In working with survivors of human trafficking over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to have a number of very personal conversations with women who are in the process of becoming empowered and rebuilding their self-esteem. One topic that continues to emerge in almost every discussion is being respectable. As I have been reflecting on what it means to be respectable in the context of surviving gender violence, I recalled a remarkable text I read a number of years ago and the similarities in understanding respectability among people of different races, ethnicities, classes, and histories. (more…)
Following on from a report from the White House on student sexual assault, the Obama administration has recently released an anti-rape PSA to launch the ‘1 Is 2 Many’ campaign to address the issue of sexual assault and rape. If you haven’t already watched it then do: it has a refreshing and positive rhetoric, placing the focus on the perpetrator and not the victim. “If I saw it happening I would help her, not blame her”, Daniel Craig states. It follows an argument that is entirely reasonable but often forgotten, that it is more effective to teach people not to rape than it is to teach people not to get raped.
I like this advert for a number of reasons. It is clear and concise, moving and inspiring without being patronising, and doesn’t rely on ‘misery porn’ or fear to get its point across. It has a sense of hope and optimism, a “we can do this!” attitude. It is encouraging rather than threatening and manages to discuss rape whilst being approachable. I say all this because I don’t want to fall into the sociological trap of jumping straight into criticism without saying positive things, or to belittle how progressive this perspective is. This advert is a significant improvement on anti-rape campaigns that blame the victim, and I hope for more. However, there are overarching themes that this video throws up that I have to acknowledge, because despite liking this advert, it still has discursive effects and impact beyond simply preventing rape.
By mariselise derivative work: Steffaville [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
The NBA has its first openly gay player in Jason Collins, and the NFL will follow soon, as former college player Michael Sam is expected to join a team this summer. This might indicate that we are seeing a radical shift in society’s stereotypes about gay men. At the same time, it remains to be seen, as Dave Zirin asks at The Nation
whether gay male athletes like Sam can help shift our definitions of masculinity more broadly or whether they might paradoxically reinforce gender norms and notions of hyper-masculinity at the same time.
Source: The Telegraph
When I picked my friend’s nine year old daughter up from school last week the first thing she said to me was, “We had to do something really weird in class today. The teacher paired all the girls with a boy and we had to be a married couple.” It turns out the teacher was having her students work on writing dialogue and since it was right before Valentine’s Day she thought it would be cute for them to write dialogue about love and marriage.
“Not all girls want to marry a boy. It was so lame,” my friend’s daughter told me. ‘Lame’ was not really the word that came to my mind; I was more thinking about heteronormativity and how it is reproduced through our social institutions.
This post was borne out of a recent discussion with a good friend of mine, Harriet, who is a self-identified lesbian. (I include the phrase self-identified here deliberately: I realise her propensity to prefer the company and sex of woman does not categorise her as a lesbian, but it is a term she very comfortably uses herself). She was talking about going to a sex party, and I, in what I perceived to be ignorance, asked her what her interest could be in going. “Would it not be far too full of men?” I asked naively.
I had expected her to laugh at me, which she did. My question displayed an assumption that I hadn’t realised I held, that lesbian women must only be interested in seeing women have sex with other women. Being the tolerant and long-suffering woman she is, she challenged my assumption. Sex parties often include lesbian sex, she pointed out, and just because she is a lesbian doesn’t mean she is repulsed by men or their sex, any more than a straight person should be repulsed by lesbians. Heterophobia is no more acceptable than homophobia. However, she went on to explain that actually lesbians quite often found men sexually attractive, and, slightly more unusually, they are often interested in watching men have sex with men, in the form of gay male pornography. (more…)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
November is here, which means the season of ghosts and goblins has come to pass. As an enthusiast of all-things-haunted, I filled the month of October with scary movie nights, Halloween costume parties, visits to a haunted house and Phantom Fright Nights at my local amusement park, and even an outing that involved shooting paintballs at zombies. As any good graduate student in the social sciences might do, I pondered the sociological aspects of these activities throughout the month. What makes this campy season of fear so popular in U.S. culture? Does it serve any purposes beyond providing consumers with themed entertainment, as the producers of frightening fun reap massive profits each fall?
Our colleague Cliff Leek convincingly wrote
about the importance of involving men in rape prevention work. Today I want to go back to a ‘debate’ on Fox News earlier this year, in which feminist writer Zerlina Maxwell raised this issue by arguing that rape can be prevented if men learn not to rape – an idea that was shot down (no pun intended) by Fox News host Sean Hannity as an unrealistic liberal pipe dream. Rather, Hannity and Gayle Trotter of the ‘Independent Women’s Forum’ – a conservative think tank – argued that the right to carry concealed weapons is what can protect women from being raped. Although clearly being an attempt to intervene in the gun control debate by these conservative thinkers, their arguments reveal some of the underlying assumptions about sexualized violence and masculinities in mainstream discourse – assumptions that are in strong conflict with findings from research.
About a year ago, I wrote my first post for Sociology Lens about the tensions over sex education in the United States. Specifically, I commented on Jessica Field’s Sociology Compass article, “Sexuality Education in the United States: Shared Cultural Ideas Across the Political Divide,” in which she argues that, regardless of political position on sex education, most participants in debates operate from a shared assumption about the dangers of adolescent sexuality. Following Fields, I called for a truly comprehensive form of sex education that recognizes confusion, pleasure, and the risks of sexual activity.
Now, a year later as I end my time as a Sociology Lens contributor, I am happy to write that I have finally found a model of sex education that achieves the goals that I set out in that first post. A group in Iceland has created a government-sponsored awareness video that teaches teenagers about issues relevant to their sexual lives: confusion in the bedroom, body differences and issues, protection and contraceptives, emotional responses to sex, and sexual violence (Trigger warning: the video explicitly covers the topic of rape, which may be sensitive for some). In January 2013, all teenagers in Icelandic public schools screened the video. (more…)
An exciting new journal is slated for release next year—Routledge’s Porn Studies. The journal, the first of its kind, will focus explicitly on erotic and pornographic materials, as well as sex work generally. As its call for papers makes clear, it aims to include interdisciplinary, intersectional, and global analyses. Such a journal is a brave endeavor because the topic of pornography is an incredibly volatile one in academic and activist worlds. The journal is still a year away from publication and has already sparked angry responses, highlighting an ongoing problem in approaches to pornography that will be the focus of my post. (more…)
In a recent post, I discussed a longstanding trend in American (and Western) media of using racial Others to embody evil. From adult action films to children’s animated features, we can find examples of villains whose malevolent nature is clear from the racial/ethnic stereotypes used to characterize them. But racial stereotypes are not the only stereotypes used to denote wickedness; we can also find many examples of non-normative sexualities and gender performances associated with evil. Importantly, this sexual Otherness is often developed alongside and in relation to racial/ethnic Otherness. (more…)