Monday, October 10, 2005

Salsa Poster Controversy, and Sexuality

So on the front page of the Mustang Daily today was the headline "CPSalsa covers sexy posters." The article is about the somewhat risqué posters the salsa club posted to promote themselves. Predictably, some people complained about the posters' sexual nature and requested they be removed. The club eventually compromised by pasting "Cal Poly Advisory: Too Tempting" stickers like black censor bars over parts of the posters.

Why can't people — adults — get over sexuality? These were sexy posters, certainly, but not pornographic by any stretch of the imagination. Chill, Winston! They were sexy images to promote salsa, which many consider to be a rather sexy dance. Like the Mustang Daily article says, there are plenty of women walking around campus showing off a lot more cleavage than that poster.

Note that I'm not arguing against the club's needing to work with the university environment; as an official club, they agree to abide by some rules the school sets down. What I am arguing against is our entire culture that feels that even these posters are too much for people to handle, which in turn makes the university need to ask the club to remove the posters. Why is sex considered so dirty? Violence and gore should probably be considered more disturbing than something as natural and loving as sex.

In our culture where parents worry about their children acting out what they see on TV or in the movies, sex is definitely more worrisome to them than violence. I know it was so in my family; growing up, I could see any rated R movie I wanted if it was so rated for violence or language, but heaven forbid it be for sexuality. In my family, I had to weasel for permission to see a movie where I wasn't old enough to automatically meet the age requirement if it was rated above my age because of sexuality. But even it if is true that children do things they see on the screen (and I'm not sure I believe that the causation is as strong as some people say), why would parents rather their children kill people than have sex as teens? Sure, I agree that the teens should hold off on sex, but I also think that violence is much worse. Maybe the thought is that kids don't have as much of a desire to be violent, whereas their sexuality is just waiting to cause problems? Still, the practice of shunning the topic doesn't seem to me to be the best way of dealing with it, either.

Looking back, it seems my parents were contradictory in how they dealt with the two subjects of alcohol and sex. For alcohol, they often stated that it was important to make drinking "no big deal," so that I would know how to handle it responsibly and maturely. We were able to have frank discussions about it, so that alcohol was no longer a "forbidden fruit" for me to be rebellious about.

Not so with sex. I don't remember ever once talking with either of my parents about sexuality. It was (and still is) a completely taboo topic, never brought up by anyone. So now, as an adult, I have only my peers and other adults' opinions and advice. I still sometimes feel like I need to be secretive about anything related to sexuality, even though intellectually I don't think sex is something that needs to be hidden away or shunned. I sort of wish my parents could have been more matter-of-fact about it, so I could have talked with them. Advice, you know, or something. But as it is, I would feel very awkward talking with either of them about sex, which I think is unfortunate. It's sad that there are some things I can't go to them for, if I ever wanted to know whether something was normal or whether a problem is common or whatever. They're great for financial discussions, or sociology, or religion, but I just can't talk about sexuality with them.

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John Cowan said...

Not all of us parents are so squeamish.

On movies: we've always been a lot more concerned about violence than sex in movies and TV. Neither one is particularly realistic, but people eventually find that out for themselves when it comes to sex; I think the reason there's so much emphasis on serial killers on TV (and they're really pretty rare, let's face it) is simply that they don't have an Anti-Defamation League.

On sexuality: Our daughter's boyfriend has been sleeping over every Saturday night (except when she's on restriction for some reason) since the beginning. Way better, we thought, for her to have her first experiences in her own home and bed than God-knows-where under God-knows-what circumstances. During one summer he was actually living in our house for a month or so; his parents are dead and he was between living arrangements. That was a strain in a NYC apartment, so now he's here on Tuesday and Thursday evenings plus Saturday afternoon/Sunday only, going home after Sunday dinner.

On alcohol: I decided back as a teen that given the amount of alcoholism in my father's family (not including him, fortunately), I was better off not finding out if I was one of them, so I have never touched the stuff. My daughter is adopted, so she experimented sensibly, discovered her limits, and rarely drinks. New York State is quite nasty about under-21 drinking and facilitation thereof, so I'll say no more.

On sensible parents: I had sensible parents myself, and one problem is that it's then necessary to rebel about trivia rather than the important stuff. As a result, I still have to think twice every morning about whether I've brushed my teeth or not. Annoying. :-)

Arthaey Angosii said...

John: The living arrangement with your daughter's boyfriend is quite unusual, but then the circumstances also sound unusual, so I'm glad it works for you.

On sensible parent: I agree that if you generally thought your parents did a good job of raising you, then you'll tend to find smaller things to complain about. Just to be clear, I do think that, by and large, my parents were very reasonable and lenient. I've certainly heard of friends and acquaintances who didn't have it so lucky. This post just ended up focusing on one area where I wish things could have been different, that's all.

I hope my mom (who does read my blog) understands what I'm saying here and what I mean. (*big hugs*, Mom! I love you. :))

John Cowan said...

Just an update: he's back to living with us full-time, because finding a place to live, any place to live, in NYC on minimum wage is practically impossible. (He's saving money so he can get an apprenticeship as a music producer.) Fortunately for us three drama queens, he's a fairly low-impact personality.