By Jackson Cooke - ORIGINAL
Following the close of the 1960s many of the Baby Boomer generation felt we would be entering into a new world of "Free Love" where individuals could express themselves as sexually and as freely as they wanted. The cultural norms were shifting, saying that women would not be mere objects for male advances and domestic partnership but make independent choices in expressing themselves as sexual beings. Well 40 years later, sexism is alive and well and one could argue that women are in a worse societal position than behind the stove in 1950s America.
These societal wounds have been self inflicted and stealthily received from the typical Patriarchal sources - our media, our consumerist culture, our government in a tertiary role. Here I must tackle the ways men and women act as individuals and how this reverberates into our collective consciousness. Now I must say, as a staunch individualist, that I whole-heartedly disagree with the idea of a collective consciousness as I think every individual decides on their INDIVIDUAL consciousness and this is how we can shift society. As individuals change their views it will halt a collective consciousness, where truly unique ideas can flow from and be held and expressed without fear of ostracism.
It may be ironic to lead off my criticism with a look at how men navigate our social world in respect to the opposite sex. It's imperative that I start here as it can be argued that this is the main artery that sexism flows from, it is the way men act towards our choices as consumers and how they act towards women as individuals that reverberates in our society.
Consumerism is worth emphasising in this issue. This is a system where buying is compulsive and hindsight is a ghost. A consumerist society is a society with no conciousness at all, merely an ability to purchase, use/discard, purchase again. This compulsion becomes a pleasure centre where one must merely consume to be satisfied with life. This is a shallow, vapid existence but it becomes more disgusting as males attach these attitudes to how they see women.
Pornography is another term for Consumerist Sex. Pornography does everything for you that used to take experience to learn. It tells you your sexual tastes, how to go about pursuing said tastes and the attitudes of the participant(s) involved. Unfortunately for males (and females), there isn't much deviance between pornographic products, thus we have a large percentage of males, surprisingly, having strikingly similar sexual tastes and with the advent of the internet and video streaming there is even less deviance.
This becomes problematic because as males begin to internalize what they are seeing in Pornography and as males begin viewing it at younger and younger ages they are adopting these views and norms at earlier stages of sexual development, making it even harder to remove these images from their interactions in the real world.
And that's pretty much the crux of the problem with Pornography. It's not that the images are available, but that males internalize what they see, quickly discard them and lust for more, newer material. This morphs consumerism and sex into a sickening package of Lightning Fast Sexism and this translates into the real world. You have men that try to meet women only so they can consume them, just so they can have their male egos validated because they feel they can only be validated in such ways. This creates a horrifying circle of sexism where men can only attach their own poorly developed ego to the objectifying images and having these images played out in real life is the only source of validation. With rejection or acceptance the male ego is never satiated. If he is successful then he must consume more, much like he does on the Internet - merely discarding last weeks images and replacing them with fresh. If he is rebuffed then he must desperately continue to scour until he finds his precious shrine of flesh to calm and soothe his wounded ego. As pathetic as it sounds this is the truth - merely ask an average 20-something male about his sexual tastes - it'll read straight off the back of a porno box.
With the sheer number of males in this world, it would seem impossible to have such uniformity among sexual desires without help from our most generous corporations. This ties DIRECTLY to consumerism - these corporations want us buying, not thinking and then doing some more buying. Having sexual desires uniform makes the marketing agency's task a breeze; this is true of any collective consciousness spawned by corporations. They love and demand uniform, or slightly deviating, opinions because it allows them to touch on our emotional epicentres much more easily thus allowing a streamlined sale. Now, why the hell should we ever take our sexual cues from corporations? This is done in advertisements, media, etc - this puts the ethos of pornography all around us and makes it even simpler for us to internalize.
Now women are plagued by the same constructions and institutions just in a different way. Women are victims of consumerism and pornography, as are men, but this places them in a submissive role - again. Pornography portrays women in a very degrading role, often times showing women enjoying this objectified position, appearing empowered. This is utter nonsense in the real world - the people you see in pornography are actors and paid to follow the 'script' the producers give them. When women emulate this behaviour in the real word, this creates a problem because men see these instances as 'proof' that women delight in being treated this way and men go about their merry sexist way pretending they are living a porno flick.
Corporations are very savvy at playing to our emotions, fears, cultural norms beliefs, you name it - sexual tastes included. Women, in this point in time, want to believe they are empowered, independent - and in many ways they are but thanks to consumerism and 40 years of slick corporate advertisements most women truly think they are being liberated by "choosing" to dress and act as if they are merely the objects of men! A woman should determine what makes her feel sexual or attractive - not the media! Not empty headed celebrities and corporate slogans! And especially NOT MEN!
Going back to my point of how most men's sexual tastes can be read in a Penthouse Letter - what makes a woman feel empowered, at worst, reads like the same thing or, at best, like a product description of a Barbie Doll. Now this isn't true for all women, but it would be difficult to argue against the vast majority.
And we meet circular sexism, again. A woman can only feel empowered and attractive by looking and acting like Jenna Jameson and a male's sexual desire can only be satiated (for the moment) BY a women looking and acting like Jenna Jameson - what a coincidence! We can see what kind of self loathing this creates. Eating disorders and elective plastic surgeries are on the heavy rise along with anti-depressant prescriptions - just to deal with the rejection women feel by not being able to aptly condition themselves to this sexist narrative. A woman feels validated by the attention she gets by validating a male's consumerist view of sexuality! In our present cesspool of a society a woman that dresses like Barbie and doesn't have one damn opinion in her head will accrue many more lovers and friends than a woman that dresses, acts, and thinks for herself. This leads to women that may not have such corporate ready physiques or opinions (basically any at all) feeling lesser about themselves - but! - do not lament such a situation - rejoice! By choosing how to live your own life and how to express yourself - you have already won! And by choosing to accept and nurture other people's independent life choices and views you're bucking the system that has enslaved many thus far.
In Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ms. Levy discusses how females are treating themselves at an earlier age such as middle and high school. She finds that women at those young ages are merely internalizing the Paris Hilton behaviour they read about in magazines and see on MTV striving to achieve the glorified validation from males. They feel that they can only do this by living out the canned sexual norm and doing whatever they can to validate the male's ego, which is also based on shallow, canned norms. How has this changed with adults? We have many Paris Hilton clones wandering around aged 20-75 who's sole purpose is to please men, either with actions, looks or both. How could any woman or man, being held to these ridiculous norms, consider themselves empowered, enlightened or even liberated? Such a restraint on thoughts and tastes has no place in a free society, such uniformity must be thrown to the wind.
And that's the crux of this essay - that we must throw this uniformity to the wind as individuals. History shows the State only acts in the corporate interest and the corporation is never going to be in the interest of the individual, so to hell with a top down approach. We must foster a new era of individualism, that starts in all of us - women and men! You and me. We do not wait for women to burn bras, we do not wait for people to shrug off chains, we change our minds right now. We stop viewing porn, or at least stop internalizing it, we treat each other with respect and dignity because that's how we would want to be treated - not just some notch on a bedpost. And for God's sake we MUST celebrate our unique minds and tastes!