Societal Blindness

Society, these days, is striated by a plethora of expectations and generalizations that are constructed through a process of following norms. Not bringing light to issues that are often overlooked further perpetuates this cycle and creates room for these stereotypes to grow in the future. This week, the readings were on a subject that is not often discussed and this is the rape of men.

When I hear the term rape, I naturally think about a woman being the victim and a man being the perpetrator. I think about different programs and educational campaigns outlining the risks of rape and tips for women to keep safe. When I leave home whenever I visit Los Angeles and my mom tells me to be careful, I immediately relate danger to potential gang activity during which I may be in the wrong place at the wrong time or even being in a car accident. In fact, if my father were to give me pepper spray to keep on me, I can’t say that I would not be offended. Walking down a dark street perhaps after a party, if I were to be behind a girl walking alone, I would make sure not to walk too close so she doesn’t feel I am following her because I know there are many women that would be bothered by a strange male walking behind them. All of these, I admit, are ways in which I think that have been influenced by societal norms.

In “Effects of Rape on Men: A Descriptive Analysis,” Walker and colleagues state “it is estimated that the help and support for male victims of rape is more than 20 years behind that of female victims.” This, to me, is because due to two things. For one, a man getting raped is not something that is expected, or rather a woman is seen as a more likely victim. On the other hand, a male victim is likely viewed as more able to cope with the psychological trauma of such an invasion.

It all comes down to the ideas of masculinity and femininity. The vulnerable and helpless qualities that are close-mindedly yet habitually attributed to women make it seem as though they would be the more likely victims. In addition to this, the overly masculinized image of a man has created almost a set of laws, governing what can and cannot be done to and by males that wish to call themselves masculine. In fact, sixty-eight percent of the participants in the Walker et al. study reported having problems with their sense of masculinity after the assault. One participant quoted “the assault was a threat to my male pride and dignity. It was a shock to find that a so-called ‘strong man’ could become a helpless victim of sexual assault at the hands of another man. My sense of who I was (ex-army) was destroyed for about 10 years.”

In general, we limit ourselves by allowing our opinions to interfere with our awareness. Personal feelings are no match for the prevalence of violence and discrimination across America and more.

Sex and Abortion Go Hand In Hand

It is likely that the early 70s was a confusing time for those interested in abortion. Last time I mentioned in my blog that, with the 1973 court case Roe v. Wade setting the political forecast, abortion was likely at the forefront of discussion topics. In this fashion, abortion was probably a touchy subject. Not for the usual reason of being something that is not accepted widely, but instead maybe because the sudden rise in advertisements for abortion could have made it awkward. I mean, to go from something not spoken about to something you can’t get away from…there has to be some element of societal shock there somewhere.

Is it possible that this sudden influx of pro-abortion advertisement lead to a societal oversaturation of all things abortion? This week in a 1973 Emory Wheel, there was an abundance of abortion ads and blurbs. In fact, on one page in particular, there were four abortion ads, three of which were nestled right by one another. This time period was different from today in many ways. For one, abortion was just on the rise to social and public acceptance. Abortion was still a young idea and something fresh on the political picnic table. In addition, abortion was publicly and heavily advertised. Although the only evidence of these assumptions are the numerous Emory Wheel ads, the fact that a college publication was speaking so loosely about something as serious as abortion is strong enough to stand alone.

As if these ads broadcasting statements like “Pregnancy Isn’t Always Beautiful,” aren’t enough to raise an eyebrow, adding to the confusion are the sexualized ads in the Emory Wheel. A full spread was dedicated to the Derby Day festivities. Said to be a philanthropic event for an on-campus fraternity, this event was seen as a “rite of passage” for many women. “Derbie Day is a lot like that airline commercial where a sexy stewardess says ‘I’m Debbie, fly me’…Officially what Derby Day is about is spirit, but if you want to get a real message, think about Debbie.” Seeing as though this advertisement was in the same publication as the plethora of abortion ads, it is safe to say that sex was prevalent, and not far behind was a semblance of a celebration of abortion. Readers of the Wheel were likely old enough to be beyond the birds and the bees conversation so the editors had to be aware of the fact that they were publicizing the action that lead to the need for abortions…and viewers could see this. All this is to say that it is interesting to observe, in this era of the 70s,  how publicly accepted abortion was and at the same time how prevalent sex was just like it is in current times.

Today, abortion has receded into the shell of societal distress and politics. It has returned to a state that seemingly mimics what the conditions may have been like before abortion was completely legal and advertised in college newspapers. Yet sex continues to sell. So what has changed? What has happened that has forced the conversation of abortion into the shadows while keeping sex at the tip of society’s tongue? Even more concerning, is the question of what we do now that people four decades down the line will look at and tilt their heads to the side.

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Casual Abortion

Abortion has been a topic before and is difficult to avoid in a course like this. Typically, you see the opposing sides battling it out, the “Pro-Choicers” accusing the “Pro-Lifers” of disregarding the rights of the woman and the “Pro-Lifers” rebounding with considering the “Pro-Choicers” to be neglecting a life. Something less seen, however, are advertisements for abortion, strictly outlining details from the clinics hours of operation all the way down to prices according to length of pregnancy. Well, apparently, the Emory Wheel in the early seventies was not afraid to share these details.

This could be  a result of the political forecast at that time. One of the most famous court cases in recent American history, Roe v. Wade concluded that a person has the right to an abortion. The main stipulation regarding this decision was that the abortion could only take place before the point of viability, defining viable as being able to survive outside of the mother’s womb. This 1973 case was one of the largest rulings on the topic of abortion. It is understandable, then, how the way in which people within society spoke about abortion began to shift and evolve.

The ad in the Emory Wheel for T.L.C Abortion stated “Abortion is legal; Abortion is the right of women, DON’T WAIT…ACT NOW.” Clearly this seems to be a response fueled by the relief of the Roe v. Wade ruling. However, with such a blatant advertisement, its hard to ignore the fact that these people have been waiting for a while for the opportunity to broadcast this message. What, then, was the environment like before the ruling? If there were organizations and groups with these views just waiting to seize the chance, the social tension had to be nearly tangible.

But wait, in 1971, there was an even more seemingly controversial ad in the Emory Wheel. Wickersham Women’s Medical Center in October of 1971 listed the prices for an abortion according to how many weeks into term the woman was. It is 2012 and I did not even know how much an abortion would cost today. Yet , in 1971, here in the newspaper is a list outlining it as clear as day…and this is two years before the Roe v. Wade ruling

There were multiple organizations and groups in this era advertising and supporting abortion. The next page over from the Wickersham price list held a small box titled “Pregnant? Need Help?.” Surely this is an adoption agency suggesting that there is always a home for a child that a mother may not feel adequate to raise, right? Nope. According to this ad, “an early abortion is more simple and less costly, and can be performed on an out patient basis.” So why wait?

Perhaps the abortion discussion of previous decades has been underrated. Here we are today, still fighting over the matter and still speaking about it carefully. Yet in the seventies, you could check the price for an abortion at the same time you see where the best denim sales are.

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The Right to Know

Judith Levine, in the chapter entitled “Community: Risk, Identity, and Love in the Age of AIDS,” introduced the concepts of sexual health, identity, and love and how they are impacted by the prevalence of AIDS and varying levels of AIDS education.  A main problem according to Levine, among many others, is considering sex to not be so harmful to minors. Many people are not comfortable with saying that sex is not a dangerous thing for minors to learn about and experience. In a previous blog, I explored the fact that many children are seemingly hidden from the idea of sex so as to avoid the many problems potentially associated with it. However, this type of fear and avoidance creates two paradigms of exacerbation in regards to the deficiency of societal sexual health.

On the one hand, we have the children that are told not to have sex, whether for religious reasons or other personal reasons, who actually abide by these sheltering restrictions. As a result, it is possible that these children will gain no type  of understanding or sex education. In a society where sex is the general undertone of much of the media and popular culture, lacking sexual education creates a layer of vulnerability. Not that sex is the general basis of life, but in a way, not knowing about sex when it is so prominent places children at a particular social disadvantage. On a more serious note, if a child is to eventually engage in sexual activity, lacking sexual education likely means lacking an understanding of safe sex. So the protective barriers that were established to prevent the child from dealing with sex could in turn put them at a greater risk if they were to break these rules later down the line.

In somewhat of the same fashion, there are then the children that see the rules regarding sex, know the rules, and chose to break the rules. This is one of the outlined risks of college students that decide to experiment and take more risks once they arrive to college and experience independence for the first time. In the act of exploration and rebellion, these individuals likely take risks that would otherwise have been avoided had they not had the same thirst for sex.

This may seem like a very radical approach. The point is not to say that all adolescents that are withheld from sex and sexual education will eventually get pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease or infection. Rather the idea is that educating young adolescents about sex will likely lead to higher usage rates of protection and more effective decision making skills in regards to sex. Afterall, people tend to make healthier decisions regarding pleasure when the risks are known as well.

“But what about AIDS?” Levine notes this as being the main question asked once the notion of sex not being harmful to minors is introduced. Yet is this not even more reason to educate children and adolescents about sex. With the prevalence of AIDS and other STDs remaining steady if not increasing, the answer is seemingly not to withhold information, but to encourage understanding. Education is not synonymous with intercourse, but potentially is reason for better decision-making. Why prevent young individuals from being aware?

Contraceptive Manipulation

Contraception is perhaps one of those things that just will never be fully accepted nor refuted. It is something that seems to always attract controversy no matter the arena in which it is introduced. In addition, abortion is even more inflammatory, creating teams that slander one another in the hopes of attracting the most supporters. The “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” teams often create suggestive language implying the inferiority of the opposing team. Wendy Simonds in “From Contraception to Abortion: A Moral Continuum” summarized this in the statement “Anti-abortionists call themselves ‘pro-life,’ and refer to their enemies as ‘pro abortion,’ whereas those who support abortion rights counter with ‘pro-choice’ and refer to their opponents as ‘anti-choice,’ or more simply, as ‘antis’.” This type of suggestive language not only creates tension within society and awkwardness when discussing the subject matter, but it also places a particular pressure on women.

In a previous blog, I referred to the killings that took place at the Pensacola Abortion Clinic. John Bayard Britton was a 70 year-old doctor murdered in cold blood by “Pro-life” advocates.  The reason for his murder was the simple fact that he practiced abortion procedures. He was the replacement of the first victim, Dr. Dunn, and Britton practiced these procedures after witnessing the poverty and health problems that often lead to women needing abortions. Often times, the need for an abortion is not the direct result of the woman’s voluntary actions. Yet with there being murders of doctors practicing abortions and “Pro-Life” advocates derogatorily considering abortion right supporters “Pro-Abortion,” where is the choice in that?

A 1989 entry in the Emory Wheel introduced a new paradigm of this issue; religion. Sex is something that, these days, is hard to avoid. It is in the media, it is among our friends, and, as seen by this course, it is even in our schools. Therefore, as Lyle Anderson Caldwell put it, the “S” word is not something that we should be squeamish to say or discuss. Additionally, this article spoke about the religious obligations that forbade abortion and even offered medical financial assistance, yet should something have gone wrong, like a miscarriage, the woman was left alone in the aftermath of pro-life hypnotism.

As Caldwell put it, “there is no easy solution to the issue of abortion that is dividing our country.” This was true in 1989 and remains true today. The fact of the matter is, this is something that needs to be left to the mercy of perception and individual opinion. Killing in the name of life and religion in the name or persuasion are two roads that will exacerbate the current mayhem.  Not to say that either side is right or wrong because I will leave my pro-choice opinion out of it, yet it is not and never will be fair to force somebody else to do something in the name of your personal beliefs.

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Not So Shy Anymore

Society today has a habit of scrutinizing sex and attempting to operationalize an act that to many, has different determining factors. This week’s in-class discussion regarding hook-ups and bootycalls simply serves as one example of the varying ways to interpret sexual acts while taking into account the context in which these acts take place. Kathleen A. Bogle in “Hooking Up: Men, Women, and the Sexual Double Standard” conducted interviews with college students on multiple subjects including the difference between certain sexual actions like, for example, a bootycall and a hook up. According to her findings “a bootycall is a late night phone call placed, often via cell phone, to an earlier hookup partner, inviting him or her over for another hookup encounter.” With terms like this circulating throughout the societal word bank, I cannot help but wonder what it was like back in the day. Were the Emory students of the 1950s and 1960s, or even the 1990s, going to parties in search of a hookup and potential bootycall, according to Bogle’s definition? If so, were they calling it this? The prevalence of sex in society of these time periods is something I have wondered about before.

What better place to seek clues regarding how sexual society was than the health services section of the yearbook? This section outlining the different services that the Emory clinic offers often implies something. For example, many health services excerpts one would encounter today would likely include something about contraceptives and ways to avoid a plethora of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. In addition, I would not be surprised to read about forms of birth control that are available or even simply something about how condoms can prevent unwanted pregnancy. Yet, even in 1999, the Health Services section of the yearbook simply mentioned HIV testing. Not to say that I would expect the Health Services portion today to seem like a brochure from Planned Parenthood, but rather that in current times, certain sources of health services would likely mention more about health issues related to sex. My hypothesis is that this is because we are more comfortable talking about sex (or hookups or bootycalls or whatever you may what to call it) today that people were in the past.

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, the fact that we are accepting sex can positively contribute to a “Sex-Positive Society,” as Elroi J. Windsor and Elizabeth O. Burgess would put it. Yet on the other hand, this acceptance has lead to a highly sexualized society in which sex is seen as more than just an action, but a tool; a way of persuasion and manipulation. In the media, sex sells. It is the carpool lane on a freeway packed with vehicles of politics, the economy, and religion. It is, perhaps, a universal language. But the fact of the matter still remains, sex, today, seems to be more widely discussed than in past times. This is reflected in ways ranging from pop culture to the way in which healthcare is pitched.


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The Right to an Opinion

Though this course is mainly structured around the past and issues associated with the way in which tabooed topics were handled in older eras, there are many areas of discussion that remain to be controversial today. One of these topics is definitely abortion and the issues regarding birth control and reproduction. Some are “Pro-Life” and some are “Pro-Choice,” yet the fact of the matter is, society has not come to a consensus regarding abortion and I doubt we ever will.

When considering abortion and the basis on which many individuals form their opinions regarding the matter, it is safe to say that such discussions could get heated. Yelling at the person on the other side of the classroom, however, is not as extreme as murder. I was surprised to read that in the early 90s, there were deliberate murders of medical practitioners working at the Pensacola Abortion Clinic. Seventy year-old Dr. John Bayard Britton was murdered for working at the abortion clinic and turned out to actually be the best friend of a father of an Emory student. Dr. Britton was sadly the replacement for Dr. Dunn who was the first victim of these biased vigilante murders. So, “Pro-Life” advocates were killing in the name of living….confusing isn’t it? What doesn’t make sense is just how an individual can interpret these actions as anything other than completely unjust. First of all, killing one doctor likely would not stop other doctors from fulfilling their obligations. Second, how can you kill in order to support your platform of life? From any angle, its not a good look. Lastly, the way that these advocates were strongly force-feeding the public their personal views regarding abortion was hypocritical. Considering the fact that these advocates were in part fighting against the societal pressures urging women to consider the option of abortion, it would be interesting to see how these advocates would feel if “Pro-Choice” murderous vigilantes went around killing people that were anti-abortion. Not that I would suggest this, but I’m just saying.

Such occurrences make you think of just how women planning to get an abortion, or even just those open to the option, may feel. A “Voices of Emory” section from March of 1995 collected answers from students regarding this exact question. Most say that the violence at these health clinics will have an impact on women’s choices about abortion. Sadly, the decisions that a woman makes about her own health are influenced by the extremist actions of complete strangers. This seems to be the overlaying theme of the situation. This includes males too. In the article titled “Reproductive Rights Apply to Both Sexes,” from September of 1989, there was a situation in which a husband and wife divorced, and yet after the fact, the wife decided to carry to term embryos that were frozen before the divorce. The custody of these embryos was granted to the wife and the husband was forced to be a father.

Reproduction is not completely up to the individual anymore. These days, politics, religion, and culture influence the way in which humans feel about their right and/or ability to reproduce. Sadly, this is a situation that is too hot to handle. The perspectives on either side are far too stubborn to expect there to be any type of happy medium. In my opinion, peoples’ personal opinion should remain just that…personal. It is not fair to force how you may feel onto another person simply because you feel you can.

What We Know About What We Want

It is interesting to look at the study of sexual desire. One may ask just how you measure a person’s yearning for sex but at the same time, don’t we always try to quantify behavior? In particular, this question gets messy when taking into account not just how much a person may desire but what a person may desire. From heterosexuality to homosexuality to bisexuality to asexuality, there are a plethora of choices when it comes to sexual preference.

In particular, asexuality seems to be a tabooed topic in our society. And by tabooed, I suppose I mean misunderstood. Nicole Prause and Cynthia A. Graham listed advantages and disadvantages of asexuality according to their study. This provokes thought regarding just how society and different populations of society may view individual sexual preferences and the advantages and disadvantages presumably associated with each. It is interesting to note the variation of these opinions that would rise across different cultures, lifestyles, and levels of understanding.

In addition to the opinions regarding sexuality and the levels of understanding an individual may possess, time also plays a role. Looking back on the understanding we have already gained regarding the environment of Emory in the old days, it is safe to assert that sex was not an openly discussed topic. This raises the question of whether people really did not desire sex as much back then or was the desire the same but the social acceptance different. In this case, perhaps there were advantages to asexuality. As seen in the “Schools Out: Asexy Teens” piece, family and sex do not mix. It’s just not right. I’m not sure I want to think about a breastfeeding mother at the same time I am watching the Victoria Secret fashion show. Now this is a little extreme, but the point remains the same. Perhaps in these times back in the day, the focus was more on family. Just like water and oil, there can’t be a smooth mix of priority in terms of sex and family.

Whatever the case for the older times, the here and now shows that sex is a big deal. Although not thoroughly understood, sexual desire and preference seems to be an undertone of our society.

One Sexual Society

Sex has been proven to be a particularly strong tool in society. The extent to which sex impacts the individual, however, is something that may not be as clearly understood as people may think. In “Sexual Desire and Gender” written by Pepper Schwartz and Virginia E. Rutter, the notion of sexuality being an individualistic trait was raised.

In society, sexuality is something that is typically used to group people together. It is a label that makes things easier to understand. Imagine a world where if somebody were asked their sexuality, the response would be a long list of personal preferences and a resulting answer on a scale of one to ten. Lady Gaga would love a world like this, yet imagine the challenges that would be posed to the gender norms that we have all subconsciously adopted throughout life. For simplicity, lets just say that society would be a bit more complicated.

When I think about the notion of sexuality being individually defined, it is interesting to note the differences that there would be in politics. In the current political election, the notion of gay marriage would be a bit different. In “Sexuality in Marriage, Dating and Other Relationships” by F. Scott Christopher and Susan Sprecher, gay marriage was discussed and the social factors that are involved. In the other readings on gay marriage as well, there was a general acceptance of the notion that gay marriage is not widely accepted. In a society where sexuality was determined on a personal basis, marriage would be interpreted differently as well right? It would seem so since gay marriage is as taboo of a subject as is the rising number of different sexual identities.

Yet what is true about our society is the fact that gender brings with it a list of expectations regarding sexuality. As a male, it is funny to read about the expectations and mental processes that “men” experience. The idea that men have this fast twitch sexual drive while women have a more sustained desire is one that I’m sure we have all heard before. The belief that an orgasm is more difficult to reach for women than men is, in addition to unfortunate, thought provoking when bringing in to the picture the idea that sexuality is individually defined. If sexuality really is tailor made, then what role do the gender norms play?

A world without sexuality expectations and preconceived notions regarding gender and sex would be a very different world indeed. The example of politics becomes even more relevant. Although we often do not consider sex to be a huge factor in politics, it is crazy to think of just how much of a role sex plays in the way our country is run. Besides the easy to digest commercial world where sex sells, tougher topics such as marriage are actually the ones that define candidates in the eyes of citizens. All that is to say that if sexuality really was individualistic, things would be more complicated maybe, but there would be a lot more time to talk about more important things.

Sexuality, Founded 1836

In today’s society, there are so many conversations regarding sexuality that it becomes easy to believe that this topic is one more closely associated with current generations. However, the accounts of Yun Ch’i-ho prove otherwise. Sexuality as it relates to race, culture, and social status brought on a particular level of concern and distress in his time here in the United States. It is known that race has historically been a characteristic to bring about particular societal influence and treatment. However, in the context of Yun’s experiences, race interacted with class and sexuality and brought about a cocktail of concern regarding whether Yun would find the love he desired and to what extent the scrutiny of his actions would impact his life.

In one experience, Yun notes that a student was expelled as punishment for being caught in Covington in bed with a black woman. Yun quoted “I don’t think he is any worse than many other dandies whose immaculate shirts and patent leather shoes make them look like gentlemen while their corruption out-heathens a heathen.” In other words, this boy, according to Yun, was punished more for being caught in bed with a black woman than other individuals with wrongdoings in their past simply because, well, apparently the act of sex in this context was seen as a greater misdeed. It is difficult to decode this situation because at one hand it seems as though it is the act of sex with a paid sex-worker that brought down the student, and yet the relevance of the race of the woman is just too large of a factor to ignore. In these times, being a black paid sex-worker was likely worse than being a white sex-worker.

This underlying theme of lust was also intertwined with love in Yun’s accounts. There seemed to be a particular insecurity on Yun’s behalf in multiple situations but in particular when Nettie Candler made the joke regarding Yun’s time at Oxford and the possibility, or lack thereof, of Yun finding a women; a white woman. Yun hastily interpreted the joke as a humiliating insult suggesting that no white woman would want Yun. It will never be clearly understood as to what way Candler meant the joke to be heard, yet what is clear is how Yun heard it and therefore the mental processes behind his thought. This relates to current times in the sense that societal generalizations are still internalized by populations of the public. For example, how many times do black men go into interviews already believing they won’t get the job? Perhaps these insecurities are what lead to the downfall of Yun’s relationship with Miss Tommie. Whatever the case, these times clearly brought about particular discomfort surrounding the sexuality of a “racial outlier.”

Yun’s quoted in his diary entry of September 10, 1891 “I don’t like using the phrase ‘come over and help us’.” This seemingly suggested a particular acceptance of the conditions as they were in the hopes of their gradual improvement. Yet with situations like that of Kitty’s cottage in which the construction of a single cottage for a freed slave can split a church, there is no wonder why it has taken so many years for conditions to still be in the process of improvement.