Stigma

Dear Princess ‘Ishka,

I am no stranger to sexual repression. I know how hard it is to live with a social stigma targeting your sexuality. This is a reason for me not to turn away in disgust when I hear about pedophiles. Indeed, one of the greatest sexual stigmas of our time is the one against pedophilia.

If the attempt to have sex with a child raises serious moral concerns, the attraction itself seems to be a condition out of the direct control of the pedophile. Pedophilia, independently of whether it is classified as a psychiatric disorder or as a natural tendency to feel sexual attraction for prepubescent individuals, can’t be blamed insofar as it is a trait of a person and not a choice.

The dilemma of pedophilia is this: there might be a condition on who you are that you can’t change but, at the same time, its expression meets strong moral opposition. Moreover, if we don’t have the puritan presumption of thinking that a pedophile is intrinsically different from non-pedophiles with respect to sexuality, why should this person even try to “change”? Shouldn’t we be open to pedophiles and accepting them as people who have to carry a burden much greater than the one non-pedophiles carry?

Me, J, R, P and J were sitting in my living room as we started talking about the puzzle of pedophilia between a glass of wine and the next. We came up with an imaginary example, which might illustrate an aspect of this dilemma from an interesting perspective.

One of your closest friends – R suggested to call him Steve, has come out to you in the past as a pedophile. It was hard for you to accept him at first, but you have slowly understood his struggles in repressing his inclinations. Now you love him just as you do with all your other close friends. You are also a parent, and your six-year-old son thinks that Steve is a very cool person and he always looks forward for Steve to visit.

Your child doesn’t feel an attraction for Steve in sexual or romantic terms. He is just very fond of him as a human being, and he has no clue about Steve’s struggles with his sexuality. You also know that Steve would do no harm to anybody, especially to children.

One day, your son comes to know that Steve is going on vacation to the Grand Canyon (this part was suggested by J). Steve has found very cheap tickets, he is a climbing specialist and he would do a wonderful guide. Moreover, he would never refuse to make your child happy, given the friendship between you adults.

This would be a one-in-a-life-time experience for your son, and you strongly doubt that there will be any such convenient opportunity for him in the relevantly near future. Unfortunately, you have to work in those days and you can’t join.

Your child really wants to go with Steve to the Grand Canyon none the less. He has twinkly eyes at the thought of exploring the rocky mountains and he has already started scheduling all the experiences he will enjoy with Steve. He trusts Steve as if Steve were you.

Would you let your son go with Steve, knowing that they will be alone for a couple of weeks in the middle of nowhere?

R was still unsure that there would have been no risks for her child. So we add the condition that God himself sends you a vision of your child having the best experiences and coming back home safe and sound. What you can’t know, is how Steve himself is going to feel. Moreover, you have absolutely no clue about the fact that he might feel sexual attraction for your child specifically.

This is a complicated case. Many factors come into play, especially trust, which is only in part a matter of rationality. But another important factor, to my understanding, would be the position you are putting Steve into, if you let your child go with him.

Given what I called the “dilemma of pedophilia”, could you put Steve in such a borderline situation, where he would be alone with the potential object of his sexual desire and no adult friend nearby? Would it be fair of you to leave him confront his demons on his own? Will you think that you have shown your openness to Steve or have you exposed him to his most vulnerable side?

Dealing with this topic raises more questions than answers. But it must be addressed, for we are talking about real people, who have not only been heavily stigmatized, but who are also living real moral dilemmas.

Forever yours,

‘Miasha

EDIT: I’ve found this highly educational and interesting video from TEDMED on the topic, enjoy!

Advertisements

Fat-shaming

Dear Princess ‘Ishka,

Chicken wings, French fries and Coke are irresistible for some individuals, who often display a certain aversion to physical activity. But if they are happy, why bother?

Nowadays, there seem to be two very wide spread opinions on fat people: one is to consider being fat detrimental of the physical and psychological health of a person, and the other supports overweight people in loving themselves against a society of fat-shamers.

At a first glance, I don’t see why the former view should be discriminatory, or the latter crazy, nor why they should be incompatible. Indeed, under the right description, being fat can be a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle, whereas the social stigma on fat people is pervasive in (at least) western societies.

The easy way of solving this apparent opposition would be to say that being fat is ok for you insofar as you have a healthy lifestyle. Fat-shaming, on the other hand, is never ok, period. But what does count as a healthy lifestyle?

The body-positivity movement has emphasized in recent years the importance of loving your body no matter what and the total opposition to “unrealistic beauty standards”. But what does “no matter what” mean? Does it perhaps mean “independently of an active lifestyle and a healthy nutrition”?

The risk of the ideology behind the body-positivity movement is not really that having an unhealthy lifestyle becomes ok, but rather that taking care of one’s body is somehow less important than taking care of one’s own feelings. The most valuable thing in “love your body” is love, not your body.

In a society with such a heavy stigma on overweight people, what is this ideology leading to if not delusion that one is valuable independently of one’s body? I can love myself, even if I am led to hate myself for being fat. That means that I don’t really love my body, I rather love my personality or my intelligence. But what are we if not body and our understanding of it?

To love oneself truly, and without delusion or repression, one must seriously take care of one’s “materiality”. We are flesh and bones, and there is beauty in the way we cultivate the matter we are made of.

I would thence underline the strong individuality of this process in the face of social stigma or “beauty standards”. This individuality doesn’t mean “everything goes”, but it is regulated by a coherent, unified and consistent personal system of values, which poses the body at one of its focal points.

Can you be content with your body, given the attention with which you treat it? If the answer is yes according to your system, then you truly have nothing to worry about.

Essential for a body-positivity movement is then the focus on self-appreciation through self-cultivation and not on unconditioned self-love. You always need criteria to assess your own beauty, your own worth and your own essence. Without any such criteria, your judgment will remain arbitrary and unreliable, and you will be left to laziness and excessive self-indulgence. How can you trust your self-love if it is always present under the same motto and doesn’t tell you what to do to actually feel better?

I still think that the greatest health issue overweight people face is the discrimination they encounter on a daily base. That is a public battle for recognition and positivity to be fought in the media industry and in ordinary life, by means of supportive actions. But for an individual to feel better about his body, reliable plans and objectives are fundamental.

Self-confidence depends on our world view inclusive of a robust comprehension of our own bodies. If you don’t mind about what you are made of, how can you mind anything at all?

Forever yours,

‘Miasha

 

Toys

Dear Princess ‘Ishka,

It is not without a little embarrassment that I will approach today’s topic, which is (drum roll…): masturbation! Yay!

There is a huge stigma on masturbation, which makes it a topic to be cautiously handled – if you know what I mean. I mean, seriously, one simply does not talk about masturbation. It is considered dirty and shameful, the favorite activity of losers. Well, guess what? There are way more losers out there than what one might expect, dear.

I suspect that this stigma comes from (surprise surprise) the Christian influence on our culture. After all, like most of the stigmas and taboos in the western world do.

Christianity has always seen sexuality as necessarily related to reproductive purposes. No wonder that mere “recreational” sexual practices have been historically abhorred. However, our societies have become much more liberal in recent decades, breaking down many taboos related to contraception, virginity and pre-marital sex.

But why does masturbation remain so obscure and “dangerous” to be talked about? If practiced in private and with healthy and careful procedures, what should be wrong about it? Why is the religious taboo still holding for masturbation and not for “collective” sexual activities?

My intuition is that we have never gotten completely rid of the stigma on sexuality itself. We think that sexuality must have to do with the exercise of sexual practices with someone else and that it should be, at its best, crowned by love, romantic feelings and the like. We think that “love is love” and that homosexuals should be granted the same rights as heterosexuals because love makes us equal.

But sexuality is something way more essential than “love”. It is deeply rooted in our biological constitution and it has primarily nothing to do with sexual intercourse. It is an essential part of what we individually are made of. It grounds most of our drives, independently of the way they can be satisfied, if at all.

Accepting our sexuality means in many cases accepting ourselves. You can’t love a person “no-matter-what-her-sexuality-is”. It matters a lot that you respect and accept that sexuality, no matter what your religious and cultural background is! No matter if there is love between two human beings, one hundred or just within a single individual. No matter if it is promiscuous, shy, dolt, original, awkward. No matter if it is sexuality or a-sexuality.

I think everyone would benefit from appraising the value of a life that is sexually fulfilling, independently of one’s relationships with other people. I am not just saying that masturbating is “alright”. I am indeed saying that masturbation should be cultivated! Masturbating without regrets makes you know your body and it is extremely helpful to get to enjoy sex together. I am strongly convinced that masturbating enhances also one’s creativity. For example, I will never see Nivea roll-on deodorants in the same light again…

Sex toys are the best to explore one’s sexuality. Not only for “solo-players” but also for couples, triplets and full-blown orgies! It must be however acknowledged that, contrarily to people, sex toys don’t complain, don’t stink, don’t judge and, on top of all, never disappoint.

I am joking – well… except for the last line, perhaps. At any rate, what I find important in this whole talk, is that we should strive for the self-confidence necessary to make us respect our individual sexualities, no matter if we have sexual partners or not.

Intersubjective relationships are still of extreme importance and sex makes some of them just funnier and more savory. But, as one very inspirational person is used to remind us, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”.

Forever yours,

‘Miasha