Sunday, August 9, 2009

Week 4: Male (Homo) Sexuality

19 comments:

Ani Reina said...

I mostly just want to talk about my favorite article from Men Speak Out, Trying to be sexy and anti-sexist…at exactly the same time. Andrew Boyd gives us a tongue-in-cheek representation of what hetero men go through in today’s dating world. He states “I’m not an asshole. I’m one of the good guys. Other men may not be aware that they are lustful, objectifying, breast-obsessed, sex fiends-but I am” (75). Boyd may not be certain on what exactly to do in any of the situations he gives us but he is trying and he does have the ability to laugh at how awkward life has become. Take his description on paying for dinner on the first date “The waiter approaches our table, bill in hand. He sets it down almost exactly between Karla and me, yet ever so slightly closer to me…The waiter briefly nods to us and walks away. A gauntlet has been thrown down” (77). Boyd goes through his emotions of wanting to “be a real man” and his understanding of feminist theory. He does pick up the bill “but only because I’ve asked her out.” He goes on to explain how this decision of who pays can affect the whole relationship, who pays for the next outing? Does he always have to pay if she makes more money? Do they take turns paying? Do they not pay attention and hope it all washes out? In the end Karla insists on paying, while Boyd describes the feeling as being “bitch-slapped”.
While most of our readings are moving stories of sexuality, gender, race, and pornography it was really amazing to read something that I felt ok laughing with. Understanding the awkwardness, knowing that Karla probably was asking herself the same thing, wondering if having him pay makes her less a woman, shows that she only wants someone to provide for her, or even if this means that she “should” sleep with him. Maybe she paid because she wanted to be in control, maybe she paid because she does make more money, who knows. What we do know is that this situation is very real and his constantly happening. I’ve gone on dates where the man has insisted on paying, saying that it is his right. I don’t have any solution to this situation; I think it is just one of the funny things about dating. Along with who makes the first move, who calls who back, how long you wait to call, do you call/text/email? Oh the joys of being young.
To answer the blog prompt in the easiest way: yes. I will quote Hugo Schwyzer from Men Speak Out “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with noticing girls. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with fantasizing about them. I do think there’s something very wrong when your focus on their bodies makes it impossible for you to see them as people, as friends, as human beings” (73). Of course you could swap girls with boys. This statement along with one by Boyd explains how I feel about sexuality within feminist minded people. “A woman is a sex object when she wants to be Not when I want her to be one, not when the culture wants her to be one, but when she wants to be one” (76). Not only does this work for women but just for any consenting adults, as long as there is an understanding among parties than of course playing with power is acceptable.

Merritt Johnson said...

I started my readings yesterday and right as I finsihed I logged into AOL where it head a headline about Elton John. Him and his legal husband wanted to adopt a little boy from Ukraine that was infected with HIV, but Ukraine does not acknowledge gay marriages and Elton John was, "too old". This really bothered me. This child would have an amazing life with the couple, they would be able to provide for him and his medical needs. It's hard for HIV infected children to find homes as it and then they shut down a great family, because they are homesexual? What are some of your thoughts on this?

kathrynquimby said...

Ani: I fully agree that this approach to being a dating feminist is both funny and true :)
I mostly wanted to comment on the other half of your blog about Schwyzer 's quote that you mention. I remember on our first 'real' conversation in class the question of 'Can you be a feminist girl/boy/xi watcher?' came up to which I so badly wanted to answer with a resounding yes. This quote I feel articulates quite well how as long as at the end of the day we are realizing that the people that we are looking at are in fact people and not objects.

Merritt: This is a very interesting topic you bring up. Elton John being white, male-identified, and very wealthy/well-known holds a fair amount of privilege. However, based on his sexual preference, we learn he is denied the right to adopt a child. Homophobia--much like racism and sexism already have--is becoming more and more institutionalized in society every day. And we need to re-think ways to confront people who are upholding bars of oppression around this particular community. For me when I read things like this I cannot help but think about the bars that the mainstream Gay community itself have setup and relate to what Chong-suk Han writes about in They Don’t Want to Cruise Your type: Gay Men of Color and the Racial Politics of Exclusion. What has happened to Elton John is really terrible and should not happen to anyone. However, there are many tragedies occurring everyday within the GLBTQ community that also need to be addressed. The fact that the richest, whitest faces are at the forefront of this movement is a tragedy, a well known group advocating for Gay rights (HRC) which does not include trans folk in their fight for ‘equality’ is a tragedy, and the estimated 30% of teen suicides every year committed by gay and lesbian youth is a tragedy. If ANY of these issues were to be addressed with the same amount of press that Elton John is getting I personally think the GLBTQ community at large would be better off.

Merritt Johnson said...

First I’d like to talk about the readings. Since this week is Homo Sexuality I’d like to discuss that. While reading and doing the questions on the heterosexual questionnaire, at first I was like this is awkward, why would I have a problem with my child telling me they were heterosexual?! Then as I answered them I realized that this is what homosexuals get asked every day. I never realized how awkward and scary it must be for them to answer these questions. It’s an invasion of property. I have always been accepting of the gay community but until this questionnaire, I was never in their shoes. I found this quote very true on page 76 of Men’s Lives, “The ubiquity of the word faggot speaks to the reach of its discrediting capacity.” Faggot is not a proper way to call a homosexual. Just like bitch for a female, it’s very degrading and not respectable. In Dude, You’re A Fag, it shows how boys in middle and high school scream fag down the hall. I know if a guy does something stupid or acts a certain way boys respond saying; “fag, what you gay”, things like that. I also learned about cock games, they give the example of; a boy saying Josh loves the cock louder and louder until everyone was laughing and then Josh responded by : “I have a bigger dick than all you mother fuckers!” It’s sad but why do men always relate everything to their dick? You could have the biggest penis and be homosexual?! The quote, “Invoking homophobia to describe the ways in which boys aggressively tease each other overlooks the powerful relationship between masculinity and this insult.” I felt this really went with the cock games. Like I stated before men always use the word fag and gay in relation with messing up, or looking stupid, like being gay is something horrible and bad? I also touched base on The Elton John story in a post a few days ago. I feel so bad that the poor boy in Ukraine with HIV is not being adopted by a loving/providing family just because they are homosexuals?!

The blog prompt got me thinking deep for the past few days, that’s why I waited until now. I think it’s accepting for a women to display her body and for others to want to play along, but there is a limit. A woman should not go out at 2 in the morning with fishnets and a belly top with her boobs hanging out, it’s asking for men to look at her and some men might not be trusting and do something like rape her. Others might just come on to her thinking she’s a slut and just want to sleep with her. If the girl wants respect she should respect her body in her own comfort level. I went to our sororities benefit last night, KD Shakedown and I was wearing little black shorts, a red tank top and black heels, I’d say I had 5 men honk/ whistle at me and two football players keep looking back and staring at me. It did make me feel good having men look at me, but at the same time I felt like an item and that they just wanted to screw me. I wasn’t even dressed provocatively; it’s just men like playing along. I think you can enjoy whatever you want and still not be sexist. It’s whatever makes you happy and comfortable.

Andrea said...

I definitely agree that an individual can appreciate a sexy female body without being considered sexist, but it goes to a point. In Andrew Boyd’s article he explains all of this, and I agree with him most of the time. Yes, womyn want to be noticed, feel sexy and be seen as a sex object, but when they want to. Boyd says, “A woman is a sex object when she wants to be. Not when I want her to be one, not when the culture wants her to be one, but when she wants to be one. When she chooses to be a sex object, she is deliberately adopting a limited part of who she is. She’s playing a role and she’s looking for someone to play with. But what does a woman actually want when she wants to be treated like a sex object? She certainly doesn’t want to be groped. She probably doesn’t want 100 guys staring at her breasts. Maybe she wants to feel her sexual power. Maybe she wants some guy to be completely captivated by her. Maybe that guy is not me (76).” I think this paragraph sums up what a lot of people overlook. Womyn do not want to be objectified, but they want to be noticed, and they want sexual liberation. Also, noticed and gawked at are two different things. Boyd goes on to explain how he objectifies womyn in a Victoria’s Secret catalog, but he realizes that he is doing it. At first when I was reading this article, it kind of didn’t set right with me. When he was going into great detail of the girl’s boobs at the party and trying to muster up the strength to take his eyes off of her chest, and actually look and speak to her, it was a bit much. I felt like it was a “well, boys will be boys” type of thing. But that is when he went on to say the paragraph above that I mentioned, and then he goes on to mention, “Treating a woman as a full human being is not only the decent thing to do, it’s also the royal road to lots of hot sex over the long-term. Because the more you recognize and respect her for all that she is, the more she’ll trust you…and the more she trusts you, the more comfortable she’ll feel letting you treat her as a sex object (77).” As much as I do agree with this statement, and I see it as truth, at the same time does Boyd fully understand that he objectifies womyn, while controlling it, and in turn sees a womyn as a full human being just to get hotter and more satisfying sex? I feel that ulterior motives are backing up his whole anti-sexist campaign. Does he want a strong, independent womyn that will claim her sexual agency for his sexual needs, because she will be more willing, or does he want an independent womyn because she is intelligent and interesting? I can’t fully answer it, or fully get my mind around it, because I agree with him, but also feel annoyed by him. I guess what it comes down to, is everyone should have and enjoy a healthy, sexual appetite as long as other people are not being hurt or degraded in the process. But it is tough to say what the correct mindset should be for sex, and how everyone should be viewed in comparison to how they want to be viewed.

Ashley Halpin said...

In the introduction to the Sexuality section of Men Speak out, the author writes “Some may find Boyd’s essay (Trying to Be Sexy and Anti-Sexist . . . at Exactly the Same Time) offensive or confused, while others may read it as a refreshing hones account of one man struggling to figure out the shifting expectations of sex and dating while struggling to avoid an expected party line.” I definitely agree with the former.

I do believe there is a way to gaze and enjoy the “sexy” bodies of others in a respectful and nonsexist way. However, I think the way not to do it would be how Boyd describes himself at a party staring at the breasts of a red head. While noticing breasts is not in and of itself sexist, the constant back and forth between her face and her breasts as if he couldn’t stop himself from looking, is sexist and quite frankly, demeaning to men. As Schwyzer was able to convince teenage boys in his article, “Staring at Janae’s Legs,” boys and men absolutely have control over how they look at another person. Additionally, the teenage boys in the article were described as being quite proud that they have that power over themselves.

To strictly be looking at a person’s body parts, or in the case of Boyd, at a specific part of the body, you are dehumanizing a person; they cease to become a human being and are now a combination of body parts that are there for your enjoyment. By dehumanizing others, you in turn dehumanize yourself. Essentially, whether or not the appreciation of a sexy body is sexist or not completely depends on the manner it is done.

If a womyn overtly displays her body, then I think it is okay to “play along” as long as a man can gauge how comfortable the womyn is. I think, however, Schwyzer says it best when he says “We do well to acknowledge it [raging sexual energy], even celebrate it, and then ask that it always be tempered with recognition of the other’s humanity. That’s a far more effective strategy than either demeaning boys for lusting or asking the girls to cover up in order to prevent the boys from doing so.” If people can remember that looking is okay, but just be consciously aware that they are looking at a human being with feelings, then it becomes a nonissue.

When it comes to the sex object part of Boyd’s essay, I think I need to provide a little background on myself in order for others to understand my rationale. I have been told that I am a bit of a sex prude and I have to agree that some may consider me conservative. These views do not come from a religion as I do not have one, but more from my moral compass. I do not expect others to have the same values, nor do I mind when others don’t agree. This is just how I choose to live my life and I find happiness in it. I have been with my boyfriend since we were 16 and for both of us, this was our first relationship. With that being said, if he considered me a sex object or I so him, I would be horrified. To me, the word “object” to describe a human being at any time (even during sex) is a very disrespectful and demeaning thing to say. Maybe I am viewing this term in the wrong way or maybe at some point in my life, this term took on a negative connotation that others don’t have. Also, the fact that I cannot imagine having casual sex with anyone may change the meaning for me; maybe sex outside of a long-term relationship makes it so a person can separate who that person is and who that person is during sex. Instead, maybe sex becomes more of an action during casual sex instead of something that has been given more meaning. I am really not sure and I am stretching my mind to understand, but the word “object” to describe a person at any time does not feel right to me. If someone with a dissenting view could explain to me their reasoning, I would greatly appreciate it.

Ross said...

While every week I read articles that strike me on an intellectual level, this week I read some that hit me personally. Rather than responding to the prompt, I’d like to explore the way that the text interacts with my own history.

I’ve mentioned in class that I’m a queer who most people assume is straight. Not “straight-acting,” as Chong-suk Han points out, that term carries its own connotations, but my voice and mannerisms tend to fit the pattern of the dominant culture. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with this, finding myself in spaces where I don’t feel like I belong. Should I consciously adopt “gay” mannerisms, or inject my orientation into conversations with people as soon as I meet them? That doesn’t feel right. I’m me, and I shouldn’t have to change myself to conform to expectations. If people make assumptions about me, that’s their problem, right? But then, why am I the one who always feels uncomfortable?

So my mind goes, rehashing the same arguments with myself, never making much progress. Although I have no shortage of queer friends, I’ve never been connected with “the scene,” so I’ve had to figure this out on my own. Over the past eight years, I’ve been convinced that I’m straight, gay, bisexual, faking it, fooling myself or something else entirely at one point or other. I’ve been in the closet, out of the closet, back in again and then finally out with a vengeance. Throughout all this, I’ve had few external points of reference.

Ritch C. Savin-William’s article shocked me. The interviewees’ testimonials corresponded with my experience far more than I expected they would. Like these men, I was a sensitive, in many ways effeminate child. I felt completely isolated from other boys and hated participating in team sports. I had recurring fantasies and thoughts that went against the normative masculine grain. I always attributed these characteristics to the normal development of an introspective boy. Believe it or not, until I read this article I never made a connection between the heavy lisp that took years of speech therapy to remove and my current sexual orientation. Now I think that I’m not as far removed from queer and straight society as I previously believed.

I know why I buried so much of these memories. The “Fag Discourse” that C.J. Pascoe studies hit me hard, especially after I came out briefly in high school. Even if older boys learn some restraint in the use of gay slurs around people they know aren’t straight, the younger kids that imitate them have no understanding of this social boundary. Being screamed at by a mob of middle-schoolers is one of my worst memories. Passing was easier for me than being out because it took no effort, I only had to never disillusion the people I met.

This raises problematic questions for me on a few different levels. Am I really just being myself, or is some “truer” self buried beneath years of conditioning and self-repression? Should I be resent my teachers and parents for sending me to speech therapy? It opened many doors of privilege for me, but maybe I would have been able to accept my sexuality sooner and easier if society had labeled me as queer because of my voice. I think this illustrates the unanswerable nature of the “nature vs. nurture” debate. Neither perspective can account fully for our experience, only through their interaction do they paint a complete picture. It also suggests, as does Marcus C. Tye’s article, that sexuality is far too complex for our dualistic thinking to explain. Beyond my own experience, how many men out there have not had the opportunity I have had to understand and overcome the repression of their sexuality?

carly mac said...

I felt that the most important article we read this week regarding Male Sexuality and Homosexuality was Chong-suk Han’s Darker Shakes of Queer: Race and Sexuality at the Margins. Han addresses the issue of how different groups who are oppressed for different reasons (ie homosexuals and people of color) do not come together to combat all forms of oppression, but instead end up oppressing eachother. Han states, “countless gay leaders, an overwhelmingly white group, attempt to explain that their oppressed status as sexual minorities provides them with an enlightened sense of social justice that enables them to understand the plight of those who are racially oppressed” (86). Many oppressed minority groups claim that they have a ‘shared history of oppression.’ Gay white people may claim to understand what it is like to be an ethnic minority, because both groups are oppressed. This is problematic, however, because a white person will never know what it feels like to be oppressed on the basis of race, no matter how oppressed they are in other ways. Likewise, a straight person of color can never know how it feels to be oppressed on the basis of sexual identity, and should not claim to do so. However, we can and should have “sympathy for others who are also marginalized, traumatized, and minimized by the dominant society” (Han 86), even if we are marginalized in different ways, and use this for coalition building.
Han claims that instead of joining together to fight the factors that oppress us all, like we should be doing, there is rampant racism in the gay community and homophobia within ethnic communities. Instead of coming together, we are oppressing eachother. Han is on a mission and is “interested in exposing it, condemning it, shaming it, and stopping it” (87). Han argues that racism and the marginalization of people of color within the gay community is everywhere. He argues, “Within the queer spaces that have sprung up in once neglected and forgotten neighborhoods, inside the slick new storefronts, in trendy restaurants, and on magazine covers, gay America has given a whole new meaning to the term ‘whitewash’” (87). I completely agree with Hans claim, and have a specific example of the effects of this sort of marginalization of queer people of color. My (white) mom recently asked me if there are any gay black, Latina, or Asian people. She said that she has only ever seen or heard of gay white people, and she was truly curious as to if homosexuality existed within racial/ethnic minorities. As hard as it was for me to hear this question coming from my own mother, it made me stop and think why she thought this way. Then I read Han’s article and it made so much sense. Han asserts, “Media images now popular in television and film such as Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The L-Word, and the like promote monolithic image of the gay community as being overwhelmingly upper-middle class-if not simply rich- and white” (87). It’s no wonder that homosexuality is often seen as a ‘white-disease’ and people who only know about queerness from popular culture would think that all gay people are white.
I am very glad that we read this article and feel that we should be reading more articles like it. Maybe it is because more articles like this don’t exist, and the invisibility of discussions about intersectionality are exactly what Han is arguing for.

Lisa said...

This blog topic is definitely muddy waters for me. I suppose that two consenting adults should be able to play with power dynamics during sex, however I do think that it's important to explore why these power dynamics emerge during sex and ensure that they aren't simply an extension of the existing power dynamics designed to oppress rather than liberate.

I also think that an individual can appreciate a 'sexy' female body without being sexist as long as these thoughts and feelings do not interfere with recognizing women for more that just their physical parts. It's also important to extend the meaning of what it means to be sexy to more than just the narrow definition that is most prevalent in our society (thin, large breasts, perfectly toned, etc.)

One article that really rubbed me the wrong way was "Trying to be sexy and anti- sexist". I do appreciate the authors blunt honesty, however I found some of his comments just plain ignorant. The section entitled "Are women sex objects" was particularly disturbing. Several of his comments imply that men should treat women as people for their own personal gain. For example, when he says "The trick, I figure, is to understand when, where how, and how much. For example, I probably shouldn't treat a woman as a sex object when she's giving birth, giving me a raise, or standing next to my wife. However, it seems fairly safe to treat her as a sex object when she's fucking my brains out." (76). I feel that the author is making the assumption that sex equates to sex objects. He never mentions that there are ways to have sex that are not objectifying.
I found the language that the author used to be pretty offensive as well. Like when he says "Treating a woman as a full human being is not only the decent thing to do, it's also the royal road to lots of hot sex over the long-term. Because the more you recognize and respect her for all that she is, the more she'll trust you- follow closely here- and the more she trusts you, the more comfortable she'll feel letting you treat her as a sex object." (77). Seriously! So pretty much this guy is saying that treating a woman as a full human being will get women to trust you and then they won't mind as much if you objectify them. I feel that the author is treating feminism and equality for women as a game and is skewing the goals of ending sexism to benefit him and his sex life.

Kevin Alvarez said...

The readings on male sexuality have been very enlightening and have touched on many issues I struggle with personally. With regard to the question on playing with power in sexually charged ways I believe that in of itself is a struggle to deal with. I rationalize this using Jensen’s piece “A Pornographic World” in which he struggles with pornography, its effects, and unlearning what it has taught him. Even though he had not “used” pornography to get off in a while, he still answers that he saw pornography yesterday every time he is asked. This struck me profoundly for several reasons. As men we are never asked to critically look at pornography; we are told that pornography is a part of growing up and there’s no harm in it, even if someone is being physically harmed in the actual film. “My sexual imagination was in part shaped by the use of pornography. I still have in my head vivid recollections of specific scenes in pornographic films” (ML 380). After reading that quote I came to understand that “quitting” pornography wasn’t as simple as not going to the websites, watching the movies, or oogling at the pictures. It is similar to attempting to unlearn sexism; it is a constant struggle that requires an analytical self-reflection about your actions and intentions. Jensen goes on to interview people who work in the industry and heard nothing that surprised him but what is the most pertinent comes from a random consumer of pornography who claims it taught him “a lot about what women really want sexually” and I feel that this is where the problem about playing with power in sexuality comes in (ML 382). When a majority of men and boys are socialized to believe that what we see in pornography is reflective of average people’s sexual tastes then that can translate into unequal power relationships in sexuality. I feel that to engage in a fluid sexual power play with your significant other would require a rebuke of all the sexual imagery and tastes we have co-opted in our years of porn consumption.

During my discussion we talked about being a (pro-)feminist girl/boy/ze watcher and can such a dichotomy exist? I feel that people should be allowed to appreciate the beauty and sexuality of others (as long as it is not degrading and not restricted to superficial, hypersexualized, objectification) while retaining a distinct level of respect for your fellow beings. I appreciated “Staring at Janae’s Legs” because I felt that Schwyzer was able to complete pro-feminist work while avoiding making the young boys in his class combative or putting them on the defensive. I feel that there are better times than others, as self-identified males in single-sex spaces, to confront homosociality like Schwyzer said “I’ve learned to pick my battles” (Men Speak Out 71). Schwyzer taught these young men the difference between believing there is no choice but to stare and objectify this young woman and taking control for your own actions and controlling your sexuality. He was able to combat the “myth that young guys are easily overcome by their uncontainable, raging male libido” and show these young men that they can appreciate Janae’s body while understanding that her body exists only in context of her as a whole and complete person (73). I hope this isn’t my naiveté showing but I do believe you can be a pro-feminist girl/boy/ze watcher because there will always be people you find attractive for whatever reason, and some people express their sexuality more than others. So, I feel that as long as you understand that you cannot make the other person feel uncomfortable, or like an object, and understand that you desire this person not just because of their toned legs, large breasts, thick muscles, or the color of their skin but because of their aura as a complete person then sexual people-watching isn’t that bad.

Kevin Alvarez said...

I feel that victim blaming is common: “Of course she was raped, don’t you see what she was wearing?” And I believe that everyone, regardless of gender, is at fault for assuming they can play along if they push the limit. In Boyd’s article he discusses the internal struggle he faced over wanting to want this woman for more than just her breasts but before he attempted to approach her he realized that there were limitations to how far he would go to get into her pants. “Hi will probably do fine. Then I can flirt, or have a real conversation, or both, feeling things as I go” he wants to gauge what her responses will be to his advancing on her (76). However, this is not always typically the case when women wear revealing clothing because typically women face cat-calling, inappropriate touching, or even violence all because of a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies that most men are unaware they have. I even felt as though Boyd’s epiphany about how to treat this woman he was lusting after was almost a way to justify his subconscious desire to fuck her, “I’m thinking, is that all this tortured, altruistic concern for women can actually advance my own naked self-interest” (76). While I don’t feel that was his intent, to justify liberal unabated sex with this woman, he seemed to have found some sort of game to play within his relationship with women: “The more you recognize and respect her for all that she is, the more she’ll trust you – follow closely here – and the more she trusts you, the more comfortable she’ll feel letting you treat her as a sex object” (77). I felt as though this part was almost like what Jensen spoke of when he gave us the story about the frat boy standing up on the bus playing porn in front of women:
“He was making it clear that his ultimate loyalty was to men and their right to use women sexually, though that use should conform to some type of code of chivalry about being polite about it in mixed company.” (65)
And because of this I feel that Boyd’s article requires a deeper analysis than to assume he is just some enlightened man who knows how woman want to be treated.

Cristoina said...

SEX!

Now that I have your attention, think about what ran through your mind after reading that word. Were there thoughts of excitement? Lust? Memories? Images? Fantasies? When the topic of sex is brought up everyone's ears perk up. Why? Because the subject is taboo and information about sex was withheld from most of us as children, which allowed for this act to be shrouded in mystery and illusion. It is something we all know occurs; yet we don't talk about it. Parents don't want to discuss this 'awkward' subject with their children and teenagers, it might give them ideas! Or maybe the parents themselves were never comfortable with their own sexuality and never received an informative talk about sex, masturbation, and sexuality and how to be safe, healthy and protected and do not know how to talk to their child about it. Since this is one of the most difficult topics for parents to address (and from my own experience and others, "the talk" may just be "use a condom" or "let's put you on birth control", or "wait until you are in love”) the conversation can be left to the school and the required health class that discusses your hormones, genitalia and procreation. But what about all the dirty stuff, what sex is REALLY like? That comes from our peers, who in turn found out about sex through what they saw in television, R rated movies, magazines and most importantly porn. I would like to cover a few topics brought up in the text, since this topic is so angering and after doing the readings and discussing with my peers I have seen how deeply rooted porn is in male development and how it is becoming a more integral part of our society.

Porn is now a passageway to learning about sex, especially for young men. As Robert Jensen describes in "A Pornographic World [What Is Normal?], he was " consciously becoming aware of sexuality, my first recognizable cultural lesson on the subject came in a male-bonding ritual around men's use of an objectified women, who existed only to provide sexual excitement for us" (379). And I have heard this example numerous times and after discussing this topic with a white, heterosexual male identified friend of mine, he expressed that he was aware of his sexuality and masturbating before he watched porn. It was his peers that made him want to watch porn, and why not? Men and their 'sexual appetite' being glorified and fulfilled with no need for intimacy or imagination, what a deal! I went on to ask if he thought porn had shaped his ideas of sex and sexual acts, in which he replied, "Not really, I'm not jaded by it, but it does give you ideas and make you want to try things out."

Cristoina said...

And there lies a problem, that the ridiculously degrading and submissive acts in porn make their way into the real life bedroom of real life people, and this is a problem when dialogue and boundaries have not been setup by the two consenting partners. People begin to equate that what is being depicted in porn is what sex really is or what it should be. That "throat fucking" is part of foreplay and other violent sexual acts are hot and sexy. And these acts go unquestioned because they reinforce the man's power and privilege over women. It is perceived as normal that the man finish with a big finally and triumph all over a woman, and the woman not reach climax (because the female orgasm is a myth anyways, right?) and what seals the deal is that she is 'enjoying' all of this. As Jensen explains in "Just a John? Pornography and Men's Choices", the way in which "johns use women sexually is a window into other aspects of our sexual and intimate lives. For many men, sex is a place where we display and reinforce our power over women" (68). And porn reinforces that power as well and does so through avenues other than the Internet and videos. "Porn culture" like rape culture is becoming ingrained and accepted in our society. With songs using terms like "super manning" and "skeeting" along with celebrity porn videos giving us the inside peek into our favorite actors lives we are exposed to porn's themes (MSO pg 66) now more than ever. These themes are that of women wanting sex with anybody, anywhere, anytime and although women are sexual and may want to be treated as sexual beings/objects, porn does not promote the correct outlet and procedure necessary for consensual and egalitarian sex.

There are so many discussions to be had about this topic, and how it can be linked to domestic violence/abuse, expectations of men’s sexual performance, and women’s expectations for men etc. As well as the history of the word 'pornography' and that it's roots refer to the selling of women and their sexuality in the form of prostitution. And where does erotica fit in? Is there porn that does not degenerate another person for another’s pleasure? What about people who enjoy submissive acts and are these desires socially constructed? And since I was referring to heteronormative pornography what problems does the GLBTQ community have with mainstream porn and do the same problems arise in GLBTQ porn? Are members of that lesbian and queer community annoyed with the fetishsizing of lesbian and bi girls? And I could ask a million more and would love to address them all but I am only one person and I hope that we will get a variety of viewpoints and discussion on this topic in and out of class.

Jo said...

Thank you Ross for your personal post. I really appreciate the opportunity you provide with such shared personal insight. With regard to the question you raise, “Am I really just being myself, or is some ‘truer’ self buried beneath years of conditioning and self-repression?” I just wanted to say that you are not alone and I am willing to bet that at least several others in this class alone have wondered or will wonder the same thing, and not just in regards to sexuality. I, and many other friends with whom I’ve had the conversation, have wondered about being “true to myself” at any given point in time. I know that there are times when I feel like I’m closer to being the “real me” than others. In the last year or so I have dedicated myself to figuring this one out. Some things have happened in my life recently that have caused me to think that I don’t want to waste another moment of my life not being completely me. Sometimes it’s scary, after all I’ve spent a lot of time being in a way that makes other people happy or just doesn’t rock the boat because that’s how I was raised, and sometimes I see myself “slipping.” But then I remember and recommit to the idea. Your post helped me remember. :) (I hope this made sense)

Sara N said...

a.Can consenting adults play choose to play with power in a sexually charged, yet nonsexist ways?
b.Can an individual appreciate a sexy female body without being considered sexist?
c.And if a womyn chooses to overtly display her body and her sexuality, can another individual be faulted for wanting to play along.

a.Yes, they can. Why wouldn’t they be able to?
b.Of course. Boyd demonstrates this quite well. “Other men may not be aware that they are lustful, objectifying, breast-obsessed, sex fiends—but I am. Now if only she knew, that I knew, then I might be able to get somewhere with her. But she doesn’t. She has no idea of the strenuous ideological gymnastics I’m putting myself through on her behalf” (MSO, 75).
c.There are two traps here. One is that the womyn might subconsciously attempting to present a “contemporary reflection of the archaic male fantasy” (The House Bunny). The other is a spinoff of a rape myth. No matter what a womyn is wearing it is other people’s responsibilities to control their actions. Schwyzer speaks to this point in “Staring at Janae’s Legs,” when he writes “whether Janae is wearing sweats or shorts, how the boys perceive her is ultimately their responsibility”(MSO, 71). People can fantasize about anything as long as their actions do not encroach on others rights. Again I point to Boyd when he questions his seduction tactics. “[S]hould I be more aggressive? Maybe give her a long hard look over? A move that would signal interest and up the ante. And she might welcome it. And that would be great. But if she doesn’t welcome it and I persist, I’ve become an asshole—and my sexual come-on has become a degrading act of power” (MSO, 76). With rape and the homosexual panic defense (among other examples of sexualized violence) I have to wonder: whatever happened to “No, thank you”?

Jo said...

Something jumped out at me when I read the Chong-suk Han article, “They Don’t Want to Cruise Your Type: Gay Men of Color and the Racial Politics of Exclusion.” On page 391 he quotes Tony Ayers who says, “The sexually marginalized Asian man who has grown up in the West or is western in his thinking is often invisible in his own fantasies. [Their] sexual daydreams are populated by handsome Caucasian men with lean, hard Caucasian bodies.” I’m curious about the application of this statement to all sexuality. The article is saying generally that gay men of color don’t fantasize about or pursue other gay men of color because of the position they hold in the (western-based) hierarchy. So how far does this go to explain who we are attracted to? Can we apply this as a theory to lesbian or heterosexual women? How much does the dominant culture in which we are raised, in this case patriarchical capitalism (or capitalistic patriarchy?), influence our choices of mates? Many or most of us probably feel like our sexuality is somehow innate, that we don’t really “choose” who we are attracted to. But this article seems to be arguing otherwise and it really started me wondering. I mean, if I am a woman who is attracted to tall, blonde athletic men, how much of that attraction is due to the fact that they are the dominant/privileged being in my culture? Or if I am attracted to tall, dark and handsome, is that because of a “Latin/Italian lover” stereotype? I’m really curious about what other people think about this; I hope some will respond.

art. said...

Jo, only you're the only person who knows the answer to those questions. if people of color were celebrated in mainstream culture, it might be more likely that you would be attacted to them, assuming your attraction to white men is reflective of that. more over, your attraction to the blonde athletic muscular man may also have to do with the shared [skin] privilege and therefore shared experience. maybe when you see a white man you see a man and when you see a person of color you see a [race/ethnicity] man. my language patterns reflect this mindset.

considering the society we live in that seems like it'd be pretty common. plus, the idea of saying you don't see someone's ethnicity is problematic because it minoritizes a huge part of their experience. what experience is minimized by not saying white person everytime that's what we mean? "white...becomes normal because we make it so" (Han 386).

consider this: you said you're attracted to blonde atheletic men. you made no mention of race/ethnicity. although it is implied by saying they are dominant in your culture, the outright description regarding skin tone is absent.

but when you mentioned people of color you made their skin tone very clear. dark--but not black--as well as certain cultural sterotypes. granted, the nature of your question was asking about whether somethings was motivated by stereotypes, but the example you used to make your point made the image of the person explicity, rather than implicitly clear.

Sara N said...

Jo, art and classmates,
Great questions!! I think I have an idea where you are coming from. Admittedly, this is muddy water for me as well. I submit that the answer to your provocative questions will shift depending on what theoretical lens one is employing. For instance, if desire is believed to be an “immutable characteristic” then culture wouldn’t matter because desire would be safe from cultural reaches. But this doesn’t account for the fact that sexuality is fluid and that there are restrictions on what is “acceptable” which undoubtedly acts as a coercive agent. The logical opposite would argue that desire is a choice. Why then, would self-identified homosexuals (and other invisible sexualities) choose a life where ridicule, violence and ostracism prevails? I think the answer is simple: it’s not that simple.

If desire is not a choice, something that we are born with then shouldn’t this take the place of the category “chromosomal sex”? If this is more or less a “choice” then why wouldn’t everyone choose the accepted, intelligible, privileged sexuality? You ask “So how far does this go to explain who we are attracted to?” Your hypotheticals demonstrate that there might be many forces at work here, “to what extent” are these forces shaping our desire and gender of object choice? It could be completely, not at all, or a combination of many factors. For this reason, I venture to say that to a certain extent, what causes desire and attraction is unknowable.

As seductive as these arguments may be, I think it is helpful to keep in mind that Han is not so much interested in the causes of desire so much as bringing to the forefront that the “end results of exclusion and objectification are similar for racialized groups” (ML, 387). It can be subjective to argue what causes desire, but it is pretty clear what white privilege does to people of color. In other words, what are some of the dangers of looking to the dominant culture to “find” desire/sexuality/attraction etc? Internalized racism (homophobia, sexism etc.) is the most personal violence.

Dominance relies on having another group to subordinate. It only makes sense to say that whiteness is privileged in relation to what it is privileged over, or hetero/homosexuality or men/women etc. Interestingly, each relies on the very group that it is subordinating to exist while simultaneously dominating and casting out the subordinated group. It’s an interesting dynamic and one which also necessitates categorization. Han is careful to note that further research is needed on the intersections of oppressions and that this will help us understand the “method of oppression and domination that mark groups and the implications that such categorization may have” (ML, 395).

I sympathize with your line of questioning and thus feel the need to recuperate these ideas into some cohesive whole. However, I have noticed the existing theories which challenge [epistemology of] identity and identity politics purposely avoid this slippery slope. Rather they focus, as Han has, on the danger and violence which results from systematic and intersecting oppressions like that of race, gender, sexuality, class, nation and religion to name a few. Hope this helps, I know it helped me to write it out. So, thanks!

Don't put me in said...

funny the stuff you find online when you're vain enough to google yourself. thanks for the thoughtful comments...
-chong-suk han