Thursday, 27 December 2012

Against political correctness: Evolving the language of sexuality

There can be no doubt that the language of masculinity is an extension, if not a chief driver of, the machinery of patriarchal power. This is most easily identifiable in the language around masculine sexuality. The sexual language itself is a language rooted in power, the relationship of dominance. 

You only need to look at the common place words used by men in their dialogue around sexual relationships with women, to see the starkness of it. We speak of 'laying' 'taking' 'having' or 'doing'. We use the verbs, 'screw' 'poke' 'bang' 'ball' 'beast' 'shaft' or 'nail.'

Even words that seem to have a little more humour and irony to them, such as 'shag' or 'fuck' have a connotation of power in their usage. There are other phrases of course that are more benign, but they are not the common, every day usage, and they tend to refer to a prissy, unexcited form of sexuality. 

At the risk of sounding too precious, I can't help thinking that a lot of the language we grow up using has an undercurrent of rape coded in the meanings of its terms. They imply that all forms of male sexuality should aspire to a form of conquest, and they embody the core patriarchal ideal of property, of owning a woman the way we might own a piece of land. 

Male sexuality becomes this project of ownership and domination over women, not only taking away some false idea of their purity, but also imprinting on their sexuality the mark of the man's. 

But women are not the only ones who stand to suffer abuse from this primitive language. Through our language we reflect the ideas of our individual selves. We identify ourselves as those doing the dominating. We objectify ourselves as an idea, and we live out the vapidity of that idea in our sexual encounters.

What is needed is a new language around masculine sexuality. This has to be a language that allows for constant and creative freshness in how we talk about the male sexual experience.

I want to say that we should try to eliminate the language of power from the language of masculine sexuality. To prize apart the idea that being male is to be dominant, invulnerable, protective, and imposing. 

However, to dissect and abandon 'language games' in this way is edging into the fascistic. It is also completely unrealistic. 

Language forms as a chaotic and fractal entity. It is not something that can be contained or even explained. It is something that simply explodes as culture itself explodes. Language, above all things, is evolutionary in the most technical sense of that word. It is something that grows from a need, something that enhances the survival and quality of that survival, and so when we try regulate or contain it, it will necessarily resist.

This is why political correctness never worked. Teaching people to be censorious about their own language use is tantamount to teaching them to devolve, to relinquish a very vital tool. It is ultimately like telling them to hand over their advantage in survival. Not only is it ultimately futile, it is also scientifically unrealistic. It's like telling people that they should use their opposable thumb for one particular task, and that task only.

To require an organism to self-regulate in this way, is to misunderstand the nature of its survival as an organism in the first place. You are basically telling it to stop surviving. This is true whether it is your intention or not. In regards to language, you cannot roll back the conceptual apparatus that generates language use. You cannot police thought. 

That's not to deny that much of the emergent and organic language is in itself profane and destructive. Language often is abusive, and can actually get to the stage where is starts to hold us back, where it starts to inhibit the very evolution that it evolved to advance in the first place.

But the evolutionary instinct is by its nature flexible. So, too, is language. This is why we have poets. This is why the aesthetic experience is crucial to the evolution and survival of the species. Art and poetry and the instinct to experiment with 'language games', the instinct to combine and make a cocktail of experiences and concepts, is the very evolution of language itself.

To develop a new language of masculinity, then, is not to abandon and police out of us the archaic concepts that have driven destructive masculine behaviours. Change is not about abandoning the old. It is about advancing over existing boundaries. Perhaps, in this sense, language truly is a virus. It subsumes and propagates. It does not discharge anything but envelopes it and expands its reach constantly.

In short, cutting off language expressions around masculinity is not the answer. Trying to eliminate the undesirable from our conceptual apparatus and language tools is an ignorant, and I would argue, unscientific approach to instigating change.

The only way that change truly occurs in a lasting way, is through developing superior and more effective alternatives. You cannot police out evil behaviours any more than you can police out evil and violent thoughts. In fact, attempting to do so is thoroughly ignorant and backward looking. 

You cannot educate a young man to not be an instinctual and sexual creature. In fact, I will always hold that attempting to do that is the very reason masculine sexuality has developed its violent and oppressive cultural dimensions.

My point is this: Men will only evolve if they are allowed to evolve alternative forms of masculine language and cultural identity.

Political correctness is absurd. You cannot police language any more than you can police people's sexual desires and narcissistic thoughts. Man does not conquer himself. He does not overcome his limitations, he evolves through them and subsumes them into his creative development. 

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