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More on Misogyny in the Parkour INdustry

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

A friend came to me this afternoon to ask me if I would weigh in with my thoughts on the matter of the Pasha-video. For context I’m not going to give you a link to the video; I know if it were me, curiosity would probably get the better of me (ie, I’m not gonna judge you if you do go watch it), but for however many clicks I can prevent him getting, I’ll do you a summary instead:

The video starts with Pasha and a porn artist, Riley Reid lying seductively on a bed, they get off the bed, I think Pasha does a dive roll off or something, I’m not going to check; Riley proceeds to stand on a small podium, and the arches her back so her butt is protruding. Pasha uses her butt as a ledge to do a “flip”, (intentionally) landing face down, feigning injury. He then arches in his lower back, to mime as though he has injured his penis. Riley rushes over, rolls him over to tend to him, and then reaches to undo his pants, in what seems to be the “joke”; feigning oral sex/”first aid” on his penis. This is where the video cuts. The caption includes a reference to a problematic name for the acrobatic move he performed, the “p*mp flip”.

In response to my friend I started out by saying “pretty much: it’s gross. Using women as objects for clout is gross.” Something I rightly expected would be common ground for us, but I felt it served us to state it outright. I continued (because this is where I feel there’s been nuance missing in the existing discussions I’ve seen so far) “sex work is not a bad thing - it’s a really valuable thing - but it is still tied with objectification of women and gender minorities, and whilst it can be empowering, it’s so easy for it to cross the line and be objectifying.

And bringing something like that into the parkour industry is fucked because of the pre-existing gender imbalance and the history of women being used as props or shown as objects with no real internal life or experience”.

It’s not that sex work is the problem, its that parkour already has a cultural problem with misogyny and specifically with dehumanising non-parkour women as props and objectifying any women from within the community, who train or share videos of their training or work, so bringing in a woman who capitalises on selling sex - which isn’t a problem inside the sex work industry - is a problem within the parkour community/industry.

Because my “other” world is circus, I think it’s useful to look at that context, too. Like, if it were circus and not parkour it would be a different matter, because circus is a lot more adjacent to sex work; circus and sex work are both about sharing what you do with your body for the enjoyment of your audience - that’s not a free pass to sexualise or objectify circus artists who aren’t participating in sex work, but there are areas of circus that overlap with sex work (honourable mention to pole dancing, which is sometimes circus and sometimes sex work and sometimes both). The only overlap between the parkour industry and the sex work industry are the parts of each industry that are problematic. The parts that exploit and dehumanise women (and gender minorities).

In case I’ve not said it explicitly enough: the problem is not that sex work is bad, the problem is that men’s attitudes towards women in the parkour community is bad, and that is why what Pasha and Riley have done is bad.

That is also why it’s not about the fact that she was consenting in this. The impact of this is not only how it affects Riley (which one can only assume is quite favourably). It’s about how it affects misogyny affected people (women, girls and gender minorities) in the parkour community. It’s about how it affects men’s attitudes of women and gender minorities in the parkour community. It’s about how it affects women and girls who may be interested in entering the parkour community, but now have one more example of dangerous misogyny to dissuade them.

The whole point of this conversation was that my friend and I both wanted to address and work through whether our initial feelings of distaste about the video were rooted in misogyny and whorephobia, and I’m really very confident that, nah, it isn’t that. As a consumer of sex work, as an ex sex-worker, as an avid advocate for decolonisation and how that applies to unlearning white supremacist, patriarchal, puritanical values around sex and sex work, I can tell you, you can absolutely be pro-sex work, pro-sex worker, and still say that this is nothing but misogynistic harm to our community.


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