their donation drive car wash, there was a certain hierarchy. There was a definite “A” team and a “B” team and it wasn’t difficult to tell them apart because they separated themselves onto different parts of the lot.

The “B” team was comprised of the slightly bigger girls [the ones that might do shot put]. These were the girls who lacked creativity and mainly just shouted “car wash! CAR wash! CAR WASH!”, like a baby in the corner, at the vehicles zipping by.

The “A” team had the girls who were a little more willing to actively degrade themselves. These were the aforementioned young ladies who were putting on nothing short of a junior Vegas show.

Yet it was the “A” team that seemed to be more popular. Not only did more passing-by cars honk at them (which assumedly would be a sign of approval), but the “B” team would occasionally glance over and try to copy a move or two before resuming their regular routine of whiny yelling.

The track coach – who, from what I could tell, was their only supervision – seemed to condone the depravity. In fact, he seemed the most frustrated by the lack of car washings. Every now and again he would go up to the girls and scold them.

Being across the street, I could not hear what he was saying, but I do know that every time he left, the odd strip show only worsened. I can only imagine he was yelling, “We need to fill the jar full of quarters by five! Come on, ladies, show ’em what you got!”

I don’t know if any cars actually stopped in or not. By the time my work shift had ended, the count was still zero, which I suppose is a good thing. It would be much creepier if tons of old truckers suddenly showed up hollering for an encore.

So what does all of this mean? Was this an isolated incident or an example of a larger trend? Consider it a trickle-down effect of a world with Paris Hilton; a culture that promotes the idea of a girl’s worth coming from her appearance. The “A” team, more willing to show their body, received more attention than the other group. Encouraged by the attention, they continued to take the next step further.

For what? A little extra money to buy track shirts? Imagine if something more meaningful had actually been at stake.

I’m not oblivious to the idea that they were probably acting with a hint of irony and a wink in their eye, but at the same time, they were clearly trying to have it both ways. Sure, they may not be saying what you think they’re saying – that they’re willing to be sexualized in order to earn your money – but they’re not saying the opposite either because they were using that sexuality (awkward though it was) to draw attention and thus money.

Regardless of what it meant, it was still the most uncomfortable part of my weekend.

Send comments about this column to [email protected].

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