Sunday, September 9, 2007

Whose sexy?

A general question. Cheryl Lynn started it, but others continued it, so this is not aimed at her (only), but at all:

If you don't want "to take away the sexy", whose sexy are you referring to?

Let's take Dead Stephanie Robin, for example. One of the critiques of that incident was that she was drawn in an erotic manner, in a situation where she was tortured to death. That her death was eroticised.

So maybe it was. So maybe somebody could look at that part of the comic and "get off" on a girl being tortured and killed.

Which means, maybe you don't find it sexy, but someone else might.

And maybe you think that's sick.

So then what? Take that kinda thing out of mainstream superhero comics? Okay. But then, you're taking the sexy away. Maybe not YOUR sexy, but could be SOMEONE'S sexy. Even if it's a sick sexy.

Is it okay to take away the sexy if it's sick? If so, isn't that kind of contradicting the whole "not taking the sexy away" thing?

Or is it only sexy if you say it's sexy? (Answer: of course not)

Is it that you don't want to see what you think is sick?

Is it that you think kids might see what you think is sick?

Is it just that it really creeps you out that someone might find that sort of thing arousing, and you just don't like at all the idea that someone might be getting his/her jollies off on what you find disgusting?

Or some combo of the three?

But really: is it playing fair to say "I won't take the sexy away", but define "the sexy" only by your terms, not those of the one whose "sexy" you're promising not to take?

14 comments:

Lexi said...

Oh, certainly there are people who would find the sexualized brutal murder of Stephanie Brown hot.

Statutory rapists (she was only 16).

Necrophiliacs.

Snuff film enthusiasts.

You know, sexual criminals.

In your rush to discredit us (i.e. comics feminists), you throw your support behind concepts that any decent person would acknowledge as being utterly reprehensible. Now be honest, are the above demographics ones that any honest business should be catering to?

There are plenty of much better examples you could have used to argue your point. But it's because of arguments like this that comics-feminists are so fervent in their quest for better representation of women in comics.

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind me jumping in on your blog here, but I would like to just double-check the point you're making here.

you seem to be saying that any sexy is good if it is something some one will like, and we can't deny it to that person just because it creeps us out.

If I'm taking you correctly, then that "nymphet" manga- the one about the preteen girl who tries to have sex with her teacher- is all well and good? What about snuff? Is sexualising rape and murder okay?

Besides, if you're referring to Digital Femme's and my recent posts, then we weren't saying "just take away the bits we don't like" we were saying "how about you add some of the bits WE like" because, y'know, some people do have the sexy denied to them- if the sexy for them is anything other than big-boobed skinny women with white-looking faces and steroidal men with ken-doll crotches.

Thanks for letting me butt in,

Bunny

Anonymous said...

ah poop, sorry, Lexi made the same point just before me!

Anonymous said...

Damnit! Brain!

Sorry, my brain is not working today- I would also like to add that I am only guessing that Digital Femme's point and mine were the same.

Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said...

I don't think that Anon is saying that he is pro-statutory rape or snuff or whatever. I don't see this post making a moral judgment on anything. This is a purely logical argument. I think he is only saying here that the argument "I don't want to take what you think is sexy out of comics, I just want to get rid of the sick stuff" isn't intellectually honest because some people find the sick stuff sexy. If you want to get rid of the sick stuff, OK, but admit that you really do want to get rid of something that someone finds sexy. There are all sorts of things that I don't want in the comics I buy that I'm sure someone would think is sexy, so if I want to keep those things out, I have to admit that I want to keep out some of the "sexy."

At least, that's how I read this post.

Lexi said...

I can appreciate that that was his intention, Scott, but as I said, he was focusing more on discrediting us rather than building up his own cohesive argument. I am not calling him pro-rape, pro-snuff, or pro-necro, but he is certainly not doing his POV any favors by saying that because some people are pro-snuff, nobody has any right to restrict any sexual imagery. Certainly not everyone finds the exact same images sexy, but I think Mouse's argument would have been better served by drawing parallels to depictions of legal sexuality (i.e. the MJ statue--no less controversial, but 100% legal)

Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said...

lexi, I see your point. It might have reached more people with a different example, but I think he is in another sense making a stronger argument by choosing something that the vast majority of people would not find sexy and that most people would be repulsed by the idea of finding it sexy. I believe that he is saying that even in this extreme case, someone might find it sexy and removing it is removing someone's sexy.

I’m reluctant to use terms like “discrediting us” because I think that divides the argument into "us v. them" camps, when really we should be looking at this as "true v. false." Is what he is saying true or is it false? Whether we think it helps or hinders our goals should be irrelevant to our analysis of what he says or we are being agenda-driven, not rational. There is no “us” being discredited. There is an argument being discredited. We are all bigger than our arguments. And if the argument is discredited and one keeps using it, I’m afraid that is to one's own detriment and not the fault of the person who refuted the argument.

I think in this case, his argument is logical and it holds up. I doubt it will help to keep things like sexualized deaths out of comics; although, I’m not sure it will help keep them in there either, but I think using logical arguments for making changes in comics will work better than making arguments that won’t hold up to challenge, like the “I don’t want to take your sexy” argument fails to hold up to challenge. People will not be persuaded by that easily refutable argument. If one's argument has holes in it, one should be happy to have them pointed out.

Anonymous said...

It might be assumed, however illogicaly, that Digital Femme's post was addressed to straight male fans, rather than any of the fetishists listed.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"In your rush to discredit us (i.e. comics feminists), you throw your support behind concepts that any decent person would acknowledge as being utterly reprehensible. Now be honest, are the above demographics ones that any honest business should be catering to?"

Maybe not, but then again, it's drawings, it's not like someone grabbed a real 16-year-old off the street and tortured them to death for kicks. More on this in a moment.

Scott's done a fairly good job of explaining my post. I'll elaborate a little: Okay, move away from the death of Stephanie Brown and focus on the Michael Turner Power Girl cover. Some would argue that it is not sexy, despite the unrealistically large boobs, because there is no expression in the face, no vitality to the pose. A "blow up doll", it's been called. But is it unrealistic to think that some people might indeed find it hot? That, for whatever reason, some people like their overly stacked superheroines to have listless, vacant expressions? Some might find that concept offensive, might want covers like Turner's to be discouraged or removed. They may try to say "I don't want to take the sexy away," because THEY sure don't find it sexy and THEY can't imagine WHY anyone would find it sexy, but if someone DOES find it sexy, aren't they indeed taking that someone's sexy away? Again, whose standards for "sexy" prevail?

Now back to the sick stuff.

First, you're saying that anyone who finds the Brown murder hot must by definition be engaged in illegal activities. Ramp it down a bit. Think. "Necrophilia" is a desire for sex with the dead - it is not in and of itself sex with the dead. It is not illegal to be a necrophile, though it is often illegal to PRACTICE necrophilia. (I say "often" because every once in a while I hear of some case where some state tries to charge someone with something but then realizes "whoops, we don't actually have necrophilia laws on the books!") Likewise, thinking about statutory rape is a far cry from actually raping anyone. And snuff films? Please. There's an endless supply of schlock horror boobs-n'-blood exploitation films where "snuff" is simulated over and over ad infinitum.

Be aware: the extension of this kind of thing is the idea that content in comics (and other media) should be limited so that OTHER PEOPLE DON'T THINK ABOUT THINGS YOU THINK ARE SICK. In other words, you want to police the minds of others.

Bear with me for a second here.

Let's suppose there are people out there getting off on the (let's not forget fictional) Brown murder for whichever nasty reason you like, or even combinations of those reasons.

Are you assuming that such a person is by default a criminal and will, upon putting down the comic where Robin dies, go out and render some real girl to chunks with power tools?

Do you think people are able to have desires and not act on them? Some people? Most people?

Does it actually just bother the hell out of you that people would even THINK about such things, regardless of whether they go out and DO them? Is it their thoughts you want to monitor, to control?

I'm not saying you shouldn't find these sorts of things to be sick and distasteful, but I wish people who have these sorts of reactions would think a little more about just what it is they're implying when they think they're speaking out against the bad stuff.

Unless you LIKE the idea of Orwellian Brain Police determining what thoughts you can and cannot have.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"you seem to be saying that any sexy is good if it is something some one will like, and we can't deny it to that person just because it creeps us out."

Well, I don't know that I'd call any and all kinds of sexy "good", but I'd go along with not denying it to others on the basis of it creeping you out, yes.

"If I'm taking you correctly, then that "nymphet" manga- the one about the preteen girl who tries to have sex with her teacher- is all well and good? What about snuff? Is sexualising rape and murder okay?"

What is it about it that would make it wrong? That people think about it? That someone drew it? See my reply to Lexi, but that's a serious question: If it's all in the realm of imagination, why do you have a problem with it, besides that you think it's "creepy"?

Anon, A Mouse said...

"It might be assumed, however illogicaly, that Digital Femme's post was addressed to straight male fans, rather than any of the fetishists listed."

You know, a lot of the discussion about "the sexy" is about what each person finds sexy, which includes some of the questionable or fetishistic things (like the posing of Stephanie Brown's body, or Mary Marvel's new costume) that come under fire. And "straight male" is unrelated to fetishism, you know, having a fetish does not somehow make you not straight.

Dumma said...

You know, I was gonna put a more extensive comment about your post, but seeing you defend the right to have sick fantasies says it all

You fail at life

And remember kids, it's okay to have genocidal thought as long as you don't actually act upon them

Anon, A Mouse said...

"but seeing you defend the right to have sick fantasies says it all"

All right, dumbass, justify for me why nobody should have the right to have sick fantasies, then. Then tell me how you plan to enforce that.

You fail at consciousness.

Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said...

You know, I was gonna put a more extensive comment about your post, but seeing you defend the right to have sick fantasies says it all. You fail at life. And remember kids, it's okay to have genocidal thought as long as you don't actually act upon them.

Well, I want to congratulate you on having the guts to admit that you want to police people’s thoughts. A lot of people want to police thoughts, but very few of them have the guts to admit it. So you get props from me for your courage.

However, “you fail at life” is perhaps the most judgmental thing I have ever seen. I’m not terribly opposed to being judgmental, but let me say that I too defend the right of people to have sick fantasies because I (like everyone else) have sick fantasies that I don’t act on. When the woman at the express checkout lane claimed that her 30 cans of cat food were 1 item because they were all the same thing even though they each had to be scanned in separately, I fantasized about shoving cat food cans up her ass until she until she exploded and as I shoved them up there, I’d say “Oh, but it’s only one item. You ought to be able to take that.” A sick fantasy. One I’d never act on (although no jury in the world would convict me) and I’m not bothered that I had it. Not in the slightest bit. I’m not bothered by my fantasy to continually beat the crap out of this guy who I know is beating his boyfriend. I’m not bothered by my raping George Bush fantasy. Or the one where I shove crappy drivers off the road and into horrible wrecks with my invisible force field. I have loads of sick fantasies, but as an ethical person, I resist acting on them. (Plus I don’t have an invisible force field.)

The human mind isn’t a single thing, uniform in all its parts like a Tootsie Roll. We have a layer of our brains that gives us ethical reasoning, but beneath that is essentially the same thing that you’ll find in a chimp’s head, a mishmash of violence, sexual desire, fear, tribalism, hierarchical drives, etc. that would be horrifying if they were all that controlled us. But to deny the chimp brain, to pretend that we don’t get pleasure from indulging its fantasies is silly. As Jung said, “Embrace your shadow.” There is nothing wrong with knowing about or fantasizing with our dark sides. It is how we choose to act on those fantasies that defines us as ethical or monstrous.

Indulging your sick murder fantasies by reading the Punisher doesn’t make you a sick person. Murdering people makes you a sick person. Also denying that you have murderous fantasies can make you a sick person. A lot of mental illness comes from people being unable to accept their darker fantasies. Those people often “fail at life.”