America needs a sex change, no doubt about it.
It might be a touchy subject – sex – but let’s talk about it.
There are people out there claiming to be feminists and mad about things not being fair for women in the workplace.
And there are people fighting for the legalization of gay marriage in Washington.
And then of course there are people in this country still bemoaning high divorce rates and certain presidential candidates claiming they will forestall pornography.
What is interesting, though, is the way so many Americans still assume sexuality is most often transgressive, needing to be marked off and limited or hidden or controlled. If religion assumes a moral force, sexuality is at best amoral, if not immoral. Sex crimes are often the worst crimes. Sexual deviance ruins a public figure’s career.
What I’m wondering is, when will Americans begin to see the political edge to sexuality and, rather than look for what is dangerous and wrong about it, begin to be more open about sexual possibility?
Rather than something society controls, why not let sex be something society embraces?
Now, that would be a sexual revolution.
Some might say our society is already too inundated with sex – because of the internet or because of marketing. And they would be enraged that I even bring up the issue.
But to that point, I recently found Gayle Rubin’s essays from the ’70s and ’80s useful and (maybe) enlightening.
Gayle Rubin is a cultural anthropologist and professor at the University of Michigan.
In her essays “The Traffic in Women” (1975) and “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” (1984), she argues that today in modern Western culture – if that can at all be said to remain intact – there is a hierarchy of sexuality that restricts our ability to imagine other (perhaps more healthy) sexual possibilities.
Namely, she has observed that married, monogamous, heterosexual persons are held in highest esteem. Unmarried, monogamous, heterosexual persons after that. The promiscuous, the adulterous, and the homosexual are somewhere in the middle; the transvestites and transsexuals are toward the bottom. And pedophiles and porn stars are the worst of the worst, the unclean, the unwanted. It is not unlike India’s caste system, in which certain people are arbitrarily treasured for being born into a higher caste and certain others are considered “untouchable.”
Deviant sexuality in America is treated like a disease needing to be treated and corrected, to be more in line with the established norm or ideal – married, monogamous heterosexuality.
Of course, Gayle Rubin isn’t so much arguing that this sexual hierarchy is necessarily wrong or misguided as she is simply pointing out the inconsistency when we permit people to talk about politics or religion without too much outrage. But then anyone who questions the assumed sexual hierarchy is received as would be a Communist in the early 1950s: Such a person is “misguided, unpatriotic, irreligious, and [more importantly] wrong.”
So obviously, I’m not saying either that the assumed sexual hierarchy today should be turned upon its head. That isn’t my place. I’d rather just bring the matter up as “food for thought” – open a discussion – let others think about it and suggest a re-evaluation.
I mean, consider: Is it not unfair that if a woman takes the sexual initiative, she (un?)naturally drops lower in society’s estimation and risks appearing a “loose woman?” Is it not a bit strange that LGBTQ community members are often forced by social inconvenience to flee to Manhattan’s Lower East Side or to Miami or to San Francisco? Is it not a bit hypocritical to show children films of war and genocide, but a film about sexual addiction (like Shame ) receives (un?)surprisingly an NC-17 rating?
Sexuality has been something controlled in America, complicit in certain people’s power plays. (The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel by Canadian Margaret Atwood from the mid-1980s, comes to mind as one particular outsider’s fearful speculation on where certain political habits might lead America in the future.) Why not instead free sexuality, open America up to greater compassion and inclusivity? Why not try a sex change?