Is sex dirty? Ratna Kapur times of india 26 May, 2007
The resounding silence speaks to a deeper discomfort around issues of sex and sexuality that continue to haunt the borders of free speech and expression. The Hindu right has been persistent in challenging representations of Indian women that have not been consistent with their vision of women's gender and sex roles in Indian culture. It frames the issue of obscenity as a violation of women's traditional identity as matri shakti — that is, as wives and mothers, and of the respect for women in these roles. They are concerned with restoring women to their position of respect and honour they ostensibly enjoyed in some long lost ancient 'Hindu' past. The threat of obscenity is also seen as a threat to the purity of women's sexuality — if women's sexuality is not contained within the confines of the family, then men cannot be held responsible for their actions of violating this sexuality...
What is lost sight of is how such representations simply reinforce the dominant, sexist values that characterise women's roles and conduct. Censorship does not challenge this sexism. While there is no question that a good deal of sexual imagery is often very sexist or misogynist, sexual performance and sexual images have an important role to play in challenging conventional sexual norms, and producing more affirming space for consensual and healthy sexual relationships and for the expression of women's sexual agency and presence...Describing sexually explicit images as vulgar, obscene and lascivious, reinforces the sexualisation of women's bodies and the idea that sex is dirty, which in turn encourages the idea that women's bodies are somehow dirty.
The 'kiss' controversy indicates the extent to which sex phobia underlies the reactions to sexual speech and expression. It unmasks the need to challenge the idea that sex is inherently negative and dangerous, and promotes healthier attitudes towards human sexuality. Censorship and bans cannot do this work, but will instead reinforce this perception of sex as bad, of women who display it as whores and of good women as wives and mothers. The obscenity laws are a product of our Victorian past. It is time to move beyond that past, and to produce a space for the discussion of sex and sexuality in ways that are affirming and positive. While we are able to represent brutal rape sequences, and extreme violence on screen, any playful expressions of healthy human sexual interactions continue to be stigmatised and elicit responses that are more indicative of our fear of sex rather than of the dangers it poses to what is after all a resilient culture. The writer is director, Centre for Feminist Legal Research.
As a society we are still infected by the sex negative attitudes of the Judeo-Christians. We still think sex is still somehow ‘wrong’. We may have moved on from regarding sex for pleasure as sin, but we still think the open discussion of sex and the open display of sexual images and themes as wrong. The idea that sex should remain in the ‘private’ domain of the bedroom has replaced the idea that sex is a sin. This is irrational.
What is wrong with a sexual image? The idea that sex should be ‘private’ is a direct hangover from the Judeo-Christian idea that sex for pleasure is evil. The early church moralists said that sex was only for procreation and that all non-procreative arousal was a sin. They told married couples that sex should be performed in a perfunctory manner, preferably at night with the lights out and with night clothes on - to avoid any extra arousal. I know a lot of people think we have progressed from this extreme position, but I would argue that we have only changed slightly. Many people are still embarrassed by naked body, the sight of genitals and the physical reality of sex.
The internet porn revolution is slowly changing this, but there is still a high degree of moral panic over this. It seems our embarrassment means we cannot think about the issue in any clear way. In today’s Melbourne Age there is an article that suggests that Internet porn compulsion/addiction is affecting relationships...
So what’s the moral panic about? It’s clash between those who think sex should be private and hidden and those who think it should be openly celebrated. Those who think it should be kept private need to answer this question - why is porn so popular? The answer is simple. People have always been interested in sex. It’s a perfectly natural part of being human and a society that censors sexual imagery and keeps it out of the public domain will only create a subaltern desire for those images. I have no problem with graphic sexual images, but I do have a problem with the porn industry. It’s often just crude and artless. Open Integral Posted in Sexology, Ray's Integral Blog 2 Comments »
Last night I submitted the following abstract for possible inclusion in a conference. I do have some fears that it may be received with a degree of disgust. Which really is worrying, as this is effectively the idea which will be at the very heart of my PhD research:
Subject-Positions in the Sex Industry: A New Synthesis of Irigaray and Baudrillard
This paper proposes a sexual ethics which takes forward the subject as it developed in both Jean Baudrillard and Luce Irigaray. This new synthesis is developed with reference to the sex industry. An Irigarayian view of the sex industry holds that male sex workers can enjoy their work by relying reflexively on the masculine nature of the symbolic order and the hom(m)osexual nature of the libidinal economy. If a female symbolic order were to adopt this structure, women would also be able to participate reflexively in the sex industry (both as consumers and workers). In order to foreclose this possibility, Irigaray asserts an implicitly Protestant view of the moral value of work which would exclude work in the sex industry. Furthermore, Irigaray’s ‘ethics of sexual difference’ anticipates a culture of respect between the feminine and masculine symbolic orders which would exclude this type of work. Yet, unlike Kristeva and Zizek, Irigaray has thus far failed to address the post-Oedipal decline of the masculine symbolic order. My claim is that this decline creates the space for both the emergence of a female symbolic/subject and a new masculine subject-position: what I call, drawing on Baudrillard, the viral subject. Whereas the traditional Western subject has tended to be explicitly universal, but implicitly male, the viral subject I describe is explicitly male, but implicitly universal. Thus, men should choose the viral subject, whilst women can choose either the female subject or the viral subject. For instance, a recent television documentary followed a middle-aged woman who is both a committed, serious Christian and a user of male escorts; this example indicates both the improvisation of a temporary female symbolic (via Christian structures) and a viral subjectivity (via the forgetting of power-relations). Foucault Is Dead Tags: boring stuff about me · irigaray · baudrillard · feminism