Whew. What a week. I find myself with little taste for argument at the moment. Happens occasionally. I just burn out. Get tired of yelling at stupid people, just need to wind down.
I’ve also been rattling something around in my head for days that probably WILL induce an argument. I think our sexual dynamics are so fucked up in this country (in particular) that until we stand up and face some realities about human sexuality we’ll never gain any ground. And that goes for EVERYONE in all sides of the sexuality/gender equality argument.
No, flashing your tits in public isn’t a particularly effective method of protest. Unless, of course, it pisses off the people you’re TRYING to piss off. (I firmly believe that some people need to be pissed off regularly). Religious fanatics/prudes and anyone who thinks THEY should be in control rather than the actual owner of said breasts, for example. The patriarchy says “Don’t flash those breasts. Men are not responsible for what happens if you do.” Society says “If you show your tits you’re a whore.” Feminists say “You’re just giving them what they want.”
It’s not a particularly revolutionary act. Nearly anyone (in America, at least) can jump on-line and see breasts in all their glory, breasts of all different sizes and descriptions. Some say that it would be an effective tactic IF it included revealing the ultimate variety of female breasts in public. The breasts of women who might not be the fantasy of your average media-feckered male mind. The upright perky things possessed by your average 20 year old and the withered dugs of the eldest crone. If revealing your breasts is to be a revolutionary act, it should include ALL breasts lest it indeed becomes “just giving them what they want.”
On the other side of that you have the rape apologists, the ones suggesting that these girls are “asking for it.” In Victorian times, one might have said the same about a girl who showed her ankles. In heavily Islamic cultures, a woman who shows her hair might be said to be “asking for it.”
In all these conversations I hear one thing in common. The woman’s breasts don’t belong to her, they belong to everyone else. If a woman decides to bear them, it’s for male gratification or “attention seeking.” Miley Cyrus is attention-seeking, and if there’s one thing I can’t argue it’s that she’s damn successful at it. She can outrage the religious fanatics and the feminists at the same time. The whole image is manufactured because it stands astride our hypocrisy about sex. We are both fascinated by it and repelled by those who use it to their own advantage.
And what’s considered “obscene” or “lewd” has changed generation by generation. Each generation is forced to push the envelope a little farther. Part of this is because, as Taoism teaches, sometimes by opposing something too fiercely, you lend it strength.
We’re constantly judging the expression of other people’s sexuality, most particularly women. Though it doesn’t take much effort to condemn men because they are unable to completely subvert natural urges like looking at attractive women. Despite the fact that this is, at its base, a pairing of physiological and psychological tendencies going back to our earliest existence as a species, And it’s not limited to men. The power dynamic may be different, but “objectification” happens on both sides. Men find women physically attractive, women find men physically attractive, men find men physically attractive, and women find women physically attractive. Pretending they don’t, and that we’re supposed to subvert a perfectly normal psycho-physiological response (don’t tell me attraction doesn’t fire up the old neurons and spawn hormonal changes that affect the psychology) for the sake of those who aren’t really comfortable with sexuality. Any time feminists find they agree with radical misogynists and servants of the patriarchy, they should really reconsider their position. If a woman decides to bear her breasts, how are you serving anyone by attacking her alongside the religious prudes?
I actually saw someone use the argument that we don’t hear men screaming for the right to bear their genitals in public. Hell, there are PLENTY of men who’d have no problem with that as long as they didn’t have to look at another guy’s junk. The same men will argue that only young women they personally find attractive should bare their breasts. I say let them ALL do it. My wife, whose breasts I happen to like, would be quite willing to do so in protests. Just like I’d have no problem with male ass, cock, and balls dangling in public. I know how to look away should I feel the necessity. I already have to when I see a shirtless guy who rivals a gorilla in public.
Some folks (both male and female) fetishize tits. We’re told that this is an evolutionary development. When we began engaging in missionary sex, breasts became a visual replacement for the view of the buttocks we’d originally evolved to find engaging. Ironically, this is why the plumber’s shirt showing an attractive woman whose breasts become the plumber’s crack actually works as a (tasteless) gag.
To me, “objectification” is when the physical aspects of a person complete negate every other worthwhile things they might represent. Seeing a woman as ONLY a vehicle of sexual satisfaction and nothing else, something that also leads to men (and some women) treating “unattractive” women as somehow lesser, as if any human’s attractiveness should be the measure of their value. (Though science says that physical attractiveness is a kind of privilege in our society too, affecting things like education and earning potential in very real ways).
Then another aspect of this is that people find different things attractive. There are people who are attracted to flesh, unaffected by the media push to take a near-anorexic lover. Men and women who don’t mind a few extra pounds. There are those who find masculine features on women to be a turn-off. People who disdain what they describe as a “horse-face” and those, such as myself, who don’ t necessarily find that unattractive. I myself find many “manly” features attractive on a woman. Broad shoulders and jaw, for example. Arms and legs that reveal physical strength. I am heterosexual, but I find strong women attractive. A nice set of shoulders and arms will draw my eye as fast as bare breasts might draw another man’s. Breasts might sometimes draw mine, but that’s because I have found that women with the “best” natural breasts tend to have nice arms and shoulders simply because their musculature has filled out to compensate for the weight of the breasts.
In other words, in the summer I’m walking around in a world strikingly similar to what a breast fancier might face if women DID get to bare their breasts in public.
I don’t tend to discuss my own sexuality. I figure it’s no one else’s business, in general. I do not concern myself overmuch with the sexual proclivities of other people. I believe that those who do are generally ashamed of their own desires, whatever they may be. But sometimes I figure one just has to open up to make a point. We need to stop lying to ourselves and other people.
We lie to ourselves about sex, relationships, and our own natural proclivities all the time. We project belief in things like romantic love and perfect fidelity, as if it’s natural for two human beings to spend their life together without strong social pressure to do so… as if people have been making marriage decisions based on romantic love for all of human history rather than the last fifty to one hundred years or so. In pre-industrial times people didn’t marry out of love. Not the nobility and not the commoners. They married because they were matched with a partner who served the needs of their families and the community at large. And they STAYED married because the women were the property of their husbands. In most social classes in Western civilization the men were allowed to do as they willed while the women were expected to remain utterly loyal and faithful. There are parts of the world where it’s still common to kill a woman for accepting a cock not belonging to her husband, though her husband can dip his wick wherever he likes. This even extends to situations of rape, where the woman is blamed simply for being a potential receptacle for a man’s lust whether she did anything to “encourage” him or not.
In studying primates, we’re coming to the conclusion that the reason many female primates (including humans) are multi-orgasmic is so they might have sex with multiple partners AT THE SAME TIME so the males will not be able to slaughter their rival’s children without risking slaughtering their own.
Of course it’s probably been a long, long time since hominid society as a whole accepted such behaviors. But they ARE natural. It’s natural for men to want to spread their seed far and wide, and it’s natural for women to want to accept multiple seeds. It could be used to strengthen community bonds, if not for the complications of jealousy and guilt. Jealousy suggesting ownership and guilt suggesting sexual shame brought on by religious indoctrination. We twist our own natural urges into something unnatural and then indulge in self-hatred over it.
And, no, just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean we can’t change our behavior and civilize ourselves. It’s pretty clear rape is “natural.” Watch a tomcat sometime. They’re consummate rapists. They’ll rape females in heat, they’ll rape spayed females, and they’ll even rape other male cats. It’s all the same to them. Fact is that most of us probably have a successful rapist somewhere in our family tree. They spread their seed as well as anyone, if not better. Morally reprehensible, perhaps, but biology doesn’t give a flying fuck about our morality.
Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s okay either. But recognizing it as natural is a good starting point for a conversation about it. WITHOUT making a moral judgment out of the gate. It’s natural, but it’s unacceptable for very good reasons. So we say “Yes, these urges exist. This is why.” But we are more than our urges. All of us are. Otherwise we’d be living in a literal hell. Or Libertarian/Libertine paradise.
If we place moral judgments before recognizing our innate biological drives as a root cause for our behavior (this is also true of violence, IMO) we cause people to enter the conversation already thinking they’re evil. “I have felt this urge, so I’m automatically evil.” At this point it becomes all about either redemption, or justification. But if we accept it as a mere side-effect of a violent evolution and the way a sentient living being must operate within the boundaries of common society, we can come at it from a more rational standpoint.
No. Having these urges doesn’t make you evil. It makes you human. ACTING upon them makes you evil.
And, no, the argument that “I never had those urges, so…” doesn’t work here either. Even if you’ve never been tempted to do something so clearly wrong, you have been tempted to do other things you knew damn well were wrong. You may have been tempted to steal something because you coveted it. This is because we’re evolved from creatures who lived by the law of the jungle. You could have anything you’re strong enough to take and keep. Like squirrels hide nuts from each other, and wolves challenge for leadership of a pack, we’re also driven to exert our dominance in a thousand tiny ways all the time.
But we don’t ACKNOWLEDGE this. We pretend that these are unnatural urges (they’re not, really) and act as though the urge is the act, and suddenly the urge becomes a crime in itself. Our own psychological defenses rise up to protect us from the reality of it. We justify, or extemporize. We either hide behind shame for feeling it in the first place, or attempt to rationalize it through the dominance dynamic I mentioned previously. “I deserve it because…”
I had an argument some months ago with a woman who claimed to ONLY have a flight mechanism. At no point did she ever admit to having the urge to strike someone. Ever. She seemed to think this was the only real natural response to certain stimuli. Run. She believed we survived as a species not because we learned to harness violent impulses, but because we cooperated and ran from things bigger than ourselves.
Thus, in her mind, anyone who had a violent impulse in response to some types of provocation were clearly maladjusted, though the biological systems that feed the fight or flight response are still as much in evidence as they ever were. Our bodies don’t know the difference between a dangerous predator and, for example, a cop. Our MINDS do, but many of those responses are involuntary. (More so for survivors of PTSD, but that’s another topic).
So until we can stand up and say, “Yeah, these biological urges are normal but you’re perfectly capable of restraining yourself (regardless of the appearance/state of dress of another human being)” we’ll never gain any ground in this multi-directional tug-of-war.
This separates moral concerns from the perfectly normal side effects of our complicated and often horrific socio-biological evolution. You are not your urges. You are what you do with them.
As are we all.
I really wish everyone were ready for this conversation, but they’re not. It’s clear every time I’ve entered the fray with the beginnings of this argument. To make great sweeping generalizations about sexuality might be one of our worst offenses. It’s far more complicated than that. A guy who can’t stop looking at other women isn’t a complete fuckhead. A girl who has the urge to sleep with more than one man isn’t a slut. (Nor, in my mind, is she a “slut” for actually doing it). A woman who wants to strangle a romantic rival isn’t a monster. A “nice guy” who wonders why he’s rejected while men who seem clearly his emotional inferiors are embraced and almost worshipped doesn’t feel “entitled to a fuck.”
Like I said. I’m not in the mood to argue. But it looks to me that I’m the only person staking this position. We are all flawed. It doesn’t make us “sinners.” It makes us humans, the product of millions of years of selective evolution in which certain traits were seen by the process as good for its purposes that since have become utterly unacceptable as society evolved in the wake of our biology. We carry the legacy of our animal forebears. Being human means we can, if we choose, be more than that process.
Many of these urges exist because there were evolutionary reasons for them to exist. Behaving as though it has no effect on us, while our body chemistry actively works against our best interests, is just foolish. Refusing to have this conversation, moralizing without grasping how much of it is merely a by-product of how we got here in the first place, is, to me, sheer folly.
And our inability to be honest with each other, as a society, in relationships, and just in general, causes far more trouble than it’s worth. We are more than our biological urges, it’s true. But they are still a part of us. A man’s urge to spread his seed. A woman’s urge to seek out different partners to expand the genetic material she has to work with. Natural. The idea of permanent romantic love? Unnatural.
Because of trust and attachment issues, I’d never be able to live a polyamorous lifestyle. I would never feel comfortable allowing that many people into my most intimate self. But I recognize the urge. As I believe the urge for older men to seek younger women is perfectly natural, if socially awkward and, now, generally unacceptable. Those women can bear healthier offspring, statistically speaking. And while it took science a little while to catch up with this knowledge, the process of evolution was onto it from the beginning.
But I can accept that, for some, it seems to work. More power to them. Hell, it’s not as though I wouldn’t mind some variety on occasion myself. I’m genetically programmed for it. And while I can see the attraction to young, nubile women, I am not in any way interested in “spreading my seed” and, frankly, find the younger ones look quite unfinished. I see a fifteen year old girl and I see that she’s likely to be ten times more beautiful in 20 years. And I know that her heart and mind are equally due immense growth. In a just, decent society she would be not only more beautiful, but wiser and more compassionate as well.
We are stupid monkeys sometimes. And we live in a hell of our own making.