Sunday, June 12, 2011

When the Norm becomes Sin

I am perplexed by the cultural habit of making something a sizeable proportion of the population does into sin. What part of who we are as individuals and as a culture demands that we continually pillory the very same people we set up to be our heroes and models and those who speak for us? Why are we so obsessed with behaviors that are common, a product of a wide range of personal preferences and, if done between consenting adults, harmless? Why are we less upset, even entertained, by footage of the bombing of cities than we are of some guy’s home movies of his underwear?

The Internet is full of video clips and picture-sharing opportunities. That we would expect people NOT to share sexually related information, tastes and titillations, with each other at least as much as they share the latest popular song, the inane circumstances and happenings in family and social relations, political agreements, arguments and passions, pictures of hopelessly cute children and pets, and too many people singing badly to count, is befuddling. Beyond some confused and conflicted, self-hating, shame about our own desires.

Sexual chat and sexual variety, real and virtual (can they be reasonably expected to be distinguished from one another? at least in terms of how the internet is a reflection of our concerns and what we think about?) are a normal and generally motivating part of life. As long as it does not interfere drastically with one's day-to-day survival and the respect for others that is a given in civil society(and often sex enhances survival in whatever form it is expressed) sex SHOULD in fact be sought after. The pathology is with and in those who are constantly working to repress and disappear their own and others' urges for sexual connection... because it doesn't usually work very well, and, as we have ample evidence, it is generally dishonest.

The ugliest part of these overly examined celebrity sex-bashing news cycles is in the nature of the mob mentality with which they are pursued, regardless of how intellectual some of the stone throwers may hope to sound. They are still throwing stones, and if the statistics and Internet content represent any truer picture of what we think about, lust after, and wish to do if only in our fantasy life, the houses they throw from are glass.

The cultural predilection for demonizing normal behavior is self-defeating, but worse it also assures that the collective "we" will always be able to be led over any cliff of public attention or lack of it that is handy when other, more heinous, collective behaviors, deserve our attention and our action. Can we really care that much about a fella's wiener in his tighty-whiteys? I mean, I am more concerned about those who are pre-occupied with puritanical and unmaintainable standards of pathological morality than those who display their goods to someone who asked to see them.

And as far as the lies are concerned: if the thought of being forced to be tied to the burn pile of public attention isn't enough to force such untruths, then the internalized shame such a pathological cultural approach to expressions of sexuality would be entirely expected. More Stones. More glass houses.

In the end, who cares? In the end, the sex other people have or don’t have is as inane as wedding pictures, or the ten-year-old’s first tap dance, at least to those who did not attend and/or have no personal connection to them.

In the end, how can we expect to find people who can authentically represent us and our hopes and dreams for this nation if we constantly tar and feather them for the acts we ourselves have indulged, fantasized, and frightened ourselves with? What is the force behind the velocity and anger with which we aim the stones that we throw? Do we really wish to turn our representative bodies and the lives of our cultural heroes into sterile, passionless and abnormally sexually single-focused Stepford droids?

Just as vehement gay-haters are often most likely to struggle with their deeply felt and deeply unresolved tenderness toward those of the same sex, so must our angst and rage at those who would post pictures of their parts and talk about their titillations be invested with our own shame and denial about our desires and repressions.


Anonymous said...

As always, Bob, you raise excellent points and ask very worthwhile questions for us to ponder. I hear what you are saying.

I think when you are a public figure, you must accept that you have little or no privacy in today's culture and decide what is and isn't most important to you to do or express. If you need or want to find expression in a way that you know the general public and/or close family or friends will not like, or will make a judgment about, then make your choices and be prepared to expect a shitstorm.

As much as we might like things to be different and for our society to be open, accepting, or at least disinterested in the foibles and personal proclivities of others, this is the world in which we live right now. Everything and everyone is fair game. It is a shallow, voyeuristic,labeling society. Still, he should not have been surprised at the response when his action was exposed. I am not saying it was bad, good, normal or otherwise.

Our double standards and obsessions about public figures are tiresome and annoying to me, though. Surely we have better, more meaningful things on which to focus.

Bob Vance said...

Iris: Of course you are right... in the real world one of his stature should expect hypervigilance from the sex act patrol vigilantes. But in the end we reveal much more about our collective self by how we respond to these events than what the person under scrutiny has revealed... pretty vanilla stuff. I tire easily of the trumped up tar afeather lynch mentality of the outrage and the diversionary news cycle aspect... completely transparent... that the outrage gets linked to the puritan/racist wing of those who label themselves as feminists, even somehow progressive, is crazy making, ... I also think that there is something to be said about the nature of creative and innovative, assertive people that makes sex come more naturally and with less trepidation, more play (see my blog post immediately prior to this one)... and the embarrassingly presented email exchange could be taken as playfulness instead of being tarred with the hypocrits' brush of sleaze.

Anonymous said...

I have no disagreement with what you have said here. I just love reading the way you say it. LOL

"I tire easily of the trumped up tar afeather lynch mentality of the outrage and the diversionary news cycle aspect... completely transparent... that the outrage gets linked to the puritan/racist wing of those who label themselves as feminists, even somehow progressive, is crazy making, ..."