The Devenish controversy: Consent, Shame, and Society’s Expectations of Women…

Deb Biddleston is a native of Manchester, now living in NI for 18 years. She is a wife, mother and grandmother.

You would need to have been off grid in the last few days not to be aware of stories and “the video” of the UK Pleasure Boys show at the Devenish in Finaghy.

I will admit to being slightly aghast, not at the video, but at some of the comments from politicians, the media and others. Talk about double standards. I guess no one has ever seen a stripper or watched soft (or otherwise) porn? Would there have been this level of publicity and comment if it had been female strippers in front of a male audience? I think not.

I heard Nolan giving the group’s management some “robust” questioning, especially around consent. Consent matters (and the law accepts you can’t consent if you are inebriated), but no one attending that event could have been unaware of the fact that it was male strippers. The Full Monty was made in 1997 and sex on TV/Film is sometimes graphic. I don’t believe for a moment any woman was coerced to get on stage and perform with naked men. Was some of the behaviour alcohol fuelled? Undoubtedly so. Maybe there was a point that the venue management should have stepped in. But they didn’t and its now gone viral, with not just the performers verbally attacked but the women held up by some as morally bankrupt, with all the usual slurs applied.

I listened to a local councillor with his faux outrage. How it had “made him blush”. I worry that for people governing us, the sight of a penis should make him blush, he owns one after all. Or was it more that he believed women should not go out and have a good laugh or enjoy something overtly sexual? His comment about “the shame” they must be feeling tells the reason for his outrage. In his mind, maybe, women need protection from themselves.

I discussed this with my husband (he spends much more time on social media than I do). He tells me the video has “wrecked relationships”. I don’t know if that is true or not. Let’s say it is. Does that not say more about men still treating women as chattels? I asked him if I had been on the video would he have had something to say? He laughed and said, “I don’t know”. ….and I consider him to be enlightened, but it seems the male ego is a fragile thing.

There is no suggestion that I’m aware of that anything more than what is in the video went on. At the end of the day these guys are professionals and, one would assume, not getting embroiled in issues of consent or allegations of sexual assault would be at the forefront of everything they do.

My apologies, but I always think of Northern Ireland as a bit “backwards” in its collective thinking about gender roles, women’s bodily autonomy and women’s rights generally. I know its not every male on the street, and it is improving, but some of our male politicians set an appalling example.

In 2024, its time to completely accept women can do anything, including going to sex shows if they wish, without being publicly vilified. We are long past the stage of only being wives & mothers. We have our own lives, wants & needs. The sooner people accept it and move on, the sooner this episode will be forgotten.

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