Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sex phobia underlies the reactions to sexual speech and expression

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.
The Internet porn revolution May 25th, 2007, posted by ray harris Open Integral
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

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Toilet designs indicate a particular ideology pertaining to waste

larvalsubjects Says: May 22nd, 2007 at 8:34 pm I didn’t say “greatest contribution” just “central contribution”. I think there’s more to it than the mantra “do as I do”. Rather, Zizek consistently attempts to show how ideology is not to be located in our heads or thoughts, but in actually existing social institutions out there in the world. For instance, he gives a striking analysis of the ideology embodied in French, German, and American toilets in The Plague of Fantasy, showing how each of these toilet designs indicates a particular ideology pertaining to waste. Elsewhere he shows how the modern bourgeoise is, philosophically, a good nominalist, knowing perfectly well that money, for instance, is simply paper and a representation. However, this same nominalist behaves towards money as if it were a sublime and magical object. For instance, many would gasp and be shocked were you to light a hundred dollar bill on fire. Ideology is thus not to be sought in our heads, but in the world out there.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The natural hierarchy that prevails among humans

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
In short, half of mankind (actually, more than half, for reasons we won't get into here) is of below average intelligence. This hardly means that they aren't decent people or that they don't have skills, but it does mean that they probably can't actually think complex subjects through for themselves, and that their thinking is very likely going to be both internally and externally inconsistent. Furthermore, they won't even be intelligent enough to spot the inconsistency. And if you try to explain it to them, they still won't get it...
As I have written before, one of the downsides of democracy is that it not only has a leveling tendency, but it leads to a situation in which, as Guenon remarked, "no one knows their place." Because of the aggressive imposition of egalitarian ideals from the top down, this results in a leveling of the higher castes, so that society ends up with a collective soul that is roughly half merchant and half laborer. Not only that, but through the magic of “inverse analogy,” transgression is confused with transcendence, so society ends up “worshipping” the outcast -- the transgressor, the outsider, the person “above” (actually beneath) the law.
But there is a substantial percentage of the population that is not fit to lead, only to be led (not in principle, of course, but in fact). In America this shouldn't really be a controversial statement, as it is explicitly what our founders believed. That's why they created a representative republic and not a democracy, the latter of which should be a "non-starter" for any thinking person who is aware of the natural hierarchy that prevails among humans... posted by Gagdad Bob at 5/20/2007 07:31:00 AM 36 comments Sunday, May 20, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Families as "pockets of insurrection"

In a chapter of his stunning A People's History of the United States that discusses the rise of the women's liberation movement in the 1970s, Howard Zinn writes:
In the problem of women was the germ of a solution, not only for their oppression, but for everybody's. The control of women in society was ingeniously effective. It was not done directly by the state. Instead, the family was used -- men to control women, women to control children, all to be preoccupied with one another, to turn to one another for help, to blame one another for trouble, to do violence to one another when things weren't going right. Why could this not be turned around? Could women liberating themselves, children freeing themselves, men and women beginning to understand one another, find the source of their common oppression outside rather than in one another? Perhaps then they could create nuggets of strength in their own relationships, millions of pockets of insurrection. They could revolutionize thought and behavior in exactly that seclusion of family privacy which the system had counted on to do its work of control and indoctrination. And together, instead of at odds -- male, female, parents, children -- they could undertake the changing of society itself.[1]
Zinn's insights here are helpful in thinking (rethinking?) the Catholic understanding of the family. As Catholics, as Christians, we are used to thinking of the family as the basic building block of society.[2] As Zinn points out, in the United States and elsewhere, as the basic building block of society, the family has been used in many ways as an agent of "control and indoctrination."
From a radically Catholic perspective, since the central social reality is the Church, and not the state, it is more helpful to think of the family as the basic building block of the Church -- the new society -- rather than the basic unit of the state, or of society.[3] Indeed, in Catholic circles you sometimes hear it said that the family is the "domestic church." If, as radical Catholic theologians like William T. Cavanaugh and Michael Baxter have argued, the Church is (also) a political reality, an alternative social body and way of life that will always be at odds with the societies in which it finds itself, then the family, as the "domestic church," will also be a revolutionary society that resists indoctrination into the state's system of domination and violence, or, drawing on Zinn's terms, an ecclesial "pocket of insurrection."
[1] Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present, Revised and Updated Edition (New York: Harper Perennial, 1995), pp. 503-4
[2] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nos. 211, 213.
[3] The Compendium is confusing on this matter. The above reference seems to say that the family exists for society, yet elsewhere it says that the state and society exist for the family. Cf. ibid, no. 214.
Posted by Michael J. Iafrate at
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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I find Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s teachings on gender to be far more radical

My soul has rebelled against gender stereotypes since as long as I can remember, even when I was a Hijab-wearing Muslim girl. I often tell people that I find Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s teachings on gender to be far more radical (and certainly more liberating) than even the most radical feminists. This post is mostly a compilation of the Mother’s most important writings on gender, and related quotes from her (see under the cut below for these). These articles and quotes emphasize one main idea: that the soul, and certainly the Divine, is not limited by human conceptions of gender. As one grows spiritually, these gender distinctions automatically disappear. The dualities and differences only exist at the terrestrial level...
Although the transcendence of gender is a popular idea in many spiritual traditions, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother go further than all other sages in terms of their idea of the transformation of matter itself, and envision a future species which would be a prototype of a new creation — beyond all dualities and therefore also beyond gender. So for them, transforming the body itself was also crucial and even the physical differences were not something that were permanent. However, this was to come much, much later. Hardly anyone today is ready to attempt what the Mother attempted during the last two decades of her life — the transformation of the physical body.
Of course I have no knowledge of Mother’s attempt at physical transformation from direct experience. What I do know from direct experience is that when you contact the inner being, mental distinctions start to disappear. I would say that losing gendered thinking altogether is crucial to developing the soul...
Source: Various books of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother referenced at the Search for Light website and the Light Endless Light website. Posted by ned on May 8, 2007. Filed under Contemplations, Notes.