Tag Archives: sexuality

The Trouble With Portraying Sexuality

There’s something that’s been sitting on my mind for a while now, and I wasn’t really aware of the cognitive dissonance until I had a recent discussion with a friend of mine. In feminism, a movement apparently in its third wave according to academics, yet still struggling to find a unified front on many issues, there is a bit of an issue when it comes to the public perceptions of female sexuality.

Basically, it boils down to two views. First, you have the idea that sexuality should not be shameful. Sex isn’t something to shame people for having. Doing such can cause all sorts of psychological problems, first off. It’s a completely natural process that, unlike most animals in the world, is enjoyable for recreational purposes and is not solely a procreational action.

Unfortunately, when it comes to shame over sex, women get the worst rap. We all probably know the double standard by now… men who have multiple partners are conquerors. They’re virile. They’re manly. They can hold their tally like a trophy, the quantity of their conquests far outweighing their abilities (or inabilities) in the bed itself. Meanwhile, women are to keep their sexual lives quiet. Women with multiple partners are sluts. Shameful. Dirty. Broken. In a weird twist, sometimes people that want to help protect women from being sexual victims apply the term “victim” all over the place, even when sex is fully consensual… because it’s inconceivable for some people that a woman might seek out and desire sex. So, there’s the faction that wants to eliminate sex as a dirty word and deed, particularly for women. If a woman wants to be a stripper, let her. If she wants to be a prostitute/escort (when legal), why not? If she wants to dress provocatively, she should be allowed without being called names, or seen as “asking for sex.” Consent is different from how one dresses one’s self.

But then, there’s the other faction. The faction that says they’re tired of women being objectified and seen as sexual pleasure units. That’s tired of cleavage and boobs and butt on every single advertisement. That’s tired of having products directed at women (and men) because of their chromosomal makeup. Tired of the media using tired, false gender narratives and tropes, like the damsel in distress. But, mostly, tired of just being deemed as sexual, being boiled down to physical bodies and sexual performances. Tired of being “Hot Girl #3” on the TV.

Now, some of these things are shared by both groups, like being tired of the tropes and the gendered products. But sometimes, even those things find fractions between the factions. Because, despite being feminists and desiring an equality between all genders and sexualities, there’s just too many problems and not enough solutions.

It is definitely a problem that women exploring their sexualities are seen as sluts and looked down on. It is also definitely a problem that society demands sexual performance from women. It’s a hypocrisy that continues to harm our social makeup where men expect sex from women, and women have the choice of either being degraded for complying or degraded for not complying. And then possibly being raped and blamed for it by society. It’s not exactly a kind world for women today (and the scary thing is that it seems like it might be kinder than it once was).

I’ll give an example of the disparity. In the BBC show “Sherlock,” a show I find to be quite fantastic, in season 2 we were introduced to what is perhaps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most infamous female character, Irene Adler. Appearing in “A Scandal In Bohemia,” she is the one woman Sherlock Holmes has shown obvious affection and admiration for. To quote,

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. […] And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

In the BBC show’s re-imagining of the character, she was recreated as a dominatrix, using her wits and dominance in the bedroom to put powerful people in compromising positions and obtain information she hoped to use to her advantage. In her first meeting with Holmed, she introduced herself in the nude as an attempt to throw him off his game. It worked. …but this portrayal exemplifies exactly the difference in the factions.

On the one hand, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with a woman willingly working in the sex industry. (We’ll skip the discussions of abuse and slavery for now to make the discussion simpler, but I wouldn’t count anyone coerced or forced into that industry in any fashion as working in it willingly.) There shouldn’t be anything wrong with a woman using her body or sexuality for any (legal) reason, even to win a battle of wits against a certain private detective. However, some feel that being portrayed as a sex worker diminished the focus on Adler’s mental acuity and ability as written originally by Doyle. It felt like a cheap gimmick, a typical jump in today’s media to make the woman a sexual being, an object of pleasure.

This is, of course, not helped out at all by show-runner Steven Moffat’s rather well-documented casual sexism and poor treatment of female characters in his other show, “Doctor Who.”

Personally, I think the Adler character (unlike many of the women in “Doctor Who”) was well done. The sexuality wasn’t really a focus the way I saw it. It was never portrayed in a gaudy, ridiculous fashion. Rather, it was run as a counter to Sherlock’s discomfort with the sensual, as sensuality requires physical and emotional responses that he has spent years ridding himself of for the sake of logic and reason. Others, like my friend, disagree.

The sad thing is, there’s not really a way I can see out of this sort of conundrum. It seems perfectly obvious to me that both factions have absolutely correct and poignant points. Both of these hypocritical philosophies of our society (particularly American) are damaging. On their own, they’re bad enough. Combined, they are a maelstrom of harm and sexism. And that’s just for the women. It damages men, too, as does our portrayal of men in the media. So, should one aspect be focused on more than the other? Can both be fixed without a complete reset of social norms and ideals? Or is this something we will constantly be fighting against, one way or another?

I honestly have no idea what should be done about these problems, save this: We need to talk about them and realize they’re problems. While we may not agree on the solutions, as long as we agree something is wrong, we can start to work toward answers. And since the world is full of people smarter than me, maybe the answer is just waiting for someone to mention the problem to the right person.

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Seriously, Why Does The AFA Exist?

So, for those of you not keeping vigilant watch for news about the potential zombie uprising those dear sweet Mayans warned us of, recently, there was a freakish, zombie-esque news story making its way around the circuit. It is a pretty horrific story. No joke. So, queasy stomachs may want to avoid reading the next paragraph. Or, actually, this entire article if you’re super queasy, because the gross gets mentioned a few times. It’s important. Anyway…

Police in Miami shot a naked man. The naked man was eating another man’s face.

Apparently, the man was potentially suffering from a psychosis brought on by drug use. It’s a crazy, gruesome story about substance abuse going horrifically wrong and causing harm to a fellow human being.

Which is why I did a massive double take when I read this headline: American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer Compares Gays To Face-Eating Cannibal.

If your reaction isn’t “…huh?” then I’m confused. Or perhaps you’re sleep-reading my blog. In which case, I appreciate the hits, but being awake is really more conducive to understanding my content.

Anyway, Fischer wrote a column on the AFA website in a segment called “Rightly Concerned.” The title of the column is “Bryan Fischer: Its altogether right to discriminate against homosexual behavior.” Yes, it says “its.” Grammar fail. But I’m just being picky. The column fails at so much more than grammar.

First, there’s an insinuation in the third paragraph that “leftists” can’t be Christian, and making some very grand generalizations about all liberals based on a few isolated incidents. To be fair, people on both sides do stupid stuff like that, so moving on.

In the column, Fischer does rightly differentiate between sexuality and sexual activity, something so few people in the religious right do. The problem is that, in the column, he goes on to compare homosexual sexual activities to an onslaught of illegal activities as though they were equals.

Public policy is about discriminating against behaviors that are socially destructive and corrosive to the social fabric. So, we rightly discriminate against people who rip off convenience stores, burgle houses, drive while drunk, eat the faces off homeless people, gun down servicemen on military bases, embezzle funds from employers or clients, or beat their wives. […] We discriminate against adults, even priests, who have sex with children. We discriminate against teachers who have affairs with students. We discriminate against teachers who moonlight in the porn industry. We discriminate against students who engage in sexting. We discriminate against rapists. We discriminate against those who expose sexual partners unknowingly to the AIDS virus. We discriminate against those adults who commit statutory rape against minors. We discriminate against homosexuals and prostitutes by refusing to allow them to give blood. The point is this: we discriminate against sexually immoral and inappropriate behavior all the time, and homosexual behavior is sexually immoral and inappropriate.

I’m going to look at this section piece by piece real fast.

Public policy is about discriminating against behaviors that are socially destructive and corrosive to the social fabric.

That’s not necessarily true. Public policy is about protecting the rights and livelihoods of the citizenry. An example I’m sure I’ll bring up again: Speed limits. Annoying as speed limits can be, speeding is not “socially destructive” or whatnot. It’s simply dangerous. Speed limits are in place to protect people.

So, we rightly discriminate against people who rip off convenience stores,

That’s theft. Which harms others.

burgle houses,

Also theft.

drive while drunk,

Dangerous and harmful to others. To clarify, harmful to others means impedes their basic rights, like the right to live safely.

eat the faces off homeless people, gun down servicemen on military bases,

Speaking of living, them would be murder.

embezzle funds from employers or clients,

There’s the fancy, white collar words for theft.

or beat their wives.

And now we’re just to violence against mankind.

We discriminate against adults, even priests, who have sex with children.

Violates the idea of consent, since we have dictated that children are unable to consent to certain actions with full knowledge as some actions, particularly sex, are beyond their ken.

We discriminate against teachers who have affairs with students.

Same as before.

We discriminate against teachers who moonlight in the porn industry.

I think that one falls under corrupting the youth or something…

We discriminate against students who engage in sexting.

…is sexting illegal? But, again, consent laws could be mentioned.

We discriminate against rapists.

Definitely consent laws involved with this.

We discriminate against those who expose sexual partners unknowingly to the AIDS virus.

This dude is on a consent kick. That’s important. Also, this would be harm.

We discriminate against those adults who commit statutory rape against minors.

Didn’t he say that already?

We discriminate against homosexuals and prostitutes by refusing to allow them to give blood.

We do indeed, and that’s a load of crap, too.

The point is this: we discriminate against sexually immoral and inappropriate behavior all the time, and homosexual behavior is sexually immoral and inappropriate.

Here’s the thing: legal discrimination and the “discrimination” Fischer is talking about are different. Earlier in the column, he pulls the dictionary out to define discrimination as “making a distinction” or “using good judgment.” I can discriminate, in that sense, between a fork and spoon as to which I should eat my soup with. But that doesn’t make it okay to ban the use of forks in soup eating.

And here lies part of the problem: Pretty much all of the things Fischer mentioned are illegal because they infringe on the rights of others, or inherently lack the possibility of consent. Homosexual sexual acts between consenting adults, however, do no such thing. Further, the implications of that last sentence are that this legal discrimination (and yeah, he’s suggesting a legal discrimination, as seen by the latter part of his column, suggesting a reinstatement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the continuation of the Defense of Marriage Act) is based on sexually immoral and inappropriate behavior. Like all sexually immoral and inappropriate behavior should be discriminated against.

Like, say… adultery? And let’s go by the Christian definition, which is ever sleeping with anyone if you get a divorce and your former spouse is still alive. Also included would be lust, adultery of the heart. Or, another one that isn’t illegal: Premarital sex. And then you’ve got the Catholic twist on things: Sex using contraception. So, whose immorality clauses would be used anyway?

This argument lacks legal understanding, logical consistency, basic argumentative foundation… coherence… It’s a ridiculous argument that, really, should be ignored. But because it’s a leading member of the AFA, people listen.

What does the AFA do, exactly, but say dumb things and pretend to represent family values?

Let me tell you a family value: Love. And every time people talk about banning homosexuality or something related to it, they’re talking about banning love. Not all the affected would be love, but love would be affected. Personally, I think we should take the AFA to task and do what should have been done long ago.

Ignore them and let them twist in the wind.

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