Saturday, June 25, 2011

Our Culture's Strange Attitudes Towards the Male Body

The Anthony Weiner episode revealed the widespread presence of (from my point of view) backwards attitudes towards sex. And this attitude is present in supposedly sophisticated elite media types.

For example, on John Stewart, a woman “analyst” gave the female point of view: “Women don’t want to see men’s bodies because they’re ugly. Women have beautiful bodies. Men just need to keep their shirts on.”

This past week Doonesbury portrayed the FOX reporter wrestling with the issue of his inappropriate tweets, and when he showed a female coworker one of his pictures, to test whether they were lewd, she recoiled in disgust.

How often did I hear in discussions of the issue that Weiner had sent “pics” of his “junk.” In other cultures, for example ancient Greece, the male body has been the model for artists—see Michelangelo's sculpture of David. I find it very odd that most people in our culture seem to agree that the male body is ugly. How many women have tweeted photos of their bare breasts? How many men have complained?

We are still an incredibly Puritanical people. This is in evidence in our reaction to “sex scandals,” but how much does sexual repression cause people to do incredibly stupid things like tweet a picture of their erection in their underwear to a stranger? Maybe if we got over our old-fashioned attitude toward sex and allowed more freedom to people to express themselves sexually (other than for a lifetime with one partner) we’d have fewer of these scandals. Why can’t men (and women!) visit prostitutes? Why can’t erotic performances be staged in major halls? Why can’t we follow the sexual connections we feel with certain people in our lives, even if it’s only a one-time experience?

Ted Rall calls sexual freedom the next frontier of civil rights in his syndicated column. He writes,

If slavery was America’s original sin, Puritanism was its original curse.

In recent years the United States has made significant strides towards greater equality and freedom. Racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry have been significantly curtailed by new laws and cultural education. But we still have work to do. Four centuries after people so uptight they couldn’t get along with the British invaded the New World, however, the United States remains one of the most sexually repressed Western countries.

It is not good for us.

“If expression of sexuality is thwarted, Christopher Ryan wrote in Psychology Today last year, “the human psyche tends to grow twisted into grotesque, enraged perversions of desire. Unfortunately, the distorted rage resulting from sexual repression rarely takes the form of rebellion against the people and institutions behind the repression.”

In other words, mean parents, churches and right-wing politicians.

“Instead,” Ryan observed, “the rage is generally directed at helpless victims who are sacrificed to the sick gods of guilt, shame, and ignorant pride.”

Like, for example, gays. Fourteen states still had sodomy laws on the books by the time the Supreme Court invalidated them in 2003...

One day, I hope, we will live in a nation where another person’s sexual expression is no one’s business but theirs and their sexual partners. We will be allowed to do whatever we want with whomever we want, as long as what we do is with a consenting adult.

Even if we take pictures and post them online.

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