Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Handmaid And Rome

Decided to publish this here on my blog, rather than seek publication for it. If anyone would still like to re-publish this article in a magazine or such, feel free to contact me.

We face a problem of epic proportions, caught between two forces which by their nature set upon each other and the fabric of society.

I am of course, talking about sex.

Or rather, the social tendencies of the politics of sex. Principally at the moment there are only two dominant paradigms at work and thus two extremes vying for supremacy: The forces of reaction, and the forces of commodity fetishism. The Handmaid and Nero.

Firstly I will describe the latter because it is newer to us, and less conceptually understood as a social paradigm. It starts in the aftermath of the various sexual liberation movements; Women’s, queer, and the more general sexual liberation movement at large. It must be noted that society has largely abandoned the further pursuit of any of these revolutions, with the exception of queer liberation.

However, from the outset queer lib has been primarily pursued by queers alone, and it is their singularly different nature, and therefore nature of revolution, that has forged their solidarity and continued their struggle.

The difference is this: That the character of the other revolutions was by nature reformist. That is; society already had a place for feminine, heterosexual, and familial roles. In contrast, while society now tentatively adopts the basic humanity of homosexuals, it still does not accept them as such, and harbors no role for them in its fabric.

The nature of women’s lib was more radical in aim than that of the general sexual revolution. The latter sought primarily to widen the dialogue concerning sex, and simply remove its semi-taboo nature, a tendency that was already in place and thus merely hastened. The women’s movement had more ambitious goals, and can only be said to have accomplished reformism while attempting more radical change –Full equality, parity, and the abolishment of patriarchy.

So one may ask, why did these revolutions fail? What went wrong?

Part of it can be blamed on the inevitable reactionaries, but they actually play a much smaller role than is usually suspected. Their opposition would be much less effective if not for an unfortunate side effect of the aforementioned liberation movements: The full capitalist commoditization of sexual identity.

This type of commoditization differs from previous types, such as arranged marriage, in a very significant way. It completely subsumes the sexual identity of women and men, straight and gay, adult and child. Previous commoditization fell under what might be called a “traditional economy” of sex; That is to say that social mores and custom dictated appropriateness, roles, and identity.

The new paradigm however, dictates fully that sexual identity shall be defined primarily by the degree and method in which it can be exploited for monetary gain. It is not yet at the point of fully legitimizing taboos such as prostitution and sexual abuse of children, but already the lines have been drawn thin. Such acts already create much capital for the legitimate economy through their notoriety. The media sensation, while serving at present to reinforce taboo’s also serves to desensitize us to them, and to profit from them.

Pornography plays a similar role, having gone mainstream, marketing a mythology of desirable sexual traits, habits, and endowments. Indeed it may yet prove to produce western society’s version of the ampallang –The shaved snatch.

Perhaps however, the most grievous act of this new zeitgeist is the selling and exploiting of sex and sexual identity to children. It is often not only explicitly and plainly presented, but is not only tolerated but fetishized.

Don’t believe me?

A few names come to mind: Lindsay Lohan, The Olsen Twins, TATU, and of course Britanny Spears; Who’s blatantly sexual smash singing career took off at age 16, and while her videos clearly are designed to entice men sexually, indeed likely much older men, her biggest buyers are overwhelmingly teen and pre-teen girls.

In fact, one may find calf-high leather boots, mini-tees imprinted with thinly veiled sub-sexual slogans, panties with the same, etc. in stores catering specifically to the 13 and under crowd. Their fashion is alighted with sultry letters proclaiming themselves “Bad Girls”, “Sexy”, “Hussy.” Even cartoons marketed to littler girls, such as Totally Spies, feature boy-obsessed, full-breasted, midriff-bearing, materialistic protagonists.

So to review, before women’s lib the social iconography of our society defined women in terms of what they could offer men: A good housewife, obedient, and a loving mother. Post lib, the woman is free to express herself…

…In sexual terms of how she can please men.

Our society has entirely confused the concept of sexual liberation with blatant exhibitionism. Yes women can now talk openly about sex, they can wear shorter skirts, flash in public without being lynched, wear thongs, shave their snatch, and even drunkenly snogg another straight girl for the collective amusement of an audience of men!

That is a change of fashion, not of condition.

And what of men? Are they victims too? Certainly, they are still fostered to treat women as less than full individuals, only now they are sexually “empowered” half-persons. Our iconography still cultivates a predatory sexual self-image in males, places lust before love, tits before a mind, a “slut” before a real person, and machismo before real gentlemen.

In effect the result has been to liberalize sex, and liberate no one, while adding to this, the wholesale exploitation of our desire and the death of intimacy. I define intimacy as the psycho-sexual rapport between equals, thus I’m not lamenting monogamy or “decency” (whatever that may mean), or too much else. I stand behind a person’s right to have as many or as few sexual partners as they like; to be risqué, kinky, queer, or what have you. But I demand that they have real connection with each other as un-coerced equals and that they don’t have a mass manufactured sexual identity.

Now let us turn to the opposing force of reactionaries. If left un-opposed and their aims allowed to follow to their inevitable conclusion, it would paint a picture not dissimilar from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” They too would exploit your individual and social sexual identity by keeping it wrapped in the chains of their ideology. Thus while one force says freedom is exhibitionism, the other says that freedom is slavery.

Both forces, allowed to continue robbing civilization of its Eros, lead to a basic denial of humanity and the re-conceptualization of people as chattel. It is to deny a portion of a person’s genuine self, thus enabling both lives and sexuality to become cheap.

What is required then is a new sexual revolution. The act of sex having gone from private life to private capital has made commodities of us all. We must stand fast against this, proclaiming our refusal to be diminished in such a manner. Let us reaffirm our commitment to true equality of the sexes, and to equality of sexual orientation, let us revolutionize our desire.

By fanning the fires of Eros, may we set alight the course of Civilization.


Anonymous a_faithless_femme said...

My biggest problem on the 'queer' topic is the relatively new NOUN usage of the word 'homosexual.' I so preferred how, many, many decades ago people would describe those who had sexual encounters with the same sex as having 'homosexual behaviours.' Now-a-days, anyone who dares to 'go there' is labeled as "A" homosexual. As though ones sexuality is a whole, all-encompassing definition of who one is. I think it's a bunch of horseshit, and I wonder if it will ever be possible to lose that usage of the word. I usually am against the destruction of words, or their usage, but this is one instance when I wish the noun form of 'homosexual' would just vanish. It ostrasizes people. It puts them into a small box that people cannot see outside of. I can only start with myself on this one, and I chose to not label people as queers, but rather as having queer behaviours.

February 11, 2005 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger UberIcarus said...

Indeed, there is actually alot of discussion within the gay community itself about that. Part of the identification with being "Queer" came from the gay community, as a reaction to the old guard gay/homophile organizations previous to the Stonewall Riot that advocated that gays just try "to behave like everyone else, especially in public." It was a point of identifying and celebrating their difference, in a way to bring it out of society's closet so to speak.

I'm using the terminology in that sense, and not in the sense to completely objectify a person as solely the content of their sexual oreintation or preference.

February 11, 2005 at 1:38 PM  

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