An asexual culture of sexuality
(Up to: Society And Control )
After reading this BBC article on Americans' attitude to bare flesh on TV, and talking to an American at work and discovering she was quite shocked at the fact that we're so open about it here (Eurotrash was mentioned), I'm quite intrigued by the contrast in values that I thought was exaggerated over on Brit soil.
For some time, I've been bemused by the level of tittillation present in our culture, and yet also at the accompanying sense of prudish reserve. We have magazines sitting on the middle shelf of newsagents that mirror the obscured top shelf apart from either some handily-placed cloth, or some large lettering over "naughty bits". We have adverts on TV that are bordering on "When Harry met Sally" territory. On my way to work, I'm bombarded by sultry women squashed into 2D advertising billboards like pressed flowers.
And yet we remain a heavily restricted nation when it comes to sex (and many other things) in comparison to a lot of Europe. Our approach to the subject is immature, and tawdry. It is fine to joke about it, but thought unusual to speak of responsibly.
Now, if the evidence is to be believed, it seems that America is yet more prudish on the matter than we! I find this interesting, as I was generally under the impression that much of the culture we receive has been imported from America, as does the rest of the world. Music, television, advertising, music television, internet sites, and all the other paraphernalia that have become the "global culture", have now become industries in their own right, but as a result of their origins, and the infectious spread of American brands to all corners of the earth (as well as space), they maintain a wholesome "New America" stigma - a brash, loud, unreserved sexiness that, in the absence of a nation, casts its own illusionary image onto a faraway place, presenting the US as a land of physical lewdness and extravagance.
Unfortunately (though amusingly) this is apparently by design. Those familiar with Edward Bernays will need no explanation. Bernays is regarded as one of the most major influentials of companies' PR departments, for his role in the use of psychology and psychoanalsis in subverting the human brain for corporate needs, i.e. manipulating the minds of the masses in a subtle manner, for the sake of control. The natural evolution, imho, of his "control of desire" is what we have today - namely, an induction of want based on getting as close to sex, without ever actually obtaining it. In other words, the art of marketing is to show people what they want, but never give it to them. This has proven to be an effective "carrot and stick" approach, and is so successful that, it seems, everything sold these days is driven more by marketing and image than anything else.
In this light, then, the contrast between our culture, and our values perhaps makes more sense. Both the UK and the US entertain the limbo area, in which we are being constantly exposed to hints and clues as to how we could be happy, but in a constant state of frustration and disappointment. That the appearance of a breast for a couple of seconds on public TV could cause such uproar in a land of apparent promiscuity highlights the tensions that exist in such a situation, set against a background of almost-ironic, mocking over-sexuality. One plausible explanation for the outrage is that it took place in a nation that has been "educated" into thinking that sex is fine, so long as the actuality - the most natural and inoffensive parts - is to be constantly avoided. In that respect, the New Culture is no better than the aging prudishness of the middle ages from which perhaps we have not quite yet disentangled ourselves from, no matter how much we wish to believe otherwise.
- Confronting the Unconscious by Joanna Chrzanowska
- Propaganda in a Democracy by Dennis Lewis
- Propaganda: Then and Now by Gilles d'Aymery
- BBC programme Century of the Self
- The PR Museum - Edward Bernays
- More on the way in which we purposefully hide ourselves, through laws and societal influences, from some kind of "instinct" in this Slashdot comment regarding paedophilia and the "hype" around it.
(See also: We The Sheeple )