July 20th, 2011

Recommended Reading #56: Sexual Hysteria



      “California School Claims Its Own Yearbook is Child Porn” by Thomas Roche (Youth, Sex and Culture) 7/17/11

As usual, I find Thomas’s writing on a topic of interest to me both engrossing and entertaining. That the yearbook photo in question is referred to as child pornography seems to me an extraordinary demonstration of the sexual hysteria to which this week’s Recommended Reading is devoted. I particularly appreciate Thomas’s pointing out that “[C]alling the material ‘child porn’ is killing a mosquito with a howitzer. It’s insulting to any child or teen who’s been the victim of actual exploitation.” Indeed—one of the risks of our cultural hysteria around sex, it seems to me, is that our understanding and perception of true cases of assault, exploitation, or coercion may decrease in the context of the frivolous conflation of so many instances not being these things but being labeled as such.

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      “Melissa Farley and the US Government Want You to Stop Buying Sex” by Laura Agustin (Sex Work, Government, Sex and Culture) 7/19/11

This reportage by Laura Agustin seems quite indicative of the hysteria in which this culture seems (to me) steeped around sex. In this case, adults rather than minors are the concern, with the target purportedly being sex trafficking. What I find disturbing, of course, is that no reference to or apparent allowance of consensual sex work is included anywhere in the supplied (U.S.) governmental diatribe. The theory seems to be that eliminating “demand” for commercial sexual services will eradicate sex trafficking. I wondered as soon as I read the first sentence of the government statement if there are plans in the works to reduce demand for farm labor, manual labor, and domestic work (all areas in which human trafficking also occurs).

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      “Sex laws: Unjust and ineffective” at The Economist (Law, Sexual Abuse, Politics, Sex and Culture, Youth) 8/6/09

The laws around what are purported to be sexual offenses and the corresponding system of compulsory registration of sex offenders is, to me, rife with evidence of our hysteria around sexuality. In some cases, I feel the laws for “offenses” represent inappropriate governmental intrusiveness (see the line about men procuring the services of prostitutes being required to register as sex offenders, as well as those who engaged in consensual “underage” sex because they were below the governmentally-applied age to be able to consent to sex [18]), making the, in some states, lifelong registration as a sex offender an astonishing sign of something quite amiss. In addition, as the article points out: “If there are thousands of offenders on a registry, it is harder to keep track of the most dangerous ones.” (Which seems to somewhat defeat the purported purpose of the registry.)

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

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