Saturday, October 24, 2009

No Longer A Man's World? Part 2: Marge Simpson and Speculations about the 'New' Sexual Object as Sacrifical Victim

Note: Sorry for the House of Leaves effect, but out of respect for commentators, additions and significant edits after the fact are in red so that their arguments cannot be swept under the rug as I refine this when shown the need to. Thanks!


Previously on Under The Brown Hat (yeah, I've always wanted to do that), I purposed the question, if the economic dimension of Feminism, the primary goals of the First-Wave, are coming to an end as TIME Magazine suggests, can we say the same awaits on the near horizon
for problems such as the sexual objectification of women?

One somewhat backwards solution to the age old problem has become fairly established already and is partially to be blamed for why we are able to so easily overlook the problem now. Returning to this idea of "true equality" Stengel purposes, we can see one method for dissolving women's objectification has been through a 'thigh for a thigh, boob for a man-boob' reciprocated sexual objectification of the male body. From the stripped to his waist, bloodied and provocatively Christlike first cinematic male-sex symbol, Rudolf Valentino, to the "neurotic erotica" of Gillette's body shaving campaign for men which encourages pubic shaving, men have been and are ever increasingly objectified (Twilight anyone?). There are at least three problems that need to be addressed about this approach:

First, the most frivolous, is that though women have, can, and do objectify men, it can hardly be said that the degree of sexual objectification is equal. On the most basic level this can be shown to be evident by taking the safe mode off Google Images (I should not have to point out that this will result in NSFW material) and comparing the results for typing in "Man" and "Woman."

I did this a second ago and found for men a magazine cover with Robert Downy Jr. in a suit declared "sexiest man alive," some images of mutilated soldiers, some female nude photos taken by Man Ray ironically, and... well... some ordinary photographs of men. Mostly working class people, but little more than that for six pages of searching.

"Woman" bombarded me with at least half a screen full of hardcore pornography. Women on women, women being gang banged... nasty stuff. There was also a picture of a Muslim Woman and at least one picture of Wonder Woman that wasn't excessively erotic. I only made it two screen searches before I got sick of the obvious pattern. "Woman" produces predominantly exploitative images of graphic pornographic scenes that have apparently no artistic erotic dimension beyond being masturbatory fodder. I rest my case.

The second problem is even though there is some male sexual objectification isn't the majority of it skewed in some way to reiterate the original patriarchal gender dynamics? From Valentino to Robert Pattinson, is there not in many of these sex-icons an effeminate dimension to their appeal? In truth, it is only one vein among many different demeanors and body types of objectified male icons, but if we fallow sexual objectification to physical victimization do we not see the subjects emerge in a feminine role? When the bare fact is pointed out that men are also rape victims, is not the overlooked detail that men are usually raped by other men? Though cases of women raping men are recorded, they are seen as freakish and abnormal and are certainly rarer than men raping men. In the ultimate act of male sexual objectification, the victim's fate is to in being raped be made his assailant's 'bitch', thus reaffirming the gendered chauvinistic dynamic of feminine as subordinate even when the victim is male.

Beyond this subversion that leads sexual objectification to be an inherently feminine role regardless of the subject's sex, there is a more obvious reason why sexually objectifying human beings is not resolved by making men equally objectified. The third problem is the ultimate reality that sexually objectifying men on any level just means more people are being sexually objectified. What is ultimately wrong with objectification is the inherent disregard for the individuality of those who are objectified.

From these three problems we can see that sexual objectification is not a feminist issue--in that limited sense of feminism being the realm of 'women's interests'--because more women get sexually objectified than men and the playing field must be quantitatively evened-out, the way that according to TIME Magazine the workforce is becoming, but rather because this fundamental wrong, this cold, violent even, form of solipsism, is gendered at its core. It is this gendering that, as an offshoot, results in the imbalance of female to male sexual objectification, but it must be understood as an offshoot first and foremost, for the major problem is the solipsist disconnect of individuals from other individuals.

With this understanding of how sexual objectification functions and has thus far been erroneously dealt with through generalized sexual objectification, we can re-investigate the Oct. 26th issue of TIME to see if in its predominate optimism there is in fact any clue for how to deal with this unmentionable problem of how society addresses women as sexual objects. And lo and behold, a rather comical solution does in fact appear in one of the most counter-intuitive of places.

On page 17, at the bottom of the list of Verbatim quotes, there can be found one from James Jellinek, the editorial director of Playboy Magazine. The quote pertains to "his decision to feature Marge Simpson on the magazine's November cover" saying that, "She is a stunning example of the cartoon form." The solution here is admittedly perverse, but it is also misleading. For though it might not seem such a radically new concept--even for Playboy (which has featured virtual videogame women before (NSFW)), let alone that animated pornography and pornographic images both have considerably long histories of existence--it is not so much the content as Jellinek's approach to the content that flirts with something radical. To understand this, lets consider a similar contemporary analysis of sexism's sibling of sorts, racism.

In Slavoj Zizek's The Fragile Absolute, he analysis the criticisms of the first of the Star Wars Prequel as an example of a third kind of racism, neither direct or reverse, but reflective.
The usual leftist critical point that the multitude of exotic alien (extra-human) species in Star Wars represent, in code, inter-human ethnic differences, reducing them to the level of common racist stereotypes (the evil merchants of the greedy Trade Federation are a clear caricature of the ant-like Chinese merchants), somehow misses the point: these references to ethnic clichés are not a cipher to be penetrated through an arduous theoretical analysis; they are directly alluded to, their identification is, as it were, part of the game. […] What is crucial here is that [the aliens] are not played by real actors, but are pure digital creations – as such, they do not merely refer to the clichés; rather, they are directly presented, staged as nothing but animated clichés. For that reason they are, in some way, ‘flat’, lacking the ‘depth’ of a true personality: the grimaces of their almost infinitely plastic faces give immediate and direct expression to their innermost attitudes and feelings (anger, fear, lust, pride), making them totally transparent (Zizek, pages 4-5 in my copy, page 7 in the linked version).
Humoring the idea that all stereotypes emerge from a kernel of truth, that the actions or characteristics of one or a group of people are then attributed to the whole of their race, the mistake such critics make of Star Wars is in thinking that it is like the minstrel show, where black performers or white performs in blackface act out racist archetypes of black people, directly attributing stereotype to race. Star Wars is not such a minstrel. The staggering irony here is that in these embodiments of racist stereotypes, these pure living manifestations of stereotypes disconnected from human beings, "staged as nothing but animated clichés" become racist only through their re-attribution with human races. Like the famous lewd joke Jack Nicholson tells in Chinatown, it is the politically correct critic of the Star Wars aliens who, like the presumably innocent (of infidelity but also racism) wife of the racist man, ends up shouting, "You're skrewin' just like a Chinaman!" (emphasis mine).

In saying that, "She is a stunning example of the cartoon form," Jellinek escapes this error. Unlike, say, Barbie, which Mattel is often accused by feminist of prescribing as a representation of the female form, despite the grotesque anatomical impossibilities of the doll's proportions, Jellinek largely does not identify Marge, beyond the gendering "She" as a representation of female form. He acknowledges that by putting her on the cover of Playboy, as the placeholder of sexual objectification, "she" is "staged as nothing but animated clichés." He has in fact, for one issue, if only on the cover and perhaps a few pages within the magazine, and only in the proposal of this obscurely quoted sentence, offered an extraction of the feminine blackface from the minstrel show of female sexual objectification, severing the link between woman and object, by replacing woman-as-object with an object-as-object.

Is not in some respects the potential of this replacement the same as the sacrificial object which Rene Girard explores in Violence and the Sacred and subsequent works?
The purpose of the sacrifice is to restore harmony to the community, to reinforce the social fabric. Everything else derives from that. If once we take this fundamental approach to sacrifice, choosing the road that violence opens before us, we can see that there is no aspect of human existence foreign to the subject, not even material prosperity. (Violence and the Sacred, page 8).
Girard makes a point in these introductory pages of explaining why ritual sacrifice is such a difficult concept for us to comprehend, as it is utterly absent from contemporary society, explaining that it is fundamentally an aspect of pre-judicial society. It stopped the endless flow of cyclical violence caused by blood feuds where every revenge would beget another until the violence became a thing separate from the initial wronging. However, considering this phenomenon of objects-as-objects, as placeholders for objectification, can we not see sacrifice not still alive, reemerging, the behavior mediated to a new space that is conceptual now not only in the representative function of the victim, but also in the act as a no longer physical event? Is this sexual objectification that severs individuality from representation and physical form, this 'thigh for a thigh, boob for a boob' mentality of sexual objectification not all fundamentally violent, conceptually and ultimately through its most extreme form (rape) literally? If so, the formula for treatment seems identical, as the victims of objectification (women and men in the made-effeminate position of women) are replaced by a sacrificial victim that bares a "physical resemblance" to the real victim.
In a general study of sacrifice there is little reason to differentiate between human and animal victims. When the principal of the substitution is physical resemblance between the vicarious victim and its prototypes, the mere fact that both victims are human beings seems to suffice. Thus it is hardly surprising that in some societies whole categories of human beings are systematically reserved for sacrificial purposes in order to protect other categories (page 10).
From this point of view, we can see the description of the sacrificial victim Girard offers in the first chapter of Violence and the Sacred is not only a dead-ringer for these racially and sexually archetypal objectified cartoons "staged as nothing but animated clichés," they are potentially improvements upon the conventional sacrificial victims because of their intangibility.

If we analyze Jellinek's statement throughly enough, we sooner or later must ponder the question, 'why Marge?' Why is she "a stunning example" compared to others? For one, she is not the most exaggeratively endowed cartoon character; she is not, say, a Barbie or like many of the common conventions of Anime, nor is she the most realistic. She is plainly drawn without texture or depth, yet she is a stunning example for this very reason. She is, like her Star Wars compatriots, "flat," which is important as, unlike them, she does represent a human. Essentially, they are like the early sacrifices, animals, where she is a kind of human sacrifice, but she is not too human. Which is important as Girard points out.
We have remarked that all victims, even animal ones, bear a certain resemblance to the object they replace; otherwise the violent impulse would remain unsatisfied. But this resemblance must not be carried to the extreme of complete assimilation, or it would lead to disastrous confusion. In the case of animal victims the difference is always clear, and no such confusion is possible. Although they do their best to empathize with their cattle, the Nuers never quite manage to mistake a man for a cow--the proof being that they always sacrifice the latter and never the former (page 11).
Marge walks this precarious line, standing as it were safely before the edge of the uncanny valley. She is not too close as to cause "disastrous confusion" and yet she is not too inhuman as to not bear resemblance and cause disconnect.

However, there is another way to interpret this humanoid-as-human versus animal-as-human aspect. Besides the dimension of furries within animation (which has obviously been tip-toed around up to this point), how else can we interpret the relationship between animation and these animal/human roots of sacrifice? When Girard points out that "Although they do their best to empathize with their cattle, the Nuers never quite manage to mistake a man for a cow--the proof being that they always sacrifice the latter and never the former" what contemporary phenominon can we compare this behavior too? One unsettling possibility returns us to the previous question of why Marge, a character that, why sexually active (with her husband) within the TV show, is not the most intuitive choice for a Playboy cover, like, say, an anime character.

Perhaps the real reason why Marge was chosen is modesty. Let us not forget that for all that Playboy is, it isn't Hustler or even harder pornographic fare. In The Huffington Post article linked to above, they note that, "Marge isn't going to bare all [...] as the magazine says there will only be "implied nudity" in the 3-page pictorial."

That they would lean more towards burlesque might seem obvious on one hand; she is as the article puts it "the matriarch of Springfield's first family," but by the same token isn't that also what makes putting her in this sacrificial position of sexual object so desirous? Isn't that the catharsis for the economically and educationally emasculated American male, that according to TIME has statistically lost his world, to indulge in? Acknowledging the practical reality that her creators would probably not allow Marge to "bare all" (although to some existent, I do wonder), perhaps a better understanding of Playboy's modesty is to proximate her character as the 'human', and an alternative like the various popular anime girls as the 'animal'. That is to say, 'although male emasculate voyeurs do their best to empathize with anime girls, they never quite manage to mistake Marge Simpson for an anime girl--the proof being that voyeurs always rape the latter and never the former.' My point here is not really a literal one, in the sense that, yes, I'm sure there is hardcore Simpsons porn in existence (there's always someone into something twisted), but it is almost certainly all fan-made, where violent sex-games like Rapelay, along with apparently a great deal of rape oriented Hentai, are official products. However, the significance between formal products and informal, unauthorized constructs does bare weight for Girard. As he points out,
In attempting to formulate the fundamental principals of sacrifice without a reference to the ritualistic framework in which the sacrifice takes place, we run the risk of appearing simplistic. Such an effort smacks strongly of "psychologizing." Clearly, it would be inexact to compare the sacrificial act to the spontaneous gesture of the man who kicks his dog because he dares not kick his wife or boss (pages 8-9).
If capitalism can be seen as 'the new' religion, then commercial forums such a Playboy and other publisher/producers (from television, to film, to games) to varying degrees are the subsequent spaces of ritual for sexual objectification. They are the authoritative references with their respective sects, Jellinek being a kind of sexual priest anointing Marge "a stunning example" as her head becomes framed in the figurative guillotine of sacrificial sexual objectification (yeah... I'm having fun writing this). But when figurative guillotine becomes literal one, there is simply a higher level of acceptance for seeing these exaggerated, big eyed, anime girls torn to pieces than if the same were done to a more 'human' character like Marge.

Again, am I underestimating the degree to which Marge is a familiar and beloved character, and, am I overlooking the potential for cultural contexts and differences (Rapelay, like most Hentai, being Japanese)? Of course! And to an extent, no. Her familiarity is a part of her human-ness--but either way, that is a diversion from the primary issue at hand, which is the cartoon form. As for cultural differences, consider the largely feminist anime, Perfect Blue, about a young pop singer who turns actress only to be further objectified by the film industry than the music industry (there's a murder mystery bit as well, but it's almost there just to give the film momentum). Satoshi Kon essentially bites the hand that feeds most anime directors by discussing fandom and objectification negatively, but as such, it is through his artistic style that he bares those teeth and definitively rejects hentai by making his protagonist proportionally realistic and her rapist freakishly distorted. As a result what is usually a fetishistic spectacle of glorified misogyny in hentai films becomes here a tragically visceral scene intended to make its audience feel like shit for ever thinking of drooling over a picture of Sailor Moon. Even within the confines of anime we can see this phenomenon of closeness is not as simple as the character's proximity to the uncanny valley.

Like an onion, it seems there are further depths to be peeled and worthwhile to do so. A reasonable argument to emerge in addition to those already brought up against comparing Marge to conventional anime characters is the fact that Marge is not exactly the most human of characters herself in many respects. She may not have unnaturally formed breasts, but her skin is stark yellow, her hair is gravity defying blue (also apparently natural) that puts even the most eccentric 80s pop artists to shame, and she has bug eyes of her own, eyes that protrude more than halfway out of her head! Indeed, Girard makes note that analysts should not allow themselves to be distracted by the differences between animal and human sacrifice, and though this analysis challenges his claim that sacrifice is not a contemporary phenomenon, perhaps disagreements should end there. But what then is the cost?

If we cannot differentiate the types of sacrificial victims, then we must face a new ethical dilemma. Where the major fundamental problem with the 'thigh for a thigh, boob for a boob' approach was that it overlooked the significant wrong of sexually objectifying any human as opposed to just women, we now must ask ourselves if the true 'wrong' is not the pure act of sexual objectification. In this light, Playboy's treatment of Marge is revealed not to be modesty so much as a hesitance, resistance even, to truly crossing that line between the tangible and intangible, between the flesh and blood sacrifice of the celebrity (or celebrity-made) human model and the immaterial one, for beyond even the kind of disregard that the Nuer are described by Girard as having for animals, the cartoon victims "staged as nothing but animated clichés" are utterly inconsequential. If the horror of something like the game Rapelay is that it is a kind of extreme misogynistic minstrel, the relief and consultation is that, "as nothing but animated clichés," to weep for its victims with their cartoonishly huge breasts and high-pitched cutesy voices is not unlike weeping for the masturbatory Kleenex. In this, the utter horror of the sacrifice is understood. There is a reason Girard's sacrifices are blood sacrifices, and not, say, pinata sacrifices. Without that collision of objectification with the human, humanity is not guaranteed to intersect.

From this point I can truly only speculate as to whether the violent extremity of things like Rapelay is a result of too little "physical resemblance," where as Girard explains, "the violent impulse would remain unsatisfied," or rather from the absence of physicality, causing an insatiability, not entirely unlike another Zizekian concept from The Fragile Absolute: "Coke as objet petit a." Focusing primarily on the Jacques-Alain Miller observation that Zizek sites, that, "Coke has the paradoxical property that the more you drink, the thirstier you get, the greater you need to drink more" (page 19 in my copy, 22 in the linked version), we can see how the escalation of animated pornographic violence might be explained, in a sense, by the lack of physical blood in the ever pallet stimulating animated gallons split, poured, or even sprayed in frenzy. Where the prior cause always threatens such an escalation, the latter almost guarantees it without uncertainty. From neither can we confirm an inevitable shift from such extremes being carried out on object-as-object victims to human-as-object victims--to living human beings, but even if the cartoon victims "as nothing but animated clichés" are utterly purged of their minstrel dimension, cut clean like the aliens of Star Wars to the point that even the remnants of gender like "she" and "her" are erased, is this something we can be comfortable with? Is this not, in a sense, the ultimate ethical challenge - not to commit the truly victimless crime on the basis that it is a crime not because of its victim? Are all these negotiations of sexual objectification avoidances of the seemingly too simple solution of not objectifying, or are they because sexual objectification is an inescapable part of who we are which we must simply find a way of not letting get out of hand?

If TIME Magazine is right about one thing, it is that the 'world' of the sexes has changed
drastically in America, in the statistical arena that it reports upon, and also in the unspoken arena I've discussed. I would like to say my speculation of this one quote from Jellinek was really just wild speculation, but as I look at the cultural phenomenons of my generation, I wonder if it really is out of touch with the 'reality' of today. Like many, I am eagerly bouncing in my seat at the mere thought of each little shred of information that comes out about James Cameron's new film Avatar and twice as gleeful upon receiving them, but when I hear talk about Cameron wanting the alien Na'vi to be sexy, I wonder, as a feminist, both within the simple dimension of victims "as nothing but animated clichés" and the expanded context of the film's avatars, that the human characters use to infiltrate the alien species, just what really is the future of sexual objectification?

24 Comments:

Blogger Cory Capron said...

So, yeah, this thing is long and I'm tired of looking at it. Please let me know about typos and I'll fix them. Thanks!

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Azarius said...

I believe that determining if objectification is "right" or "wrong" is not a path that will inherently lead to any productive conduct. Assuming that there is such a thing as "right" and "wrong", that is.

Freedom also implies to be free to choose what people see as "wrong". "Goodness is something to be chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.", to quote Anthony Burgess' excellent - and quite relevant - novel A Clockwork Orange.

Now, what would labeling "objectification" as objectionable conduct bring to society? Repression, most certainly. Social stigma, most likely. Equality - on that plane - between genders? Maybe.

Furthermore, objectification itself is a vague concept. Virtually anything can be "objectified", in any way imaginable. Good luck writing a definition of the word, if you ever wish to launch a second blog.

If we ever determine it to warrant an outright ban, where would said ban stop? Stopping "objectification" as a whole appears fairly improbable, if not even undesirable...

11:34 AM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Azarius:

"I believe that determining if objectification is "right" or "wrong" is not a path that will inherently lead to any productive conduct."

Whenever a discussion of ethics is made, 'right' and 'wrong' are nearly inevitable inclusions. However, as an existentialist, I do understand where you are coming from. For myself, right and wrong are in one sense purely aesthetics, enameled like pearls from the kernels of either destructive solipsism, golden rule solipsism, true nihilism, or a sort of positive soft nihilism (rejection of self and all conventions of self as a thing apart from the whole of existence), all of which can arguably be mixed and matched as well. The ethical questions here function from the initial assumption, as a feminist, that objectifying women is aesthetically wrong because, as the article points out, it disregards their individuality (call it a golden rule solipsist view, if you will). From there it is largely an open-ended question to the readers, to users of masturbatory media like Playboy and Rapelay, and to those appalled by it, what is the best discourse? In this light, I think the obvious assertion that right and wrong are subjective isn't that useful.

With regard to choice, no where in the article do I say any of these things should be censored. Censorship is the obstruction of choice as you point out correctly, and since I'm assuming you are a new reader, following the link from (in)Equality Now, so I'll point out that Takashi Miike and Catherine Breillat are both filmmakers I love, and I'm have tickets to go see John Waters at the Virginia Film Festival. I am seldom not if ever rabidly against censorship in the strictest sense (that is to say, like most people I will concede on some level to necessity of time and place and to fundamental issues of invasion and consent), but while I am strongly for the the right to free content, it does not mean I will not criticize it and address issues related to it. Rapelay disgusts me, so I say it disgusts me, but while I do link to the FIFE article that links to Equality Now, my intent was not and is not ultimately to endorse Equality Now's approach to dealing with Rapelay. All I am doing is raising questions and measuring the pros and cons as I understand them, so that, people can make informed choices and be aware of the effects, contexts, and scope of their choices.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

"Furthermore, objectification itself is a vague concept. Virtually anything can be "objectified", in any way imaginable."

One of the things I have gone back and corrected (see the red text) is the use of Objectification. What was meant and used originally--but not enough to make it clear I'll grant you--was SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION. I will concede that even this is not the most ideally precise of terms, but it is one that if is not clear I feel I can explain some here, and possibly insert into the text's body later.

There is a somewhat Kantian argument (alas I think again it might be Zizekian in propagation) that sex for any purpose other than reproduction is masturbatory, that no matter the intimacy between the two (or more) partners, they are ultimately just masturbatory objects being used by each other. Call me an sentimentalist, but this idea has aways struck me as too cold, too rigidly and narrowly utilitarian, but from it we can gain some sense of proximity to sexual objectification. That is to say, if what is missing from the assertion is the value of intimacy and love (yes, I know that is an abstract concept, but how long do you really want this response to be? *wink*) than we can understand objectification on the more personal level, the disregarding fuck. That is what I mean when I say it disregards the individuality of the human, it equates them with the Kleenex. When a person is being used like a sex toy, that is, without regard for their personal feelings, they are being sexually objectified. This carries over into media and so forth. Yes, objectification as a whole is a huge concept that could apply to virtually anythings relation to anything, but my intent was a very specific kind of behavior, where the body or parts of the body like genitals become a broken synecdoche disconnected from the person. To some extent, the closing concern of the piece being the fact that media adds a material dimension to this synecdiche: they are 'just pixels, paper and ink, etc.

Oh, and it would be my fourth blog ;).

With these points made, I ponder how best to address your concern of "Repression" and "stigma." Perhaps the former would be redundant? The prior strikes me as unavoidable upon any path, if stigma as a pure concept, is deemed 'wrong.' Is not sexual objectification causing far more stigma? The stigma of attractiveness, of femininity and so forth? Would not a continued discourse into the nature sexual objectification be worth trying to reduce these kinds of stigma, and, ideally lead to an intellectual deconstruction of the objectification role in those that do it--which, I would argue, is all of us ultimately, which is why I feel it is worth drawing attention to all the more.

I am willing to go on, but if nothing else, lunch calls me for now. :)

1:38 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

For others out of the loop. The (in)Equality Now link I was referring to is...

http://equality-now.blogspot.com/2009/09/equality-now-is-doing-great-disservice.html

3:07 PM  
OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

(Oops, posted this on pt. 1 by accident. Feel free to delete that one.)

You should really consider breaking up your posts - I got as far as the star wars section before I had to stop and comment (I would have lost my train of thought if I'd read to the end).

So, in regards to sexual objectification: sexual objectification will never be equal, for the following reasons.

1 - Women are, by physical design, more visibly sexual. Compared to men, there is little visible difference between a woman in an aroused state and a woman in an unaroused state; as such, women exist in a "perpetual state of arousal."

2 - Compounding on the previous point, men are more visually aroused than women, and tend to have higher outward sex drives.

And finally:

3 - (my favorite) Think of it this way - in sex, who's the one getting fucked?

12:52 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

lifescansdarkly:

It is true, my epic posts are epic, and I would benefit from breaking them down more - both in approachability for readers and to make more nuanced commentary less disorienting this was exceptionally long for me, so the next time something of this scale comes up, I'll try breaking things up more.

As for your comments, first off be weary of "never;" its a very seductive word... in the same sense that a good mattress with Swedish foam can be very seductive in preventing one from getting out of bed.

As for a woman's state of arousal versus her state of un-arousal, I think you are focusing too much on the penis (something of minimal use when contemplating female anatomy). While it is true that women lack boners to inform the world of their state of arousal, they have numerous other indicators. Without getting too explicit, aroused female genitalia IS significantly different from unaroused female genitalia. an aroused womans lips become gorged with blood, making them more red (this is the original point of red lipstick, to make a woman look sexually excited) and erogenous. And of course, nipples get perky. While it is true that this last one is not exclusive to arousal, it is also worth considering that neither is the male erection. Morning wood is, when not the product of a wet dream, usually the result of blood flow issues while asleep. Penises, can simply become erect (the most unpleasant example of this being hangman's wood, a side effect of executions where the blood creeps down to the lower body), it doesn't mean the prostate and testicles are involved. As such, woman appear in "a perpetual state of arousal" because they are compared to men as if they were men and not as woman who have different indicators of arousal based upon a different anatomy.

The curious thing about such a comparison however, is that in its fallowing the Aristotelian idea of woman as a man lacking a penis, wouldn't it make more sense for a woman to be in a perpetual state of un-arousal? Is not this idea of the woman being so sexualized not a fundamentally flawed objectification, and as a flawed system, can we again be so sure that it will never collapse?

In the spirit of your advice (and sense I have to go tend to something) I'll get back to you later about your last point.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Ok, back.

Your "favorite" might unfortunately be the most nonsensical. As an argumentative point asserting that "sexual objectification will never be equal" it relies on "fucked" being limited to an exclusive definition and function indefinitely. Few words are so lucky as to come close to achieving such a state.

For myself, I define fucking as an act of exertion, of aggressively and/or indifferently taking from another in an attempt to fulfill your own satisfaction. So in the context of sex, when one fucks, their goal is to 'get off', to pleasure their self, again using their partner essentially as a masturbatory object. Where there is consent fucking is not inherently negative--partners can fuck each other at the same time (which is usually what is meant when two 'go at it like wild animals')--but rather an approach to sex; the its opposite being 'love' or 'making love' where one or both partners focus on pleasing their companion.

How you have framed fucking, by making it something exclusive to men, is again, anatomical. Having leap frogged here presumably from the FIFE article about facials...

(http://uvafife.blogspot.com/2009/08/lets-talk-about-sex-baby.html)

There seems to be tied into your definition that idea of semen. Men leave semen degradingly on or inside women, and thus they fuck them, which is something women cannot do (ignoring capable of female ejaculation). However there is nothing that definitively cements the verb fuck to this physiologically based interpretation. Women 'fuck' men all the time by their own reining of the word. From simply being the aggressive dominant figure in the bedroom to the extremes of "The Black Widow" (http://preview.tinyurl.com/yhyeqz7) women can certainly fuck.

8:53 PM  
OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

Listen, I know enough about fallacy not to make fun of you personally, but I'm having a very hard time believing you have a healthy sex life if you think ejaculating inside a woman is degrading. For crying out loud, that's the purpose of sex.

Sure, a women might ride you once in a while. Us humans can get creative. But watch some National Geographic when you get a chance. You'd be hard pressed to find a mammalian species where the male doesn't mount up. I'll extend it even further. Car vs. garage. The car drives in, the garage gets driven into. Nail vs. wood. Peg vs. hole. What it comes down to is active vs. passive, so no matter what position you're in, the dick is going in, the vagina is getting entered. The guy fucks, the girl gets fucked.

I cannot emphasize enough *there's nothing wrong* with getting fucked. It's not a sign of weakness or submission, it's just anatomical design.

Lastly, regarding the visible difference between men and women in the lens of sexual objectification, I was referring to the images of women we see compared to the images of men. When a woman's on a billboard, we can't exactly see if her clit's engorged.

10:39 AM  
OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

Just for fun, or for your (reading pleasure):

http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/sea/561877622.html

10:40 AM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

First off, I think some of your confusion is due to my choice of punctuation. My comments about seamen being left on or in the body being degrading, were the idea I was suggesting your interpretation of "fucked" is grounded in: the anatomical. Had I written, 'There seems to be tied into your definition that idea of semen [:, --, or even possibly parentheses] Men leave semen degradingly on or inside women, and thus they fuck them, which is something women cannot do" perhaps that would have been clearer.

The second paragraph of that comment (comment 8, counting deleted comments) explains my views on sex and fucking pretty clearly, and I do not believe them to be un-healthy.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Also, for a laugh, I must point out that for someone who believes a "cigar is just a cigar," it must be really uncomfortable walking around with nails and pegs and automobiles in your pants. Elastic waistbands much? ;)

12:31 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

To distill and earlier point, fucking for me is defined as an approach to sex where for you it is sex, the words 'fuck' and 'sex' appear to be synonymous, differentiating only in that one is formal and the other is informal.

Your whole point seems to be that as the one who enters, the male is the one who has agency, returning to your previous point that men are more sexually out-going. You also half-handedly dismiss my point about female sex drive at first by saying, "Sure, a women might ride you once in a while" but quantification (let alone fuzzy quantification) really needs to have a minimal role in a discussion like this. This is mostly because your initial assertion was "never," and the evidence of any substantial minority, any seed of change towards something that is supposed to never happen thus outweighs a contradicting majority in the discourse of it never happening, so in this regard my example still holds.

As for the animal kingdom... that's a fairly problematic arena to jump into. When you seriously look at all the varieties of sexual behavior (monogamy, polygamy, bisexuality, masturbation, gang rape) Comparing humans to animals is always easier when one is trying to consider the possibilities for diverse human behavior as opposed to limits (e.g., arguing that homosexuality is not 'unnatural' because it is prevalent in so many species). While I don't like to lean towards Descartes's reasoning of humans being above animals, we do need to keep in mind how unique a species we are. At the risk of falling into similar traps of quantification, consider how few other animals have sex facing one another? Other than a few species of monkeys and perhaps apes, it's an almost non-existent behavior, and when you think about it, it's what the majority of the western world considers the 'normal' way to have sex (regardless of what they actually do in the sack). Humping, is something we think of as primitive because it is done by so many animals. As a species, we are creative, but in general we've moved away from this gender-charged submissive/passive sexual position within heterosexual intercourse.

Which brings me back to passivity. The way you use passivity, like fuck, is slightly problematic in that it takes one variation as the whole. You use passive--as in, pass-ive, able to be passed through--to be synonymous with submissive. This becomes clear through (in all seriousness now) your analogies. The nail goes in the wood, the car drives in the garage, and the peg in the hole--each, oddly enough, comes closer to 'penis enters the vagina', but also in a way I'm not sure you are considering. Through each, the agency of the masculine increasingly obscures with the agency of the feminine. With the nail your synonymous passivity is fulfilled: the nail has all the agency and is driven into the inert, passive wood. The wood is the object of the nail. With the garage however, you overlook that the garage door must open for the car to be driven in, and finally the agency between hole and peg is nearly ambiguous. The hole can enclose the peg as easily as the peg can enter the hole (the condition of which is inert--if either--is left unknown). In the place of 'passive', we can just as easily (if not more appropriately) insert the word 'permissive'. A woman must open her legs and vulva and allow the man to enter. Is this not the very act which you have linked to? The woman saying 'fuck me' (fuck in your sense of sex-informal) is permitting her body to be entered with the agency of her own outgoing sexual drive?

Language changes, behavior changes, is never really that realistic.

I'll get back to you again about the visual side of your argument... this one too a little while after replying to your comments on FIFE page.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Oh what the hell, this isn't as extensive as the other.

"Lastly, regarding the visible difference between men and women in the lens of sexual objectification, I was referring to the images of women we see compared to the images of men. When a woman's on a billboard, we can't exactly see if her clit's engorged."


Oh, and stampeding to clitoris aren't we? Through the developmental remnant (for lack of a better word coming to mind) of the penis, you once again compare the female body to the male body as a male body. To draw on one of the most famous (probably NSFW) pieces of erotic art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L'Origine_du_monde), one need not go so internal to find female genital arousal. What about simple dilation?

As for cultural images, I really must ask, again, "never'"? More so than words, culture has changed a lot. Do billboards show erect penises? Bulges, sure, some get away with it, but they also get away with camel toe (http://www.funimation.com/dragonaut/), so I hardly see the point. How in commercial images (I'm assuming you are not talking about porn and even so it wouldn't matter for reasons explained already) is a man more visually distinguished as aroused? In some ways again, I'd think men are less so, generally being identified as aroused through just their penises--recall I previously pointed out how lipstick was used to heighten and imply arousal in women; society has developed exaggerations of female permissiveness that are far more evident than that of males.

2:34 PM  
OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

You should look at this exchange like a conversation - if you talked this much in person, people would have walked away by now. For my sake, try to edit your responses. With that in mind, you spent so much time on individual words and phrases of mine that you might have missed my point, so I'll say it again, as simply as I can:

Women, as the party being entered, are objects of attraction (sex objects) more then men. Thus, they will be more objectified.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

If my comments are long it is only that I am trying to throughly debunk each of your argument points. The beauty of text, is, unlike a conversation, you can take as much time as you want to read over them and articulate the best counter (on this note, I do however apologize for typos and punctuation slips). I'm simply trying to be precise, as opposed to merely dismissive. Each comment (with the exception of those to clarify points) has stayed on topic, and I haven't lost track of your main point.

What I've been doing with each is further establishing that your claim is based on one of multiple interpretations that are perfectly capable and subject to change, thus making the assertion that they will never change unfounded.

Again, you say that "Women, as the party being entered, are objects of attraction (sex objects) more then men. Thus, they will be more objectified." I've explained how the opposite is true, that women can envelope as easily as men can enter and thus are capable of the same agency. In fact, is not the true norm to say that the penis is the object--the 'thing'--and the vagina is the "nothing" (no-thing)? From Shakespeare to Freudian psychoanalysis, that's the model from which all things phallic and yonic have been discoursed more or less. The fact that they have at all proves my point.

Nothing you have argued here is grounded in any true permanency, and thus you've yet to prove how sexual objectification could truly "never" be equal.

10:15 PM  
OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

You seem to be fixated on a word I typed at the beginning of this conversation - "never." Can I "prove" that sexual objectification of men vs. women will never be equal? Of course not - you've posed an impossible challenge. I can, however, make a good case for the following statement:

As long as human beings exist as sexually dimorphic creatures, sexual objectification will be applied dimorphically.

I'm even willing to concede that in time, "envelop" may hold the same level as "enter" within the realm of active vs. passive. We may even objectify men to the *level* that we objectify women. However, we will never objectify them *equally,* in equal respect and function, so long as we are not biologically equal.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Here, "fixated" implies a deviation from the main argument. I wrote a blog entry discussing the pros and cons of different ways to deal with sexual objectification, one of which was through equal sexual objectification. To this, you replied that equal objectification could and would "never" occur. That was the point of our debate, that is what you asserted, and thus that is what I responded to (its still residual in you closing point). I didn't lay down some impossible challenge to you, you posed it yourself, and I called it impossible. I've been consistent and addressed your reasons for why it could never be throughout.

As for the why... first since "dimorphically" is not a standard adjectival form of dimorphism (yeah I do this kind of thing with suffixes all the time too, and no I don't see anything inherently wrong with it per se), you might want to elaborate if you are referring to a specific academic term I might not have heard of and could be misunderstanding in my response-to-come. Otherwise I'm reading your argument as:

"As long as human beings exist as sexually [different in physical form] creatures, sexual objectification will be applied [differently/differently in its forms between them]."

Is either of these the correct interpretation?

12:32 PM  
OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

Both are correct.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Ok, thanks.

"As long as human beings exist as sexually dimorphic creatures, sexual objectification will be applied dimorphically."

I agree (gasp!), in the sense that, 'different things are different'. And of course, they will be looked at and sexually objectified differently as different things. I will never long for a vagina to 'enter me' or (no matter where Bruno might be able to insert a camera) for my penis to envelope a vagina (ouch!). The form of the objectification will be and is different on the level of function.

However, you take this a step further by following the at first (admittedly) reasonable seeming logic that 'dimorphic' = 'unequal'.

It's important that we don't forget that we are using "equal" here not in the general sense synonymous with 'same', but rather for its quantitative enthuses. In other words, the problem is not that 'different things are different' but that 'different things have different value'. In the sense of use-value (i.e., their morphology) your claim is true as I've agreed, but once we enter the realm of quantitative values--of one being more objectified--we return to my previous point of impermanence. The value of any two things is dictated by numerous variables comprising their context, their market, or in the case of sex, their cultural perception.

For example, we can see that a shovel and a rake are both tools but also different objects with different use-values, so, should it be impossible for them to cost the same? There is more metal in the shovel than the rake, so one could argue that the shovel should cost more, but the rake requires more labor to construct. There are any number of reasons why one can be valued more than the other, but depending on the circumstances of the two, there can be just as many for why they can and should be equal. The market decides all, and markets shift, expand, collapse, fluctuate and evolve. The same is true of society and cultural perspectives. We are dealing with systems grounded in narrations of phenomena (sex, in both senses of the word) and aesthetics here, and aesthetics vary and change just like the narrations that appease them.

Aristotle prescribed such 'biological inequality' by looking at the sexes and chauvinistically interpreting a woman as a man without a penis (Man 1, Woman 0). But in truth, that is like calling a rake a shovel without a blade. The valuation is imposed, not innate, but left to permeate until their very distinctions of use-value are lost to their abstract anesthetized value.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Correction:

"It's important that we don't forget that we are using "equal" here not in the general sense synonymous with 'same', but rather for its quantitative EMPHASIS."

Sorry, had to crank that one out on the go. Incidentally I'm probably going to be off-line for a day or two. Cheers!

2:25 PM  
OpenID lifescansdarkly said...

Actually, I did use "unequal" to mean "different." Clearly both are of equal value - that's what happens when you split a species into 2 sexes.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Sorry, my last post was terribly rushed (because 'aestheticized' is not being a word, my best guess is it was auto-corrected to 'anesthetized' without me noticing).

I didn't mean value in the sense of utilitarian respect (e.g., man is not greater than woman or the reverse as it takes both to make a baby) but rather in the quantifiable sense of 'how much a sex is sexually objectifiable'. What I was persisting to challenge was this dichotomy of active vs. passive which you continue to confine the discourse to. It is this kernel of your reasoning which applies a quantitative value to 'different', so that while conceding that 'envelope' could be held to the same level (degree?) as 'enter' you do so only through having the masculine/feminine or active/passive dynamics of sexual objectification reversed between the sexes, like a seesaw that can never be balanced. Thus my point above: a difference in objects does not in itself guarantee a difference degree of objectification as their value is determined by outside variables subject to shift (in the shovel and rake example, sexual objectification was represented by money).

12:31 PM  

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