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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jennifer Wilson's substantive views

For a moment, forget any allegations that Jennifer Wilson has made about Melinda Tankard Reist's religious background, etc., etc., and whether or not the latter has been evasive about it.

Wilson's substantive views, in opposition to those of Tankard Reist, are also worth considering and discussing, so let's pass some of them on for consideration and discussion:
While I don’t like seeing little girls dressed as sexy adults anymore than MTR, what concerns me is that in campaigning as she does against the “sexualisation” and “pornification” of women she’s preaching her religion’s belief that there is something inherently wrong with female sexual expression.

I am also suspicious of her conflation of girls and women, when the two situations are entirely different and should be treated as such. Exploiting the sexuality of children (and children are sexual beings) is a whole other matter from the so-called epidemic of “sexualisation” and “pornification” of adults. I would like to see a journalist question Tankard Reist on her persistent conflation of the two. I believe it is deliberate.

We are sexual beings. Many of us, male and female, like to express our sexuality. It’s a big part of our identity. The ways in which we’ve chosen to do this have varied according to the style of the time. The ways some of us choose to do it in 2012 are, I would argue, no more or less scandalous than at other periods of human history. Yet a new sexual dysfunction called “sexualization” has entered the social discourse, driven initially in this country by Tankard Reist. She then gathered around her a motley crew of radical feminists and middle class moralists who tacitly ignore their considerable differences in the interests of the greater goal of fighting the twin evils they claim are destroying our society: sexualization and pornification.

I am unaware how many of her supporters are religious, but I would argue that they have in common an inclination towards zealotry, and an ethic of purity, both of which are to be found in non believers.

Are Tankard Reist and her supporters in reality pathologizing all expressions of female sexuality? Genuine sexualization we may well get upset about, as a particular form of dehumanization, but are they using that word to obliterate the perfectly normal concept of female sexiness?

Does Tankard Reist believe that being sexy and feeling sexy is pathological behaviour outside of the marital bedchamber? And why does nobody ask her this question?

“Sexualization” and “pornification” are done to women, according to Reist. Women don’t choose to dress, work and play in ways that fit these pathological categories. They’ve been forced into them by men for male gratification. If you think you choose to wear high heels and a short skirt and learn pole dancing, you’re wrong. The patriarchy made you do it. If you think you like to show off your legs and breasts because it feels like sexy fun to do that, you didn’t make that choice, you know. You are actually so brainwashed that the whole concept of choice passed you by long ago. You are a victim.

If you want to look sexy because you’d like to have sex, if you earn your living as a sex worker or perform in porn, in short, if you express your sexuality in any way at all outside of marriage, you are dysfunctional, immoral or both.

Somebody needs to ask Tankard Reist just what she considers an acceptable public expression of female sexuality. I suspect the reality is, she doesn’t have one. For religious fundamentalists, there is no such thing. A woman must be modest and pure, but definitely not sexy and enjoying it.

What kind of a lesson is this to teach our girls about their sexuality?

Having thus far failed to take control of the sexy and eradicate it’s [sic] expression through the invocation of morality, defining it as a pathological disorder is the next step in the reactionary battle for control of female sexuality.
This is worth thinking about in its own right. And there's more! The post that Ms Tankard Reist took exception to has many interesting observations that are worth airing, considering, discussing, debating, etc. Even if you disagree with them, they are timely - and should not be suppressed in any way.

Edit: link corrected.

1 comment:

rubiginosa said...

Nice work Russell. It's great to see you and skepticlawyer focused on the substance of Wilson's post, and the law.