Monday, May 10, 2010

The Middle Way

So I have some pretty negative thoughts on pornography. Negative as in, even typing the word makes my teeth grit together and my blood pressure rise.

The other night, I was at Piper Down with some friends. For some reason, all their television screens that night were showing porn. Not just boobs, but full-on female nudity, girl on girl action, etc. I'm not even sure what the show was about, but it seemed along the lines of some Girls Gone Wild action- except with full sex scenes, etc. When it first came on, I tried to ignore it and pretend it wasn't happening- tried to ignore seeing all the guys I was with watching it, etc. But as time went on and the seemingly never ending parade of boobs and sex kept coming, I just felt myself get angrier and angrier. I mentioned to my friend that I was thinking of asking Piper if they wouldn't mind changing the channel. Her response was just to "ignore it." Another friend of mine chimed in and said the same thing, that it wasn't that big of a deal. And I basically snapped a gasket. I told him OF COURSE it wasn't a big deal, to HIM, because he had a PENIS. I told him that it was impossible for him to understand the perpetuation of objectification and degradation toward women that comes in conjunction with pornography because he was a man. I was angry. Not at him, per say, but at the entire situation. Even now, I'm fighting back the urge to make this a post about the shittiness of porn.

Anyway, after my rant, I sat there feeling waves of anger just rolling over me. I really felt emotionally spent. I was worried that my friendship might be compromised due to yelling at my friend about his laissez-faire attitude. I wasn't having a good time. And the naked girl parade was still going on in full force. My anger had essentially accomplished nothing positive.

In Buddhism, there's talk about finding the Middle Way. As someone who does not identify as Buddhist, I apologize to those with more expertise on the subject than I have if I misinterpret the concept, but I believe it's the concept that in all things, balance is key. This applies to the normal, boring things like diet, sleep, exercise, sex, etc. However, it also applies to things like emotions, where allowing a particular emotion/mindset/belief to become entrenched is also a way to become out of balance. In fact, it seems like most of the focus on balance, regards this emotional upset that occurs when we attach to our thoughts. You see this focus on awareness and disattachment to thoughts in cognitive psychology too- I just think the Buddhist concept of the Middle Way is an appealing viewpoint.

Anyway, so I've been thinking about the concept of the Middle Way for a while. I think, for me at least, it gets tricky around things like politics and feminism and other ideologies that I subscribe to. How to be an effective proponent and supporter of things I believe in and yet not allow the beliefs about them to overattach? That's where it really gets tricky.

So for now, I'm practicing letting go with porn. Digging right down to the nitty gritty of it and admitting that, for as much as I utterly loathe it, all that loathing isn't going to stop girls from stripping for the camera in order to win "Most Sexy" or "Best Boobs." In fact, my loathing essentially accomplishes porn's initial intention- it deidentifies these women for me- I stop seeing them as individuals and can only see them in the context that they are displayed. I stop caring about them as human beings and instead feel resentful that they are playing active roles in supportive a sex culture that commodifies them- essentially putting them in the role of "other"- which then places me in a similar role to men who only see them as an objectification of sex. The only difference is how we each moralize it.

In other instances of successful letting go, I've noticed that it doesn't make me any less of an advocate. In fact, approaching things like this from a more positive, less attached position often times means I've been able to more strongly explain my positions without all the emotion. Hopefully, that means that next time, instead of becoming Mt. Vesuvius next time Piper does Girls Gone Wild night, I'll be fine with simply asking if they could turn the channel. And if they don't, that will be fine too.

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