Presentation on theme: "Sex, Gender & Representation. Lecture One Sexual Violence in Literature and The Arts."— Presentation transcript:
Sex, Gender & Representation. Lecture One Sexual Violence in Literature and The Arts.
Why are we interested in Representation? Debates around representation are central to feminist theory. For an analysis of the experiences of those who are represented. For an analysis of power relations. For an analysis of ascribed and elected identities. For an examination of the ways that some representations of women are said to cause, or legitimise, sexual violence.
Second-wave Feminism and the Representation debate. Power. Discourse. Image. Text. Talk. Ideological. Image of ideal woman. Perpetuates gender difference. Perpetuates inequality. Permeates consciousness. Has material affects.
Kate Millet. Sexual Politics. (1971) One of the first examples of serious feminist literary criticism. Millet looks at representations of Women in the novel. Men and women are socialised into basic patriarchal values & certain kind of 'sexual politics' through particular kinds of representation. Women inferiorised in patriarchal discourse.
Good Girls & Bad Girls. Good Girls - Wife, mother. Subservient, Compliant. Docile. Domesticated. Virtuous. Sexy and Attractive. Available (to partner). Bad girls- Single, independent, Belligerent. Unruly. Outspoken/ aggressive. Sluttish. Immoral. Overtly Sexual Available (to anyone).
Good Girls & Bad Girls. These are binary opposites, where are the women that fall in-between these two polar extremes? Feminist research shows that patriarchal discourse is saturated with these concepts. See Sue Lees research on girls and Schooling, and her research on the impact of these stereotypes on the perceptions of police and judges involved in Rape trials. Common attitude is that some women are asking for it.
Meaning and Representation. Do representations of women objectify them? Does this objectification cause violence? According to many feminists, Yes! Women are reduced to a collection of parts. Certain kinds of representation are a form of violence in themselves. Andrea Dworkin on Norman Mailer.
Ambivalence and Representation. Subtle shifts in signification and interpretation. Representation is fluid. Time, space and place affect meaning. Boundaries between good & bad are often arbitrary. Different rules for men and women. Penalties for transgression.
The Policing of Womens Sexuality and behaviour. Womens sexuality and behaviour is policed through representation and discourse. Sue Lees (1989). Slags & Drags. Both have negative connotations so women cant win. There are often severe penalties for minor infractions of rules around sexuality and behaviour. Rules are shifting, social meanings are not fixed, different contexts require different behaviour. Women must learn a subtle and complex systems of rules and conventions. The moral virtue of women is continually under scrutiny.
Other issues in the representation debate. Do we internalise these images? Are we passive or active consumers of texts? Ambiguity of texts.One meaning or many? Texts are polysemic they have many meanings. Relationship between author and reader? Intended and received meanings. Intertextuality. Questions around effects (Pornography debate).
What about self-representation? Resistance- the feminist movement. Limited due to dominant ideology of patriarchy. Lees (1997) Women have no language to draw on to discuss their sexuality. Fine (1988) The missing discourse of desire. Is this equally true across space and time?
Objectification When we talk about objectifying we are normally referring to the habit of looking at other people as though they were things.
Sexual objectification. The fetishistic act of regarding a person as an object for erotic purposes.fetishisticregarding a person as an objecterotic Sexual fetishism, first described by Sigmund Freud.Sigmund Freud Where the object of affection is a specific inanimate object or a part of a person's body. Fetishism, the general concept of an object having supernatural powers. (Durkheim and Mauss- Primitive Classifications: Marx-Commodity fetishism: Deleuze and Guattari- Miraculated objects) Feminists interested in non-consensual sexual objectification of women.
Objectifying Women Do men objectify women? Women as a collection of breasts, bottom, hair, legs, feet, etc. Emphasis on youth, beauty, perfection. Woman, as perfect object, may trade her self-object for those objects that she desires. Sanctions for those who refuse to be objectified. Womens bodies are objectified in common ways. In advertising, art, literature and digital media. Womens being associated with her body parts. Feminist argument- Women reduced to a collection of fragmented parts. Men are observers or voyeurs of female embodiment. Women often depicted with no heads, faces or with mouths closed. Mouths open for sexual provocation. Subtle siginifications behind these images.
Objectifying Men Is there an increasing objectification of men? Women objectifying men- discarding individuality in favour of factors such as social position, income, and physical appearance. Machismo and sensitivity. Media representations of male bodies- chest, thighs, biceps. Men objectify other men. Homo-erotic representation? The perfect male physique. Modern ads draw on male body to sell products.
Subjects and Objects Subject-object problem arises out of the metaphysics of Hegel.metaphysicsHegel Hegel's metaphysics distinguishes between subjects (observers) and objects (what is observed). Subjects- active, internal, social participants, gifted with cognition and will.cognitionwill Objects- passive, external, acted upon. The concept of the subject implies agency, action and authorship. Paradox- being a subject can also imply subjection, weakness and being dominated
The Objectification of the world around us. Objectification is an important part of how we relate to the world. we objectify the whole universe and everything in it in order to understand and control it Self as separate from the universe.
Women and self-objectification. Do women objectify themselves and each other? Feminists would claim that this is because of the dominant patriarchal discourse that compels women to view themselves in these terms. This suggests that power relations are confined to male/ female oppositions.
Sexuality and objectification. Sexuality just one more area where processes and practices of objectification take place. Alan Goldman- sexual acts inevitably involve the manipulation of ones partner for ones own pleasure. Sex involves using an other for ones own personal satisfaction. Sex is an intrinsically selfish act. We all objectify each other when it comes to sex.
Does objectification solves the problem of selfishness in sex. Goldman says yes. If we all allow ourselves to become sexual objects for the purposes of our partners pleasure then this reduces the selfishness of our own individual sexual nature.
Some Questions to reflect on. Is the pornographic, objectifying representation of the opposite sex really any different from what happens between the sheets? Is the objectification of men acceptable in order to redress power imbalances? What happens when we objectify each other during consensual sex? Does objectification denigrate women and lead to sexual violence? Do women represent their own, and other womens sexuality in non- objectifying ways? Will alternative forms of representation really change the status of women in society?
Sexual Behaviour. Consent, Choice and Coercion. Questions around sexual activity, of a violent or pseudo-violent nature, between consenting adults. Do Sadistic or masochistic sexual practices cause rape or other forms of sexual violence? (Evidence suggests not). Are these forms of sexual activity are more objectifying and degrading to women than men. Are these forms of asexual behaviour are morally acceptable? Should society be policing individuals sexual conduct anyway?
Moral Agency. Moral Agents are: Those actors who are expected to meet the demands of morality. Not all agents are moral agents. Children and animals although capable of performing actions cannot automatically be considered as moral agents. To be a moral agent one must be capable of conforming to some of the demands of morality. Blackwell Companion to Philosophy.
Moral Agency This raises an important question. Can we expect someone who is mentally ill to take responsibility for their own actions? The area of human sexuality is fraught with moral debates, indeed the legal machinery itself depends on moral judgements.
Epistemological relativism The idea that all of our judgements about truth and morality are situated, that is situated in our own cultural history and our own specific value systems. We cannot force our ideas about truth and morality on other cultures or individuals. Knowledges and belief systems are local, not universal. Trying to universalise rules around social behaviour is a form of oppression.
What are the implications of this for questions around sexual violence? How can we make any judgements about human action and behaviour if all local knowledges should be equally privileged? What is to stop a group engaged in the abuse of children claiming rights to continue their practices on the basis of a relativist argument? Example genital mutilation in some cultures.
Marquis De Sade 1740-1814 The novel The 120 Days of Sodom, (1785) catalogs a wide variety of horrific sexual perversions performed on a group of enslaved teenagers Manuscript lost during the storming of the Bastille not published until 1904.The 120 Days of Sodom1904 The novel Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795) culminates in the rape and mutilation of the female characters mother.Philosophy in the Bedroom In The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography (1979), Angela Carter provides a feminist reading of Sade, seeing him as a "moral pornographer" who creates spaces for women. By contrast, Andrea Dworkin saw Sade as the exemplary woman-hating pornographer, supporting her theory that pornography inevitably leads to violence against women. Angela Carter Andrea Dworkin
Leopold Von Sacher Masoch (1836- 1895) This novel tells of a man, Serverin von Kusiemski, so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he requests to be treated as her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways.slave The relationship arrives at a crisis point when Wanda herself meets a man to whom she would like to submit. At the end of the book, Severin, humiliated by Wanda's new lover, ceases to desire to submit, stating that men should dominate women until the time when women are equal to men in education and rights This ending can be viewed as both misogynist and feminist.misogynistfeminist
Sadism, masochism, contract, consent, choice and coercion. Terms and Concepts. Sadism- The deriving of sexual gratification or the tendency to derive sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others. Masochism- the deriving of sexual gratification, or the tendency to derive sexual gratification, from being physically or emotionally abused humiliated or mistreated, either by another or by oneself. It can also be defined as a willingness or tendency to subject oneself to unpleasant or trying experiences. Gilles Deleuze (2004). It is highly unusual to find one individual who is into both Sadism and Masochism. Comparing the work of Sade with Masoch, one is struck by the impossibility of any encounter between a Sadist and a masochist. Their milieus, their rituals are entirely different; there is nothing complementary about their demands. (Deleuze 2004: 126).
S & M Sado-masochism is the combination of sadism and masochism. The deriving of pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting or submitting to physical or emotional abuse. Sandra Lee Bartky- the Eroticization of relations of domination and submission. Feminist critiques of SM. SM is a form of sexual violence it can also cause sexual violence. Many feminists suggest that patriarchal sexual relations require women to be submissive and weak and that SM practices are an extension of this with male power becoming erotically charged. SM an expression of a women hating culture (Bartky 1997: 48).
Some liberal perspectives Feminist and Lesbian SM. Sexual liberalists and some Feminist and Lesbian SMers disagree. But SM aficionados point out that much of the violence is theatre. SM between two consenting partners is liberatory- gender play; trust; pure form of sex; uses whole body; defended on the grounds of sexual freedom. Feminist condemnation of SM is sexually repressive and that to stigmatise those who enjoy SM is to play into the hands of the political right.
Issues of consent and Contract in SM practices. To engage in SM, one must engage in a contractual relationship. Sacher –Masoch (Who gives his name to masochism) required female partners to sign a contract with precise clauses (Deleuze 2004). To enter into a contract is to agree to its conditions. Issues of trust are paramount.
Choice and Coercion. SM is a matter of personal choice and individual freedom. Should the state legislate against private sexual preferences and practices? Paternalistic state has legislated against homosexuality and anal sex. Norms and values change over time. Is individual freedom an appropriate basis for sexual morality? The harm principle John Stuart Mill. The example of sadism and self-control. Should all of our rights be curbed because of a few individuals? How do we protect those who are unable to choose? Might individuals be coerced into participating in these practices due to wider discourses around sexuality and marital duty? Non-consensual sex between partners. Marital Rape.