Beyond the Art of Objectification, a Plea for Imaginative Reverence

In the past I enjoyed “distasteful” humor. But lately I find myself having a weak stomach. I’m watching Reno911 and there’s this elaborate prison rape joke, where the cop is explaining in detail, to a group of school kids, how a gang of 12 will rape another young man.

I tried watching South Park last week and yet again, another joke about a grown man accidentally having sex with a child.

Then there’s good ol’ Family Guy, an episode where Stewey and Brian try to essentially gain control of Hannah Montana so they can have sex with her. When they figure out she’s a robot, and she’s blown into pieces, the last line from Brian to Stewey is, “now here’s your chance”…to have sex with her fragmented body. Around the same time a student noted that she heard a man in a court room cry out, “she’ll get over it!” when another man was sentenced for the crime of rape.

Not long after that my wife April was driving home yesterday and the Buzz–a local rock station–urged its listeners to send in pictures of “chics on trucks.” The DJ says,

“It’s a great way to show off your chic and your truck.”

Finally, April was at a pro-choice rally in Orlando earlier this year and there a 13 year-old girl says to her:

“Why are you standing up for women’s rights? I don’t have rights. I’m worthless.”

At what point to do we begin to say stop passively accepting this culture of sexual objectification? At what point do we, furthermore, begin to recognize the limitation of idolizing “transgression” as a virtue, and consider the importance of working to cultivate proper “reverence” for others?

I’m not pro-censorship. It seems to me that censorship works like laws against drug use.  But I’m in favor of encouraging people to realize that the people, ideas, media, and culture we surround ourselves with impacts the people we become. We are what we eat, who we meet, what we think, and who we allow ourselves to become.

Precisely when we sometimes think we are “purging” or “venting” various “distasteful” desires or “bad” habits we are very likely cultivating/feeding those desires and habits. We cultivate character through habituation; through routine practice. And today we seem to cultivate uncaringness, insensitivity, aggression, callousness, and routine transgression of respect for other beings (the opposite of “reverence”) via sexualization and objectification.

I think we need to turn our creative talents to a new ideal, not that of simply transgressing old boundaries of rightness, but also imagining new realms of reverence: what borders ought we not seek to transgress? Perhaps we can begin with revering women and children’s sexual sovereignty.

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