Words By S.

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

On Sexuality.

Filed under: Popular Culture,Ramblings — S @ 12:18 pm

Growing up in the United States, it is not uncommon to encounter the subject of sexuality, particularly when talking about advertising, censorship, and socialization. However, what is usually left out of discussions of sexuality is the over-sexualization/repression of sexuality in America.

It seems strange to think of repressed sexuality and too much sexuality as being interrelated. For one, having one’s sexuality be repressed means that it is forbidden, in some ways, to come to light. Meanwhile, having too much sexuality means that it appears everywhere, and is done so in a very “in your face” sort of way. For however strange it seems for these two to be related, they very much go hand-in-hand.

Take, for example, the following ads and images:

Smirnoff Vodka advertisement

Candies shoe advertisement

Mouth shaped urinal Mouth shaped urinal side view Mouth shaped urinals full view

Pictured above are the following – an ad for Smirnoff brand vodka, an ad for Candies men’s and women’s lines, and the latest urinals called the “Kisses urinals”.

In our society, it is okay to use these images to sell things (and it’s okay for a man to urinate into a woman’s mouth, yes?). However, when you get to images such as these:

Breast augmntationBreast augmentationbreast augmentation before and after

It turns into a problem and the above images become:

breast augmentation? breast augmentation before and after

News headlines

So, what we learn is that it is okay to sexualize a woman for a product, and to sexualize the idea of a woman for the purposes of bodily functions, but when it comes to a surgical procedure or consensual entertainment, it is not okay to see a breast nipple (or nipple jewel).

The nipple is, apparently, what makes a breast.

Watching the film Coming To America on Comedy Central, the other day, I learned that it is not okay for a woman to say,

“The royal penis is clean, Your Highness.”

but it is okay for this to be said:

“A royal queen needs only to have a pretty face, a firm backside, and big breasts like Casaba Melons.”

The difference? One was discussing a body part in a non-sexual manner, the other was discussing a body part in a sexual manner. The major difference, however, is which body part belonged to whom.

The United States, obviously, has a problem with sexuality. However, the problem is not that it is not okay to say “penis” and that it is okay to say ‘breast” on network television – this is only a product of what the underlying problem is.

The problem is that in the United States, we focus entirely too much on the phrase “sex sells,” all the while having governmental agencies such as the FCC determining what is moral and what is not moral. Using sex to push a product – moral, using sex for entertainment and in conversation – immoral.

Only in the United States is the government allowed to repress us, sexually. Only in the United States could a governmental leader be threatened with impeachment for lying about a sexual act (and extramarital affair). And, I can’t say this for certain, but I’m pretty sure that the United States is the only country whose states have/had anti-sodomy laws.

It is hard to preach tolerance and acceptance to a society of people who are afraid of their own sexualities.

That is the problem that the United States has – it is afraid of its sexuality.

The United States, in my mind, is similar to a pre-pubescent child, or perhaps even a child going through the early stages of puberty. It is unsure about sex, and is curious about sex but is afraid to admit that it is curious about it. Thus, instead of talking about it, asking the necessary questions, and attempting to explore the unknown, it uses the images it may have found hidden in a box in its parents’ closet. It becomes so obsessed with those images that it uses it for “locker room talk” and builds up its ego by lying to its friends about its sexual experiences, and essentially, does this for so long that it becomes afraid of sex.

The problem with this is that, in this society, the wrong things become the target in the crusade against sex. In a society run in this manner, an image that is the most nonsexual image imaginable (a breast being operated on) gets censored, while a highly sexual image (a woman face down on a couch wearing a dress, where only through a magnifying bottle can you see that it is unzipped) is not. Where what a president does on his own time, in privacy is reprimanded, but highly sexualized urinals can run rampant in the public eye.

Only in a society run in this way would a group of designers think that it is okay to make a line of thongs for children called “Kiddie Kandy”:

Only in a society such as this are young teens under the impression that walking around half naked is okay.

Teen Fashion

Teen fashion

I leave you with this thought – if the United States were much more open about just what sexuality is, how sexuality should be used, and what actually is sexy, perhaps our vision of what is and what is not acceptable wouldn’t be so skewed. Perhaps some of the ads we see, some of what is seen as fashionable, what language is deemed “okay” for network television would be more realistic.

Perhaps some of what is seen wouldn’t be so shocking. Perhaps “sex” wouldn’t sell so much.

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4 Comments »

  1. Very well thought, S. It angers me that there is so much oversexualization everywhere. It is quite grotesque, the way it’s used, much like almost anything purely American. America is an extreme state of extreme wealth to extreme destitude, and extremities in its sexuality. It is just like a horny fourteen year old boy sneaking into his dad’s Playboys. And today’s Playboys, ew.

    You know what really gets to me about sex on tv now? That fucking stupid show Grey’s Anatomy. I see so many commercials for it and they always have a different hot new hip pop song playing as that one skinny actress (which skinny one?…) who looks so poo poo helplessly hopeless as she’s fucking two different guys behind their backs. Is this show about doctors or is it about fucking? I say fucking because that’s just what it is. I am in no way convinced these characters love each other, no less even give a shit about each other. They give a shit about fucking. Fuck, I love to fuck as much as the next fucker, but really, what’s so wrong with loving someone too? People on tv and movies hardly ever love, they lust and fuck. And, some people think that’s love and are consistently disapointed with relationships and end up either hating themselves and becoming unhealthy, or they give up inside a worthless relationship and are still unhappy. Anyway, I am going on and on because I think I know what love is. Well, I do, so fuck you Grey’s Anatomy. That’s right, fuck you.

    America can really be a lot happier with a healthier sexuality.

    Comment by Angela — Wednesday, 1 November 2006 @ 8:57 am | Reply

  2. Thanks, Angela-la.

    I have to say, writing this definitely made me want to tackle the issue of body image, even though it’s been done so much already. That new show, “Ugly Betty”…ugh.

    Comment by S — Friday, 3 November 2006 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  3. A good piece, S. The place of sex in popular culture is a curious one, particularly when you consider the relative acceptance of violence e.g. the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan.” Or the sadism of “The Silence of the Lambs.” And yet the portrayal of sex remains somehow contentious in the media and yet totally acceptable as a means to sell products. And yet, can we imagine anything more pernicious than the sexualisation of children through advertising? On prime time television.

    Comment by Oscarandre — Wednesday, 13 December 2006 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

  4. Thank you, very much.

    Over the past few months, I’ve been consciously looking out for examples of what I’ve been talking about. Not that I hadn’t before, but just becoming more and more aware. It’s amazing how sex is literally used to push EVERYTHING from radio stations to handbags.

    I walked past the children’s clothing section of Target not too long ago, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that in addition to attempting to make children look more “hip” and “fashionable,” they’re pushing garments that fully cover children, and layers. It could do with the seasonal aspect of it being winter, but it just made me sigh with relief. I wish more places would do that.

    Comment by S — Monday, 18 December 2006 @ 11:19 am | Reply


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