A Woman is Not Just Some Body
Try as I might I can’t shake the compulsion to rate women on Wayne Campbell’s stroke-ability scale.
Here I am, watching the all-girl alternative rock group Dream Wife and their super duper feminist track “Somebody” and liking what I’m hearing but unable to resist objectifying what I’m seeing. Recognizing this stirs disquiet in me. It also brings to mind the news of allegations against one-half of the queer-punk group PWR BTTM. This particular band has trafficked in positivity and acceptance in their lyrics and yet we hear troubling accusations that should be all-too familiar these days. Guitarist/vocalist Ben Hopkins is rumored to have forced himself on several people and in varying degrees of severity. If someone can appear to be a font of forward-thinking values and yet also be a creeper, then what about me?
Which brings me back to the beginning. Here I am, a reasonably progressive dude (I think) and I can’t override my lizard brain when looking at women even as I am admiring their intellect, talent and creativity. Yeah, thoughts are not criminal, actions are. But it’s still a jarring experience to think you’re one way, that you’re above such impulses and then realize that you are not immune to poisonous thought. That you are also culpable and capable of harm.
We as a society assume that sexual predators are just one type of guy. So, ff we start counting the different stereotypes of heterosexual men that are floating around in the zeitgeist, among the first you might come up with is some version of dude-bro knuckledragger and maybe another is a liberal arts major with an ironically old-fashioned wardrobe. We assume that one subset is comprised of utterly pussy-obsessed incorrigibles while the other is respectful and genteel. But come on, it’s not that simple.
If we get caught up in labels like those we gloss over the good and don’t recognize the bad until it’s too late. It’s my opinion that plague after plague of handsy rapers has less to do with archetypes and more to do with mindsets. It’s typically men who feel entitled who commit acts most heinous. These sorts of guys feel like they’ve “earned” something and so they try and take it. The same spark that might move someone to commit adultery is perhaps not so far removed from whatever it is that convinces some dudes that it’s okay to be grabby gorilla men. Now, don’t get it crooked, I’m not equating adultery to sexual assault. What I’m saying is that the notion that we all are prone to exists in both situations, “You know what? I deserve this.”
In the putting of the self before the consideration of others one can justify, in their own mind at least, just about anything. I’m no expert but I can’t help but wonder how much of this is environmental. Girls are told not to look like sluts and boys are told that sometimes girls play hard to get, that they gotta earn it. Not through emotional intimacy and patience but through gifts and insinuation. And lest we forget, the boys know what we’re communicating to the girls and vice-versa. Talk about some friggin’ weird input to take with you out into the big, wide world. When we tell our kids crazy stuff like that what are we expecting to happen? Is President Grab ’Em By the Pussy really such a shock anymore when you consider the kind of stuff adults teach children either on purpose or by accident? We’re basically showing them that males have the power and that’s just how it goes.
And so much emphasis is placed on sex as a subject by parents and so little on decency and respect. Either tell a kid to run from sex or run to it, but good grief don’t you dare tell them about what consent is. I could speculate for days about what got our culture into this mess but to tell you the truth, we might never know for sure but it’s certainly some kind of cocktail of culture and biology. The question we should be asking is, “Where do we go from here?”
Dream Wife has a pretty good idea that we could probably stand to learn from. In the aforementioned track, “Somebody”, (which is eerily evocative of the controversy swirling around PWR BTTM at the present) there appears the lyrics:
I am not my body
I am somebody
And there you go. Empathy’s the key. Bodies are not things, bodies are people. Be sure to pass it on to the kiddies.