Final Concept Analysis: What’s Sex Got to Do With… Morality?

Throughout the run of this course we have touched on a multitude of concepts discussing sexuality and gender across the national and global communities. As we’ve discussed topic after topic, I’ve found that there is one key topic that I find ties all of the concepts together. They are all tied together through the policing of sexual and gender related norms. Across all lines of culture and community, sexuality is policed by a set of norms that often are enforced by moral discourse. This affects all aspects of sexuality, morality dictates what society holds as “normal” when it comes to the gender of one’s chosen partner, how many partners one has, where one chooses to be sexual, what age one chooses to become sexual, and even what sexual practices are considered sexual.

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Sex as a Moral Discourse

Do you feel like our society is becoming more comfortable about being sexual? Why? Why is it now okay to be more explicit on television? Is entertainment, popularity, or money more important than our morals? Or are we wrong? Who is it for you to makes someone’s morals for them?

In the article “Purity and pollution” by Nancy L. Fischer, she discusses sex as a moral discourse. She explains that older generations viewed specific sexual acts as immoral such as oral sex or masturbation. Today, it’s not based on what is being done but who is doing it that makes it sexually immoral. Now, society is more focus on identities rather than acts. It is okay for certain people to do certain sexual things than others just because of their identity. For example, we are more comfortable with Olivia Pope being sexual or TV but it would be considered immoral for Oprah Winfrey to be sexual on TV. You agree?

Warner states that “sexual morality is about controlling someone else’s sex life.” This plays a big part in our society now because we are so focused on what others are doing and always thinking of ways to control them. If someone doesn’t fit in “your” group because of their sexual morals, then they are most likely called names and often excluded from “your” group of friends because they don’t me certain standards. Who is the judge of those who are claimed to be sexually corrupted? Who labels others? I think we all play a part is labeling. We are draw to a group of people in which we are most similar or think have the same morals as we do. I am a strong Christian so I prefer to hang around other string Christians just because I feel comfortable that they are doing God’s works and not just talking about it. The morals of my group help define us, who are, and what we stand for. If no one fits in this category, we don’t necessarily exclude them but it would be difficult to see how they would “fit in.” For example, Christian like to save sex for marriage, therefore it would be hard to look at someone else as one of “us” if they are sleeping around with many people. So, we would try to control their sex life or it would be difficult to accept them. That’s just being honest.

I connected this to the “sex and power” article by Kristen Barber. Sex is a way of having power in many social groups. Being able to have sex with the most popular guys in school are “cool” to some people. Sex in that way is used as power. She gets praise from being able to do that, but only to her group.

The following link shows examples of slick scenes that are in Spongebob:

I never caught onto these jokes until I was about 15. That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to show to younger kids. There are more cartoons being showed where kids are being exposed too early to certain things. Cartoon Network used to be a cartoon channel that was censored for elementary school viewers. Have you viewed cartoon network today? Sometimes, adult swim is being showed. It is easier to find sexual acts on TV now a days.

Have you ever heard of the quote “live and let live”?

I feel like our society is busy living but not letting others live. We are quick to judge what we don’t thinks fits our own moral standards. Why is this true? When did we decide to make ourselves the ones who decide what’s right and what’s wrong? The funny thing is that there are so many rights and wrongs. This is when media needs to make the decision to stay neutral. We know it is not right to have explicit content being shown to younger kids. Our generation seems to not care so much about what is being shown on TV. I think a lot of it have to do with News channels. The reports are interviewing low educated people who get on camera and make a fool of themselves. Then social media makes some extreme edits to the interview to make it more entertaining. Why are the News channels doing this?

Why is society being more comfortable to being sexual? During the VMAs, was Miley Cyrus just trying to make a scene or make money? Why did she go from being a role model for younger kids off the Disney channel to being known as the white chick with no butt, trying to twerk on national television?

Sex and Education (Part 1)

We live in a contradictory culture. We are given sexual scripts and expected to follow them to the most minute detail. We fantasize the sexual experience in media and, at the same time, tell youth that they can only experience one form of it: heterosexual, vanilla, intraracial, and monogamous (for life). Given that the foundation of many sex ed programs is abstinence until marriage (which is being pushed ever farther off), too many people are woefully unprepared for their first sexual encounter. So how do we fix this?

The film Let’s Talk about Sex reiterates the point of the U.S.’s lacking sexual education system and its repercussions.  Our focus on abstinence and scare tactics has left us way behind other developed countries.  It is unacceptable for us to continue to have STI and teen pregnancy rates this high.  We need to move to a more holistic approach and cover all of the possibilities for teen health.  The new sexual education system should speak about all of the forms of sexual contact in an open and honest forum.  Furthermore, we need to ensure that our youth is informed and able to express their sexuality in a healthy way for themselves and others.  For example, they should know what abuse and use looks like.  Teenage vulnerability and insecurity combined with the idea of invincibility leaves the rest of us with a responsibility to protect them.  I do not mean keep youth from any and all sexual contact.  I mean protect, to the best of our ability, youth from unhealthy and/or abusive sexual contact.

For illustrative graphs:

Alongside the traditional sexual education classes in school systems, we need to expand our outreach and education attempts to include everyone.  Families need to take on the responsibility of educating their children and fostering an environment in which frank conversations can be had.  Religious groups need to expand beyond the “sex is sin” to, at the very least, an acknowledgement of the probability of ONE sexual encounter a teen will face.  It only takes one encounter to receive an STI and an unplanned pregnancy.  Furthermore, the sex is sin approach keeps teens from seeking out resources. This can be in terms of general information prior to an encounter or help with the consequence of unsafe sex.

The European Model from the film depicts some of the changes I think we need.  In it, children can talk to their parents about sex, even have sleepovers and contraception provided.  In most cases, this is as close to safe, healthy, and non-abusive sexual experiences that a teen could have.

Also, as a part of the sex ed system, myths surrounding sex need to be dispelled, especially those espoused through porn and media.  Similarly, the education should stress that information is based on the “average” and explain what that means.  For example, the average woman will not enjoy a cum-shot, however that is not to say that a woman is wrong for enjoying it.

A sub-topic that our culture likes to ignore is the age of first encounter.  The average age can fluctuate based on several variables, but the general consensus is that it is too young.  The current method of handling this is to simply act as though sex does not exist and refuse to even approach the topic with children.  We need to provide relevant information before it is needed.

Relatedly, we need to address the differences among minorities and how they are expressed. Minorities can have completely different societal expectations. Such as, the hypersexual vision of black men and the feminine/asexual vision of Asian men mentioned in various class discussions.

Along these lines, we need to start educating children about the array of options available to them; this includes alternate sexualities and forms of expressing it.  Through this education, children can become more accepting of these alternatives and possibly help resolve internal conflict for some.

Basically, everything comes down to the dissemination of accurate information.  Teens should be provided with the ability to practice safe sex, in every possible way.  Are there any downsides to creating an environment open to discussion?  What are the alternatives?  Are there any aspects that you deem important that I missed?  Who is ultimately responsible for educating America’s youth?  Can we make this cultural change?  Should morality even be a part of the discussion?

Purity, Pollution, and TRAP Laws

Morality: the principles discerning good behavior from bad, from what is right and wrong. For many, morality is centered around discourses in the church, within the family unit, or within other social institutions. Typically seen as a positive thing, shared moral values helps create a norm among a community, and allows it to run more efficiently (socially, at least). However, what happens when morality from individual to individual differs? When it comes to morality, particularly sexual morality, some groups of people get put on a pedestal, while others are shamed and humiliated for their sexual “deviances”. Recently, discourses of sexual morality have made their way into legislation and, subsequently, into the courtroom where debates over abortion and contraception, among other topics, have erupted. Continue reading

The Conversation Surrounding Amendment 1

Tennessee has become the next battleground in the war on women and their ability to access safe, legal abortions. In November, Tennessee voters will be asked to vote on Amendment 1, an attempt by Tennessee Right to Life to remove the “fundamental right to privacy” from Tennessee’s Constitution and to grant anti-choice, anti-abortion politicians unlimited authority to impose restrictions and regulations on abortion, including banning all abortions. Even in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or cases in which an abortion is necessary to protect a woman’s health, abortion can be banned if Amendment 1 passes this fall. The politicians and organizations behind this amendment have made it clear that they believe abortion should be made illegal in all cases.

Since summer, I’ve been working with the VoteNoOn1 campaign, a campaign with the mission to educate voters, get out the vote, and defeat Amendment 1. Working with this campaign has been interesting, and I’ve learned a lot. The most interesting aspect for me is the research they’ve conducted on voters and the most effective methods of reaching out, talking to, and educating voters. In a campaign, the way one contextualizes the debate is important, and campaigns use research in order to learn about voters and their values, with the ultimate goal of strategically framing the conversation and influencing voters’ opinions. I learned that in the Nashville area, it is important to frame the conversation around privacy issues, rather than declaring that a woman should have control and autonomy over her reproductive health. We get more support when we emphasize that Amendment 1 is about increased government intrusion in our medical decisions rather than about choice.

It’s obvious that Amendment 1, whether it passes or fails, has major legal implications for women, providers, and facilities that provide abortion. But what are the social implications? How is the way that this issue is framed, on both sides of the debate, affect our thinking and social consciousness? I want to reflect on three key terms that we’ve discussed in class—power, sexual agency, and cultural complacency­—for the remainder of this post.

Power comes into play in several ways in the Amendment 1 debate, as well as in the conversation about abortion in general. To begin, this debate is fundamentally about the power to control reproduction and women’s bodies. Outside the debate, on the larger, legal scale, it is assumed that lawmakers and health providers know what is best, and they become thought of as the ultimate decision makers and authorities on the issue. However, we as citizens have the power and the right to organize, campaign, and vote. So how have the two campaigns, the one for and the one against Amendment 1, negotiated their power within this debate?

The supporters of Amendment 1 focus their discourse on morality and “protecting” the rights and lives of the unborn and their mothers. This is a strategic power play by the Right to Life organization and by people on the conservative, anti-choice side to stigmatize women who seek abortions. Their campaign is one about moral corruption and creating the image of a sexually promiscuous and sinful baby killer. A discussion about sexual morality is a discussion intended to impose values and control someone else’s sexuality, and it is ultimately a reflection of power relations.

The VoteNoOn1 campaign, on the other hand, emphasizes the fundamental right to privacy. This amendment is about the power and right to make medical decisions and undergo medical procedures without the intrusion of the government and state. When I was phone banking for the VoteNoOn1 campaign, I was hesitant to actually use the word abortion even though that is the main focus of Amendment 1. I guess I knew that it was a term that triggers thoughts and opinions on morality, stigma, and power. The campaign knew that, too, and so rather than bring up those issues, the VoteNoOn1 campaign strategically encouraged us to talk about the right to privacy.

Within both campaigns, the conversations fail to address how power and power differences affect a woman’s sexuality and sense of self. What does it say that both sides of this debate on Amendment 1, at least for the most part, neglect the lived experiences of women? In leaving women’s experiences out, women are rendered invisible and are robbed of their power and sexual agency. Making this a conversation about morality and privacy rights says something about society’s perception of women and the social and legal limits imposed on female sexuality. The right to an abortion is also about the right to be a sexual agent, and this has been left out of the Amendment 1 debate. Women should have the right to medically accurate information, the ability to act on their own behalf, and the freedom to voice their concerns and experiences.

The lack of female narratives and experiences in this debate raises the issue of cultural complacency, a cultural dynamic whereby we go along with certain cultural agendas or societal norms, sometimes without even realizing it. By not highlighting women’s experiences and opinions, we subjugate their voices. Both campaigns, even though on different sides of the Amendment 1 debate, were inadvertently culturally complacent and sent subtle messages about female sexuality, mainly the message that women should be quiet and should leave decisions to someone else. Women’s silence, shame, and subjugation cannot be something that we are culturally complacent about, as it will never allow us to reach the root of the problem—patriarchy…which is a whole other conversation.