Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The obsessive worry

Everything you need to know about how the system sees you is expressed in its purest way in ads. I know this is a very unpopular thing to say, but if you find yourself wanting to be bad because everyone else gets away with it, then the problem isn't everyone else, the problem is you.

The word "fetish" is always followed by "disavowal." Speaking generally and defining fetish as sexually necessary, not merely a strong preference, the problem with fetishes is that they are replacements for the person. They are replacements for the thing-in-itself.

An example is a 40-year-old woman who looks in the mirror and decides that her entire sexuality is in a single special part of her, say, her butt, so she diets to make the butt look good at the expense of bony shoulders and a gaunt face. She's fetishised her butt. The point of fetish-ising is to be able to ignore the rest of reality. Hence the disavowal.

Men sometimes do the same to their spouses, empowering a single body part with all of the sexuality. So looking at the calf or the hip bone doesn't simply remind him of the 20-year-old version of his wife, it becomes the fetish that replaces the long-gone version. This isn't illusion or delusion. He is not imagining what his wife looked like when she was 20. That single body part is enough to generate arousal without needing to become aroused by the rest of her.

Any fetish (specific kind of shoe, or a foot, or a piece of lace) is entirely sufficient to generate arousal. This doesn't make the woman look more sexual, it replaces the woman. The problem is that now neither the 20-year-old version nor the 40-year-old version is necessary.

A common sign of this happening is when a man seems to be completely besotted by his girlfriend, "she turns me on so much." He seems to want her all the time. The woman will take this personally, thinking "wow, he really likes me. He really makes me feel good about myself, my body." What she doesn't see is the huge sexual energy for "her" is really about the fetishised her, not actual her. In such cases, love for a person is separate from lust for a person.

It's not the fetish that's the pathology, but what it means that might be the pathology. A person could have a foot fetish which acts as a coping strategy for a decade of sexual abuse and it’s the fetish that keeps him together and balanced. Is that bad? And what happens if his wife stops playing along with the foot fetish? He will go elsewhere to satisfy it because that's the only way he can discharge the energy.

Objectification, on the other hand, is about becoming a practically inanimate object. When choosing a second-hand coffee table, a customer might request the dimensions, age and a brief description of the object. Same thing with soft-core pornography. Objectification is the process by which a thing is reduced to its utility alone. But describing a thing by its physical characteristics is not objectification.

What makes pornography objectification is that it is used. Using heterosexual porn, the woman or the scene is used to arouse and ultimately sexually gratify the user. It is used to help bridge the gap between the reality (watching something on TV or computer) and the fantasy (having actual sex with an actual human). The woman is objectified because, for the user, she literally has no other facets other than her utility for sexual gratification. And incidentally, straight guys are also objectifying the men in those scenes as well.

However, pornography is almost the sole instance where objectification doesn't lead to frustration and alienation that leads to violence. There is a real physical reaction to pornography experienced by the viewer – it isn't simulated orgasm, it's actual orgasm.

Where objectification becomes a problem is everywhere else. Maxim or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition are more dangerous than hardcore porn because they are teases, and teasing is accomplished a) in the presence of an asymmetric power dynamic, and b) by revealing to the viewer they are the weaker part of that dynamic. In this way, teasing functions as advertising. You can look at her, but you can't have her. You have stripped of her ordinary humanity and forced her to be a symbol of value.

So, in that context, it isn't surprising some guys want to steal what they can't otherwise get. Hence the phenomenon of rape. But look at the objectification here. Sex, or the girl, is something you get. You get oral sex, or you get to second base, etc. This is the language of acquisition, of commodities. The sex appeal in marketing is nothing less than the fetishisation of women and their primary sexual characteristics. That is objectification. The reduction of sex to yet another resource to exploit.

Where all pornography diverges from reality is in its frame, in the construction of all pornographic sex acts as requiring a viewer. And all pornography turns its viewers into voyeurs. Pornography is sex fetishised, in which the sex act itself is objectified. But pornography, by breaching the line from reality to fantasy doesn’t lead to a frustrated consumer of sex the same way that "sex appeal" in mass media does.

Money is a fetish of value and not actual value. Facebook is a fetish of relationships not actual relationships. The system pivots on this stuff. Ads do not try to sell you a product. The product is irrelevant. If the ad successfully plugs into social fetishes, you will consequently want the product no matter what it is.

At heart, the problem is that women still secretly believe they are inferior to men, and men still have this haunting suspicion that their true worth – “in other people's minds" – is signalled by a women's opinions of them. After all, money, jobs – all that is fake. Hence the need for something to redefine masculinity, to make it real. Which is why both sexes reach for the fetish to replace the lack.

The important point is not that you believe this to be true, the point is that you want this to be true. Stop letting the system tell you who you are.

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