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Member No.: 516
Joined: 25-February 12
I agree with you all on a lot of points. I think that the matter of sexualization in pop culture is one worthy of discourse, and I hold (and assume that most if not all of you do as well) the belief that the established standards in regards to the topic are in need of change.
But I think it's oversimplifying things to say that sexualization and fetishization in pop culture is something we need to be less prudish about, and that we must learn to accept the concept of sex into our daily lives. It's my opinion that sexual truth, not sex itself, is what's necessary to introduce into our daily lives. Sex is already everpresent in our minds and in the way we process our culture--the problem, the thing that people are really angry about, is the fact that it's not represented correctly.
I agree with Scythe in that fetishizing things is an inherent human process, and unavoidable, and potentially healthy behavior. The problem is that, at least in our culture, that fetishization is wrapped up in a lot of taboo and confusion. We're taught to initially recoil at nearly anything to do with sex, and in doing so crossing that barrier and processing things as a sexual entity makes moral decisions that much harder, because we already feel, at least on some surface level, like we've done something wrong. Too often when we fetishize we allow the reptile brain to take over, because we've already entered a state where the moral system comes at least partially unglued.
Here's my problem with the way we, as a culture, fetishize/sexualize things. Fetishism/Sexualization in itself is not an issue for me--these things are:
1. When a fetishized/sexualized portrayal misrepresents the involved parties and the sexual state. I don't have a problem with pornography almost solely putting forward beautiful people, or any other kind of fiction doing the same. I do, however, expect good material to treat the state of beauty with respect by being believable and not omitting "unsexy" truths when they have a right to come up.
2. When a fetishized/sexualized portrayal avoids principles of consent and good will. Sex is a participatory act--a thing that people do together to have fun, not something to be yielded, won, offered, competed for, or otherwise treated as what it isn't: an object that is owned and can be traded about, or something that can be made to describe a person. Like any other action, nobody owns it, and nobody is inherently it. Speaking as a fetishist with a wide peer base, I wind up seeing a lot of screwy shit, and the stuff that makes me most ashamed of my fellow fetishists is when they portray the involved characters as unwilling participants, and that they gain worth as they are molded to the fetishistic ideal.
3. When, in material where sex acts, sexual themes, or elements of fetishization are present, but not the sole content, the treatment of said acts or traits is played entirely for the sake of titillation. Using Skullgirls as my example--and I'm not casting immediate judgment, just having something we all know to some extent as a reference point is good--I am fine with there being characters that have sexually oriented appearances, or behave in a manner representative of their sexual identity. Paraphrasing Scythe, it is okay for sexy things to be sexy. My problem is that said characterization draws attention away from the characters' nonsexual traits--which on the whole make for a better story--and that their blatant sexualization (again, where it's present) is played solely as boner fuel. To indulge in hyperbole, if you have a character in your story walk around in nothing but a G-string and a flattering P-cup bikini top and speak almost entirely in innuendoes, for Christ's sake: *make that have consequences!* Yes, it is, for a lot of people, a sexy image. However, one does not spend one's entire life in the context of a sexual being, living in the image of a sexual figure. We do and think of other things, and some of us commit our lives to those other things.
The ideal situation for me, if you want to make use of sexualized/fetishized characters, is to make sure that how they are sexy is not the only defining trait of their sexual identity. Respect must be paid to how that character lives with the fact that he/she/whatever *is a sexual being.* To use another example, and perhaps to tread into dangerous waters, I turn to Velma Dinkley. Scythe, you've mentioned in numerous posts and one or two articles the fact that Velma Dinkley, image-wise and character-wise, is a sexual ideal among the vast throng of animated heroines. It's obvious that that's the case, not on account of any textual inclusion of sexuality--Scooby Doo is about as sexless as cartoons get, and Velma's appearance, while appealing to some, is hardly engineered for beauty/sexiness/what have you--but because her character is so immediately recognizable. Velma is a character thoroughly ingrained into our awareness for those of us who have ever been children and watched television, and because she, like everyone else in Scooby Doo, is so incredibly simple as characters go, it's easy to extrapolate her known traits and typical actions into a more complete identity. When that extrapolation places Velma into a sexual context, our preconceptions in regards to her character result in an image of sexual identity that is extremely appealing to some. Velma is not 100% sexy 100% of the time--but when placed in a sexual context she can become sexy, because we can imagine how her day-to-day or on the job character translates over to a character with a sex life, which I wish was a more common trait in fictional heroines. I don't mind heroines or villainesses or anything in between being sexy--same with heroes and villains and such. What I mind is the fact that in a lot of material, male characters are for the most part the ones who can be sexy when they want to be (and experience the consequences of that), but can also be whatever the hell else they want. If you're a female character in a work with sexual themes, in a lot of cases you're a figure of sex appeal first and everything else second.
I've never encountered The Path except in passing, so I can't put forth any direct criticism of it. I just felt like I should chime in on this debate, seeing as it's been going on for a while and I'm pretty invested in the topic as a whole.
tl;dr--I don't mind sex in my pop culture. I mind that so often sex appeal is the only factor of sexual life that gets any sort of attention. Sorry for the excessively long post. [I]
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