Culture Ramblings on Sexual Themes in Modern Culture

Certified_Heterosexual

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I've been mulling for a while over the strange inversion of society over the past few decades with regard to obscenities or just bawdy comments and themes.

This was brought about in my mind by the discussion of a reported Court opinion from the 1980s (if I recall) about behavior within a Supermarket meat department, and certain behavior by male members of the department in the presence of a female member including lots of not-so-subtle innuendo about "meat" and so forth. The behavior of its own was not found at that time to be of such a degree of outrageousness so as to extend legal liability to the employer, and the reaction among the assembled—especially lady lawyers—was outrage and disbelief. The consensus was that times had changed in the intervening decades, and that none of the behavior described in the opinion should be tolerated because it would absolutely lead to employer liability. This consensus was no doubt correct as a legal matter.

This discussion occurred right around the series finale of Game of Thrones, which I admit that I watched with disinterest, as did many if not most of the assembled participants in the discussion. What occurred to me was that while behavior in workplaces has been increasingly and aggressively supervised and sanitized of any aspect of human sexuality, the wider culture has simultaneously descended into open obscenity and the over-saturation of sex, deviance and and pornography into every other aspect of American life. If there were two lines on a graph representing sex in workplace culture on the one hand and the general culture on the other, they would begin rather close together but then sharply diverge. Game of Thrones stuck out in my mind for its often gratuitous displays of sex and nudity, including sexual sadism and rape. The same people who would find workplace horseplay about "meat" outrageous would regularly watch Game of Thrones without thinking about the juxtaposition of the two as cultural artifacts. In the 1980s, Game of Thrones probably would have earned an NC-17 or X rating had it ever been produced in the first place.

Contrary to the way the law is supposed to work—where the standard of conduct should reflect somewhat the baseline of the culture at large—the American workplace has become neo-Victorian in its prudery, while one is at the same time bombarded with pornographic images that seek you out in all forms of media the moment you leave the workplace.

There are of course obvious answers for why or by whom this came to be, but right now I'm ruminating on how strange it is as a modus vivendi, and how strange it is that tens if not hundreds of millions of people just accept it as a fact of life without question.

On the one hand, we are enticed by all of this open display of sexuality. On the other hand, we are punished for responding to it in the least way.

The culprit, I think, is consumerism and alienation. When you watch porn or quasi-porn, you do so privately. Looking at billboards is not a social experience, no matter how public that billboard may be. Our interactions with other people consuming product is limited even in a movie theater. But workplace interactions are interpersonal by nature. That means that the precious preferences of the precious consumer are no longer non-negotiable. One must deal with the preferences of a different human being. And that human being may not be a member of a protected class.

It goes back to one of the earliest definitions of liberalism: "the belief that each individual can think, say, or do whatever pleases him, without intervention from any authority." That raises the question: what happens when different people have mutually exclusive desires? In more than two hundred years, The Cool People© have never given a satisfactory answer to this dilemma, because there can't be one.

“They should reach an agreement by mutual consent.”

“Did you miss that part about how their desires are mutually exclusive?”

“Whoever violates the Non-Aggression Principle during the dispute is in the wrong.”

“You're already picking a winner by pre-supposing some standard for 'aggression.'”

“SH-SHUT UP, BIGOT!”
 

Tyanna of Pentos

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It's interesting that you call it an inversion. And you are right; society in the past could be, for lack of a better term, "bawdy", but obscenity tended to be regulated. Now we have eliminated the bawdiness in society, but obscenity is available and indeed celebrated. Deracination certainly has something to do with that--as we are increasingly stripped of any mediating relationship between ourselves and the organs of power in society--the mass media and the State. The isolated wretch can enjoy any perversity, but can't have an honest community, the inversion of the past, where a bawdy night at the community bar (now closed down) was fine but perversity was not available in mass for consumption.
 
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Sorry communist, but it simply ain't about deleting non-marketable sexual expression. You're only addressing sexuality at the workplace, while the rest of America is still quite fucky. Terribly fucky. It's actually a struggle against thermodynamics and evolutionary psychology, cause, for obvious reasons sex is quite distracting. Sex at the workplace is an annoyance to everyone but the willful perpetrators, so you have to crack down on that. People however, turn into a single minded idiot savant under the control of the mechanisms that THOUGHT this would increase their ability to spread their genetics, so the workplace is now in an arms race against that foul fiend human nature, and yes there is a feedback loop involved as the repressed workman vents it out and inadverdently reinforces it HARD. Occam's Razor: the most likely solution is the one that doesn't appeal to The Sietch's persecution complex.
 

Tyanna of Pentos

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Sorry communist, but it simply ain't about deleting non-marketable sexual expression. You're only addressing sexuality at the workplace, while the rest of America is still quite fucky. Terribly fucky. It's actually a struggle against thermodynamics and evolutionary psychology, cause, for obvious reasons sex is quite distracting. Sex at the workplace is an annoyance to everyone but the willful perpetrators, so you have to crack down on that. People however, turn into a single minded idiot savant under the control of the mechanisms that THOUGHT this would increase their ability to spread their genetics, so the workplace is now in an arms race against that foul fiend human nature, and yes there is a feedback loop involved as the repressed workman vents it out and inadverdently reinforces it HARD. Occam's Razor: the most likely solution is the one that doesn't appeal to The Sietch's persecution complex.
The easiest way to maintain civility in the workplace is for people to dress modestly. I find it produces an incredible advantage in how people treat you. Just something to consider.
 

Lord Invictus

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I wouldn't blame Game of Thrones per se-not that it doesn't have lots of titillation or sex appeal, it does. Curiously, that was part of why it was promoted and celebrated, "this is serious mature fantasy, its got titties and guys going to brothels". Which speaks to something deeper in the culture. The idea that for something in culture to be taken as not for children, or archaic-it has to have sex in it somewhere.

I think the bawdiness of ages past has a lot to do frankly with the lack of women. Or less women anyway in the workplace. Men could exchange sexual innuendos and jokes without risking lawsuits. Or if women were around, they weren't so easily offended or upset by it, even if they didn't like it they had thicker skin and could tolerate being the object of some interpersonal obscenity.

The way America handles sex has always been this weird inversion of great puritanism and also enthusiastic engagement. Probably something to do with our Calvinist roots.
 

Terthna

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what happens when different people have mutually exclusive desires?
If they cannot learn to agree to disagree, and come to some sort of compromise; there's really only one possible outcome. They'll try to kill each other, because that's what happens when words fail; violence becomes the only solution.
 

Lord Invictus

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Violence is simply the result of irreconcilable desires, or irreconcilable interests. When someone wants something and the other person wants the same and sharing is not an option-violence is the only alternative.
 
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The easiest way to maintain civility in the workplace is for people to dress modestly. I find it produces an incredible advantage in how people treat you. Just something to consider.
Thanks for the advice but you seem to have made a wrong turn on your way to Universe 63.
 

Tyanna of Pentos

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Sorry communist, but it simply ain't about deleting non-marketable sexual expression. You're only addressing sexuality at the workplace, while the rest of America is still quite fucky. Terribly fucky. It's actually a struggle against thermodynamics and evolutionary psychology, cause, for obvious reasons sex is quite distracting. Sex at the workplace is an annoyance to everyone but the willful perpetrators, so you have to crack down on that. People however, turn into a single minded idiot savant under the control of the mechanisms that THOUGHT this would increase their ability to spread their genetics, so the workplace is now in an arms race against that foul fiend human nature, and yes there is a feedback loop involved as the repressed workman vents it out and inadverdently reinforces it HARD. Occam's Razor: the most likely solution is the one that doesn't appeal to The Sietch's persecution complex.

Actually, just to add, as a more serious critique of what you're trying to say here, the rate of sex in the west in general continues to drop. People are having less and less of it, the more that individuals like yourself promote unrestrained licence and popularise sexuality being broadly displayed in pop culture, the less people actually have sex. So claiming that we're neglecting the reality of people wanting to have sex is, in fact, absurd, because we can create a direct correlated trend between the loosening of mores around public expression in this country and rise of pornographic material, and the decline in sexual activity. Then we can argue about causation all day long--but the first principles of your statement in that post are actually invalidated by fact.
 
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Actually, just to add, as a more serious critique of what you're trying to say here, the rate of sex in the west in general continues to drop.
[citation needed]
People are having less and less of it, the more that individuals like yourself promote unrestrained licence and popularise sexuality being broadly displayed in pop culture, the less people actually have sex.
Rich for me to say this after calling someone a communist for their vaguely anti-corporate politics, but I can't see what in the span of the noosphere make me come off to you as someone who thinks "yes, more sex on tv". Do you even remember what I say in the rest of the forum? Did even "terribly fucky" sound like a sex positive statement?
 

Tyanna of Pentos

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You and I both know there is plenty of context, both spoke and unspoken. Context is definitely something that your criticism of me lacks, however. But at any rate, citations are not required on this forum (since it's assumed that we're all intellectual and can do our own research if we're interested), and making gestures like that, can, in fact, be considered impolite under the rules of this forum. But, you know, it's not like it's some right-wing criticism of modern society unnoticed by anyone else that you demand a "citation" for, indeed, nothing less than NPR has run an article on it before.
 

The Name of Love

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It goes back to one of the earliest definitions of liberalism: "the belief that each individual can think, say, or do whatever pleases him, without intervention from any authority." That raises the question: what happens when different people have mutually exclusive desires? In more than two hundred years, The Cool People© have never given a satisfactory answer to this dilemma, because there can't be one.

“They should reach an agreement by mutual consent.”

“Did you miss that part about how their desires are mutually exclusive?”

“Whoever violates the Non-Aggression Principle during the dispute is in the wrong.”

“You're already picking a winner by pre-supposing some standard for 'aggression.'”

“SH-SHUT UP, BIGOT!”
And that's precisely where the logic of liberalism breaks down. You try to create a purely procedural legal order without any ordering towards a substantial good, and you end up having a substantial good anyways.
 

OliverCromwell

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“They should reach an agreement by mutual consent.”

“Did you miss that part about how their desires are mutually exclusive?”

“Whoever violates the Non-Aggression Principle during the dispute is in the wrong.”

“You're already picking a winner by pre-supposing some standard for 'aggression.'”

“SH-SHUT UP, BIGOT!”
This may come as a surprise to you, but the Liberal tradition is not in fact made up of gibbering imbeciles who have spent the last two centuries ignoring the single most obvious, common, and puerile objection to their philosophical foundation that exists. Have you ever read Gauthier?
 
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The Name of Love

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This may come as a surprise to you, but the Liberal tradition is not in fact made up of gibbering imbeciles who have spent the last two centuries ignoring the single most obvious, common, and puerile objection to their philosophical foundation that exists. Have you ever read Gauthier?
David Gauthier? He seems to be pretty into contractarianism, which, as I've laid out in my philosophy essays, isn't actually an "ethics" of any kind, but a sort of non-aggression pact. A contractarian cannot tell a sociopath why they're morally wrong, only shrug and say "oh well, hope they don't get into power!"
 

OliverCromwell

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David Gauthier? He seems to be pretty into contractarianism, which, as I've laid out in my philosophy essays, isn't actually an "ethics" of any kind, but a sort of non-aggression pact. A contractarian cannot tell a sociopath why they're morally wrong, only shrug and say "oh well, hope they don't get into power!"
...no? The whole project of contractarianism is designed around grounding morality in such a way that even a sociopath--a purely asocial, non-tuistic actor--could acknowledge it, purely on the basis of their strategic reason in the pursuit of their own self-interest. Gauthier directly acknowledges this in Chapter 10 of Morals by Agreement (and for the matter this is what Hobbes himself argued centuries ago as well) and the fact that you have such a basic misunderstanding of the notion of contractarianism strongly suggests to me that you don't understand the idea very well in the first place.
 

The Name of Love

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...no? The whole project of contractarianism is designed around grounding morality in such a way that even a sociopath--a purely asocial, non-tuistic actor--could acknowledge it, purely on the basis of their strategic reason in the pursuit of their own self-interest. Gauthier directly acknowledges this in Chapter 10 of Morals by Agreement (and for the matter this is what Hobbes himself argued centuries ago as well) and the fact that you have such a basic misunderstanding of the notion of contractarianism strongly suggests to me that you don't understand the idea very well in the first place.
No, I don’t misunderstand anything. All the sociopath has to do is calculate that his self-interest would be best served not following those morals for contractarianism to fall apart. That’s always the lose condition for those types of “ethics” because it’s just a guide of achieving your goals, not an actual ethical framework.
 

Lord Invictus

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Self interest by nature is inherently amoral.

A serial killer's self interest is not to get caught and keep on killing to sate some psychological urge.

A rapacious billionaire's self interest is not served by playing fair when cheating has made him wealthy.

Not cheating is not always in a student's self interest. You can make the calculation of cheat over getting caught and getting into school or A plus-and it may turn out not getting caught is all the moral stake in the game.
 

OliverCromwell

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No, I don’t misunderstand anything. All the sociopath has to do is calculate that his self-interest would be best served not following those morals for contractarianism to fall apart. That’s always the lose condition for those types of “ethics” because it’s just a guide of achieving your goals, not an actual ethical framework.
A sociopath certainly would do that, and that sociopath would be wrong. That, once again, is the entire point of Morals by Agreement and more broadly the entire contractarian contract. The moral constraints presented by the contractarian theory are simply those conditions which are necessary for cooperation between rational persons to take place--those who reject those constraints and act in contravention of them are, in turn, surrendering their ability to cooperate with other actors. The contrarianism society has a perfect answer to how to respond to such a person--they will, inevitably, be cast out of society. Others will refuse to cooperate with them, and they will unable to enjoy the benefits that arise from that cooperation which forms the basis of society.

There are no gods on earth. There is not a person on earth who does not stand to benefit substantially from cooperation with other persons--even the strongest, the richest, the most powerful man is every day dependent on the cooperation of thousands of others to not try to murder him, or steal his possessions, or so forth. It is essentially impossible to imagine a real person who does not stand to benefit by bargaining through minimax relative concession--such a person would be an omnipotent, more powerfult than everyone else in society by an absurd order of magnitude. To calculate that your self-interest would not be best served by following moral constraints is to calculate that gravity makes objects fall up or that 1+1=5--it is wrong in a purely rational, factual sense. This is the entire basis of contrarianism ethics--that moral constraints can be said to be real and correct because they are the foundation upon which all rational cooperation depends.
 

The Name of Love

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A sociopath certainly would do that, and that sociopath would be wrong. That, once again, is the entire point of Morals by Agreement and more broadly the entire contractarian contract. The moral constraints presented by the contractarian theory are simply those conditions which are necessary for cooperation between rational persons to take place--those who reject those constraints and act in contravention of them are, in turn, surrendering their ability to cooperate with other actors. The contrarianism society has a perfect answer to how to respond to such a person--they will, inevitably, be cast out of society. Others will refuse to cooperate with them, and they will unable to enjoy the benefits that arise from that cooperation which forms the basis of society.

There are no gods on earth. There is not a person on earth who does not stand to benefit substantially from cooperation with other persons--even the strongest, the richest, the most powerful man is every day dependent on the cooperation of thousands of others to not try to murder him, or steal his possessions, or so forth. It is essentially impossible to imagine a real person who does not stand to benefit by bargaining through minimax relative concession--such a person would be an omnipotent, more powerfult than everyone else in society by an absurd order of magnitude. To calculate that your self-interest would not be best served by following moral constraints is to calculate that gravity makes objects fall up or that 1+1=5--it is wrong in a purely rational, factual sense. This is the entire basis of contrarianism ethics--that moral constraints can be said to be real and correct because they are the foundation upon which all rational cooperation depends.
But see, there’s nothing wrong with the sociopath’s reasoning in principle, only in the realm of contingent facts. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with murder, rape, or any other crime because there’s no such thing as moral principles according to a contractarian theory of ethics.

If you actually lived in a society in which everyone believed in contractarian ethics (as opposed to a post-Christian society in which Christianity informs our moral intuitions), it wouldn’t look anything like the nice, liberal society neo-Hobbesians imagine it. It’d better resemble the war of all against all Hobbes thought a stateless society resembles, because contractarians don’t believe moral goodness as virtue ethicists see it even exists.
 
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