Just for the record, and despite recent appearances to the contrary, this is NOT a trans blog. Its actually intended to be about sex and sexuality in its widest sense, and therefore any issues that pique my interest – whether they link to the concerns of the trans community or the wider LGBT world, whether they include sex work, pornography, censorship or any one of a dozen related topics – are fair game for comment.
Beware the sexualisation debate
Coming up over the next weeks and months, I foresee my writing a good deal about the “sexualisation” debate. This, for those not already tuned in to the obsessions of the Daily Mail and various tabloid journalists, is the proposition that our society is overly “sexualized”: and worse, that this sexualisation is both intertwined with commerce, and something thrust onto our poor innocent children, thereby corrupting their minds and their morals in equal measure.
Cameron bleated about it whilst in opposition: and since coming to power, the Tories kicked off a report – the Bailey report – into this issue. Submissions closed last month and some sort of feedback is to be expected in May. It is to be hoped that, like a similar Scottish exercise in this area, the report will discover that a lot of the fuss is just that – fuss! – and that what the hard evidence seems to show is that the cultural issues are complex, overlaid with some very bad headline-grabbing instances of totally inappropriate stuff directed towards kids.
That’s my hope. I won’t be holding my breath.
Because although there is a debate to be had, from what I’ve seen so far, we aren’t having it. Rather, intrepid reporters are going out on to the High St, searching through racks of kids clothes and toys, finding the occasional ill-considered item, and turning that find into shock! horror! headline.
Autonomy: the central issue
So this is a blog about sex?
Sort of. Though, when push comes to shove, I hope its about something a good deal more interesting and insightful than that. I’ll certainly confess, in the bad old days, to having a fairly unsophisticated libertarian take on many of these issues. That’s not gone, but the more closely I work with groups condemned and marginalized because their take on sex doesn’t quite fit into some narrow, neo-puritan moralistic view of the topic, the more I realize its far more complicated than that.
First, because there is a voice that needs to be heard in debates on sex and sexuality, which is often drowned out by those who prefer to characterize any and all such debate in terms of men and men exploiting women. That is the voice of women who, contrary to popular myth, actually quite enjoy sex in all its myriad forms, are grown up enough to make their own adult choices over what they do with their bodies, and are sick and tired of every debate being turned round into a question of how we need to regulate all sexuality in order to control presumed predatory male sexual urges.
In other words, in our desperate need to demonise men, we end up failing to listen to women. Sometimes: often; the worst offenders in this respect are other women
That takes me on to the second underlying and closely-related theme that seems to run through almost everything I have been writing for the last couple of years. And that’s autonomy.
It applies to choices such as abortion and the right to say no. But it also runs through almost every other debate I’ve encountered, whether we’re talking trans rights to be themselves, or the right of sex workers to be included in debates about how they are policed. Its an acceptance that adults have a right to make choices and so long as those choices don’t directly harm others, its no-one else’s business to police what they do.
Intriguingly, the same actors seem to keep cropping up across a range of issues. The Tavistock and Portman Clinic, for instance, who in addition to some very normative views on gender have also been seeking, of late, to inject themselves into debates about porn on the internet on the back of some very dodgy research indeed.
Its an interesting area, made all the more interesting by the fact that out there, I sense a stirring: groups that have historically been marginalized in these debates are starting to get together and find a voice of their own. The message will vary according to individual circumstance, but the underlying theme is clear: our bodies, our lives; hands off!