Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Nation, Under P0rn

I'm a bit depressed. Classes didn't go so well as I would have liked today ---- partly the end of the semester, partly a problem with how I designed the arc of the class, partly because one of the students who was particularly vocal today is not very bright and not getting any of the concepts. Hmph.

But partly, it's because I have a group of students who are so damn accepting of the status quo that they don't see any point to studying it, much less doing anything about it. I might be able to get them to see, by now, that the media has relentlessly sexualized female bodies for a profit, and that women are enacting porneriffic fantasies more to conform or get ahead than because of any of their own desires (and the course has gotten pretty damn repetitive on this topic and needs reworking to build outward more), and yet, they just can't get worked up about it in any way. Yeah, you gotta flash yer tits to get past the rope and into the club where they have women go-go dancing in cages, but whattaya gonna do? Rape? Eh, sucks, but it happens. What about to you? Or your sister, or your mom? Ain't gonna happen to me. And why should violence --- physical or symbolic --- directed against anybody else matter to me anyway?

And raising our nation's children in a space that is not so relentlessly commercialized, p0rnified, sexualized at ever-younger ages? Eh, does it have that much influence on people? Really, it's all up to the parents --- and those kids who aren't in good home situations or don't have parents around are going to turn out bad no matter what. Why change anything? Why think about organizing or protesting anything? This is stupid and you'll never change the way things are!

And when talking about how to change how we raise children in this sex-saturated society, one said, "well I got the shit beat outta me constantly and I turned out pretty good, so I don't see why that won't work for everybody." Really? Even though it's horrible and painful? Eh, whatever. ---- This is my one who is not getting anything out of the course.

Sigh. Part of the problem is that all my material in the books (yes, I'm teaching the subject in multiple courses and they lined up today) is documenting media p0rnification, as are my several videos/interviews. (And another part of the problem is that we've been doing a lot of videos that took the whole class period lately and today they had to talk --- so I haven't been confronted with their stupidity and resistance as much before today. Serious.) Everybody already knows everything about how music and the media and magazines are all becoming p0rnified. I don't think my students have any clue what an alternative would be. I mean, they don't read books or look at art or know any history or knowledge of how other cultures do it --- and conservative Christianity doesn't mean that it won't be ok with H00ters or pole-dancing for Jesus. As my students experience it, religion is about hypocrisy and controlling women, not providing a space devoid of sexuality or alternative representations of sexuality.

And my students are mad at me (both classes) for my suggestion that educating kids to alternatives could involve pointing out to them the dangers and drawbacks of porn work, pimping or other aspects of "thug life" that they only see glamorized in videos: Hey, man, you messin' with a kid's dream! Don't be punchin' holes in someone's dream, they just want the good life and the good job! Like mentioning the graduation rate here or askin' us to study how well our majors did at getting jobs --- who would ask somebody depressing stuff like that?

Sigh ---- I guess their response to the possibility that they may be in a Ponzi scheme (that we all in higher ed might be in a Ponzi scheme, let's say it) is that they'd rather get more smoke and dreams blown up their asses than to investigate the facts and protest or organize. Huh. Kids these days.

So I want to revamp the course --- in a lot of ways; these students need regular quizzes and worksheets to make them read and even when they do read they often miss the point the author was making entirely, so that has to get changed around to fit with them more --- and I'd rather have my examples focus on representatives of alternative ways of being rather than the usual shit they can find on BET or the news --- but here I'm constrained by the required textbook --- textbooks, actually, since I don' t have the authority to choose a different book from the common text across any of these intro classes. Really I'm just giving up this group for lost and waiting for the opportunity to scrap my syllabi and restart. Though I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do about the readings, some of which are mind-numbingly boring and some of which are stupid.

I guess really what I'm finding, across my classes, is this self-centered, do-whatever-I-gotta-do-to-get-ahead attitude, and I want to at least get them to understand some concept of collectivity, of community, of reciprocity rather than competition or self-interest, and I'm kinda stymied about that. I'm also kinda horrified that the more I think about media and sexuality, the more I take positions resembling the conservative right. One problem is that I think I need to show a lot more examples of spirituality or talking about sex in a mature, nonjudgmental way in terms of intimacy and mutuality --- but I am terrible at that in my own life and not at all prepared in how to do that in the classroom. That's why I like me a good labor protest and teaching about something pretty impersonal.

I wish I had my MFT therapist friend move out here with me. Or you know what this city needs? Well, a Planned Parenthood that did sex education workshops that was within 150 miles would be great, but what someone really needs to open here is a feminist sex shop. Too bad I'm one of the most repressed people I know, 'cause that postdoc has an end-date on it and entrepreneurship would be a totally great way to go.

I've got two or three half-written posts on this topic that I should go back and finish, now that I'm on a roll, but for now, I just wanna say: bleah. Sigh. W. T. F, people.


Fretful Porpentine said...

Yeah, I totally hear you about the inability to imagine a world that's any different from the one we have now. (My assignments are nowhere near as exciting as yours are, but I've just been talking myself blue in the face trying to get my comp students to come up with thesis statements that advocate a specific change to university policies.) I sometimes think that the first-gen and minority students, in particular, have been carefully taught and conditioned not to imagine different worlds (by their K-12 education, by their churches, by the conditions of their lives). The ones who do have an instinctive sense that things aren't right have mostly had the nascent activism crushed out of them by the time they get to college.

Belle said...

Gag, this sounds so awful. I'm here on the buckle of the bible belt (as one of our radical feminist religion profs called it) and used to hear and confront this attitude all the time. Now, not so much, as I think the kids that think like that have self-selected themselves out of my classes.

I have a total of one of those kids now, and he laughingly notes that the more he reads, the more leftish he becomes, and jokes about being the token conservative in the class. I am astonished that he is a major - our Dept is probably the most left-wing in the whole damned state, and the law school routinely tells candidates to stay away from the whole arts & science faculty as we are so radical. Which is laughable, BTW. But I hear ya, Sis, and feel/share your pain.

Anonymous said...

Last summer,I couldn't get my class to imagine why polygamy (of the FLDS) variety might not be an ideal situation for women, particularly those who are raised in it and have no other real options. because, you know, what if they're happy? *headdesk*

Sisyphus said...

Yeah, I'm sure that Sister Wives/19 Kids and Counting isn't helping with that fight. ... It's weird how students can analyze the effect of media/parental/peer/social culture and say that it has a huge effect on *everyone else,* but that they are completely free agents who make all decisions consciously and without coercion! And then will turn around and say something f-ed up like "clearly so and so chose to be raped!"


Bardiac said...

I despair.

The only thing that helps is that I know the generation before me felt the same way about me. And I've grown a lot and learned a lot, despite inauspicious beginnings.