Friday, June 29, 2018

Why is Everyones Butt Hanging Out? Why this, and several other current behaviors in our culture, might be harming both men and women.

At the risk of being labeled an uptight prude (which I am sure is the conclusion some will draw by my opinions following), still I am going to voice this concern/these thoughts because I feel they are important, for several reasons.  Because they absolutely impact the ways that men and women perceive each other, and as a result, treat one another.  They affect women's perceptions of themselves (self esteem, self contentment, etc), as well as of other women (for example, as competition rather than comrades).  And they impact how we treat and navigate the relationships in our lives, both romantic and platonic.

Why now, as a collective culture, are everyone's (well, women) butts perpetually hanging out of their shorts?  Why have we adapted the belief and understanding that the offering up of our bodies, with little to no discretion (referring to the hookup scene) is a means of "empowerment" and "freedom"?  Why as women do we equate in giving men and others, the perception of being easy as being "sexy" or "confident," when actually it gives the opposite impression.
(Basic Psych 101 principle: that which is easily attainable is usually perceived as being of less value than that for which we have to put in efforts and earn.  Therefore, women giving themselves up at the drop of a hat to men are tending towards giving the message that they are of little worth.  This of course, isn't true but unfortunately it does give that perception).

Usually those who are truly confident are choosier about to whom they give themselves, more tentative.  Both emotionally and physically because they are aware of their being worthwhile, of their being a treasure, of their hearts  being worth guarding and thus, they dont bestow the giving of their emotions or body on just anyone.  Most of the time, people who love themselves, and are contented with the love and social connections in their lives dont need nor choose to offer themselves up so easily (emotionally and/or physically).  Instead, they wait and asses for the worthwhile ones to come along, both friends and romances. 

Many women will make defensive claims over these concerns, such as "I feel more confident doing this," or "I can do what I want with my body."  Yet, the "confidence" they are garnering though in doing this is generally from men.  Meaning, it isn't genuine, real confidence.  Its false and fleeting, as its based on the reaction from someone outside of themselves.  And this is the kind of "confidence" that will ever leave you hungering for more, because its based on others responses and reactions.

Women dont wear skimpy outfits for women.  They are wearing them for admiration, attention, and feedback from men.  And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to feel attractive (I too enjoy this, dressing up and looking nice), the problem is when you are doing it for feedback, admiration, and love.  This signaling towards a hunger and hole within oneself that's attempting to be filled.  Towards a need for attention and recognition.

Its also a problem, putting ones self confidence and sense of self worth in the hands and at the mercy of men.  As women (and all people in general), we should find love and contentment within ourselves, regardless of others reactions to us, which are sure to be fluid, ever changing, and fleeting.  When our sense of self is based on others opinions and reactions, it will never be stable.  Ever going up and down, up and down, our self esteem.

Additionally, there is concrete evidence that all this hooking up with people we barely know actually has very negative side effects on people emotionally.  And not just women, but on men too.  Its leading many to feel confused about intimacy, to feeling lonelier rather than more connected, emptier, and more insecure.

It seems that we have entered into an age that entails the death of dating, an era of low expectations, a devaluing of closeness and quality between people.

Now, "caring too much" is weak, considered shame worthy even.  Because god forbid, you come to love someone.  How uncool is that?

Our idols nowadays are women like Kim Kardashian, famous for objectifying a singular part of her body, as well as for being rich, shallow, snobby, and dramatic.  She is conveying to other women who idolize her, what it apparently means to be an attractive, respectable, interesting woman.  The qualities and traits for which we should yearn to be valued.  A man like Christian Gray (in the books "Fifty Shades of Gray") is seen as romantic and swoon worthy.  Mind you, this is a man who (and I am not referring to the sadomasochistic aspect of their relationship) is controlling and cold.  Who tells this woman whom she can and cannot spend time with, what she can and cannot wear, this man who essentially keeps her as his property.  Who is emotionally unavailable, who only gives to her both emotionally and physically when he wishes to.

Apparently, these are two of the main people in our mainstream media nowadays that we are to look up to and aspire towards being like, using them as yardsticks of what it means to be either a man or woman.  Now that is terrifying, and really sad.

Our dating has largely been reduce to shopping for your next partner via the online catalogs of sites like Tinder.  Choosing who is "likely" to be a "match" for you based on a few photos and sentences.  People often cramming several dates into one night.  Men offering to pay less and less often as they "dont want to invest in someone" on the first few dates while still shopping around.  Granted, I am a feminist and dont necessarily agree with the assumption that men must always be the ones to pay initially.  I dont think there's anything wrong with splitting it.  Still, there is a marked diminishing in dating in terms of effort, manners, and investment.  Much of this is about convenience, easy access, no effort put in that doesn't have to be.

Many people look for a partner who is hot, rich, or both.  Someone who looks good both physically and on paper.  Dont get me wrong, its important to have standards, and part of finding a partner is they should be someone to whom you feel attracted, no question.  But none of this tells you about what kind of a partner this person is likely to be.  How good looking they are, how much money they make, or the length their list of accomplishments.  None of that tells you, say, how patient, kind, romantic or caring they might be.  None of it tells you whether or not they will be a good partner, whether or not they are someone who will treat you well and invest in your relationship.

Also, regarding romantic relationships, much of our choices with regards to partners nowadays involves the "sliding" into a relationship with someone, as opposed to actively choosing with intent and careful thought.  This happens a lot, amidst the hookup scene, online dating, and how we get to know people via social media.  Nowadays, many of us tend to meet someone (often, in a bar or via online), make out with or even hook up with them on either the very first date or soon thereafter, and then are just "together."  Then, boom, they are a thing.

Then, their realizing months or even years later that maybe they chose wrong.  This happens frequently (granted, not always, but often enough) when people jump in too fast, amidst a flood of romance and lust inducing chemicals, rushing right in with someone whom we forget that we actually hardly know at all.  Knowing someone for a few months?  You dont know much of anything about that persons character, temperament, life, etc, in the big picture.  It takes at least a year to even know someone quite well, and even further, years to really, really know someone very well.  Yet, so many of us decide within just a handful of dates!  When this person is still literally a stranger at that point.

Most of us dont really understand how to date.  I certainly didn't until more recently.  To truly date and do so well, this involves the getting to know someone with intent, mindfulness, observation, and over time (over many, many months and even a year plus).  People are often much too quick to "decide," and often do so based on very little actual concrete information. 

Here is an article about how people who hook up and then are just "together" tend to have far less happy, successful, stable unions than people who get to know one another slowly, over time, and with more careful thought and intent.

Nowadays, we are more electronically connected than ever before.  Constantly available to others, ever "online."  Even when not at work, always reachable via our cell phones through either email or text.  This resulting in our being continually pulled out of other real moments in our lives by the dings and vibrations of our phones, perpetually distracted and often only half there in whatever activity it is we are actually engaged in.  And yet, we are lonelier than ever before.  Less emotionally and socially connected to one another.  Studies show that something like 25% of people nowadays admit to having zero people in their life to which they could confide deeply personal things.  This is a steep increase in percentage, from say 20 years ago.

We have entered a major stage of narcissism, hunger for attention, and self involvement.  Social media is an endless parade of photographs showcasing one person, usually scantily clad, pursing their lips at the camera, carefully made up and posed.  Funny, often the caption will say something like, "just lounging around," or "here I am just relaxing, thought Id snap a pic."  Then, when a flood of comments appears underneath of "awww, you look so gorgeous," "aren't you stunning," and "wow, you look amazing," the recipient will act humbled and shocked.  "Oh wow, you dont have to say that, thank you so much, how nice."
When in reality, that is the very reason and the only reason for posting a selfie.  To show off or showcase how you look at the moment/what you are doing, and to get feedback, admiration, and/or compliments from others for such.

It seems like a vast majority of people are constantly on the prowl for attention, in any way they can get it.  Continual Facebook updates, most of which are silly and about which no one cares.  "Just bought a coffee, so good."  "Oh my gosh, I just ran a 7 minute mile."  "Just took my vitamins and feeling great."  The vast majority of the time, just bids for attention, response, and/or admiration. 

Manners have gone down the tube.  Now, its commonplace to get on a public train or bus and hear someone blasting their own personal music through the speakers of their phone.  Assuming (wrongly) that everyone on board wants to hear whatever they are hearing.  Thrusting upon, pressing what they want to hear on everyone else.  This is the epitome of rude, self centered and inconsiderate.

Women and men are still given concerning, sexist, negative ideas and implications all the time in our culture, about love and sex.  Look at porn for example, within which women are usually degraded, or even outright abused.  Terminology for sex in porn and in real life, often called things like "slamming" her, "banging," or "pounding."  Women, nearly all of the time in porn and much of the time in the media, the submissive ones.  To the man who dominates, overpowers, calls the shots, or even harms her.  Women are ever the cheerleader, school girl, sweet, powerless, submissive ones.  Men are the policemen, firefighters, strutting around, chests out, in positions of power and strength.

With regards to sex in general (not necessarily just in the sex industry), the man always orgasms.  Thats a given.  The woman?  Sometimes, if shes lucky.  Essentially, the sex is about his pleasure.  Thats the main priority.  She is the afterthought.  Ever seen male lingerie?  Sure, there are things available for men to wear that are skimpy and for women's viewing pleasure during sex, but the resounding majority of lingerie is for women to wear, for the visual pleasure of men.  Look at magazines in the grocery store checkout line.  All the lines on their covers, about pleasing men.  "How to please your man," "how to look hot for him," and "72 ways to increase his pleasure in bed."  Nowhere do you see headlines like this directed at men with regards to their needing to rush about and please women in the same way.

Look at regular apparel in malls and stores.  Shorts on men?  Baggy and knee length.  On women?  Butt grazing and skin tight.  Jeans and pants for men are roomy, comfortable.  On women, they are again, typically skin tight and on bending over, their butt or underwear is usually on display.  Who is this all for?  Men.

And still, offensive, unfair, and blatantly untrue double standards continue to run rampant in our culture.  To name a few big ones:

--Hes a stud for having lots of sex.  Shes a slut, trash, not respectable.

--Hes superdad for barely lifting a finger when he helps with the kids (say, taking them to a baseball game, or making dinner one random night).  While shes shitty mom if she doesn't sacrifice her life and general entire being to now revolve around her children.  And even that isn't usually good enough.

--He still gets paid more for doing the exact same job, for which she gets paid less.

--He doesn't want kids?  Cool.  Hes confident, independent, career driven, the enviable perpetual bachelor.  She doesn't want kids?  Shes selfish, unnatural or weird (since of course, wanting and having children is every woman's main purpose in life), and of course, sure to regret it.

--When he gets angry or is opinionated, its "strong."  When she gets angry/opinionated, its "aggressive," "bitchy," shrill, or more assuredly the result of PMS.

--He can let himself go, turn into a "beast" over time and its ok because he is a man.  She must remain a beauty if she is to be loved.  Plucked, made up and toned to perfection, or alas, no one will want or love her, or she will just get traded in for a younger, prettier woman.  Easily disposable and replaceable if her outer appearance isn't up to snuff. 

The list of angering double standards goes on and on.

Why, people?  Why, because a person who has a vagina and enjoys sex, is that worthy of judgement, condemnation, and disparagement, whereas the human being with a penis who enjoys sex is "the shit" or "the man," perpetually admired and high fived wherever he goes.

Why are we mistaking the cheapened, easy sharing of our bodies and selves with "liberation"?  When really, its diminishing connection and investment between people, giving people the perception of others being of "less worth," and leaving us, more often than not, emptier and left wanting.

The photo on the left?  Commonplace on social media nowadays.  The one on the left is marketing herself as a sex object/enticement to men based on her butt. 

What happened to privacy?  Class?  Manners?  A sense of modesty, of cherishing and valuing the self.  Of choosing carefully to whom we trust and share ourselves with.  Why is it that everywhere one walks nowadays, especially during warm months, we are met with a perpetual parade of soft porn?  Why do we assume that kind of dress will conclude people toward thinking highly of us, valuing us more, treating us better?  When so much evidence points to contradicting assumptions being drawn instead.

There are so many ways to dress that are subtly sexy, classy, eye-catching, sensual, fashionable, or playful, without looking like a stripper, call girl, street walker, or as though one just pulled their hole laden shorts out of a dumpster.  I know its a bummer, guys and gals, but we do draw conclusions about people (many in fact) based on the package they present to the world.  We make assumptions about their values, interests, self worth and the care placed on themselves, their lifestyle/income/culture, etc, all based on how a person dresses/presents themselves.  We decide how interesting or attractive someone seems, often based on their dress and look.  That doesn't mean its right, but it is basic human nature and psychology.  Fair or not, its true.  Therefore, how you dress?  People make judgements, assumptions, and for opinions about you based on this.

I have a fun idea though.  Lets bring back manners and mystery.  Isn't it enticing, inviting, enjoyable to look at someone and wonder about them?  Rather than assuming straight off, "wow, they look/seem easy.  Id like to screw them"  Isn't it far sexier to long to see more?  Rather than already basically knowing what it all looks like already.  Talk about a tension killer, taking out so much of the fun and buildup of what dating is about.

What about manners?  Consideration for other people?  People actually going out together and putting away their cell phones.  Focusing 100% on each other without perpetually being jerked out of their interaction by dings and vibrations.  People instead deciding on paying attention to the actual person in front of them, fully and completely.  Most likely, whatever is on that cell phone can wait a few hours, or even until the next day.  What about not playing ones music out loud, full blast on the bus or train for all other riders being forced to listen to whether they wish it or not?

And how about dating with intent?  Instead of just jumping into bed with people, going on several dates.  Letting the tension build, flirting and desire growing (far more fun, trust me ;-)) while actually getting to know someone.  Spending time together in numerous activities over several weeks, as well as talking a lot.  Figuring out the character of this person, whom and what they value, before handing your whole self over without discretion or pause.  This can also help in the avoiding of much unnecessary pain later on down the road, if one pauses and takes a significant amount of time to get to know someone first.

What about with thought and careful consideration, choosing those to whom we aspire and look up?  How about women such as Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Watson, and Angelina Jolie?  (Bet you didn't expect that one, eh?  In fact, she has worked extensively as a UN diplomat, actress, and philanthropist.  Including the sharing of her personal and poignant story of having a double mastectomy, her personal essay written on the topic changing the face of breast cancer awareness).

How about men such as Andy Samberg, Ryan Gosling, Barack Obama, Daniel Radcliffe, Mark Ruffalo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and many more.

For a full list of some male feminists, click here.

Another list of leading, rather hunky men who tout themselves as feminists.

What about, in terms of friendships and romances, investing in people whom you've deemed are great ones, instead of treating them as conveniences or disposable when it suits you.  What about being an attentive, reliable friend instead of distracted and flaky.  Someone who pays attention, is present, can be relied on, treats others with focus, kindness and warmth.  What about, with regards especially to romantic relationships, being disciplined and acting with intent rather than making decisions out of impulsive or instinctual desire?

None of this is a judgement, I feel its quite important to say.  These are not character judgements on anyone.  Instead, this is a proposal, as well as thoughts (much of which has been backed by actual research and findings) of concern to suggest that when we chose to behave/dress in such ways as all that I outlined above, this affects our lives in numerous ways and usually in not so positive ones.  Including, but not limited to:

-How others perceive us, and as a result, how they treat us
-Even sometimes, whether or not they value  us
-How men and women treat and perceive one another in general
-The value, effort and intent we place on relationships in our lives, both romantic and platonic
-The respect people offer us (or dont)
-The types of people we attract to us (or not)
-The meaning and joy that we derive from our own life

Fairly or unfairly, we make decisions about people and form feelings on them based on a plethora of things, much discussed in this very article.  Our culture has adapted many behaviors, ways of dress, and ways of treating each other as the current norms.  And yet, this doesn't mean that all of those ways are good, nor are conducive to living our best lives or helping us to form the happiest and healthiest relationships that we could. 

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