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"Raunch culture" - Oppression dressed as liberation?

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Wed 21 Jun, 2006 07:22 pm
I found this article from the Guardian very interesting.

I wasn't sure in which forum to post it - there doesn't appear to be a forum to fit the discussion of sexual politics. Anyway, I'll be interested to see how others here respond to Angela Phillips' perspective.:



.... Young women today have aspirations for themselves that are beyond the wildest dreams of their feminist mothers and grandmothers. But that fear of male sexual rejection has not gone away.

Indeed, as women have gained power, the fear of male rejection seems to have reached epic proportions and, always quick to spot a trend, the media has picked up on this anxiety and mercilessly exploited it: 15-year-olds learn about relationships from Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, and then wear clothes on the street that would once have had them arrested; students send pictures of their breasts to Nuts magazine just for the buzz of it; women who would once have allowed their post-natal tummies to sag gently are desperately starving themselves back into their jeans so that they can be "yummy mummies" like the celebrities they see in Hello! magazine. Those same mothers buy their pre-pubescent children thongs and dresses with Playboy symbols.

Some people suggest that this obsession with the self is actually about a new and more liberated sexuality; that all this display is evidence that women are coming out of their closeted world and learning to enjoy their bodies. The evidence suggests that this is not the case.

Certainly, young women are learning that sexual display attracts male attention. The last figures from the national sex and lifestyle survey (Natsal) show that the average age of first intercourse dropped a year in a decade. But every study also shows that earlier isn't better. There is a very high level of regret among those who have sex under the age of 16, and women are twice as likely as men to regret their first experience and three times as likely to report being the less willing partner.

This sense of being continually on display, up there on the shelves, plastered over the billboards, smeared over the morning newspaper, is not liberation: it is sending out a message to young women that, in order to be loved, it is necessary to be perfect, and always available.

There is nothing in these vapid, airbrushed pictures that says anything at all about female desire; they are all about male desire. These are women who are there to satisfy men - not themselves.



............ Our generation may have taught our daughters to be clever and brave, but we don't seem to have taught them how to be happy. They will have to move that boundary for themselves. Fortunately, moving boundaries is what young people are good at. ... <cont>

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/angela_phillips/2006/06/girls_and_the_rise_of_raunch_c.html
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Baldimo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jun, 2006 07:36 pm
Very interesting and I agree with what the author has to say. For years I have been saying the media is turning our daughters into objects of lust and nothing more. No one listens but instead says that we are just trying to repress women more and more. This article seems to hit the nail on the head.

Thank you for starting this thread.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jun, 2006 07:38 pm
Human nature - Trends don't change that.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jun, 2006 08:03 pm
This is kind of a weird mishmash of an article.

She says, "Some people suggest that this obsession with the self is actually about a new and more liberated sexuality; that all this display is evidence that women are coming out of their closeted world and learning to enjoy their bodies." I say, with some qualifications, "Yeah, I think so." Then she says, "The evidence suggests that this is not the case." I say, "Oh, evidence, really?, OK let's see..."

Quote:
Certainly, young women are learning that sexual display attracts male attention. The last figures from the national sex and lifestyle survey (Natsal) show that the average age of first intercourse dropped a year in a decade. But every study also shows that earlier isn't better. There is a very high level of regret among those who have sex under the age of 16, and women are twice as likely as men to regret their first experience and three times as likely to report being the less willing partner.


Eh? That's it? What about mature women reporting that they enjoy sex more, or that single women past the age of 40 are going ahead and having sex lives instead of resigning themselves to Old Maid-hood, or any number of things. 16-year-olds aren't much of a measure of women learning to enjoy their bodies.

There are way too many conflations. I'm in the midst of trying to get fit again after having my kid -- why not? However, I would never, ever, in a million years, buy my kid a thong or a dress with a Playboy symbol.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jun, 2006 08:10 pm
This I agree with, from the rest of the article:

Quote:
Our teens are now the most sexually experienced in Europe. They are probably also the most confused. Where other countries treat sex and relationships as a part of education and talk about such things the whole way through school, our schools are held in check by a fringe group of religious nutters with a direct line to almost every national newspaper editor. The very same newspapers that follow the antics of Big Brother and pick apart the appearance of every female who sticks her nose above the parapet also denounce any attempt to make sex and relationship education a serious part of the curriculum with headlines such as "Sex lessons for five-year-olds".

While young people are denied the opportunity to discuss their feelings and desires with properly trained, responsible adults they are exposed on a daily basis to TV programmes that tell them it is normal to ask for breast implants for their 15th birthday or to get an extreme makeover if they want to be loved.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jun, 2006 08:23 pm
I think if the author took "Sex and the City" out of it I would be a lot more receptive. It's not intended for 15-year-olds, and I think it encompasses a lot of really good things about women going ahead and enjoying their bodies, embracing their sexuality, and continuing to do so past their 20's. (When the show ended, the main actresses were 39, 39, 38, and -gasp- 48. [Kim Cattral, born 1956].)
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Jun, 2006 09:19 pm
The doctrine that the generically evil man (signifying "the man" as a collective noun) is victimizing the universal pure, decent woman upsets me-- and this mythology is shared by the feminist left and the far right.

The truth is far more complex. Women are not "good" and men are not "bad".

Gender roles evolved out of necessity and have sometimes been helpful.

Female sexual desireability is not "imposed" by an evil male plot. Rather it is as natural behavior that is shared by plenty of species and almost certainly evolved because it makes sense for the needs of sexual reproduction and the rearing of children.

I don't buy the idea that past cultures were always unfair to women-- but I won't argue that here unless someone wants to enter this discussion.

I will argue that modern sexuality is complex for both men and women (and boys and girls). This is because our cultural norms are changing rapidly and I think navigating the new sexual landscape is difficult for many of us. The mixed sexual messages that are being put on kids (and they are there for both boys and girls) are reflection of the mixed feelings about sexuality that are being felt and expressed by society.

I don't think the difficulty finding a healthy sexuality is any easier for boys than it is for girls.

And... there are serveral ways that men are at an very strong disadvantage under modern sexual ideas.

- Men do not have equal reproductive rights to women. For example, a woman who makes a mistake but doesn't want to support a child has options, including abortion or adoption, after which she has no moral or financial responsibility for the child she conceived. A man who makes a mistake has no such options, but must accept the decision of the mother including the moral and financial responsibility of an unwanted child.

- Men also are still second class parents. If on separation both parents want custody, the mother is usually award it unless the father can prove she is unfit.

There are many healthy things about sexuality today-- even healthier than in the mythical "good old days". Openness, discussion, acceptance are all things we have had to work for over decades. The sometimes confusing and at times shocking aspects of modern sexuality aren't surprising and shouldn't be overly troubling-- they are just signs of people finding their way in a time of change.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Jun, 2006 01:38 am
To return to the thread's purpose....a book I loved was Anne Michaels' "Fugitive Pieces"...it finishes in the USA, so I imagine it is American....(oh, just checked, she is Canadian...and the characters move to Canada, not the US...damn!)


Anyone else consider this a runner for a recent best North American literature status?

Anyone read it?


It is a while since I did, so I have impressions of the wonderful sensuousness and simplicity of the prose, and the marvellous cascade of ideas....rather than, any longer, a clear idea of plot.


http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/michaels/crit3.htm


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679776591/104-6796068-8230314?v=glance&n=283155
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Jun, 2006 01:50 am
Checking in, and now going to sleep;
hasta manana...
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Jun, 2006 02:01 am
dlowan wrote:
To return to the thread's purpose....a book I loved was Anne Michaels' "Fugitive Pieces"...it finishes in the USA, so I imagine it is American....(oh, just checked, she is Canadian...and the characters move to Canada, not the US...damn!)


Anyone else consider this a runner for a recent best North American literature status?

Anyone read it?


It is a while since I did, so I have impressions of the wonderful sensuousness and simplicity of the prose, and the marvellous cascade of ideas....rather than, any longer, a clear idea of plot.


http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/michaels/crit3.htm


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679776591/104-6796068-8230314?v=glance&n=283155



Sorry! Wrong thread!
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Jun, 2006 09:00 pm
Interesting & thoughtful responses. Thank you.

I was interested in the views expressed in the article for a number of reasons:

First, because I've taught adolescents for a long time & my perception is that they are under a lot more pressure to be "sexy" (in appearance & behavior) these days. And at a much younger age. And it does concern me. (I have concerns about the pressures on adolescent boys, too, but another thread, perhaps?)

Secondly, I'm very interested in how the ground has shifted in terms of how young women define what's considered attractive & appealing. And who the "image makers" are. And their motives. Compared to say, the 70s when "feminist" concerns had a huge impact on many of the young women I worked with (& me!). I think it's accurate to say that the "message" of those 60s & 70s feminists are now considered old hat, quaint, "politically correct" & overly restrictive in terms of the personal freedom of women to choose what they want to be, how they want to be ... Yet, I seriously wonder how much real freedom young women actually do have to choose they're own ways of being.

Interestingly, I've read many, many articles by the daughters of 70s feminists blaming their (feminist) mothers for all variety of shortcomings in their lives .... regretting that they were taught that they could "have it all" (motherhood and a fulfilling career) when in reality they couldn't. Being taught that they could be anything they chose, when in reality they couldn't .... i think it's fair to say that there's been a back-lash against the feminism from that era, that it's considered quite inappropriate for these brave new times we live in.

For me, it's interesting to see what seems to be an odd alliance between feminists & "conservatives" on a number moral issues like the ethics of pornography & probably in this case, the sexualization of young women, for commercial reasons ... There's an implication that concern for the wellbeing of young women & a desire to protect them from these pressures on them is somehow wrong & misguided. And can lead to ridicule of those who express those concerns.

Anyway, just mulling over a few of my thoughts here. I am not advocating a complete return to the ideals of 70s feminism, though I do believe there has been an overreaction in the backlash to the feminism of that era. The thing that concerns me is that there appears to be little but the market place & the media guiding young women now. And many of the young women I work with don't appear to be very secure as a result of the pressures on them.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Jun, 2006 07:59 am
A very interesting thread, Miss Olga. I don't think the impact of mass media can be stressed too much--but it leads me to another consideration. When a medium sells advertising for the broadest demographic of potential buyers, advertisers are look for women from, roughly, ages 20 to 50, as that group has been identified as "holding the purse strings." While programs such as Baywatch don't seem to be targetting that demographic, the bulk of "network" programming (which refers in the United States to the "big three" networks, NBC, ABC and CBS) does look for a general audience.

The problem likely lies with the proliferation of and specialization of television programming. In the United States, the Fox Network and the WB (Warner Brothers) target a young audience, and seek to scoop up viewers outside the "family entertainment" market with more risqué programming--and their shows are popular. When adolescents are bombarded with programming and advertising with a sexual message, they are being specifically targetted, and my experience of capitalism is that the advertisers would not be buying that time and airing that material if it did not sell.

So the question becomes why it sells so effectively. It is undeniable that children (by which i mean anyone under the age of 18) are interested in social relationships naturally, and as they reach adolescence, that begins to include sex. People are fond of pointing to an innocent Eisenhower America of the 1950s and saying that children now "grow up faster," and are exposed to sex as we were not. Hogwash--in fact, keeping sex under wraps, and mysterious, just made it all the more interesting, all the more intriguing. In most of human history, adolescents began their adult life while still in their early teens--in Rome, boys "took the purple" (i.e., wore a toga with a purple stripe, indicating adulthood) at 14, and were expected to go to the Forum to study public life, so that they could (and they would) take responsible office at age 15. Roman girls were considered marriagable in the property market from age 14. Rather than list a series of examples of this throughout history, i will just point out that the reality of life for much of human history is that adults did not often live long past the age of twenty, and adolescent children often found themselves orphaned to take adult responsibility.

But within the last few centuries, the increasing wealth of western societies has created a situation in which children could be kept in the home, and attending school, well into their teens. So we end up right back with the broadcast media. Adolescents have always become interested in adult life and sexuality when their bodies began to mature, and we now live with a constant bombardment of broadcast media which seek to exploit that interest. To a certain extent, nature is responsible in that adolescent girls are interested in adolescent boys, and want to attract their attention (the reverse, is, of course, also true). But we now live in a society which does not consider them to be adults until age 18--which is four or five years later than was the practical circumstance for most of human history. So now we notice the common circumstance and treat it as though it were extraordinary, when in truth it is not.

I don't purport to have a solution, but i do think that it is not unusual that adolescents become interested in the opposite sex and in sexuality when they become pubescent. What is unusual is milieu of sexuality in which children now grow up. It is not that sexuality was unknown in the past, it is rather that in the past, it was relevant because those whom we consider children were treated as adults in the past. On the specific issue of how girls are seen and see themselves, we are also in a unique period in human history, in that although many ancient socities treated women as equal to men, it is uncommon in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West, which has perpetuated the misogyny of the ancient nomads of the middle east. So we end up with children who are interested in sex in a society which treats sex as dirty. A lot of the problem may well result from families in which the elephant in the room is never discussed, but is plainly visible to the adolescents.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Jun, 2006 04:44 pm
Thanks for that contribution, setanta. Very interesting indeed. A lot to think about.

Be back later. (I'm in a Saturday morning rush!)
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