Post CES Take-away: In Vegas, women are discarded like unwanted Garbage Pail Kid cards

Or at least that’s the image that’s stuck in my mind after leaving Las Vegas for the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. Not the cool 3-D displays I saw or the latest breed of electronic vehicles and tablets and it’s not the image of topless women I saw during my first Vegas strip club visit (yes, you read that correctly, I patronized a Vegas strip club – and was surprised at how enlightening an experience it was). No, it’s the image of those guys and gals (almost exclusively Latino) on the Vegas strip handing out cards with naked girls on them for sexual encounters. Or more accurately, the image of those cards scattered all over the ground like party confetti wherever I walked.

Most people who know me would not consider me a prude. I’m pretty open and open-minded about sex. But the image of naked women carelessly strewn all over the ground bothers me. The image of anything so exposed and discarded bothers me. I don’t care how people spend their time in Vegas. I’m not passing moral judgments on individual life choices. You want to gamble, gamble. You want to pay for sex, go for it. You want to cover your balls in peanut butter and let your dog lick it off – those are your balls and your dog, not mine. I don’t take offense to prostitution, stripping or gambling (*although, thanks to Adam’s comment below, I’m not saying I’m a proponent of them – it’s just they invoke larger thoughts that exceed the limits of this individual post). What I do take issue with, or at least question, is the impact of people mindlessly stepping on images of naked women during their visit to a major epicenter of business in the United States. It makes me think of the Broken Windows Theory, where the norm-setting and signaling effects of urban disorder and vandalism promotes additional crime and anti-social behavior. Except instead of broken windows devaluing neighborhoods, the seemingly trivial “babes on a card” being passed out and tossed aside on the Las Vegas strip are devaluing women.

I can only wonder what impact it has on visitors from foreign countries whose only experience of the United States is Las Vegas and the strip. CES had over 140,000 attendees, up 11% from last year’s 126, 000 (even though visitor numbers to Vegas has been on the decline since the recession). The increase is attributed to attendees from foreign countries, most of whom were men. The irony is a lot of the gadgets at CES were geared towards women. But I’d say less than 10% of CES’ attendees were female (maybe 20% tops). It seems like a big mistake on the part of any seller to ostracize and neglect women – they’re a big fucking consumer demographic. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from automobiles to health care. If consumption is part of the virtuous cycle of production, I want women to be included in that cycle.

So what to do? Am I the only one who’d like to see the sex cards disappear from the strip? Am I the only one who thinks it could have a positive net impact for Las Vegas and its visitors – like when bars started banning smoking. Bar owners were terrified they’d lose patrons and money. But it turns out, most bar go-ers didn’t like the smoke, and smoke-free establishments actually saw a 20+% increase in sales. Maybe a sex-card free strip would actually draw more folks in. Besides, isn’t this 2011? There’s this thing called the internet. Hard copy is, in a word, archaic. Seriously, just bing it.

So I’m petitioning the city of Las Vegas to ban the sex cards. I think the gain would grossly outweigh any perceived loss. Las Vegas will be getting a new mayor – the man who has been running the city for the past 11 1/2 years is saying his farewell. Now seems like the perfect time to makes some changes and possibly make Sin City a little more seductive, a little more alluring and that much more attractive to visit.

If you agree, you can join the cause with me by petitioning @CityOfLasVegas via to “Eliminate Sex Cards from the Strip”: (RT to sign).

Maybe the new leadership might take notice. Maybe the end consumer can actually influence the source. And maybe it’s better to act on Margaret Mead‘s quotes instead of just quoting her.

It’s the little things in life that count.

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  1. Amy, your comment “I don’t take offense to prostitution, stripping or gambling” and the entire premise of this post as the sexual value of women being abused and disposable….are at odds. The value of a person – woman or man – as defined entirely by their sexuality is at the root of prostitution, stripping, pornography, and any other avenue that reduces a person down to one shallow attribute: their body. As a father of daughters and someone concerned for the value of women, I encourage you to DO take offense to prostitution, stripping, and any other activity that devalues women and womanhood!

    1. @Adam – Amy and were discussing this exact issue. Basically, are their acceptable even productive roles for women as strippers, prostitutes, or in pornography.

      Sounds like a silly question until you think about Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Is that bad and if not, what is the difference between that and stripping?

      Even more, do I watch pornography and if so how do I explain that to my (potential) daughter?

      My only answer was that there is some stripping and pornography that I despise and find offensive. Others that I enjoy. My challenge is how to explain to a young women these differences…

    2. I don’t know if those things define a person’s intrinsic value. I mean, if I go to a restaurant, a server is pretty much a server to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t value him or her as a person. Just for that time , I am just interested in him or her only as much as they are providing that service. So if a man watches a stripper, or sees an escort (and I am talking about consensual adults of legal age and right mind), it doesn’t mean that he is necessarily objectifying all women, or seeing that woman only as an object. He probably just likes looking at a beautiful woman, like many men do, and he likes the fantasy, and is probably also lonely in some aspect in his life. But he still might value women greatly. A man CAN be gross and objectifying about it if he behaves in a crude or cheap way, but that is not invariably the case.

  2. I just finished reading this post…and despite agreeing with you, Amy, the only thing that I can focus on is the stat that women account for 85% of consumer purchases. Are you for real? You people need to shop less. That’s just ridiculous. 🙂

  3. Thanks, Adam, for your comment. I agree (to an extent) but have conflicting thoughts on defining writ large what is morally right or wrong for others. A perfect example is homosexuality – there are some people that believe it is an abomination whereas I believe the opposite. I’m trying to keep an open mind about topics like stripping and prostitution because I don’t see them as black-and-white issues. Is nudity “wrong”? I don’t believe so. Does stripping inherently devalue the stripper? Not necessarily. Can I empathize with someone who might solicit services from a prostitute or strip club because they are seeking attention, affection and sexual gratification? Yes, I can. I’m hesitant to directly argue against something I haven’t gotten my head around and I feel like these broader issues are very nebulous.

  4. @trae: i was surprised at that stat. it seems too high. but if the number reflects purchases made for dependents (i.e. children) then it doesn’t seem unfathomable.

  5. I think the cards sound gross, although I have never seen them, not having been to Las Vegas. I agree it’s a really bad marketing move for the city, and as much as I would like to see the fountains and neon, is a big turn-off.

    If I were going to run a strip club — and I have no plans to do so anytime soon — I would make it classy (as possible) and upscale, exclusive, and expensive, like Chicago’s old Everleigh Club. I wonder why they don’t take it in that direction? They would make so much more money!

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