Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I like to watch French and Italian foreign films, despite my difficulty in reading the subtitles, because there is something about the attitude they take towards life that makes me feel better about myself. I’ve been trying to understand why and I realized after watching Pauline at The Beach just what that something is.
These other cultures have so much more acceptance of sexuality than we do in this country. I’ve mentioned that to friends and they laughed and responded with,
“look at all the sex and nudity in American films! What are you talking about?” But the number of boobs and porn scenes is not what I am talking about. It is the way that the people
in the film react to it, and the consequences it has.
Nobody seems to just accept sex as a part of normal human life in this country. They use it to sell things, tantalize potential customers and lure men to their death…but no one has a warm, natural attitude towards it. It is an act steeped in guilt, cosmetic surgery and divorce settlements.
I have never felt comfortable with my own sexuality- I don’t think my parents ever even mentioned it to me. They must have assumed I got my info from other sources. And they were right-
I got it from my misinformed friends and from magazines and movies.
I wish that just once I could think of sex and have a pleasurable act between consenting adults come to mind. Instead, it always opens up a can of traumatic memories, fears and regrets.
Are we all doomed to sexual dysfunction in our country?
It isn’t just sexuality that is messed up in the USA- so are our ideas on nudity and body image. As you pointed out, we don’t seem know what it means to be human at all. We learn about our humanity from religion, media, and conversation with friends…and this skews our ability to observe for ourselves. Sexuality starts with body image and clothing for it is what we mostly see. But clothing is a costume from some media picked ideal. If we don’t fit comfortably into jeans we think we are misshapen instead of just average for our ethnic group. I was so disappointed when Sara Silverman commented on her nude scene in Take This Waltz and used this term for herself: misshapen. She just looked human and that was the entire point of this scene. Nothing and no one is perfect.
Too many people have a skewed view of sexuality and what it means to be human. I honestly think if we all went naked for a week it would be a public service. It would teach everyone what normal people look like and it would go a long way towards helping people feel comfortable with themselves and their sexuality.
Are we all doomed to sexual dysfunction in our country? Yep!
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: There’s not much I can add to the comments on body image. I became curious about how body image affects mental health and looked up some statistics on anorexia, a dangerous disorder that is a direct result of body image. Do you know what I discovered? The highest incidence of anorexia is with elite athletes in judged rather than refereed, competitions. Female athletes in aesthetic sports (e.g. gymnastics, ballet, figure skating) were found to be at the highest risk for eating disorders- a full 20% of them suffered from it, compared to an estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women in the general population. When I looked at the statistics on France, I was startled- they had the second highest rate of anorexia in Europe- ranging from 0.46% to 3.2%, and the women there were much thinner than in other European countries, with the exception of Austria.
So perhaps a more culturally relaxed attitude towards sex doesn’t translate to a healthier body image.
Interestingly, the study I read by the London School of Economics and Political Science stated that “anorexia is a socially transmitted disease and appears to be more prevalent in countries such as France where women are thinner than average.” The article concluded : “In the light of this study, government intervention to adjust individual biases in self-image would be justified to curb or at least prevent the spread of a potential epidemic of food disorders. The distorted self-perception of women with food disorders and the importance or the peer effects may prompt governments to take action to influence role models and compensate for social pressure on women driving the trade-off between ideal weight and health.” I think that this unfortunate tendency to strive for unrealistic and unhealthy body types is global, not just an American phenomena. And according to every study I found, the spread of movies and media from the West is changing attitudes in every corner of the world.
Pointing a finger doesn’t help at this point. Perhaps we do need a Naked Day. Anyone want to start a movement?