SexPosFemme Journal

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Image vs. Reality

Don't try to talk to me about “Desperate Housewives.” If I had the slightest interest in other people’s sex lives, I’d be a Republican.-Bill Maher

In a recent web journal entry, Susie Bright, one of America's leading sex-positive feminists and sex expert said that when it comes sex, image and reality are inversely related: " the American hype and consumer-driven hysteria about SEX! SEX! SEX! is in inverse proportion to the actual sex in our personal lives." On the one hand it seems that America is becoming more sex crazed and people are just being more hedonistic now than ever. But in fact it's the opposite. She says, "we have less sex than ever." Less than 50 years ago when married couples slept in twin beds and you couldn't mention "indecent" ideas in mixed company? Less than during 200 years ago when there were gender/race specific social/legal spheres? How could this be? The internet, sex therapy, sexy clothes, declining stigma surrounding pre-marital sex and prejudiced towards the existence of sexual minorities. Seems impossible. But when you look at the facts, it makes perfect sense:

1. TV- The more sex on TV, the more there must be some demand for it, because it's not present in real life. Instead of being a supplementary form of entertainment amidst socialization, it often takes precedence and shapers the viewers daily realities. With the influx of reality docudramas replacing the sitcom genre, it's easier confuse fantasy that is the reality show with actual reality, leading some to set much higher standards--for themselves and partners-- and feel less like a part of the "real world" that they feel is represented on screen.

2. Isolation- You can check out/buy books, shop for clothes and groceries, and manage your bank account(s) without interacting a single person or even leaving the house. Add the "Bowling Alone" phenomenon, which means less community leagues, civic groups, neighborhood functions where people see other human faces. Meanwhile, we complain about or outright reject the idea of the 9-5 cubicle working world, but with cell phones, i-pods, and other portable gadgets in near constant use, people are just walking cubicles anyway, perhaps even more insulated than they would be/are in such a work environment.

3. Internet- Those meet-and-greet/dating/hook-up sites such as or are in some cases hindering more than helping, in the cases where they're not a supplement or offshoot of organic socialization. Because the exchanges are never in real time, there's a delay, where it can take a week to figure out things about someone that normally take all of 5 minutes, like what they look like or where they live. You have to confirm that the person is who they say they are and if you can feel safe meeting them, when normally the environment would dictate that for the very beginning.

4. Looks obsession- Diet crazes, sex and diet/cosmetic advice juxtaposed on the same magazine cover, and the promises of quick fixes make people confuse sexual satisfaction with packaged images. Sexual liberation threatens to become a brand, like Coke, bottled up and produced by people who may care little about the fruits of it. Image obsession actually makes people more and more sexually deprived. As Bright states, "Those girls in short skirts are anorexic prudes. Those boys with the James Dean sneer are stoned and scared shitless. " Not political, not empowering to real viewers, not positive, therefore not EVEN CLOSE.

The Janus-faced conflation of prefab images/mandates and sexual liberation/choices is ever more self-defeating. What's the point of lowering social barriers if we don't make use of them and put them back up one by one? 50 years ago, with all the odds, people had to know their surroundings, travel, be well rounded citizens much more than today (as evidenced by all the above links). And they didn't have personalized frames of reference, the Kinsey/Klein scales (sexuality as a continuum), post-modernism (race/gender/sexuality as a social construct), the likes of what we have today. But as the factors unfold, we don't have a strong enough grasp on self and true life now that we know what we want out of it.


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