Category Archives: Culture of sexualization

More Than Just “Offensive”

The outpouring of opposition to the College Events Board’s decision to make Tyga the headline act of Yardfest has been entirely warranted. The lyrics that have been circulated around campus attached to petitions for the last week are utterly vile, and anyone who objects to his coming to Harvard is justified in doing so. We should be careful, though, not to object on the grounds that Tyga is “offensive,” for the real problem is not that he is offensive. That charge alone does not provide sufficient grounds to rescind his invitation, and when the College Events Board and Harvard Concert Commission attempted to assuage concerns about “offensive content” in Tyga’s music in a statement released last Monday, they were dodging the issue entirely.

The charge of offensiveness is problematic for a number of reasons, all of which suggest that we have no absolute right not to be offended. First, the phenomenon of offense exists in two parts: that which gives offense and he who takes offense, and the existence of offense in any particular situation says as much about the latter as it does about the former. Sometimes, people are rightly offended at bad things. At other times, they are wrongly offended at things that are not so bad. The difference between being rightly and wrongly offended, moreover, can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Offensiveness is entirely unworkable as a standard of conduct, that is, as a standard by which we determine whether speech, behavior, etc. is acceptable, as it could easily include or exclude things improperly. Take the hypothetical example of a very misogynistic campus community. This community would not be offended by a speaker or performer whose message was degrading to women. On the other hand, it probably would be very offended by a guest lecturer who upheld the equal dignity of the sexes and condemned misogyny in the strongest possible terms. The problem in such a scenario is not the fault of the offending lecturer, but with the community that receives him with hostility. Furthermore, in this case, the community would be better served by hosting the offensive guest than the non-offensive one.

Finally, we must resist using “offensiveness” as a litmus test because its chief effect is putting a damper on discussion. There is little, if any, room for debate about whether something is offensive. Those who are unbothered by the matter in question will find the mere assertion of offense thoroughly unpersuasive, while to those who are offended will find that no further discussion is necessary. We can see this in recent debates over Tyga. While many students have signed a petition asking that he be removed from the program for Yardfest (and rightly so, I believe), other students have effectively responded, “I don’t find Tyga that offensive,” leaving the discussion at an impasse. In the interest of robust dialogue, therefore, we must resort to better, more engaging, albeit more complex, reasons to oppose bringing Tyga to campus.

The real reason to oppose bring Tyga to Harvard is that his music celebrates and promotes a debased and corrupting sexual culture. It strips sexuality of any semblance of dignity or beauty, replacing those attributes with a mentality of selfish exploitation. It removes love, commitment, and authentic and healthy relationships from consideration and views human beings as sexual objects, convenient tools to be used for one’s own pleasure. This view of human sexuality is incredibly degrading, especially to women, in Tyga’s case, and ought not to be celebrated at Yardfest.

In light of this, the CEB and HCC’s response to the controversy is unsatisfactory. They have moved Tyga’s performance to later in the evening, so that students will be able to eat dinner and leave before he takes the stage, but the problem with his appearance is not that his lyrics will shock and offend some ears. Rather, it is that he expresses themes about women and sexuality in his music that should not be welcome at all on this campus, regardless of whether or not certain offended students are made to listen to him.

As an academic community, Harvard should not be in the business of banishing that which some of the people in its community find offensive, which is largely a matter of perceptions, feelings, and visceral reactions. That which is socially corrupting, degrading to our humanity, and detrimental to our community, is a very different matter. Tyga’s music fits this description in its lyrics and themes, and it is for this reason that the College Events Board should never have invited him in the first place.

James P. McGlone ‘15 is a history concentrator in Kirkland House and the Vice President of the Harvard College Anscombe Society.

This article was originally posted in the Harvard Crimson. You can read it on the Crimson here.

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Not Open for Debate

The following is a letter written on behalf of the Harvard College Anscombe Society in response to the university’s recent recognition of the “Harvard College Munch,” a student “BDSM” sex club. It was intended for publication in the Harvard Crimson last week, but was not accepted by the Crimson editors.

The Anscombe Society is certainly not in the business of curtailing free speech, but nor do we believe that respecting speech necessitates recognizing student groups that take absolutely any point of view. While the administration does not endorse the views of any group, recognition of a group does send the message that the activities of the group make a valuable contribution to our campus. Thus, when a student group like “Harvard College Munch” gains official recognition, the effects reach far beyond the club’s own membership and bear on the lives of all Harvard students. The Anscombe Society sees this newly approved group for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism, or “kinky sex,” as a symptom of the hypersexualized culture prevalent in our own university and many others today. We believe that BDSM itself trivializes sex, promoting a selfish and anarchical sexual ethos that can be very harmful and destructive not only to those who engage in these practices, but also to all of Harvard’s undergraduates. While students’ personal sexual choices may be their own, they nevertheless form the basis of our campus culture and sexual milieu. The fact that such degrading sexual practices now have a recognized and university-funded group devoted to them will have a wide-ranging impact, profoundly effecting students’ daily lives.

These recent events also call into question the standards by which the Office of Student Life decides to grant recognition to student organizations. Clearly, there would be some groups that OSL would decline to approve because of a problem with their missions; groups professing racist, anti-religious, or otherwise bigoted views, for example, would not be constructive or worthwhile additions to undergraduate life. What constructive purpose, then, does Munch serve on our campus? Supporting the group’s approval in the name of fostering discussion of “kink,” as many have done, is only a smokescreen; clearly any discussion within the group will promote and affirm kinky practices, and outreach to other groups is impossible as long as the group remains completely anonymous. The decision over recognition ought to boil down to this: if you think that more violence and humiliation, especially where sexual practices are concerned, are good things, you should support the recognition of Munch. If you think that more violence and humiliation are bad things, you should oppose it.

The Anscombe Society, believing that the currency of academia is reasoned argument, has throughout its history engaged in debate and discussion with other groups and individuals on campus, including those with very different views of sexuality from our own. However, unlike every other student group, Munch is a group with whom we simply cannot have a debate. We believe that human sexuality is a thing of great beauty and dignity and have always assumed that other groups, even those with very different views from our own, share that common starting point. We have always been eager to discuss with these other groups our competing views of how best to honor the dignity and beauty of sex, but we do not even share this much common ground with Munch, which instead seeks to associate sex with violence, humiliation, and oppression. That is one disagreement that is not open for debate.

James P. McGlone, Harvard Class of 2015
Vice President, Harvard College Anscombe Society

This letter was originally posted by the Love and Fidelity Network here:

http://www.loveandfidelity.org/2012/12/17/not-open-for-debate/

Sex, Discourse, and Harvard

When I arrived at Harvard, I did not appreciate the need for a group known as True Love Revolution. Yet, I did not know what it represented or the important role it served on campus by endorsing premarital abstinence and sexual integrity, upholding the institution of marriage and the family, and advocating true feminism. The group, which was formed in 2006, introduced a view regarding sex-related issues that often goes unheard. While these topics are incredibly salient in college, I was amazed by how often they are presented in a way that ignored the moral dimension of human sexuality.  This concern stimulated my interest in the group and motivates my involvement today.

This semester, the True Love Revolution seeks to continue the conversation, but we have renamed ourselves The Harvard College Anscombe Society. We have named ourselves after Elizabeth Anscombe, a Cambridge professor and celebrated British philosopher of the 20th century. In her work, Anscombe defended many principles shared by our organization, including chastity and the importance of marriage and the family. Inspired by her intellectually rigorous support for the group’s beliefs and by her witness to those values as a wife and mother, our group has renamed itself in her honor. The Anscombe Society joins other universities such as Princeton, Providence College, University of Texas, University of Pittsburgh, and Stanford in honoring Anscombe’s legacy. Although our group’s platform remains unchanged, our new name highlights the philosophical foundation and intellectual mission of our group.

Over the past six years, we have noticed that too often, “consent” is upheld as the only standard for determining what behavior is acceptable.  There is very little discussion of whether or not any choices are morally good or right, depriving students of an important lens by which to judge their own behavior. Thus the rejection of the notion that our sexual choices have a significant moral component seriously harms our peers. We believe that the views we espouse are not only morally true in the abstract, but also better choices for a healthy and fulfilling life. Thus, we have taken our role in presenting our views seriously, through such means as guest speakerseditorials, and debates. We have also found creative ways to spread our message, such as the Valentine’s Day campaign in which the True Love Revolution distributed chocolate kisses to freshmen with a note that said, “Why wait? Because you’re worth it.”  This semester, we have invited Karin Agness, the president and founder of the Network of Enlightened Women and the director of academic programs at the American Enterprise Institute, to discuss true feminism.

The Anscombe Society remains a secular organization that looks to what sociology, psychology, medicine, philosophy, and human experience suggest are the best ways to acheive the good of the person and the common good in the realm of sexuality. We seek to continue a tradition of stimulating campus and national discourse on a conscientious view of sexuality that strengthens marriages, fortifies civil society, and contests the merits of a hyper-sexualized culture.  We are excited to find support among national leaders, our faculty, and students, and we urge our classmates to think deeply about these issues and to subject the prevailing orthodoxies of our society to real scrutiny.

Luciana E. Milano ’14 is a government concentrator living in Pforzheimer House. She is President of The Harvard College Anscombe Society. This article was originally published in the HarvardCrimson. 

Register for the Intercollegiate Conference on Sexuality, Integrity, and the University

5th Annual Intercollegiate Conference on Sexuality, Integrity, and the University

Friday evening & Saturday, November 2 & 3, 2012
Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey

Regular registration is now open. Register here!

Regular Registration will be open September 15 through October 5
Fees: Student Fellows – Fee waived; Students – $45; Non-students – $75
Refunds can be issued through October 22 for registered attendees who cannot attend the conference. Please note student fellows are individuals who have applied to become official fellows of the Love and Fidelity Network. Most are leaders of campus groups. For more information about student fellows, please visit the Getting Involved page.

The Love and Fidelity Network’s annual conference aims to connect college men and women to leading scholars and experts in order to equip them with the best arguments and resources in support of marriage, family, and sexual integrity.  Participants will also find ample opportunity to network with and learn from each other, and attend sessions to help develop leadership skills in bringing the “love and fidelity” message back to their respective campuses.

Conference Program

Conference attendees will hear from renowned scholars whose work spans from the philosophy surrounding the meaning of sex, to the connection between marriage culture and the economy, to the social effects of changing family structures. In addition, participating students will also have a chance to learn more hands-on techniques for branding their group on campus, using social media to advance their group’s mission, and building alliances with other communities on campus.

Friday, November 2, 2012

6:00 – 8:00 PM     Registration and Check-in

8:00 PM     Welcome and Opening Remarks
Dr. Paul Kerry, Brigham Young University

8:30 PM     A New Look at Home Economics:
How the Cultural Withdrawal from Marriage Contributes to Economic Weakening
Dr. Patrick Fagan, Marriage and Religion Research Institute

Saturday, November 3, 2012

8:00 AM     Breakfast

9:15 AM     Talking About Sex:
Its Nature, its Meaning, and How to Discuss it with Friends
Dr. J. Budziszewski, University of Texas, Austin

11:15 AM   Are the Kids All Right?
Lessons from the New Family Structures Study and the Public Debate
Dr. Mark Regnerus, University of Texas, Austin
Dr. Ana Samuel, Witherspoon Institute

12:45 PM     Lunch

2:30 PM       Why Knot? First Comes Love, Then Comes What?
Roland Warren, National Fatherhood Initiative 

4:30 PM    Winning the Campus: Breakout Workshops

A) Shaping How We Are Perceived : Branding Campus Initiatives
Patrick Dennis, Dennis Creative

B) Extending Your Reach: Communicating with Social Media
Mike Matthews, The Mobile Culture

C) Building Alliances on Campus
Dr. Robert P. George, Princeton University
Audrey Pollnow, Princeton University
Luciana Milano, Harvard University

D) Supporting Students in the Classroom and Beyond:
A Discussion among Faculty
Dr. Robert P. George, Princeton University
Dr. John Londregan, Princeton University

E) Linking Faith and the Language of the University:
A Discussion among Campus Ministry Leaders
Ali Smith, Christian Union

6:00 PM     Dinner

7:15 PM     Lessons from the Ground:
Student Leaders Share their Successes, Obstacles, and Advice

8:30 PM     Closing Remarks
Dr. Paul Kerry, Brigham Young University

Housing

The Love and Fidelity Network seeks to provide hotel accommodations in Princeton for undergraduate students participating in the conference on Friday and Saturday nights. Due to limited availability we will give preference on a first-come, first-serve basis. The sooner you register, the more likely it will be that we can provide accommodations for you and your group.

True Love Revolution officially renamed The Harvard College Anscombe Society

True Love Revolution is officially renamed The Harvard College Anscombe Society. We have renamed ourselves after Elizabeth Anscombe, a Cambridge professor and celebrated British philosopher of the 20th century. In her work, Anscombe defended many principles shared by our organization, including chastity and the importance of marriage and the family. Inspired by her intellectually rigorous support for our group’s beliefs and by her witness to those values as a wife and mother, we have renamed our organization in her honor. Our mission remains unchanged, but we think that this new name will be very important in continuing to build our club and further its mission on campus.

Parenting in a Hypersexualized World

The average age at which young people first have sex is 17 years old. This is usually before they even graduate high school. In our hyper-sexualized American society, kids are being exposed to objectification of sex and the body through a number of outlets, such as advertising, pop culture, and even the clothes and toys being marketed to young children. By the time they reach middle school, a lot of them are desensitized to the sexualization all around them. Kids who are still young enough to require parental permission to go on a school field trip are considering themselves old enough to have sex.

This whole scenario isn’t new, though. It didn’t pop up all of a sudden as the 21st century moved in. Rather, it is the result of gradual societal change over the last 50 years. In this article from The Wall Street Journal, writer Jennifer Moses looks at the way girls and young women dress as a reflection of larger social and moral values. Perhaps most interesting, though, is the way she discusses how this is all a product of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Parents who had the freedom to engage in what they considered to be sex without consequences are raising children who eagerly partake in that lifestyle, encouraged by their peers and the media. Even if parents regret their own choices, and want their children to be free from that suffering, feel they have no place to correct their kids and establish moral guidelines that they need. As a result, young privileged women who can have whatever they want are nonetheless growing up with the idea that their femininity and even their personhood only go so far as their sexuality.

As Ms. Moses points out, this doesn’t signal a call to restore antiquated standards of femininity or to make sex taboo. Rather, it should signal a call to parents, and all those who are hoping to become parents, to break this cycle of the hook-up culture. They have the responsibility to guard their children, especially their daughters, from the mindset that women are only worth as much as their body. Parents have the ability to instill in their children a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, starting at a young age. By providing a strong alternative to mainstream values of sexuality and forming a network of support as their children grow up, they have the chance to create a change in the way society values sex.

 

The sex trade and slavery

UT Sociologist Mark Regnerus, along with Ellyn Arevalo, write for Public Discourse on “Commercialized Sex and Human Bondage”. Their article argues that the American sex trade – strip clubs, prostitution, and the booming pornography business – feeds on and fuels modern-day slavery.

The article explores the themes of consent and coercion, which should be  irrelevant in rescuing women from the sex trade:

“What if a woman wants to become a prostitute? In her book Prostitution, Power and Freedom, Nottingham University Sociology Professor Julia O’Connell explained that this phenomenon, known as “casual prostitution,” accounts for a mere one percent of women in the sex industry (University of Michigan Press, 1999). And in a recent study of trafficking and prostitution across nine countries, researchers found that out of 785 sex workers, “89 percent…wanted to escape prostitution but did not have other options for survival.”

Free choice here is largely a myth. Catherine MacKinnon, pioneer of the legal battle against sexual harassment in the workforce, argued that “If being a sex worker were truly a free choice, why is it that women with the fewest options are the ones most apt to “choose” it?” Closely related to the issue of choice is that of consent, or the idea that prostitution is innocuous if the prostituted woman gives her consent. But the condition of consent is an unfounded criterion.  Melissa Farley, director of the organization Prostitution Research and Education, explains that “it is a clinical, as well as a statistical error, to assume that most women in prostitution consent to it. In prostitution, the conditions which make genuine consent possible are absent: physical safety, equal power with customers, and real alternatives.” While no doubt some women choose this line of work freely, they remain a very small minority.

When you operate within the framework of consent and choice-based rhetoric, there will still be women who meet the requirements for victim status but remain overlooked. This is one reason why the prevalence of sexual trafficking is underreported in the US. The TVPA law currently stipulates that in order to prosecute traffickers and receive aid themselves, victims must be either under 18 years of age, or prove that their entry into the commercial sex industry was the result of force, fraud, or coercion. But what happens to women who initially agreed to come to the United States to work in the commercial sex industry (migrant sex “workers”), but would never have given their consent had they known what slave-like and abusive conditions awaited them? These women technically qualify for benefits under the TVPA, but will have a very difficult time securing them since they can’t easily prove that coercion occurred as defined by the law.

If the United States wishes to combat modern slavery, it should make exploitation, rather than force, fraud, or coercion the main consideration in possible trafficking cases. The United Nations already does this, and considers “consent” to be irrelevant in determining trafficking victim status. If the United States were to shift its emphasis away from proving force, fraud, or coercion toward establishing whether persons were being exploited for commercial sexual services, then far fewer victims would fall through our legislative cracks and it would be easier for law enforcement to prosecute sexual trafficking.”

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Harvard Cancer Society Sexualizes Cancer

Signs reading “Save Second Base” flooded campus hallways and public areas over the past few weeks. Bras hung outside the science center under the appeal, “Save Second Base”. While the purpose of increasing awareness about breast cancer is admirable, True Love Revolution believes that the sexualized approach was both demeaning and immature.

The Harvard Cancer Society used a sexualized campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer, but many students’ disapproval of the use of bras, sexualized facebook messages, and objectifying posters is encouraging. There is no need to objectify women to raise awareness about breast cancer. In fact, making cancer merely a sexual concern diminishes the importance of this incredibly serious disease. Should we only care about breast cancer as it relates to our own sexual gratification? Of course not, so why use such a degrading tactic to promote what should be a practically universal concern?

Sandra Korn, ’14, wrote in the Harvard Crimson about how the society’s campaign is offensive and unhelpful:

Breast cancer is not a sexual issue. It has nothing to do with femininity or female sexuality. In fact, around one percent of breast cancer patients are male. Raising awareness about breast cancer by displaying hot pink bras and joking about where we place our handbags not only demeans the experience of males and non-gender-identified people suffering from breast cancer but also equates breast cancer with sexual activity or sexual allure. This association could make many women uncomfortable, especially those enduring cancer themselves.

She also writes,

The Harvard Cancer Society should reconsider its marketing strategy for future breast cancer campaigns, and intelligent college students should think more critically before advocating “sexy” causes that might nonetheless be offensive or demeaning.

Follow this link to read more.

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Pimpin’ as a Term of Endearment

There are a few things that surprise me. One is that Boston seems to lack a WalMart. Another is that the WalMart in Spokane, WA offers ear piercing. Another is that mothers now call their sons “pimpin'” as a term of endearment.

My little sister and I were checking out WalMart watches this afternoon, near the newly created ear piercing station. A little boy, who couldn’t have been older than 9, jumped off the piercing stool with his new stud. His admiring mother checked out his ear and declared, “You are so pimpin’!” The 50-yr old woman who had just pierced the boy’s ear laughed along.

I have to admit that I was engrossed in trying on some bling and didn’t think twice when I heard the declaration. Luckily, my sister leaned in and whispered, true to form, “That’s appalling!” And actually, yes, it is.

According to the online slang dictionary (a very helpful tool), pimpin’ has several definitions, one of which is “when a guy is flirting with several girls,  also when something is extremely cool” and another which reads “very cool…hooked up”. Apparently, pimpin’ is now a synonym for cool. But how is it okay to use a word pertaining to using women as sexual objects as “cool”?
The definition of pimp:
1. a man who solicits for a prostitute or brothel and lives off the earnings
2. a man who procures sexual gratification for another; procurer; pander
The definition of pimpin’ (technically “pimping”):
To serve as a procurer of prostitutes
This word’s integration into everyday vocabulary is indicative of a creeping trend to conflate sexual meanings with the most innocuous adjectives. Conflating “pimp” with “cool,” the English language loses its dignity. Pimping is the epitome of the derogatory, criminal, and offensive, not the epitome of cool. We may expect this from rap music, but we certainly shouldn’t hear it used colloquially in WalMart, especially from a mother. This is diction that begs a reaction – and not the most easy reaction, which is laughing along.
Honestly, in what kind of world is it okay to call your 9-year-old son pimpin’?
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