Tag Archives: sex

Why I support the ‘No More Page 3′ Campaign

page+3When I was a young girl – several thousand years ago – I was heart-clenchingly embarrassed by the newsagent top shelves and their smear of pouting, arching, private female flesh. I’d been taught that sex was a special, intimate thing that was shared by people who loved each other, so the cold public displays of female-only secondary sexual characteristics were a cringing mystery to me.

As children, we are learning machines, and as pubescent children we are fascinated by sex and relationships, so what was I to learn from this first glimpse of the way the world outside home and school treated sex? That ‘sex’ was synonymous with female display, for one thing. The mainstream magazines that were available to the average buyer did not show male display, nor did they show male and female interaction, so I was learning that the consumer of sex was male, and that the female was a product to be consumed.

But I understood this only on an emotional/unconscious level, of course. How it manifested was in embarrassment and a feeling of vulnerability. My child-brain wondered about the images of female nudity in the newsagent and how they seemed to waft sexual responses to female meat into the air around them. When men were looking at those images, I wondered, were they more likely to think about what was under the clothes of the women in the shop? As an awkward young girl, still coming to terms with (and feeling a little horrified by) ‘developing’ as a woman, it made me feel as if I was as much on display as those women who had chosen to be photographed. It made me feel exposed. It also made me feel as though I didn’t have full ownership over my own body. This may be difficult to understand if you’ve never been a trainee human in this situation, but it’s how I felt, and since I’ve been an adult, I’ve met other women and girls who also felt the same way.

I’m not, of course, saying that adolescent embarrassment is a reason why Page 3 should be finally and peacefully euthanized. But I do think it should be, and the reason for this is that it – along with other freely available mainstream ‘pornographic’ imagery – actually limits and restricts human sexuality. I know this seems counter-intuitive, and most pro-page 3 people argue that removing it from The Sun is a ‘feminist’ plot to repress straight men’s natural sexuality. They also argue that porn is an expression of sexual freedom, and in some ways I think they probably have a point. When porn is something that adult people seek out to suit the tastes they have developed individually, I can’t see it as a problem. But I think that mainstream, see-it-everywhere soft porn is quite the reverse of liberating because it squishes the vastness of human sexual expression into a tiny box of what is possible and causes insecurities that limit people’s sexual confidence. We unconsciously learn from it that to be a sexual being you must be of a certain age, size, skin colour and shape and present yourself in a certain way. Anybody who isn’t or doesn’t is some kind of asexual freak. Pubic hair, for example, now only features in niche pornography because it’s seen as a fetish.

Anyone who says porn doesn’t have any effect on our attitudes, feelings or behaviour must also believe that advertising is a complete waste of money. All media affects us. It must do, otherwise there’s no point in it. Huge industries spend millions on it and it can’t all be a mistake. Jehovah’s Witnesses have developed a printing empire based on the fact that if you keep people reading material with the same underlying messages, then they will keep believing it’s reality. If we keep absorbing repetitive underlying messages in our sexual material then we will keep believing that they represent real sexuality. In fact they’re even more powerful than religious indoctrination since they carry a sexual charge that seems to validate them as ‘truth’.

The essence of why I think Page 3 should go and that soft pornographic material shouldn’t be displayed where it can be seen unintentionally is to do with the way I think we learn our sexualities. Freud (who I often disagree with, of course, but I found this idea interesting) argued that humans are born what he called “polymorphously perverse.” What he means by this is that we are born capable of experiencing sexual responses and feelings, but that these are unfocused on any particular stimuli during childhood.

In order to explain fetishes, Freud argued that our experiences as we grow into fully developed sexual beings lead some people to attach sexual feelings to unexpected objects, like shoes or bannisters or the Eiffel Tower. But those of us who have more usual sexual experiences and input learn to attach our sexual feelings to more mundane things like other people. And we learn our preferences from the things that stir our sexual feelings in our early stages of development. That’s why some people find beards attractive and others hate them, some people like blondes and others don’t, some people like foot massages and others don’t, and so on. We’re learning from everything around us including the representations of sexuality we encounter in the media. In fact, in our much-vaunted media-saturated society, we probably now learn much more about notions of sexuality from the media than we do from anywhere else, especially when we are young.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, until we examine whether the messages about sex we are learning from our media are a real representation of free human sexuality, or whether they depict only one version of what sexuality is all about. Many claim that non-mainstream porn exists specifically to depict the entire cornucopia of human sexuality, and is thereby liberating, and that may well be true. For the sake of this discussion, however, I am looking only at mainstream, freely available soft porn such as Page 3 and lad’s mags, because it’s those that we are most frequently confronted with and therefore those that will have the biggest impact on our learning about sexuality. What these media seem to be teaching our young people is that no human is sexually desirable unless they are preened and pumped and smooth and flawless and firm and their sexual doings are as perfectly performed as the edited cavortings of the stars of an MTV music video. Media representations of sex seem to encourage people to see it as all about performance – how they look – rather than how they feel. I don’t see any real signs that the sexual expectations on young people are making them any more liberated than former generations who were, at least, free to have sex (or not) in their own actual skins. They were not led to believe they had to mould themselves into some sort of impossibly perfect (and expensive to maintain) ideal before they got their kit off.

So, the reason I would like Page 3 out of the papers along with the removal of soft porn from the newsagent shelves is because I feel it is part of a culture that is just as repressive about sex as it was in earlier times. Instead of hiding sex altogether as earlier generations perhaps tried to do, we now put it on display everywhere – but we put such a sanitised, tacky, shallow, prescriptive version of it on display that it confines and limits young people’s ideas of what sex is.

I don’t want to ban porn at all, I just want it to be something people have to seek out rather than something that appears in front of our eyes whether we want it to or not. I want our children to learn about sex mainly from talking openly about it and experiencing relationships with other young people with real, lovely, imperfect, varied bodies and minds. I want them to understand that sex is fantastic and intimate and all about sharing your actual real self with another person (or people if that’s your thing), not about putting on a performance of an ideal imposed from outside. I want them to grow up knowing that sex is about feelings and not about how you look when you’re doing it. I don’t want our daughters to grow up feeling that the ultimate accolade is to look good naked so that men they would never want anywhere near them will drool over them. If our young people want to look at porn, it’s fine, but the act of having to go and find it in and of itself would show them that it is something different from everyday human sexual experience. Not wrong, just different. Doing this would hopefully lessen the influence of mainstream soft pornification on people’s individual sexualities and create more not less freedom of sexual expression.

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In which I make a list and get sidetracked by homosexuality

Even after only a short time away, I miss my blog.

I miss reading and communicating with my fellow bloggers and I miss thinking about stuff long enough to write words about it. But I’ve gone back to work after three months of shell-shocked off-sickness and now my brain is full of other things again. It’s full of reasonably interesting other things – but other things nonetheless.

I do have some things I want to blog about, but I don’t seem to be able to pin myself down long enough to write about them coherently because there’s dog hair on the sofa, the washing machine needs emptying and I need to teach myself about schemas and apertures and interview skills by Friday.

So… I’ve decided to bullet point some of the things I’ve been thinking about/ doing in lieu of the series of blog posts they could have been/will be one day. Here they are:

1. I have a new job. It is not horrible. In fact, it’s VERY un-horrible. This week it involved visiting a place where I could shoot lasers at my students and get paid for it. And I don’t have to do any marking.

Here are two students fighting back.
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2. I have a car. An actual car. One that drives and fits things in. I’ve filled it up with wool, tennis balls, mini whiteboards, magazines, cardboard, sheepskin offcuts, playing cards, books and sandy blankets, and now it feels like HOME.

3. I’ve been thinking about masculinity. And dads. About how valuable masculinity is – and how misrepresented. I decided to write a post about it and/or start a Bring Back Men campaign. In preparation, I started to read around online, and found myself drowning in the furious dichotomous histrionics of the extremists of the ‘Feminist’ and ‘Masculinist’ movements. So much so that I had to have a bit of a lie down. A post will happen on this subject when I’ve recovered.

4. Pubes again. I went back to my old place of work and met the teacher who has inherited my job. He is teaching Equus, the play by Peter Shaffer in which the character Alan has a religious and sexual orgasm while riding naked on the back of a horse and yelling. My colleague observed that the students, on watching a 1970s film version of the play, were more horrified by Jenny Agutter having pubic hair than they were by Alan’s horsegasm.

5. I started basic photography classes and may have an f-stop diagram tatooed on my arm because I can’t seem to retain the information. I think it’s because it involves fractions.

6. I sat on a rock at Poly Joke beach and a seal popped up almost at arm’s length. It kept submerging and then reappearing even closer so it could get a better look. I didn’t know seals were so nosy, but I’m glad.Image

7. I started reading a book called Androphilia, written by a gay man who argues that the stereotypical gay identity is…

“… a subculture, a slur, a set of gestures, a slang, a look, a posture, a parade, a rainbow flag, a film genre, a taste in music, a hairstyle, a marketing demographic, a bumper sticker, a political agenda and philosophical viewpoint. Gay is a pre-packaged superficial persona. Gay is a sexual identity that has almost nothing to do with sexuality…”

He goes on to say that his book is…

“for those men who never really bought into what the gay community was selling. It is a challenge to leave the gay world completely behind and to rejoin the world of men, unapologetically, as androphiles, but more importantly, as men.”

This is a subject I find really interesting because I’ve always wondered why people who are attracted to members of the same sex should want their partner to imitate the opposite sex. Why should lesbians be ‘butch’ and gay men ‘effeminate’?

I remember reading Foucault’s The History of Sexuality where he argued that homosexual desire has always been a natural part of the human spectrum of sexuality and that it was the Victorians who decided to categorise it as entirely separate from ‘normal’ heterosexuality.

He said that although ‘sodomy’ was seen as abhorrent in the Bible – so Christians disapproved of it – sodomy was a sexual act, not a persona or a way of life. The Victorians, he said, labelled individuals who regularly performed homosexual acts as ‘inverts’ – men whose gender/sex was kind of upside down. Homosexuals were seen as men with too much woman in their makeup.

I don’t know how true Foucault’s version of the history of homosexuality is, but it has always made me wonder why – if the Victorians thought homosexuality was all about men who were too female and needed curing – why did the revolutionary gay movement adopt a style in which gay men tend to perform a type of femaleness? Surely that is pandering to Victorian ideas of sexuality? Surely if you fancy men, then it’s their ‘masculine’ traits that are attractive? If you’re a lesbian, why would you fancy ‘masculine’ females?

I expect I’ll get verbally kicked in the head for this post by those who will argue that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are social constructs (and I have sympathy with that idea in the main but do acknowledge also that there are some rather pleasing biological differences between males and females), but never mind. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. And I think the book Androphilia gets a bit troubling later – I think he goes on to blame Feminism for gay culture. *sigh*.

8. Pubes AGAIN. My friend H said she ended up talking about pubes in one of her lessons after observing that there’s only a one day shag window available after you’ve had your pubes waxed off. A group of young female students in her class said there was no way they were buying into all that shit about having to yank all the hairs out of their pubic region. H was delighted.

9. I saw these cats.

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Pubic Catastrophising

I have a theory that the reason women are (anecdotally) becoming more predatory in seeking out sexual encounters is because it’s now against the law to have pubic hair.

Ok, maybe not actually against the law, but among young Western humans it seems to have become more or less standard to find hair in the female nether regions pretty repulsive. Cherry Healey (on her programme about body hair) asked a bunch of males whether they would prefer to break their foot or have sex with a female with pubes and they chose the former option. That’s pretty compelling evidence that women may feel obliged to pre-pubertify their privates if they’re hoping to have some normal human relations at some point.

And therein lies the rub. (Oh, horrible phrase – sorry!) Hair removal down there is not something that you can just do in 2 minutes in the shower with a Bic razor like you can with legs and underarms and a little bit of your bikini line for swimming costume purposes. No indeed. If you feel obliged to sport the whole pre-pubescent look in order not to repulse the delicate male of your sinful dreams, it’ll set you back anything from £20-£30 a go (possibly more if you live somewhere more sophisticated than I do). And you’ll need to take time out of your busy day to go and reveal your most personal parts to a stranger with an NVQ in Beauty at least once every few weeks.

But even if you can afford that without qualms, the problems don’t stop there. Human skin doesn’t remain baby’s bum soft and hair free until the next wax. Oh no. No such luck. You start getting itchy re-growth fairly shortly after the wax-based humilation, and after a few more days there is very definite, uncomfortable and unattractive stubble. But you can’t go for another wax until the hair is actually long enough for the wax to grip onto. And if you try to shave, you get an inferior finish and delay the day when you can go for a more efficient wax… can you see the problem here? Basically, you can only have a socially acceptable pubic region about twice a month at best.

The itchy after-effects of hair removal
The itchy after-effects of hair removal

So, that’s why I reckon girls have (theoretically) started to be more forceful in their mating activities. If you’ve paid £25 to make yourself acceptable to a male who thinks women are made of sugar and spice and all things plastic – and you only have one day every few weeks in optimum mateworthy condition – you are damn well going to want value for money. You are going to go out and pull yourself a breeder and nothing is going to get in your way. It’s the modern human equivalent of being on heat, only briefer. And it totally undermines one of the chief benefits of being a female human as opposed to say, a dog or an elk – the fact that biologically we can mate at any time of the year – not just when we’re on heat. All of a sudden, thanks to pube-fear, we can’t.

I am convinced that the fashion for porn-based pube regions must ironically lead to less sex not more. Boys won’t have sex with girls with hair, girls can only be hairless twice a month at the most. So twice a month it is. Sounds pretty rubbish to me.

Not only that… how does it bode for long-term relationships? What about when you’ve been together with your loved one for a few years; you’re both working full time to pay your mortgage and you’ve got a couple of small children? What happens when you no longer have the time/money/energy to go and have your follicles abused? What happens when you no longer feel sexy because you’re a hairy freak and your loved one passes out in horror at the sight of your humanity? Will you both have to go and be hypnotised to be able to tolerate your hideousness?  Will you have to attend sex therapy to explain how human bodies actually look? Will sex stop altogether? Will partnerships dissolve and families disintegrate through the horror of the pube? Will the human race die out?

I call for a PUBIC REVIVAL. Before it’s too late.

Image borrowed from http://milendomagazine.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/skin-colours-in-my-collection-%E2%80%93-tonner-doll-nude-dolls/
Image borrowed from http://milendomagazine.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/skin-colours-in-my-collection-%E2%80%93-tonner-doll-nude-dolls/