Is it wrong to sexualize fictional characters? That is the question we’ll be looking into today, and there is no concrete yes or no answer that we can come to. However, we will look into many of the positive and negative aspects that can occur due to the trend within western civilization of sexualizing imaginary people. To clarify, I will not be discussing characters that are innately designed to be sexual, such as historical or mythological succubi and incubi, but rather characters that have storylines and plots outside of their sensual behaviors (though their storylines may be altered and impacted due to their use of their sexuality). We will be using four prime examples in order to dig into this question; Poison Ivy from the DC comic franchise, Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video games, Lola Bunny from the Looney Tunes, and Megara from Disney’s Hercules. While each of the examples I am using are females, the same arguments can be made for sexualized male characters such as Jereth from the Labyrinth, Li Shang from Mulan, or DC’s Nightwing. The ways in which sexualizing made up characters can be positive and negative fall into two main groups that we will be discussing: Exposure and Normalization.
This article contains sexually explicit content. The purpose of this guide is to help people of all genders and sexual orientations practice masturbation; however, everyone is different. Some readers may be comfortable with these topics, while others who have experienced trauma, body dysmorphia, or sexism may not be. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, and I will answer them to the best of my ability. Some other great resources are Sexplanations for great sex education content, Adam & Eve for sex toys, Planned Parenthood for education and medical services, and/or a healthcare professional in your area. Now, it’s about to get real, so find a private place to read this and let’s get started.
We’re going to start by establishing a mantra. Think yogi style, but for accepting your genitals. My vulva is a goddess. I love my penis. I am perfect. These are some examples; use whatever feels right for your gender and sexual identity. Say this mantra a few times to yourself, out loud if you can. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, it’s ok, just repeat it a few times in your head.
When looking into the sex industry, abuses can be found. There is mention of sexual assault and rape in this post but nothing explicit. Several of the links do contain graphic content used to illustrate the realities of the industry. Proceed with caution.
Every day, we are bombarded by sex. In advertisements for fast food or perfume, in TV show plots and music, sex follows us everywhere. At a time where it seems we are talking about sex more than ever, there is still a taboo that many are reluctant to bring up. Porn. Often confined to locker room talk with the guys, no one really talks about it in a critical sense. When was the last time you had nice dinner conversation about the good old topic of porn? How many would admit to family members or employers the amount of time watching people engage in sexual activity on screen? I think there needs to be a critical talk about pornography. I don’t mean from a religious moral standpoint nor do I want to talk about censorship. I want to talk about the science of the brain and the psychological and societal impact on men and women.
“I shall not today attempt further to define [obscenity]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it”
–former U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart
It’s important to define the problem before coming up with solutions. The definition of pornography or obscenity in general has been debated in courts for decades. For this post, I am using the definition Matt Fradd uses in his book The Porn Myth: “visual material containing explicit displays of sexual organs or sexual activities, whether real or simulated, in order to arouse erotic rather than aesthetic sensations.”
The Addicted Brain
There have been many studies on pornography and Internet addiction with lengthy talk about how the brain reacts to certain stimuli and the chemicals released. Fradd provides a concise explanation on how pornography triggers addiction:
“When researchers compared brain scans of porn users with scans of nonusers, they found that the more porn the person had used, the less his reward center activated when porn images were flashed on screen. ‘This is in line with the hypothesis that intense exposure of pornographic stimuli results in a down regulation of the natural neural response to sexual stimuli.’
With a dulled reward center, a person can’t feel the effects of dopamine as well as they used to. As a result, the porn a person is using can stop producing the same excitement it did before. This leads many users to go in search of more hardcore material to get a bigger dopamine burst.” Continue reading “Porn: Addiction and the War on Women”→
Who knew four words could be so subversive, so controversial? With those four words, Ariana Grande changed her career, probably forever. These words show us that when it comes to power, especially the extreme power of a deity, gender matters. Gender really matters. You can’t just ignore gender when it comes to gods, artists, or U.S. presidents. Those roles are reserved for men, and when you dare to say otherwise, there will be backlash.
Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”
Ariana Grande’s version
If you have yet to see the music video for “God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande, I would recommend taking a moment to view it at this link before you continue to read. This video is filled with imagery empowering to women. In my personal favorite part of the music video, Grande literally breaks the glass ceiling with a giant metal hammer. The video also alludes to many classic artworks, recreating them with Grande at the helm instead of a man. For example, the last shot of the video shows a new version of Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. There is also a depiction of The Thinker by Rodin, in which Grande sits in the same posture as the thinking man while men throw gendered slurs at her, trying to tear her down. It is through these gender-reversed images that the viewer begins the realize how infrequently women are shown in positions of power historically. It is almost difficult to recognize how little representation there is until you are confronted with images that you have, amazingly, never seen before.
Before we can talk about the resources of Planned Parenthood, I think it is important to understand the history of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood started at a time when sex education and birth control was not permitted in the USA. A woman by the name of Margaret Sanger would soon change all that. She was raised in Corning, New York in 1916. After seeing her mother suffer from seven miscarriages, Margaret Sanger decided to study birth control. She later traveled to Europe where she would learn about not only birth control but sex education. As a huge advocate for Women’s rights, she would soon see restrictions from opponents.
Her first birth control clinic was shut down by police. (However, the clinic was still able to offer information about birth control.) Margaret Sanger spent 30 days in jail for refusing to pay the fine. This experience led her to travel the country and talk about birth control. Eventually, two organizations named Birth Control Clinical Bureau and American Birth Control League, joined to become Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A 1936 court ruling established that birth control and the information given about it would not be seen as immoral. This was one of many barriers birth control and its education has broken through to reach the public prominence it has today.
What are the resources of Planned Parenthood?
When looking at the website of Planned Parenthood, I found it to have easy to find tabs and info for women or anyone wanting resources. Topics cover: Pregnancy Prevention, to Health and Wellness, Sex and Relationships, and Sexually Transmitted
Infections (STDs). Additionally, there are guides for high school students and information about sex education. All this I believe is vital to not only women but men as well. In Idaho, there are three centers of Planned Parenthood: Boise Health Center, Meridian Health Center, and Twin Falls Health Center. Therefore, if you wanted to go to one in Idaho from Moscow, it would be about a six-hour drive. That is a long distance. Luckily, there is one across the border in Pullman, Washington.
Positive feelings like love and romance are discussed every year on Valentine’s Day. But what about the negative feelings such as pressure and fear that are associated with this holiday? There is nothing seductive about those negative feelings — so safety and consent is what’s sexy.
There is overwhelming evidence that men and women have different ideas of what constitutes consent. According to the New York Times, two open-response surveys of 185 heterosexual students showed that 27 percent of men say they get consent from a directive such as “We are going to have sex,” 22 percent of men ask if she wants to have sex, 14 percent of men use aggressive strategies like taking off a girl’s pants and 13 percent pretend intercourse occurred by mistake. Continue reading “Safe is Sexy”→
Samantha Pugsley is one of many women who waited until marriage to have sex and regretted it. When Samantha was 10 she took a pledge at her church to remain a virgin until marriage. She recited this vow along with a group of other girls, “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship. As well as abstaining from sexual thoughts, sexual touching, pornography, and actions that are known to lead to sexual arousal.” Samantha recounts her wedding night and writes that what her parents and church leaders didn’t tell her is that she would be crying on her honeymoon because she felt dirty and sinful.
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, published in 1999, is a key text for feminist theory, queer theory, and continental philosophy. She wrote several other books on gender and has a position as a professor at the University of California Berkeley. Her books are regarded as difficult to read due to their long, unstructured sentences and many references to other philosophers that it is assumed the reader knows. Regardless, I still think her work is valuable because of its contributions to the larger field of gender theory and how we think about gender today. I will give a summary of Gender Trouble, explaining the concepts she covers.