Société: Cachez cette différence que je ne saurai voir (When in doubt, sexualize or butcher the quote!)

http://vulpeslibris.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/victorians.jpg?w=280&h=443Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni homme libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus-Christ. Paul
C’est dingue ! Si on n’est pas branchée sex-toys, si on n’aime pas parler de masturbation en gloussant autour d’un mojito, et qu’on ne cumule pas les amants, on est… nulle. Anonyme
It’s easier to mangle an analogy and ridicule it than grapple with its reality. Volkoh
« Hooking up » is a common phrase among young people today, but as journalist Stepp (author of Our Last Best Shot, 2000) discovered, the term is nebulous in meaning. Covering a range of sexual behavior, hooking up can mean anything from kissing to intercourse, as well as everything in between. Stepp conducted extensive interviews with young women in high school and college to find out how this casual approach to sexual encounters is affecting a generation. What she learned is that in large part hooking up had supplanted dating, with both young men and women eschewing deeper relationships for casual encounters with little or no commitment involved. Stepp looks at how the culture of today fosters these attitudes, noting that when young women are expected to excel at school and have numerous outside activities, many feel they don’t have time to form a deeper bond with a significant other. Eye-opening and powerful, Stepp’s book also offers empowering advice for women as they navigate today’s sexual landscape. Kristine Huntley
What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, « my plaything » and « my bitch. » Why hook up? According to Stepp, college women, obsessed with academic and career success, say they don’t have time for a real relationship; high school girls say lovey-dovey relationships give them the « yucks ». Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate? These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn’t work that way (…) In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male’s good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, « He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you’re a prize. » And goes on to tell them, « In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they’ve been on the warming table too long. » It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another’s affection and trust. And one’s sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere. In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: « Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? » And: « Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination. » The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame. Stepp is most thought-provoking when she considers the culture at large: All the females she interviews come from reasonably well-off families, we’re told, and all are ambitious. « Hooking up enables a young woman to practice a piece of a relationship, the physical, while devoting most of her energy to staying on the honor roll . . . playing lacrosse . . . and applying to graduate programs in engineering. » In a culture that values money and fame above all, that eschews failure, bad luck, trouble and pain, none of us speaks the language of love and forbearance. But it is not hooking up that has created this atmosphere. Hooking up is either a faithful reflection of the culture, a Darwinian response to a world where half the marriages end in divorce, or it is an attempt at something new. Perhaps, this generation, by making sex less precious, less a commodity, will succeed in putting simple humanity back into sex. Why bring someone into your bed? Maybe because she is brilliant and has a whimsical sense of humor, or he is both sarcastic and vulnerable, and has beautiful eyes. And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears — a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all. Kathy Dobie
Suppose that everything we think we know about ‘The Victorians’ is wrong? That we have persistently misrepresented their culture, perhaps to make ourselves feel more satisfyingly liberal and sophisticated? What if they were much more fun than we ever suspected? As Matthew Sweet shows us in this brilliant study, many of the concepts that strike us as terrifically new – political spin-doctoring, extravagant publicity stunts, hardcore pornography, anxieties about the impact of popular culture upon children – are Victorian inventions. Most of the pleasures that we imagine to be our own, the Victorians enjoyed first: the theme park, the shopping mall, the movies, the amusement arcade, the crime novel and the sensational newspaper report. They were engaged in a well-nigh continuous search for bigger and better thrills. If Queen Victoria wasn’t amused, then she was in a very small minority . . . Matthew Sweet’s book is an attempt to re-imagine the Victorians; to suggest new ways of looking at received ideas about their culture; to distinguish myth from reality; to generate the possibility of a new relationship between the lives of 19th-century people and our own. Inventing the Victorians (Book presentation)
Butchering quotations or taking things out of context quotes is unfair, but when the butchered text is then ridiculed further, the unfairness tends to be compounded. So it was with great interest that I followed Glenn Reynolds’ « ridicule and ellipsis » link to Eugene Volokh’s take on a WaPo book review which butchered the author’s words until they looked ridiculous enough to ridicule, then ridiculed them for looking ridiculous! (…) Although times have changed (along with, fortunately, the consequences of lost virginity), this is not complicated stuff. To understand it does not involve social conservatism, nor is it necessarily about morality. (I think it’s more about mechanics, laws of physics, coupled with basic self awareness.) It’s just that on this one key point, there is a huge difference between men and women. A Basic. Biological. Difference. (Sorry if I plagiarized your technique, Rachel Lucas, wherever you are.) Mechanically and from a mental perspective, sex is just very different for the two sexes. It’s inherently more special for women than for men, and that’s reflected in the nature of the way the gametes are both presented and delivered. One egg released per month versus hundreds of millions of sperm cells released for every male ejaculation. The rare and precious versus the common; the internal versus the external. Because of the mechanics involved in sexual penetration, the loss of virginity in women is accomplished by the breaking of something which can never be restored as it once was. The « loss » of virginity in men, on the other hand, is not a loss, but a gain. A man’s first sexual experience involves a physical venturing out and a penetration into a hitherto unknown area, into which an invading army of tiny millions is released. The accomplishment of this act for the first time is a demonstration to the man that his reproductive system is functional and working properly. In this regard, it makes no sense to speak in terms of a « loss » of male « virginity »; it is actually a gain of a new skill, one which is required if he is to do it again. Thus, what has been « broken » for the woman has, for the man, been « fixed. » I don’t think it’s complicated at all. I just don’t think most people are comfortable recognizing any reality which goes to the difference between the sexes.(…) It strikes me that shaming virginity is just as bad as shaming the loss of it. And why the refusal to acknowledge that it’s a different thing for men and women? I can’t help but wonder whether the deliberate disregard of the differences between the sexes might be another form of sexual shame. Classical values
In a 2000 lecture dealing with (among other things) the mutation of « virtues » into « values, » Gertrude Himmelfarb asked whether the covering of piano legs by Victorians really involved sexuality: This mutation in the word « virtue » has the effect first of narrowing the meaning of the word, reducing it to a matter of sexuality alone; and then of belittling and disparaging the sexual virtues themselves. These virtues, chastity and fidelity, have been further trivialized by the popular conception of Victorians as pathologically inhibited and repressed. Thus « Victorian values » have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons, human as well as table legs referred to as « limbs, » and books by men and women authors dwelling chastely on separate shelves in country-house libraries. In fact, these were not the normal (or even abnormal) practices of real Victorians. They were often the inventions of contemporary satirists (writers in Punch, for example), which have been perpetuated by gullible historians. « The woman who draped the legs of her piano », one historian solemnly informs us, « so far from concealing her conscious and unconscious exhibitionism, ended by sexualising the piano; no mean feat ». In fact, it is this historian who has sexualized the piano and has imposed his own sexual fantasies upon the Victorians. Classical values

Refus de la différence, quand tu nous tiens!

Découvert sur le net …

En ces temps étranges de parent 1 (ou A) et de parent 2 (ou B) …

Et en ce bientôt meilleur des mondes de mamans (porteuses) ou de putains remboursées par la sécu

Cet intéressant site de réinformation culturelle (Classical values) qui prétend, ô périlleuse mais louable ambition, « mettre un terme à la guerre culturelle en restaurant les valeurs culturelles » …

Où l’on apprend par exemple comment pour mieux enfoncer un livre déplorant la véritable mise au ban de la virginité dans certains milieux, un critique du Washington post n’hésite pas, au point de la dénaturer complètement voire de lui faire dire le contraire de ce qu’elle disait vraiment, à charcuter une citation …

Ou, alternativement, comment,  pour ridiculiser la prétendue obsession de la même virginité de nos arrières-parents victoriens, certains de nos historiens trop crédules ont pu prendre pour argent comptant les plaisanteries des Victoriens eux-mêmes (sur leurs cousins… américains!) et ainsi, pour des générations après eux, sexualiser malgré eux les pieds de leurs pianos …

Shaming the unshattered?

Classical values

March 03, 2007

Butchering quotations or taking things out of context quotes is unfair, but when the the butchered text is then ridiculed further, the unfairness tends to be compounded. So it was with great interest that I followed Glenn Reynolds’ « ridicule and ellipsis » link to Eugene Volokh’s take on a WaPo book review which butchered the author’s words until they looked ridiculous enough to ridicule, then ridiculed them for looking ridiculous!

The book in question is Laura Sessions Stepp’s Unhooked, and as Volokh makes clear, the butchery of the quote renders her thought almost incoherent.

Here’s the mangled (and subsequently ridiculed) WaPo quote:

Your body is your property…. Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?

Yeah, that makes very little sense. But here’s what’s omitted:

Your body is your property. No one has a right to enter unless you welcome them in. Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? Is your body worth less than a house?

And here’s Eugene Volokh:

The second sentence (the omission of which the Post noted with the ellipses) explains why we’re talking about nonconsensual rock-throwing. In this paragraph, the author seems not to be faulting fully consensual, enthusiastic casual sex, but rather casual sex of the sort that is at least not entirely welcome (a characteristic that I take it the author thinks is not uncommon in casual sex). Many young women, the author is suggesting, let men have sex with them even though they do not fully « welcome them in, » perhaps because they feel pressured by the man or by social expectations. Not-fully-welcome sex is not the same as rock-throwing, but at least the analogy is closer than it is between presumably enthusiastic « hooking up » and rock-throwing.

The fourth sentence (which is also omitted in the Post review, though conventions of quotation allow the omission not to be marked with ellipses) then tries to tie the body with the house: They aren’t the same (for instance, in the sense that they’re both great places to have a party), but rather they’re both valuable, and your body is if anything even more valuable. Again, not a terribly convincing metaphor, but not as zany or worthy of derision as some might think. Among other things, try the lampoon quoted above on the whole paragraph:

I don’t think Stepp’s broken window analogy is either zany or worthy of derision, although I understand why others would. I suspect that those who derided the analogy are only pretending not to understand it, and I think they wouldn’t want to get it (and would claim not to get it if someone explained it). That’s because the broken window analogy goes to the center of the difference between the sexes that people imagine can be dismissed. Therefore, it’s easier to mangle an analogy and ridicule it than grapple with its reality.

The broken window analogy (to a woman’s loss of virginity) is hardly new. Ask anyone who studied art history.

There’s Bouguereau’s Broken Pitcher, Greuze’s Broken Pitcher, and I even found a cute little narrative about the subject coming up in an art history class:

She is actually relieved to be in Art History discussing Greuze’s Broken Pitcher, even if there are idiots in her class. The girl with the jewel-encrusted crucifix obscuring all her other features insistently claims the girl in the painting signifies the masses, and the broken pitcher is their broken relationship with Christ. The cocky guy who has missed half the classes since joining his frat, is spinning the class all off on a tangent somehow connecting the broken pitcher to unemployment rates during the Great Depression. Stupid.

Sighing, she is patient, sighing again and again as she digests her so-called peers’ comments and systematically discards their worth. The class wallows in a pit of circular reasoning. Just as she is about to reach her limit and set them all straight, the teacher says, « What if it’s about sex? What if the pitcher is her virginity? »

Silence blooms. Her classmates look at each other, some giggling.

I don’t know whether the teacher planned on show-and-tell, so I’ll complement her lecture by adding Bouguereau’s Broken Pitcher:

It’s tough to unwrite Art History, but I’m sure they’re working on it.

Although times have changed (along with, fortunately, the consequences of lost virginity), this is not complicated stuff. To understand it does not involve social conservatism, nor is it necessarily about morality. (I think it’s more about mechanics, laws of physics, coupled with basic self awareness.) It’s just that on this one key point, there is a huge difference between men and women. A Basic. Biological. Difference. (Sorry if I plagiarized your technique, Rachel Lucas, wherever you are.) Mechanically and from a mental perspective, sex is just very different for the two sexes. It’s inherently more special for women than for men, and that’s reflected in the nature of the way the gametes are both presented and delivered. One egg released per month versus hundreds of millions of sperm cells released for every male ejaculation. The rare and precious versus the common; the internal versus the external.

Because of the mechanics involved in sexual penetration, the loss of virginity in women is accomplished by the breaking of something which can never be restored as it once was. The « loss » of virginity in men, on the other hand, is not a loss, but a gain. A man’s first sexual experience involves a physical venturing out and a penetration into a hitherto unknown area, into which an invading army of tiny millions is released. The accomplishment of this act for the first time is a demonstration to the man that his reproductive system is functional and working properly. In this regard, it makes no sense to speak in terms of a « loss » of male « virginity »; it is actually a gain of a new skill, one which is required if he is to do it again. Thus, what has been « broken » for the woman has, for the man, been « fixed. »

I don’t think it’s complicated at all. I just don’t think most people are comfortable recognizing any reality which goes to the difference between the sexes.

As to what is going on in the mind in the mental or moral sense, that’s more complicated. The WaPo reviewer touches on a favorite subject of Classical Values, and that is sexual shame:

In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: « Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? » And: « Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination. » The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.

Look, I’m more against sexual shame than anyone I know. Seriously, I am not kidding; just poke around the blog.

But I have one question for the WaPo writer. Since when is a dog in heat (actually, it should be « bitch in heat ») an ugly image? The reason I’m asking is because I’m harboring a bitch in heat right now, and Coco does not take kindly to being called ugly by the MSM! She’s not ugly, and she leaves plenty to the imagination. Well, maybe not when she’s waving her little vagina around and her tail curls and the coat of hair on her butt gets all wrinkly and slitherers forward in anticipation of a tie-up. But even that is not without it’s charm, at least for a shameless relativist like me. The bottom line is that Coco is not ugly, and I don’t consider any of this shameful. (Although I suspect the WaPo might be trying to shame Ms. Stepp.)

I keep saying that what we call the Culture War is really a war over sex, because I think it is. At the heart of that, though, is a war over sexual shame. While I don’t know whether Ms. Stepp is trying to instill feelings of sexual shame as the Post says, I do know that plenty of people are very frustrated by the absence of sexual shame in others.

The problem is, as I keep saying, you can’t feel what you don’t have, nor can you expect that if you’re disgusted with something, that others will share your disgust. Sometimes, I think there’s on one « side » a demand that others not be disgusted by things which disgust them, while on the other « side » there’s an equally shrill demand that they be disgusted by things that don’t disgust them.

Right now though, I’m feeling a little disgusted by the lack of honesty in the way this argument is being addressed, because it just isn’t being addressed. People yell at each other’s tastes or what they perceive as a lack thereof, and they don’t even seem to realize that what they’re doing is demanding not accommodation or tolerance of their tastes or disgusts, but a sharing of them. While this strikes me as an unreasonable argument, there’s no way to discuss whether it’s a reasonable argument if people aren’t even aware that it is in fact an argument.

Take Leon Kass’s wisdom of repugnance. Please!

No seriously, let’s take it, because I’ve devoted time to it and gotten not very far. There is no question that sexual shame varies from person to person, as do sexual tastes. From a previous post, here’s Martha Nussbaum, interviewed by Reason’s Julian Sanchez:

Unlike anger, disgust does not provide the disgusted person with a set of reasons that can be used for the purposes of public argument and public persuasion. If my child has been murdered and I am angry at that, I can persuade you that you should share those reasons; if you do, you will come to share my outrage. But if someone happens to feel that gay men are disgusting, that person cannot offer any reasoning that will persuade someone to share that emotion; there is nothing that would make the dialogue a real piece of persuasion.

Reason: As a follow up, can you say something about how that cashes out into a critique of communitarian ideals?

Nussbaum: The prominent defenders of the appeal to disgust and shame in law have all been communitarians of one or another stripe ([Lord] Devlin, [Amitai] Etzioni, Kass), and this, I claim, is no accident. What their thought shares is the idea that society ought to have at its core a homogeneous group of people whose ways of living, of having sex, of looking and being, are defined as « normal. » People who deviate from that norm may then be stigmatized, and penalized by law, even if their conduct causes no harm. That was the core of Lord Devlin’s idea, and it is endorsed straightforwardly by Etzioni, and, in a rather different way, and in a narrower set of contexts, by Kass. My study of disgust and shame shows that these emotions threaten key values of a liberal society, especially equal respect for people and for their liberty. Disgust and shame are inherently hierarchical; they set up ranks and orders of human beings. They are also inherently connected with restrictions on liberty in areas of non-harmful conduct. For both of these reasons, I believe, anyone who cherishes the key democratic values of equality and liberty should be deeply suspicious of the appeal to those emotions in the context of law and public policy.

While I think trying to make someone feel shame who does not feel it is a waste of time, my point is that even if you put sexual shame aside, in logic something is being given up by a woman that is not being given up by a man. To deny this denies reality.

Denial of reality has a way of annoying me, but it’s even more annoying when it’s done in the name of reality.

But I think there’s something more going on than denial. I think the attempt to tar Ms. Stepp with the accusation that she’s fostering sexual shame obscures something else which Eugene Volokh mentioned, and that is the pressure of what he calls « social expectations. »

From the Amazon book description:

In Unhooked, Stepp follows three groups of young women (one in high school, one each at Duke and George Washington universities). She sat with them in class, socialized with them, listened to them talk, and came away with some disturbing insights, including that hooking up carries with it no obligation on either side. Relationships and romance are seen as messy and time-consuming, and love is postponed-or worse, seen as impossible. Some young women can handle this, but many can’t, and they’re being battered-physically and emotionally-by the new dating landscape. The result is a generation of young people stymied by relationships and unsure where to turn for help.

If it is true that some of the young women doing this cannot handle it, then I wonder why. I haven’t read the book, but might another form of shame be going on?

Is it possible that not wanting to have sex might be considered shameful in some circles? Might there be a stigma attached to virginity?

Apparently, there is. And it didn’t take me long to find it. Here’s the (U Va) Cavalier Daily’s Kate Durbin:

Having or abstaining from sex is a personal decision. Like drinking alcohol or eating meat, it is a choice that each person must make for him or herself, free from the pressures of peers and society in general. No reason need be given as to why someone chooses to abstain from sex, just as no reason need be given when someone chooses not to consume alcohol. Personal decisions are just that — personal. They should be respected as such. Virgins, angered by the negativity surrounding their choices, should seek to change societal attitudes instead of spending time enumerating the reasons they chose to be a virgin.

[…]

….if society is really so open when it comes to sex, why is it that virginity remains such a curse for those college students choosing it? For whatever reason, abstaining from sex has somehow come to be a socially isolating factor, making virgins feel like their choices are somehow viewed as wrong.

As long as current attitudes about sexual choices persist, refraining from sex will continue to be seen as some kind of problem. Having sex or not having sex is a personal choice. This fact must be accepted and respected by our generation.

Hmmm….Virginity a curse? At the University of Virginia at that!

Oh the irony!

I don’t know how typical the above complaint is (there’s more, of course, and it seems to be a response to another column poking fun at virgins), but as someone who is against sexual shame, I try to at least be consistent about it, and it strikes me that shaming virginity is just as bad as shaming the loss of it. And why the refusal to acknowledge that it’s a different thing for men and women?

I can’t help but wonder whether the deliberate disregard of the differences between the sexes might be another form of sexual shame.

Voir aussi:

Without Victorian modesty, even pianos can get carried away!

Classical values

March 13, 2007

In a 2000 lecture dealing with (among other things) the mutation of « virtues » into « values, » Gertrude Himmelfarb asked whether the covering of piano legs by Victorians really involved sexuality:

This mutation in the word « virtue » has the effect first of narrowing the meaning of the word, reducing it to a matter of sexuality alone; and then of belittling and disparaging the sexual virtues themselves. These virtues, chastity and fidelity, have been further trivialized by the popular conception of Victorians as pathologically inhibited and repressed. Thus « Victorian values » have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons, human as well as table legs referred to as « limbs, » and books by men and women authors dwelling chastely on separate shelves in country-house libraries.

In fact, these were not the normal (or even abnormal) practices of real Victorians. They were often the inventions of contemporary satirists (writers in Punch, for example), which have been perpetuated by gullible historians. « The woman who draped the legs of her piano, » one historian solemnly informs us, « so far from concealing her conscious and unconscious exhibitionism, ended by sexualising the piano; no mean feat. » In fact, it is this historian who has sexualized the piano and has imposed his own sexual fantasies upon the Victorians.

I have a minor correction. While I must necessarily take no position on the perpetuation of satire by gullible historians (lest I get into a conflict of interest), and I cannot claim to know who is right about sexualizing the Victorian penchant for covering piano legs, I can state with some confidence that the historian Himmelfarb criticized was not the first to sexualize the piano.

Unless the Victorian satirists were first, I’m afraid the credit must go to Salvador Dali, who did a pretty good job of it back in the 1930s:

Once again, here’s « Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano » (1934):

atmospheric_skull_sodomizing_a_grand_piano.JPG

And from the same year, here’s « Skull with its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Bedside Table which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal’s Nest »:

SkullWithLyricAppendage.jpg

I don’t know whether this means the couple had a child or just merged with each other, but the presence of the bedside table indicates some that some sort of ongoing intimacy occurred.

I scrupulously take no position on whether any of this could have been avoided had the piano been appropriately covered.

And at the risk of being anthropopianomorphic, I have to venture that Dali might have been using the pianos as some sort of substitute for his own libido, or maybe his sex life. Because in the same year he painted the indisputably sexualized pianos, he also painted « Cardinal, Cardinal! »:

cardinal.jpg

Note the same bedside table. The man (IMO) is clearly Dali, and he’s leaning towards the bedside table at the same angle as the skull does. His shirt even looks like a skull! Not only that, he’s holding a pitcher (the breaking of which artistically symbolizes lost virginity), and seems unable to put it back where it belongs. The uncovered woman is of course his wife Gala. (A divorcee who could not be considered virginal by any definition.)

As to what the reference to the « exact temperature of a cardinal’s nest » might mean, I’m tempted to speculate that it might involve a failure of the human fertility cycle, and I’d note that by 1934 Gala seems to have left her fertility cycles behind her.

Whether Dali was making any judgment about virtues or values (or what that judgment might have been) I’ll leave to others.

Politics is surreal enough as it is.

(I’ve tried not to politicize art, but the piano meme seems to have legs.)

MORE: While I wasn’t thinking about her when I wrote the post, a Hot Air commenter named OBX Pete says that Hillary Clinton looks like a piano:

I’ve seen her legs and believe me you don’t want to see them. If you take a picture of her and crop everything above the waist she could be mistaken for a grand piano. Actually she is doing us all a favor by wearing those pantsuits.

On the other hand, she has to work with what she was born with (as we all do) so she can’t help it if she has piano legs. I’m more concerned with that ultra-liberal mind.

I looked into this and discovered that it’s worse than I imagined — to the point where the Urban Dictionary includes Hillary in the very definition of « Piano Legs »:

1. piano legs

Disproportionately thick calves and/or ankles on a woman with otherwise normal body weight.

No wonder Hillary Clinton always wears pant suits. She’s got a humongous set of piano legs.

Voir également:

Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both (by Laura Sessions Stepp)

Going All the Way

 By Reviewed by Kathy Dobie

The Washington Post

February 11, 2007

UNHOOKED

How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both

By Laura Sessions Stepp

Riverhead. 288 pp. $24.95

Reviewed by Kathy Dobie

Articles, op-ed pieces and radio shows have been devoted to the sexual practice of « hooking up, » but Washington Post reporter Laura Session Stepp’s Unhooked is the first book on the phenomenon and, one hopes, not the last. For when someone takes such a volatile aspect of young people’s lives and puts it under a microscope — or in this case, a concerned, disapproving gaze — you want the large, well-lit view.

Stepp follows three high school girls and six college women through a year in their lives, chronicling their sexual behavior. These girls and women don’t date, don’t develop long-term relationships or even short, serious ones — instead, they « hook up. » Hooking up, Stepp writes, « isn’t exactly anything. » It can « consist entirely of one kiss, or it can involve fondling, oral sex, anal sex, intercourse or any combination of those things. It can happen only once with a partner, several times during a week or over many months . . . . It can mean the start of something, the end of something or the whole something. » If that sounds as if hooking up can mean almost anything but « fried fish for dinner, » Stepp goes on to offer something more definite: What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, « my plaything » and « my bitch. »

Why hook up? According to Stepp, college women, obsessed with academic and career success, say they don’t have time for a real relationship; high school girls say lovey-dovey relationships give them the « yucks. »

Stepp is troubled: How will these girls learn how to be loving couples in this hook-up culture? Where will they practice the behavior needed to sustain deep and long-term relationships? If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate? These questions sound reasonable at first, until one remembers that life just doesn’t work that way: In our teens and early twenties, sexual relationships are less about intimacy than about expanding our intimate knowledge of people — a very different thing. Through sex, we discover irrefutable otherness (he dreams of being madly in love; she hates going to sleep alone ), and we are scared and enraptured, frustrated and inspired. We learn less about intimacy in our youthful sex lives than we do about humanity. And of course, there is also lust, something this very unsexy book about sex doesn’t take into account. In fact, Unhooked can be downright painful to read. The author resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male’s good behavior, and she imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use. She advises the girls, « He will seek to win you over only if he thinks you’re a prize. »And goes on to tell them, « In a smorgasbord of booty, all the hot dishes start looking like they’ve been on the warming table too long. »

It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another’s affection and trust. And one’s sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere.

In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: « Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn’t want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? » And: « Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination. » The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.

Stepp is most thought-provoking when she considers the culture at large: All the females she interviews come from reasonably well-off families, we’re told, and all are ambitious. « Hooking up enables a young woman to practice a piece of a relationship, the physical, while devoting most of her energy to staying on the honor roll . . . playing lacrosse . . . and applying to graduate programs in engineering. »

In a culture that values money and fame above all, that eschews failure, bad luck, trouble and pain, none of us speaks the language of love and forbearance. But it is not hooking up that has created this atmosphere. Hooking up is either a faithful reflection of the culture, a Darwinian response to a world where half the marriages end in divorce, or it is an attempt at something new. Perhaps, this generation, by making sex less precious, less a commodity, will succeed in putting simple humanity back into sex. Why bring someone into your bed? Maybe because she is brilliant and has a whimsical sense of humor, or he is both sarcastic and vulnerable, and has beautiful eyes.

And perhaps as this generation grows up, they will come to relish other sides of an intimate relationship more than we have: the friendship, the shared humor, the familiar and loved body next to you in bed at night. This is the most hopeful outcome of the culture Stepp describes, but no less possible than the outcome she fears — a generation unable to commit, unable to weather storms or to stomach second place or really to love at all.

3 Responses to Société: Cachez cette différence que je ne saurai voir (When in doubt, sexualize or butcher the quote!)

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  2. […] aussi rappelé, loin des Victoriens qui soi-disant mettaient des culottes aux pieds de leurs pianos, l’étrange pudeur (ou, sous couvert de la loi, complaisance?) des médias français pour les […]

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    Société: Cachez cette différence que je ne saurai voir (When in doubt, sexualize or butcher the quote!) | jcdurbant

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