Monday, October 16, 2006

Serious Sex Stuff

hello gentle reader. so, it's been a long time since the good head came back. i won't make excuses. i have a handful of posts i want to get to in the next few days, but to get the ball rolling, i'm going to copy and paste a response i wrote to a bulletin my sister posted on myspace. the article it refers to is pasted at the end of my response, so it might make more sense to read that first. i realize this is more serious than i usually get on here, but i thought a lot about what i wrote, and i figured i may as well record it for posterity. (and maybe start some sort of dialogue?) i promise to go back to being ridiculous in my next post. i realize some of my opinions are far from popular, and i welcome the input of anyone who cares to share how they feel about the subjects brought up. i may be more in the dark than i realize. anyway, here you go:

this is an interesting article, eva, with a lot of thought-provoking points, but i think (particularly in the particular case it is referring to), it is rather misguided. from what the media has told us (which, admittedly, is rarely enough to form an educated opinion) it would seem that the man who attacked the amish school was not so much suffering from issues of misogyny as issues of pedophilia. he made the adult female teachers leave the building (along with the male students), and kept only the female children hostage. he is said to have been wracked with guilt for his previous act of molesting young girls, among other traumatic issues. this case could be more accurately compared to the tragic and numerous cover-ups of child molestation in the catholic church than it could be to hate crimes towards (adult) women. just as a man molesting a young boy should not be compared to homosexuality (wherein both partners are consenting adults), a man molesting young girls should not be equated with issues dealing with heterosexual sexuality. pedophilia is it's own issue, and should be treated as such.

i believe that we, as a society, need to take a hard look at how we handle the issue of pedophilia. there are no childhood/adolescent programs to teach young people what to do if they are worried that they may be experiencing signs of this type of behavior. we have programs for anger management, we talk openly about the problems of violence, drugs, gangs, cigarettes, alcoholism, etc with our youth... and we have (albeit, substandard) sex education classes in public schools, but the only advice we ever give kids about pedophilia is "if a grown-up touches you, tell a teacher or your parents."

the sad truth is, pedophiles start out as kids themselves. they start having sexual urges towards younger children when they go through adolescence. by the time they are adults who have been fighting (or, even worse, giving in to) these urges for years and years, it is very likely too late for therapy to effectively change their behavior. sexual urges are among the strongest of human impulses, and become hardwired in the brain at an early age. from what we've been told, the man who committed the amish school slayings was wracked with guilt about what he had done years before, and he knew what he was going to do was also terrible thing, but he felt he was helpless to stop himself. maybe, if he had gotten therapy immediately after (or even better, before) the first time he acted on his urges (when he was 12 years old), his life and the lives of his victims could have been dramatically different. instead, pedophilia is so demonized that people who have these feelings have no where to go, and no one to tell. their lives would be instantly ruined if they confessed the mental issues they were struggling with. i'm certainly not saying that pedophiles should be treated lightly. as i said, i think it is very unlikely that a person who has had sexual urges towards children their whole life can be effectively "cured" of these issues and thus he/she poses a real threat to society. but i do believe that we are doing almost nothing to deal with the root of the problem.

as for lumping sexually suggestive commercials, hard-core porn, gangsa rap, video games, and fashion into the same the-world-against-women industry... well, i've got to take issue with that, too. i'm not saying that i haven't been offended by a small portion of each of these categories, but what is this article suggesting? that we should censor all of these things? there are other countries that do censor these things, and very strictly so. they don't show sexualized images of women on tv. they don't allow porn or lots of kinds of music. they ban sexually suggestive games and clothing. they also make women wear burkas and don't let them leave the house without a male family member as an escort. they kill women who are raped (and yes, they are still raped) because of the shame it brings on the family. women aren't allowed to be educated or independent or hold important jobs. i don't see how censorship is going to help the situation in the U.S.

i'd like to add (although many feminists would probably disagree with me) that i don't believe pornography and prostitution are inherently misogynistic. sexuality is a complex, crazy thing. some people (women too) like to fantasize about things they wouldn't want to experience in real life. i've talked to girls who have rape/bdsm fantasies that they are ashamed of, because they think that playing a submissive role in their sex lives is inherently antifeminist, when in fact lots of independent/strong people – men too – tend to like this kind of role reversal in bed. it's a role they don't play in their everyday lives, which can make it exciting and taboo to explore with a dominant partner. the fact is, there's all kinds of porn. there's porn for every sexual taste out there. now, i'm not saying that snuff films or porn in which people are actually being hurt against their will (or they are too young to legally consent) should be tolerated... but for the most part, it's fantasy. maybe some of the women who appear in porn would have chosen to do something else as a career if they had higher self esteems and better education, but i've read interviews with some porn stars (and escorts/strippers/other sex industry workers) who say they love their jobs. for some, it's the best means they have to support their families and have a flexible enough schedule to spend time with their kids. if we're really concerned with the welfare of women (and men) in the sex industry, then prostitution should be legalized and regulated. if we don't like "pimp culture," we should provide a safe and healthy environment for prostitution to occur, so that women wouldn't need to depend on men that may take advantage of them and treat them unfairly for protection... because just like abortion, it's not a choice as to whether prostitution exists or not. it is only a choice of how it exists.

i do, of course, agree that there is rampant sexism and misogyny in the u.s. media and in society as a whole, but i think the real answer is education. women need to be shown, from childhood, that they are worthy of respect and love from men and from each other, and men need to be taught that women are their social and sexual equals. people need to be taught that sexuality isn't something to be ashamed of, as long as it's between consenting adults. well educated people will recognize unfair and unhealthy images of women (and men) in the media, and they will reject them.

oh, and the "it's hard out here for a pimp" song is a personal favorite. in context of the film (hustle and flow), it works to emphasize the culture and experience of the character who writes it, and the film goes on to paint some of the most realistic, sympathetic and human portraits of female prostitute characters i have seen in modern film.

love. yer sis

* * * * *

Why Aren't We Shocked?
October 16th, 2006
NY Times Select

"Who needs a brain when you have these?"
--message on an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt for young women

In the recent shootings at an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania and a large public high school in Colorado, the killers went out of their way to separate the girls from the boys, and then deliberately attacked only the girls.

Ten girls were shot and five killed at the Amish school. One girl was killed and a number of others were molested in the Colorado attack.

In the widespread coverage that followed these crimes, very little was made of the fact that only girls were targeted. Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews.

There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime.

None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected. Stories about the rape, murder and mutilation of women and girls are staples of the news, as familiar to us as weather forecasts. The startling aspect of the Pennsylvania attack was that this terrible thing happened at a school in Amish country, not that it happened to girls.

The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock. Guys at sporting events and other public venues have shown no qualms about raising an insistent chant to nearby women to show their breasts. An ad for a major long-distance telephone carrier shows three apparently naked women holding a billing statement from a competitor. The text asks, "When was the last time you got screwed?"

An ad for Clinique moisturizing lotion shows a woman's face with the lotion spattered across it to simulate the climactic shot of a porn video.

We have a problem. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed on women every day, and there is no escaping the fact that in the most sensational stories, large segments of the population are titillated by that violence. We've been watching the sexualized image of the murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey for 10 years. JonBenet is dead. Her mother is dead. And we're still watching the video of this poor child prancing in lipstick and high heels.

What have we learned since then? That there's big money to be made from thongs, spandex tops and sexy makeovers for little girls. In a misogynistic culture, it's never too early to drill into the minds of girls that what really matters is their appearance and their ability to please men sexually.

A girl or woman is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so in the U.S. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count. We're all implicated in this carnage because the relentless violence against women and girls is linked at its core to the wider society's casual willingness to dehumanize women and girls, to see them first and foremost as sexual vessels - objects - and never, ever as the equals of men.

"Once you dehumanize somebody, everything is possible," said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women's advocacy group Equality Now.

That was never clearer than in some of the extreme forms of pornography that have spread like nuclear waste across mainstream America. Forget the embarrassed, inhibited raincoat crowd of the old days. Now Mr. Solid Citizen can come home, log on to this $7 billion mega-industry and get his kicks watching real women being beaten and sexually assaulted on Web sites with names like "Ravished Bride" and "Rough Sex: Where Whores Get Owned."

Then, of course, there's gangsta rap, and the video games where the players themselves get to maul and molest women, the rise of pimp culture (the Academy Award-winning song this year was "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"), and on and on.

You're deluded if you think this is all about fun and games. It's all part of a devastating continuum of misogyny that at its farthest extreme touches down in places like the one-room Amish schoolhouse in normally quiet Nickel Mines, Pa.


dandan said...

You are my hero.

And I don't mean that in a fleeting way, either--like when I say, "This is the best song ever," every time a good song comes on.

Askinstoo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
madeline said...

that one i deleted was spam. i didn't want anyone to think i was censoring real comments.

eva said...

it would be just like you to actually "think hard" about the article and make me look silly for reposting it. the main reason i did repost it was because i agreed with the main point of it, that society does take misogyny and abuse against women for granted, and turns a blind eye to a lot of it. i do agree with everything you said though. xoxo eva

Damian said...


Agreed. I am reminded of case a couple years ago when Dear Abby got a letter from a reader who said he had pedophiliac urges, and wanted to know where he could get help before he hurt someone. Abby turned him into the authorities.

Whether Abby did the right thing or not is debatable, but either way it demonstrates that we have few resources to address pedophelia before it happens.

The fact is there are lots of folks out there who have urges to molest children - most of whom were molested as children themselves. There is no one they can admit these urges to safely, so they deal with it alone, or until they give in and commit a crime. Ultimately we can either wait for them to hurt kids, or make it safe for people to seek help before the cycle of child abuse repeats.

Here in California, we are taking public fears to a reckless extreme with a proposed Proposition on Tuesday's ballot. Prop 83 would prohibit any convicted sex offender (felony or misdemeanor) from living within 2000 feet of a school or park. Problem is, there aren't many areas in cities like L.A. or S.F. that are over 2000 feet from a school or park. So effectively, the law would force tens of thousands of registered offenders to move out of the cities and into the rural county areas, where there are far fewer law enforcement officers to monitor them.

But wait - there's more. Because the proposition would also require felony offenders to wear GPS tracking devices for the rest of their lives. That means an 18-year-old convicted of statutory rape would be forever monitored by law enforcement, even after he served his sentence and parole. That's a pretty extreme, expensive, and time-intensive way to punish someone who made a mistake.

What's truly ridiculous is that these requirements were made law in Iowa several years ago, and they turned out to be a miserable failure. Rather than moving away from their homes in the cities, many registered offenders simply went off the grid, and disappeared. The police no longer know where they are. So this law that was supposed to be "zero tolerance" actually ended up making things more dangerous.

I agree with you that there are many sex offenders who can never be cured. But figuring out how to separate the truly dangerous predators from those who, with help, can resist their urges, is not just right but safer for society.

Devin said...

I remember a different story from Dear Abby. A man wrote to say that he had met and fell in love with a woman, but she had small children, and he had pedophilic urges. So he left her and moved to a different state to live by himself.

Dear Abby was sympathetic. I consider the man admirable. The story is a good example of Madeline's point.

Society is becoming willing to grant that homosexuality is natural because, when practiced with respect and responsibility, it harms no one and makes people happy. We accept the evidence that homosexuality is not a choice and therefore homosexual people should be treated with respect and sympathy.

We do not give pedophily the same respect because it is predatory and harmful to the children. But it appears to also be not a choice and might be equally "natural", possibly even genetic. Or, as often appears to be the case, it may be the result of childhood abuse.

People with pedophilic urges who resist acting on them deserve our sympathy and help.