The Rock of Love Bus Finale Screwed Women In More Ways Than One

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Those of you who, like me, have been hooked on VH1's Rock of Love Bus this season (perhaps against some of your better feminist judgment), may have found last night's finale a bit unfulfilling. Not only was it a challenge to care whether it was Taya or Mindy (the two final contestants) who won Bret's cowboy-hat loving heart in the end, but the episode broke some new and unsettling ground when it came to reinforcing sex and gender-based stereotypes. (You thought they had already broken all of the available ground and then some, didn't you?)

This season of Rock of Love Bus kicked off with some vagina shots on top of a bar, so it shouldn't surprise us that it ended with some sex and gender weirdness as well. What is surprising, to me at least, is that the show's finale managed to both promote and condemn female sexuality AT THE SAME TIME. How is this possible, you ask? Read on and let's discuss!

I will spare those of you non-fans the details of the show's premise and what happened prior to the finale, but if you are so inclined you can find most of that info here. Suffice it to say, the show casts Bret Michaels as an object of rock 'n' roll desire, and Taya and Mindy were the final two women competing to be his "Rock of Love" (commence eye-rolling… now).

In order to get to know the women as best he could before making his final choice, Bret took each one of them out one last solo dinner date. Mindy, the midwestern sweetheart who Bret feared was prone to mood swings (another stereotype for your bingo card), chose to spend the night in Bret's room at the end of the date and they presumably had sex. On the other hand, Taya, the too-good-to-be-true Penthouse model, told Bret she'd rather not spend the night with him at the end of her respective date.

In and of itself, this situation is not a problem. Who cares who slept together and who didn't? However, the show framed Mindy as a total slut for giving it up to Bret, and in the end he chose the virtuous Taya to be the bandana to his hair extensions instead of Mindy. This all coming from a man who has spend the past three months (or 22 years, depending on how you look at it) talking about how much he loves sex with women, and strippers, and threesomes, and porn, and, you get the picture. WTF?

Leading up to the series finale, my feminist hackles were raised during Rock of Love Bus because Bret (and the contestants on the show, and the producers, and VH1, etc.) encouraged women to use their sexuality to get attention and compete with one another. The skimpier their outfits and the raunchier their behavior, the nearer the contestants came to winning Bret's ballad-singing affections. I didn't like it, but at least it was pretty straightforward and the women were being honest about their sexual desires (even if, to me, those desires seemed misplaced). I think that's why I feel so grossed out by the insidious sexual morality tale of the finale, because the reason I've been drawn to Rock of Love Bus is that (up until now) it's been one of the few shows on television that didn't ask women to apologize for our sexuality. It may have been a bit low-brow for some tastes, but it was honest (and kind of hilarious).

In the end, though, the "virtuous", hard-to-get woman was rewarded with the prize that the other, "looser" women were urged to use their sexuality to win. While Bret told the camera that he respects all of the women he's been with and Taya's choice not to sleep with him had nothing to do with his final decision to pick her, he followed up that line by saying, "but I can't stop thinking about her." Of course, there was also ample footage of Taya calling Mindy a slut and a whore for spending the night in Bret's room, even though everything about the show and its premise encouraged her to do just that if she wanted to win.

I guess it all comes down to the age-old, frustrating, Madonna-Whore archetype. Bret is a "rock star" who has supposedly been with tons of hot women and just can't get enough overt sexuality from his female counterparts. He spends months telling women to act on their sexual desires and try to win his affections by being sexy (and by having sex with him), and then at the very end he decides to go for the woman who wouldn't give it up. (Again, I support Taya's decision not to sleep with Bret, just not the way it was framed by the show. Hell, I don't want to sleep with Bret either.)

I saw this season finale as just another subtle reinforcement of the notion that as women we should use our sexuality as a secret weapon against men. It doesn't matter if WE want to have sex (since according to these types of media representations, we never do), we have to make a guy wait for it if we want him to stick around afterward. As soon as you give up your one valuable asset (your vagina), that's it. That's your only card, and if you play it too soon you're screwed (both literally, which might be a good thing, and figuratively, which isn't).

I'm not surprised to say that Rock of Love Bus disappoints me, but I am surprised to say that it's because of a weird, moralistic attitude towards female sexuality. The framing of Bret's decision to be with Taya sent the not-so-subtle message that a man won't buy the cow if he can get the vagina for free, and I expected a different message from good ol' Bret Michaels. This message is made all the more unsettling by the fact that Rock of Love Bus is the number one show on VH1, and that I can only assume its target demographic is young women. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I'd prefer vagina shots.

Comments

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My brother and I watched the

My brother and I watched the finale together, and we were talking about how with the way the show is set up, it's almost as if 'spend the night with Bret!' is the final "challenge" that the last two contestants have to participate in.

Reality

I've watched Rock of Love intermittently, but not this past season. I'm a psychotherapist and when I see the women being overtly sexual to win Brett's attention, I wonder how many of them are acting out psychological disorders, were sexually abused as children, etc. Probably a rather high percentage. I don't see this as a show that celebrates or even demonstrates healthy feminist sexuality, but rather exploits women with low self-esteem to appeal to our train wreck mentality.

Ironically, the only redeeming feature of these dating reality shows is, I think, the realistic portrayal of who is eventually selected. Now, arguably, being selected by Brett Michaels is actually the consolation prize with the real reward being able to go back to one's own life and whatever a contestant actually has going for her.

But let's say for the sake of argument that winning one of these shows is an accomplishment. Never, ever is the girl who most blatantly offers her sexuality the winner. On tamer shows like the Bachelor, never is the woman who pursues and declares her love before he's declared his the winner. The message isn't to be coy and play games, the message is to have some self respect, make sure you're getting something before you reciprocate, value who you are and what you offer and be secure enough to wait to see how you feel about him rather than flinging yourself at someone you don't even know. And don't know cares for, respects and is willing to work for you and your affection.

So yes, once again women are encouraged to give it away and are then rejected for doing so. Unfair? Sure! But that's the way the world has always been and always will be. Women need to get that message and learn to value and protect themselves accordingly. And stop falling for the same old, time worn shit.

Don't wait for the change out there, be the change....

I am not surprised to read

I am not surprised to read about this show's finale. Our culture is more sexualized than ever, but the double standard persists. What I find interesting is that heterosexual female DESIRE is usually ignored, even in media that is targeted towards women. Why is that? I also notice that sex in the media is always signified by a female body. Erotica that supposedly targets both genders shows mostly women. Our culture seems to assume that women are not erotically charged by male nudity. Why is that?

that face

bret michaels' face really creeps me out. he looks like a robot with an old woman's facelifted face.

He looks feminine to me!

really!?
When I saw this picture, I felt he was a very "pretty man". Clearly, he wears makeup. Baby blue eyes, long golden hair and the way his lips are pursed. VERY feminine.
I started to wonder if they replaced him with a woman in this picture, but then he has a strong nose and you can see the 5'oclock shadow starting to form.
But still, very delicate, almost androgynous.

"Virgin-Whore".

Bret chose the opposite of the “Virgin-whore” concept, a lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets. However this goes along with the situation that guys what to just mess around with girls who give it up in the end, but they want to end up with a girl who keeps them on their toes and who can hold their own. This girl obviously took Bret by surprise, and guys like being surprised. They don’t like predictability. They want excitement, even if its not the kind that gets them laid. However I’m pretty sure that he knew that if he chose her she would give it up to him then so it was a win/win situation. He already presumably slept with the other girl or at least close to it so why would he choose her?

This is difficult

I find it strange in this day and age that we do not openly support polygamy. This show and so many other reality TV shows display open support for multiple partner relationship. Not in a positive light of course, but still.

Charmed School DEUX Coming Soon.

Oh, was the sexuality misplaced. I found myself, cringing and yelling at my T.V. half the time, wondering where exactly these girls get their idea of sexuality from? It all seemed so fabricated. For Taya to presume to be so virtuous and to snidely look down upon Mindy, when Taya was exploiting Penthouse religiously and reminding America that she is Pet (for such a upstanding and classy woman, I would believe she would be offended by such a title) of the Year, for sleeping with Bret, quick to call her "friend" a slut for simply being comfortable with a man, she liked seems sad to me on many forms.

I disliked immensely the undertone of the last episode. How Bret didn't mention how he couldn't stop thinking about Mindy for allowing herself to be open with him on another level. Something anything mentioning it, he treated it like a night with any other girl on the road. He openly prompted a stereotype, that all men will never be in a relationship with a girl who gives it away after dating her and other women for two months, therefore building some make believe bond with her and them. That went against the vine of what he was saying and doing throughout the show. He eliminated girls for not being sexual or not wanting to be sexual with him. It angered me that none of these girls would dare lay any blame on Bret Michaels himself. Why would they he's the jerk... I mean ... Knight in shining armor. Mindy had it right, when she called him "Another jerk in a rock-star uniform."