Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Pavlovian Philosophy of Sex

Our dear friend Krissie posted a truly lovely article on Facebook yesterday, and I want to share it with you. It's quite long, but it's definitely worth reading to the end. Occasional skimming is acceptable if you deem it necessary--the important thing is the message.
I've come to realize something profound that I don't know if I've ever heard anybody actually say.
It is not the impossibly air brushed females on magazine covers who are causing women to hold themselves against a standard of perfection. No, it's not that at all. Holy crap. Why am I just realizing this? Why doesn't anybody seem to realize this?
It is the men that stop and look at those magazines.
And that simple, repeated act is how we constantly, and never-endingly declare to women that they are not good enough, and will never be good enough.
We stop, and we look.
And women notice.
This post is written with a pleasant freshness and honesty that will probably make you want to give the writer a hug at various points throughout; and, like it promises in the introduction, it presents some compelling arguments that will maybe make you examine your own life a little bit.

There was one particular paragraph that resonated with me more than the rest (which is not to say that the rest did not resonate). Please, it says.
Please. Let's stop ogling the very things that are causing this tragic mind game. Let's stop walking by the never-ending porn that surrounds us with our jaws dangling so carelessly. Let's stop salivating every time Pavlov rings his freaking bell.
It is the last sentence of this paragraph that strikes me, and I believe it makes a vital point: That essentially, we as a society have learned that the most important thing in life is sex.

In our feelings about sex, just like Pavlov's dogs, we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned. Women let themselves believe that desirability is the ultimate indication of worth. Men let themselves be taught that they are nothing but sex machines. Our society says we need to be sexy, so we try to be sexy. Society says something will make us sexy, so we try that thing. We'll even try to learn to have more confidence--not so we can stop worrying about something stupid, but because we've heard that confident people are sexy. This thinking, I'm sad to say, is truly warped.

The fact is that sex is a biological function. Its purpose is the propagation of species; it is a necessary and practical part of existence on this planet. Why, then, have we commercialized it, set it on a pedestal, and become obsessed with it?

We stress endlessly about the way we look; we spend thousands of dollars on makeup and workout systems and gym memberships and Spanx and liposuction and plastic surgery and lingerie and hairstyles and clothes. We know perfectly well that none of it means anything, but we do it anyway. We know already that none of those things will make a person healthy, that they are purely about appearance. But we buy them anyway, because more than almost anything else, we want to be desirable. We "know" that looks don't matter; we "know" it's what's inside that counts. We tell ourselves that we know these things--but time after time, our actions say otherwise. 

This is why I'm glad to have read this article, and why I have posted it here for you all to read. It's time for us to stop conditioning ourselves, and let Pavlov go find something else to do. It's time for us to remember what's important, and--for once--to actually act on our knowledge. 

And finally, finally--it's time to start ignoring the bells.


Laura said...

Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!

This is probably the best thing I've read all day. I'm sharing it on facebook.

fierygiraffe said...

I have to admit—I do not agree with this article.

Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m married to a truly good man, but I think it’s a little ridiculous to say that men make women feel worthless. Yes, it is disheartening to see my husband look at a scantily clad woman on a Vogue/Cosmo/Maxim cover, and it’s taken me a long time to accept that this action is not a personal affront to me, but you know what? I look too (and not just because I see him looking). He doesn’t look because he is fantasizing about that woman, or generating his idea of beauty from it. How do I know this? Because my husband thinks I’m beautiful. He thought I was beautiful when I was 50 pounds heavier than I am now. He thought I was more beautiful without the hair extensions I just had to get for our wedding, because I think my hair is too fine. He thinks I’m beautiful when I have no makeup on, when I’ve just woken up and have gnarly morning breath. And here’s the kicker—the majority of the time, I don’t believe him. It’s not because men have created a new, impossible standard of beauty. Maybe they have some of the blame, but ladies, it’s our fault too. We (me included) buy into this nonsense. Why else would we spend hours straightening/curling/dying our hair? Or buy beauty products? Or clothes that we want—not need? No, it’s not for our health, it’s so we can look good… and it’s not always men we are trying to look good for. We want to look good for other women. Is it competition? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s true. Hell, sometimes we just want to look good for ourselves. Is that a crime? I think not.

I believe that there are also scientific reasons behind why men (and women) stop and look at said magazine covers. I have seen many a documentary, and read many articles about our obsession with beauty. One suggestion is that because of an innate desire to procreate, we desire and seek attractiveness over unattractiveness. Beauty is often connected with fertility, and traits such as large lips, evenly spaced eyes, and general facial proportion are favored. In these experiments, even babies are more prone to look at an attractive subject rather than an unattractive one.

"[Men,] let’s stop ogling the very things that are causing this tragic mind game." Perhaps the problem is not men or women, but media. I think the day when TV shows such as TMZ, ET, Insider, and the like or magazines touting the same ideas are overlooked; the day when advertisers do away with air brushing and smoke screens and rely on sex to sell—this will be a joyous day. Until then, we, men and women included, need to make some decisions. And I don’t think we should force ourselves to abstain from looking at said images, or even convince ourselves that these images are pure fantasy because I think we already know that. We need to decide not to compare, covet, or confuse our minds with this garbage. We are who we are because God made us that way. And that is a beautiful thing.