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Fuck Politeness

This is a revolution, not a public relations movement

So the Sheehan article I wrote about in my last post: ready to discuss it a little more calmly now.

I really do hate trying to write about my problems with writers like Sheehan, it seems to take forever to untangle their warped logic, and all the problems with it.

My first problem is the opening paragraph. The article is ostensibly about a new movie and a new book in which two women describe their adolescent/preadolescent sexuality. Sheehan takes a complex subject and opens with a paragraph written like a teaser for a porn mag article.

She’s young, she’s had orgasms, she has lots, she’s hot, she’s made out with a boy and stripped off for an adult male. PHWOAR!!!

He then dismisses objections to the movie as stemming from “the oppressive sensibilities of the cultural thought police”. FFS. I’m no advocate of censorship, but I fail to see how concern with a movie depicting the sexuality of a 13 year old (at least the way he’s depicted it) is by necessity an ‘oppressive sensibility’ . But since I know nothing of the movie, nor of the objections (of which I’m sure a great many were ludicrous) I had better move on.

So Sheehan moves onto coverage of the Henson debates. Nothing very enlightening in that section.

I can’t help feeling, having read more of Sheehan’s articles (in particular his notion that Islamic men are terrible to their women, whereas over here we live in a Feminist Paradise, where white women gleefully ignore the plight of their oppressed sisters, which he dutifully spanks us for, while simultaneously doing jack shit over himself) that he’s enjoying slipping in that her father who beat her was Middle Eastern.

He then goes on to Diablo Cody’s memoir describing her teenage desire to be eroticised, to be displayed and desired, to play into the porn ‘slut’  image and all its power.Rather than stop and engage with this and why it might be he bounces on in order to prove that this is all fairly normal since chicks actually masturbate (OMG) and often, when they do, the fantasize about taking up the roles assigned to them and being a stripper/sex worker.

It scares me, this. A woman describing her own experiences of her adolescent sexuality is one thing. I imagine that there is an acknowlegement of the power/fear dynamic, of the complexities, the pressures, the confusion, the heady sense of worlds opening up and closing.Regardless of whether there is or there isn’t, these women are telling their own stories, making their own points, using their own voices.

But an adult male utilising the bare bones outlines of these two stories to prop up his article is gross and disturbing. Whatever their sexuality is, it is not his, even when the stories are of sharing their sexuality with others at a young age. Not having seen the movie or read the book I can’t comment too far, except that he reduces both women’s stories to bullet points to back up claims (though what those claims are is, as ever, unclear).

He’s not a psychologist, not a sociologist, not a literature/film expert, not someone who knows these women, he’s an old white dude who thinks he knows everything and can bang on about how people should live USING these real life experiences of others, of young, emerging women, to make a point (though what point is unclear, however it seems to be roughly, stop stressing about sexualising the kids you rampant thought cops, and wow, because two women wrote stories, and I read a survey I can assert that women ARE deviant, and girls ARE horny and hot for adult cock way early, porn is on the right track, W00T, but oh the kids after all, bad single mums, perverts are cool).

Then he really seems to fall off the deep end a bit. The stuff about the internet is all over the place, and falls into the old binary logic of either/or: EITHER the net is a paradise for perverts, OR it’s a mirror of our society. Hmm. Both perchance and many other things as well?

Maybe instead of just trotting out the facts that a stack of kids get their info on sex from online porn as underscoring allegations of perversity and sexual activity, we could look at whether these kids go look it up because the info they get is inadequate? Or because their folks are too embarrassed to discuss it explicitly? Or because they’re fascinated by the lure it holds for others and wanna see what the fuss is about? I’m no fan of the messages about gender that porn sends, but as usual it’s a little more complex than Sheehan makes it sound.

Also? He goes from the fact that the book and the movie draw out the fact that there is massive public demand for the images of as he so charmingly and unnecessarily describes it “the “barely legal” horny teenage girl” (Conveniently ignoring the equally high demand for the NOT legal teenage girl) STRAIGHT into girls are becoming more knowing earlier thanks to the internet. Is it just me or did he slip from ‘ it’s well known that men get off on an idea of having sex with an extremely young girl’ seamlessly into ‘kids are sexually knowledgeable’ as if the latter is as serious as the former, or indeed as if the latter feeds the former?

Knowledge is power, not a problem.If we arm our kids with proper information and knowledge about sex and bodies then they don’t need to go to the net for their research. They may still out of curiosity, and you know…that happens. I hate the ideas about gender and sex they may absorb while there, I hate the lessens about life they learn (that people will fantasize about all manner of fucked up shit), but again, knowledge is power. If they explore the net with knowledge about their bodies, with knowledge about sex, with knowledge about the fact that there are people who prey on youth, with the knowledge they can discuss with you whatever they see – well then the net is a lot less scary. So to equate knowledge with a flag that a kid is ‘too sexual for their own good’  or is now fair game in the hunt for sex? WRONG.

The problem is not that kids are knowledgeable, the problem is adults are desiring sex with people not yet adults, and massive numbers of porn sites are catering to this quick as you please. The problem is that we have such fucked up ideas about sexuality and ‘innocence/sexuality’  that men feel entitled to the bodies not just of women, but of girls.

The problem is that there is incredible *power* given to the images of teen/pre-teen bodies when pornified, and that kids absorb these ideas and it’s confusing/empowering/scary/heady all at once to discover you’re in possession of a body which holds *power* as a sexual object, as a site of desire. I say *power* because the “power” doesn’t appear to be *given* to the bodies, to the individuals, it’s just a powerful image in terms of the number of hits it can get a website/the power it holds over the phallus (which demanded it in the first place). Whatever power it contains for the agent it’s always limited, always already dying: it’s a temporal power by definition. Its power lies in the fact that no-one can develop their notion of their sexuality *outside* of its pressure. Ugh.

What’s bothering me here is that there’s all this stuff to discuss and it just slips away as he marches to his own beat – there is power in the notion of becoming a public figure of sexual objectification. It is thrilling as a teenager.

However I’m pretty sure both Cody’s book and Towelhead the movie would delve with an eye for the complexity of this situation, an attempt to explore the power/fear, the connections to larger issues, both of the protagonists of the stories, and to society at large.

Sheehan takes the two stories and some stats on fantasy and porn use and tells us really not very much at all. He seems to condone the image of the ‘horny teenage girl’ as a valid focus of sexual desire, then lament the lapsing of societal standards. He slips into ‘a generation ago’  stuff, and then, HUH? We’re at the end and he’s run out of space, and where it seemed to just be a ‘neutral observation’ it’s now a problem, but STOP!

It’s not the problem of the dudes wanking over kids, or the porn sites catering to them, or that stuff luring kids in or the ideas that sets up for men that just cos a girl is sexually curious, it’s ok for them to sleep with her – oh no. The problem is debt, and capitalism, and simultaneously (??) two income families and single parent households (way to have a bet each way Paul) and a coursening public domain. Yours is a strange, strange mind Paul Sheehan.

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