Tuesday, December 01, 2009

On fantasies and feminism

Lots of strong reactions in various directions to the book and movie series Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, about a teen girl's obsession with a vampire boy who refuses to drink human blood, but Tiger Beatdown shows me a new viewpoint: they are *women's* fantasies, and that is both why some find them so compelling and why others find them ridiculous and threatening.

[W]e are used to seeing straight men’s goofy, unrealistic sexual fantasies. They are everywhere, all the time. Beer commercials, magazines, Michael Bay movies, porn obviously. We’re used to having female characters flattened out, falsified, emptied out and filled up again with a boundless desire to satisfy men’s needs for no apparent reason. We’re used to the fact that straight male sexual fantasy scenarios (or, at least, sexual fantasies marketed to straight men: and, hey, a lot of dudes are buying them) are cartoonish, in poor taste, unsophisticated, weird. We’re used to expressions of desire, public expressions, aimed at women the desire-expressers have never met and will never sleep with and will probably never even see in all three dimensions, outside of a movie screen or photograph or TV set – discussions of whether the men in question would, in fact, “hit that” or whatnot – and to the sale of those bodies, or at least images and facsimiles thereof.

[...]

this is everywhere. We’re used to it. It’s part of the accepted context of straight male desire – it’s tacky as all hell, aesthetically, and that’s just how they do – and so criticizing it, in an aesthetic way, seems pointless. Congratulations, you went looking for art in a product intended to provide boners and came up empty. Surprise! But when girls do the exact same thing – when they prove themselves capable of the exact same sort of objectification, and the exact same goofiness or tackiness or unrealistic fantasy in the name of getting off – well, it freaks people out. It’s weird. Why are they acting like this? Don’t they know that Robert Pattinson is a person? Why are they treating him like a big chunk of meat? Why doesn’t Edward Cullen act like a real guy would?

All of us objectify each other to some extent, and it's pro-survival. If I spent the same amount of attention on the person in the elevator who pressed the button for the 3rd floor as I do on my husband, I'd go bugnuts crazy; we use good judgment in deciding how much of our attention to spend on different people depending on how important they are to us and how much influence/impact they have on our lives.

And probably we all need to grow up, and deal with the fact that everyone we meet in the world is a person with a complex inner life, and also be open to the fact that people are pretty in different ways and our entertainment only portrays one very limited slice of the vast spectrum that is human prettiness, and etc. But also? Be less weirded out by the fact that ladies are getting all freaky about Robert Pattinson. Or be MORE weirded out by the dudes getting all het up about various lady movie stars. Take your pick. Because ladies are people. And if there is one universal truth about people, it is that lots of us are kind of gross.

1 comment:

Master Plan said...

Hi Kai!

The thing I tend to wonder about, re: "straight men’s goofy, unrealistic sexual fantasies", is to what extent they are "ours" (straight men's) versus to what extent we adopt them as our own because we are presented with them.

I think that self-inflicted orgasm is a pretty potent sort of classical conditioning tool and suspect the extent to which young men of my generation and certainly the proceeding ones are exposed to porn (as the predominant form, or epitome of the types of sex fantasies I think she's addressing) prior to being exposed to almost any other kind of sexual identity or form of sexual expression plays on how prevalent those fantasies are perceived as being.

Which I guess is saying the same thing in different words, but I think there is a slight difference between "straight men's fantasies" (which implies they exist in all straight men ab initio) and "the fantasies which straight men are presented with as boys and take on as their own". Once you've started to associate sex\arousal with particular things I think it'll be relatively hard to disassociate those things if you're even inclined to do so (what's the general incentive for a person to discard societally approved social constructs?).