Debate Magazine

We Are Not Expendable Or Disposable; Having Sex Does Not Make Us So

Posted on the 08 May 2013 by Doggone
We are not expendable or disposable; having sex does not make us soThis week MSNBC host Chris Hayes did a series of interviews about the three women who were kidnapped, raped, and beaten for approximately a decade, in Cleveland Ohio. He followed it with segments on rape in our military. They were superb.
What the following excerpt from a longer interview shows is Elizabeth Smart speaking about her recovery from another years-long abduction that also involved rape and beatings.  Smart makes a profound statement about what is wrong far too often in our cultural, legal, political and religious traditions regarding women, and regarding sex. It makes sense about what is wrong with the view that sex is something dirty, which disgraces women - but not men - making us expendable and disposable, and which in doing so also makes us subordinate to the worst sexual appetites of men rather than responsible to ourselves.
I remember having this internal discussion with myself about how I would choose to regard sex and sexuality when I was around 15-16 years old, in the larger context of feminism raising issues about women's roles and our sexuality. I remember consciously and deliberately considering the traditional views on sex espoused by my parents, and rejecting them as wrong - wrong about and for women, but also for men.
There is no way in which sex becomes a beautiful, wonderful shared expression of love if you are taught that a spouse will reject you if you have had sex with anyone else - that he has a unique and exclusive right to your body, and that you do not.  Consensual, safe and responsible loving intimacy expressed sexually is either good or it is not good. The idea that a human being loses value, and legitimacy and any form of worth because of having sex is stupid, and ugly, and frankly ridiculous.
The idea that a woman's expression of sexuality or a woman having sex in some way reflects on a man's honor or worth, potency or legitimacy is equally stupid and ugly.  Men are responsible for their honor and for their value and sense of worth, and for whatever feelings they have too - including lust or possessiveness or anger.  That's not something one can properly and fairly blame on someone else.
Unfortunately, it is the attitude that women are something to be captured, hit over the head and dragged off to the man-cave for non-consensual sex, like some sort of territory to be conquered, that results in the number of rapes and the right-wing pro-rape culture.  It is used to justify attacks on women by claiming they 'deserve it' or 'were asking for it'.  It is used to justify the madonna/whore dichotomy that some men hold, where women are either good, pure non-sexual non-sensual women who consent to be mothers, but not to liking sex too much, or they are whores who are too sexual, and therefore soiled, stained, 'ruined', women who can be treated badly as disposable, and expendable.  It is use to justify misogynist right wing legislation that treats women as secondary to reproduction and sex objects for men, including the anti-women efforts to deny us contraception and reproductive choice, including abortion, and which promotes pro-rape legislation that gives rapists parental rights. It is reflected as well in the right wing legislative policies which make discrimination and failure to pay women equally both legal, and which tries to make it harder for women to pursue sexual harassment suits so as to make it easier for men to be abusers.
It is in part this double standard towards women, present in both men and women because of acculturation combined with religious indoctrination, that we have a rape culture.  It is a reflection of not only invalid notions of how we define women, but in the hyper-masculine notions we have about men.  In hyper-masculine sub-cultures - like the military, and in some respects in other authoritarian power structures, we see more resistance to equality, we see more violence and aggression, without an equal measure of the more positive qualities associated with male gender.
It explains what is so badly wrong with the attempt by conservatives to hyper-masculinize our education system, where there is a desire to institutionalize male on male and male on female violence, in spite of the detriment to education.  It is part of why organizations like the military and highly patriarchal institutions like certain church organizations - notably the Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist tend to have greater problems with abuse, including both sexual abuse of women and children, incest, and also there are greater problems with cover-ups and obstruction of law enforcement.  The Boy Scouts of America appear to have similar problems that are not reflected in their female counterparts, the Girl Scouts of America.  And then of course we have the utterly failed values of the Tea Party and the GOP, where apparently no amount of misconduct, including sexual misconduct, or gross sexual ignorance is ever really penalized.  In right wing family values, cheating on one's wife, domestic abuse, or pro-rape legislation are all condoned and embraced --- so long as it works to benefit men, but not women.
I would hope that an understanding of how our failed traditional attitudes and beliefs affect all of us, to our detriment, would be reflected in repudiating the failed religious assumptions behind the equally failed abstinence only sex ed. It doesn't work -- it does not educate, it does not impart healthy understanding of sex and sexuality, it does not instruct students in what they need to know. It does not produce intelligent, informed and responsible adults. Instead it results in unwanted pregnancies, failed marriages, failed parenting, more sexually transmitted disease, and a long laundry list of other social ills that are preventable by valuing women, and not equating sex with sin.
Elizabeth Smart has it right.  BOTH men and women, boys and girls, need to stop thinking of women having sex as equating the experience to being a used up, damaged, unwanted piece of chewed gum to be thrown away.  People have more value than that; WOMEN have more value than that.  Sex is not like that.
I would hope that every parent of a daughter, every aunt or uncle or grandparent of a niece, every brother with a sister, teaches the same lessons and embraces the same values as those of Elizabeth Smart in the video below -- and shows it twice as often to their sons, nephews, brothers and grandsons.
There are a lot of valid reasons for women to decide to have sex or not have sex.  Becoming garbage is not one of them.  I hope and pray the women who were abducted and raped for a decade learn that too.
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