Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Sexualised and the Sexless

There seems to be a frenzy of concern about the mental and physical health of young girls. In America, psychologists are worried about sexualisation in the media. In Britain, we are fretting that girls are 'hung up on their bodies'. These may appear to be the same thing, but they aren't. Sexualisation is all about what to do and how to do it. Body obsession is about becoming the ideal shape. The latter actually conflicts with the former as I realised while watching, in a weak moment, The Agency, a 'reality' TV show set in a New York model agency. The ideal 'high end' models loved by the pond life executives were, not to put to fine a point on it, hideous - gawky, vacant, pasty, gormless etc. The men, in contrast, were more or less conventionally good-looking. (All, consolingly, were fantastically thick. Zoolander is the purest realism.) What seems to have happened is that the fashion industry has created a concept of beauty that is quite separate from sexual desirability. We seem to go along with this, talking about 'beautiful' models even as we are confronted with catwalks full of underfed, sunken-eyed dogs. The whole complex - body-craving, sexualisation - seems to be another example of satisfied urges turning weird. We should just go back to hopeless, passionate yearning. It seemed to make us happier.

22 comments:

  1. Oh it looks like i'll be the first to comment...the sexualised and the sexless! Thanks for your work, outspoken, great, like it. What has happened to this so-called civilised humanity of the western world, totally up the creek i'd say; perhaps one should send some of these skinny, starved nearly to death models, to the" REAL starving because of no food" folks in Africa, or maybe the agencies should get some of those people to work for them and give them their life back, no i'm not serious about that comment..it just makes me mad, to see these skeletons walking on the cat walk, half dead corpses, yuck, i'm woman and happy to be woman, not skeleton size, not fat either, just right...anyway, it's all gone nuts, maybe it's a result of having too much of everything...possible ...we're on a road to nowhere sang talking heads some years ago, well they had a point, it's called self distruct....we had paradise and we turned it into hell....wow, how stupid???? thanks, keep up the good work! love and peace

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  2. Unfortunately, this conflict is only apparent to sensible adults. Children are confused. What do we expect?

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  3. These self-obsessed characters in the "rag trade" only have the influence that we allow them to have. By posting a comment on their idiot activities are you in fact helping to keep them in the public eye and thus spread that influence, and by my commenting on your comment am I doing the same thing? In the words of the eminent sociologist Prof. Heinz Kiosk "We are all guilty"

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  4. The fashion world is a bizarre closed shop of semi-arty women and homosexual men. So perhaps it should not be surprising that conventional male attractiveness will remain unchanged in the transition to that world, while female 'beauty' is distorted into something weird.

    I'm not sure who the 'we' is when you say: "We seem to go along with this, talking about 'beautiful' models even as we are confronted with catwalks full of underfed, sunken-eyed dogs."

    At any rate, it isn't heterosexual men. The conventional male idea of voluptuous female beauty is still going strong. They tell me pornography is still quite popular.

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  5. Brit, you're right, 'we' is sloppy. I think it should be 'some people', it's a kind of media given that the word 'model' attractes the adjective 'beautiful'. You're right, real women rule for most men.

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  6. But at least your 'we' was less fictional than my 'They'...

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  7. wife in the southFebruary 20, 2007 2:06 pm

    Yearning signals a significance beyond the material and the explicable; it's the kind of devotion that can't be contained or commercialised. There's an elegance in its restraint; a sense of deeper if unarticulated meaning in a less meaningful world. But is it walking in the shadow of death? Isn't it our duty to reach out in the physical world rather than worship from afar? Perhaps chastity can be deeply erotic to some. But enough. Now my head and my heart both hurt.

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  8. Frustrated Mom in Phila.February 20, 2007 2:55 pm

    Very happy to hear that real women rule for most men. Now if you can only convince teenage girls of it. I have one -- an absolutely gorgeous girl, with a great figure -- who monitors every calorie she puts in her mouth (with a stupid Weight Watchers guide!) and I have not a doubt it's because of the Anorexic Ideal in all the fashion magazines.

    I tell her, "My god, you are gorgeous. Why are you starving yourself?"

    The response? A pitying look. "Of course you'd say that. You're my mother."

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  9. I say give Wife in the South seventy grand immediately! That's more like proper blogging!

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  10. Wife in the SouthFebruary 20, 2007 4:27 pm

    Oh Chippy. Now I am rich indeed. Your kindness means my heart hurts a little less. Shame the head is still something of a challenge. And what now to do with this longing for a big fat cheque?

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  11. Hmm, for once, the mother of teenage and nascently teenage girls has no sensible comment. Expose them to all influences and let them make up their own minds, I suppose is my philosophy, via my rather repressed upbringing. I dunno though, "a parent's place is in the wrong" is the usual situation, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

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  12. Come off it I mean its all about whatever the hell it's all about which is food or lack of it at the end of the day. And that's a choice people have to make for themselves as noone else is gonna make that decision unless of course they do, in which case they shouldn't, at least in normal circumstances they shouldn't. And I'm not gonna be the bloody one to tell them they bloody well should even if they should.

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  13. Welcome, Amanda, we've been talking about you/

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  14. All good things I hope.

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  15. So, where is Lord Jeff telling us what Judah would have said about all this?

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  16. Jeff's Judas book is under strict embargo by his publishers. I have not seen it. And, Amanda, nothing but purest admiration... no, I would go further, love.

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  17. Glad to hear it, Bryan, as there were people saying that there were rumours in the ether that there were bad things, being said, from people possibly from this direction about the quality of my writing. Which I didn't believe but if I did I'm glad to hear it from your own words .

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  18. As ever, I am dazzled by your expressive mastery.

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  19. Thank you, Bryan and I should have added that to prove it I have a very high iq. You British can be so cute when you want to be it.

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  20. How very true; c'est vrai!!; but we beg to differ on the point that the concerns are very real as the fashion industry is to this extent quite removed from the music, advertisement and other mass media industries including the doll industry which all seem to guide the majority of young girls to the 'classic', even over-done, exaggerated sexual look; huge butts, big breasts on MTV etc.

    Read our real opinions here:
    http://www.ontome.com/?p=79

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  21. Talking about Prince Charles the other day, someone said to me 'well, wouldn't you prefer Diana to Camilla'. After a moment's thought I said no, because Diana would get on my nerves after a few hours.' Of the two, Camilla seems much more interesting a person, more companionable and so on.
    I think rather than bemoaning the fashion industry 'we' (sorry) ought to be showing young women - and young men too - that they ought to be something beyond the mere superficial surface appearance.
    Of course, that will mean showing up popular culture for the junk culture that it is - just junk food for the brain.

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  22. David:

    that will mean showing up popular culture for the junk culture that it is - just junk food for the brain.

    That's a strange point of view. Surely only the junk bits of popular culture are junk?

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