personal rejection and acceptance, road to nowhere, getting at the roots of modern pornification

Social Acceptance and Rejection: The Sweet and the Bitter

For proof that rejection, exclusion, and acceptance are central to our lives, look no farther than the living room, says Nathan Dewall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. “If you turn on the television set, and watch any reality TV program, most of them are about rejection and acceptance,” he says. The reason, DeWall says, is that acceptance—in romantic relationships, from friends, even from strangers—is absolutely fundamental to humans.

In a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, DeWall and coauthor Brad J. Bushman of Ohio State University review recent psychological research on social acceptance and rejection. “Although psychologists have been interested in close relationships and what happens when those relationships go awry for a very long time, it’s only been about 15 yrs that psychologists have been doing this work on exclusion and rejection,” DeWall says. The results have highlighted how central acceptance is to our lives.

DeWall thinks belonging to a group was probably helpful to our ancestors. We have weak claws, little fur, and long childhoods; living in a group helped early humans survive harsh environments. Because of that, being part of a group still helps people feel safe and protected, even when walls and clothing have made it easier for one man to be an island entire of himself.

I’m not especially persuaded by the “For proof ” just look around part. In the case of reality TV, there is a chicken and egg issue. Reality TV appears to be popular, but it is also known that the networks like reality TV because it is cheaper and easier to produce than scripted shows with actors. So was the nation hungry for reality TV or was it sold to us like so much lite beer. I used to watch some reality TV especially Real World, but that got to be so much about not just some little personality conflicts, but a weekly hate on each other pig out, I couldn’t stomach it anymore. My tastes aside, a lot of people around me do watch and talk about the Big Brother/Real House Wives kinds of shows and the reality element to the talent shows, so the theme of rejection and acceptance must resonate with a lot of people.

But acceptance has an evil twin: rejection. Being rejected is bad for your health. “People who feel isolated and lonely and excluded tend to have poor physical health,” DeWall says. They don’t sleep well, their immune systems sputter, and they even tend to die sooner than people who are surrounded by others who care about them.

Being excluded is also associated with poor mental health, and exclusion and mental health problems can join together in a destructive loop.

[  ]…Exclusion isn’t just a problem for the person who suffers it, either; it can disrupt society at large, DeWall says. People who have been excluded often lash out against others. In experiments, they give people much more hot sauce than they can stand, blast strangers with intense noise, and give destructive evaluations of prospective job candidates. Rejection can even contribute to violence. An analysis of 15 school shooters found that all but two had been socially rejected.

It’s important to know how to cope with rejection. First of all, “We should assume that everyone is going to experience rejection on a semi-regular basis throughout their life,” DeWall says. It’s impossible to go through your entire life with everyone being nice to you all the time. When you are rejected or excluded, he says, the best way to deal with it is to seek out other sources of friendship or acceptance. “A lot of times, people keep these things to themselves because they’re embarrassed or they don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” he says. But our bodies respond to rejection like they do to physical pain; the pain should be taken seriously, and it’s fine to seek out support. “When people feel lonely, or when people feel excluded or rejected, these are things they can talk about,” he says.

 

I’ve posted previously about coping strategies. Besides being important in regards mental health there is simply the practical side to dealing with rejection, disappointment or feelings of not belonging. It is a truly monumental task to get others to change. Civilizations have risen and fallen on the determination by people wanting to change people who are just as determined not to change. Emotions are not skin but one could think of building up some mental armor – not to the point of being an unsympathetic sociopath – as a kind of callous that one should strive to build up over time. One of evolution or mother nature’s cruel tricks  has been to make us most susceptible to being emotionally scared by the people who say they love us, people who have gained our trust. To me dealing with strangers or co-workers or classmates is a cakewalk compared to the running hot and cold of personal relationships.

desert, american west, landscape

road to nowhere wallpaper

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Sounds like a challenge. A way of thinking almost guaranteed to bring about some rebellious behavior against the status quo. In our time the actual actions and the cultural responses has been a mixed. Are Women “Pornified” by Popular Media?

A new study by University of Buffalo sociologists suggests the answer is yes, indeed. This may be well-tread territory, but we think we need to go there anyway. One reason is what we call the “tyranny of the shoulds.”

The study, entitled “Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone”, will be published in the September issue of the journal Sexuality & Culture. The researchers, Erin Hatton, Ph.D., and Mary Nell Trautner, Ph.D., analyzed covers of Rolling Stone magazine over the past three decades and found that “sexualized representations of both women and men increased, and hypersexualized images of women (but not men) skyrocketed.” They chose Rolling Stone, in particular, because of its long lifespan and because its covers have featured a broad mix of pop culture icons — from celebrities to politicians — of both genders. According to the University of Buffalo News Center, here’s what they had to say about their findings:

“In the 2000s,” Hatton says, “there were 10 times more hypersexualized images of women than men, and 11 times more non-sexualized images of men than of women.”

“What we conclude from this is that popular media outlets such as Rolling Stone are not depicting women as sexy musicians or actors; they are depicting women musicians and actors as ready and available for sex. This is problematic,” Hatton says, “because it indicates a decisive narrowing of media representations of women.

“We don’t necessarily think it’s problematic for women to be portrayed as ‘sexy.’ But we do think it is problematic when nearly all images of women depict them not simply as ‘sexy women’ but as passive objects for someone else’s sexual pleasure.”

The problem, the authors said, is that this hypersexuality dominates the cultural representation of what it means to be a woman today. And you’d better believe that hurts us all. Because as much as we claim otherwise, the media often becomes another way by which we measure ourselves.

 

This is well-worn territory. The link to the published research is not working so I cannot read the original to criticize, praise or expand upon. We just have the article to go by. So with that as a starting point, it could be the well meaning researchers have tried to isolate a much bigger issue purely in terms of popular culture and technology ( kinds of media). That is probably a mistake. What they’re studying is not the cause and its product, but some relatively thin surface behavior. The camera was not invented until around the 1830s. Film and slick magazines not until years after that. Is it really the contention of these authors that women were not “Pornified” in 1820, 1549. 1202 or 500 BCE.  While I have some issues with evolutionary psychology the fundamentals of treating people, especially women as objects is at least as old as Christianity. Since all the myths, customs and beliefs in Christianity, and Islam, about women are pagan in origin, modern attitudes about the sexes can be traced back thousands of years.

“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (I Corinthians 11:3)

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)

“Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16) in plain English, kill pregnant women.

The Koran is not much better:

The Quran in Sura 4:34 says:. . . If you fear highhandedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great.

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard.  (4:34).

“Forbidden to you are…married women, except those you own as slaves.” (Surah 4:20-, 24-)

“Allah directs you as regards your Children’s inheritance: to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half,” (4:11)

Heaven is an interesting place according to the Koran. Women may enter, but they become kind of nebulous figures out there in the ether somewhere. This is especially true for women who have died pass middle-age. Some men on the other hand can be rewarded with  some idealized dark-haired dark-eyed woman usually under 33.

I’m not a fan of Camille Paglia, but she does capture a lot about American culture and gender in this essay, No Sex Please, We’re Middle Class

In the 1950s, female “frigidity” was attributed to social conformism and religious puritanism. But since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, American society has become increasingly secular, with a media environment drenched in sex.

The real culprit, originating in the 19th century, is bourgeois propriety. As respectability became the central middle-class value, censorship and repression became the norm. Victorian prudery ended the humorous sexual candor of both men and women during the agrarian era, a ribaldry chronicled from Shakespeare’s plays to the 18th-century novel. The priggish 1950s, which erased the liberated flappers of the Jazz Age from cultural memory, were simply a return to the norm.

Only the diffuse New Age movement, inspired by nature-keyed Asian practices, has preserved the radical vision of the modern sexual revolution. But concrete power resides in America’s careerist technocracy, for which the elite schools, with their ideological view of gender as a social construct, are feeder cells.

In the discreet white-collar realm, men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work. Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitized office space. Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation. Androgyny is bewitching in art, but in real life it can lead to stagnation and boredom, which no pill can cure.

Meanwhile, family life has put middle-class men in a bind; they are simply cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women. Contemporary moms have become virtuoso super-managers of a complex operation focused on the care and transport of children. But it’s not so easy to snap over from Apollonian control to Dionysian delirium.

Nor are husbands offering much stimulation in the male display department: visually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left.

The elemental power of sexuality has also waned in American popular culture. Under the much-maligned studio production code, Hollywood made movies sizzling with flirtation and romance. But from the early ’70s on, nudity was in, and steamy build-up was out. A generation of filmmakers lost the skill of sophisticated innuendo. The situation worsened in the ’90s, when Hollywood pirated video games to turn women into cartoonishly pneumatic superheroines and sci-fi androids, fantasy figures without psychological complexity or the erotic needs of real women.

Furthermore, thanks to a bourgeois white culture that values efficient bodies over voluptuous ones, American actresses have desexualized themselves, confusing sterile athleticism with female power. Their current Pilates-honed look is taut and tense — a boy’s thin limbs and narrow hips combined with amplified breasts. Contrast that with Latino and African-American taste, which runs toward the healthy silhouette of the bootylicious Beyoncé.

A class issue in sexual energy may be suggested by the apparent striking popularity of Victoria’s Secret and its racy lingerie among multiracial lower-middle-class and working-class patrons, even in suburban shopping malls, which otherwise trend toward the white middle class. Country music, with its history in the rural South and Southwest, is still filled with blazingly raunchy scenarios, where the sexes remain dynamically polarized in the old-fashioned way.

On the other hand, rock music, once sexually pioneering, is in the dumps. Black rhythm and blues, born in the Mississippi Delta, was the driving force behind the great hard rock bands of the ’60s, whose cover versions of blues songs were filled with electrifying sexual imagery. The Rolling Stones’ hypnotic recording of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster,” with its titillating phallic exhibitionism, throbs and shimmers with sultry heat.

But with the huge commercial success of rock, the blues receded as a direct influence on young musicians, who simply imitated the white guitar gods without exploring their roots. Step by step, rock lost its visceral rawness and seductive sensuality. Big-ticket rock, with its well-heeled middle-class audience, is now all superego and no id.

In the 1980s, commercial music boasted a beguiling host of sexy pop chicks like Deborah Harry, Belinda Carlisle, Pat Benatar, and a charmingly ripe Madonna. Late Madonna, in contrast, went bourgeois and turned scrawny. Madonna’s dance-track acolyte, Lady Gaga, with her compulsive overkill, is a high-concept fabrication without an ounce of genuine eroticism.

Pharmaceutical companies will never find the holy grail of a female Viagra — not in this culture driven and drained by middle-class values. Inhibitions are stubbornly internal. And lust is too fiery to be left to the pharmacist.

 

Since I cannot read the research paper I don’t know if the authors from the pornification study included movies. Like just about everyone I like to think I’m a movie buff. If you want sex and nudity in a mainstream movie you pretty much have to go back to the 70s. The vast majority of movies from the 80s until today are all about the build-up, some mild titillation and talking. Lots of talking. The cultural reasons may go deeper, but the major reason is that Holly wood needs to get teens into the theaters on weekends. So nothing can be rated above PG-13. Adult themed movie now means seeing an actress in her bra and the ripped abs actor in his Calvins. There is no sex. There is no pornification. There is innuendo, there is a little bit of tease, there serious and comic talk about sex and there are crude jokes about sex ( straight guys making gay jokes about each other is particularly popular now and getting tiresome).

Besides not being a fan of censorship, no matter how ell meaning, some of the issues here point back to the feelings one has about acceptance and rejection. Rather than look at what the media serves up and have a negative self image, realize that these attitudes did not start with the invention of the TV. That changing culture takes time, between than and now its going to be easier to keep a positive view of oneself based on what one cultivates on the inside rather than waiting for society to change.That perfect place where no visual imagery produces negative feelings, is a place we’re probably never reach anyway. And if we did it would also be a little dysfunctional.

 

Traute Washing by Lottie Laserstein 1930 or Lotte Laserstein at Wikipedia.

Detail of Casting of the Net oil on canvas 1914 by Suzanne Valadon

nude on bed by Suzanne Valadon. Suzanne Valadon (French, 1865-1938)

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