The other night I watched Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution (available on Netflix). It’s a feature length documentary all about modern-day hook-up culture and the way that it is, essentially, destroying a generation. I could not recommend it more. It’s hard to stomach, but a glaringly-obvious call for change that every man and woman needs to see.

You might not be a college student on a spring break sexscapade, but you are without a doubt influenced by the social pressures placed upon you as a man or woman. This documentary does an excellent job at highlighting the ways that we’ve created our own culture of sexual violation and violence, objectification and isolation. We’ve let this happen to ourselves. So, we can keep complaining if we like, about how boys will be boys, but we are a key driving force in the proliferation of the problem as long as we continue to support this current paradigm. Big changes desperately need to be made; huge!

None of us should have to grow up faster than we are ready to, but the reality is that most of us do. We might come from a broken home that requires us to parent ourselves or younger siblings while we’re still just fledglings. We might have found ourselves mixed up in the wrong crowd in school that seemed to cause things to spiral out of control in the blink of an eye. And before we know it, we’ve been given an identity and a place in this world without actually having had much say in the matter at all.

So let’s talk about sex and sexual identity, because what we learn about sex while we’re growing up will shape our subconscious for the years that follow. If we are constantly bombarded with a negative perception, this will permeate into our lives unless we become conscious of it and try to fix our relationship with it. We learn this stuff from our family, friends, pop culture, social media and the ample supply of pornography that saturates the world.

Ladies: do you remember the first time that you realised you were being looked up and down like a piece of meat? I mean, you probably don’t remember the exact first time, but you might recall the sensation of suddenly getting boobs or hips and the creeping self-consciousness that ensued; that sudden awareness of your self and how you looked and how others noticed you that made you stop and have to think about whether you were doing things right and worse, if you were good enough.

And it never stops.

You go through life and the older you get, the less of a shit you give if you’ve got any sense. You realise that you’re enough as you are and that there are far more important things to spend your time on than frantically dilly-dallying over your appearance. But the cat calls and the male harassment never goes away and on a bad day, it can really feel like the nail in the coffin. For who are these men to make us feel like prey items? Who are they to be so disrespectful as to treat us like objects? Do they not realise we are humans with feelings, deserving of respect? No, clearly not.

But who made them that way after all? Are these men born with it in their DNA? No, of course they’re not. It’s a learned behaviour. And where does it come from? It’s comes from the messages that seep into their subconscious via popular culture. These are the same messages that tell me that in order to be successful, I must look like [insert female pop artist here] and prance around barely-clothed. That’s how I can become a great woman.

[I read the above once over and I sort of sound like a ‘SEX IS BAD!’ religious fanatic and I promise you, that could not be further from the truth. My opinion is that our relationship with sex and the way we define genders is terrible in today’s society. That’s what I’m getting at.]

Within each of us are both divine masculine and feminine energies. Men generally embody more of the former and women, the latter. The divine masculine is focus and strength and logic. It is the quest for improvement and truth. It is reason and survival and loyalty. The divine feminine on the otherhand is nurturing and gentle. It is healing, wise, patient and emotional. It is intuitive and expressive. Polar opposites meet somewhere in the middle and an excellent, balanced human is made.

So how did it get this messed up, then? Was it Playboy? Was it MTV? Was it the Bible?! Does finding the source of blame even help us move forward? I think it’s all much of a muchness, to be honest and if it’s improvement that we seek, then focusing on the past in too much detail might not necessarily get us anywhere, anytime soon.

As Libertated quite rightly points out, we live in this tragic time when women are seen as things to conquer by many men and women see each other as tough competition for who can turn the most heads. It’s as though the men are all captains of their own sports teams and the women in a giant cattle pen of sorts, left powerless; their fate in the hands of the guy that might just pick them.

Fuck. That. Says. I.

We need to realise that sex is a vessel for more than physical gratification, because we sure as hell don’t seem to realise it. At its most sensational, it is a tangible expression of emotional connection. And it does all kinds of crazy stuff to our bodies (crazy good). But at its most destructive, it serves only to numb us temporarily, from whatever inner turmoil we’ve got going on.

When sex, or rather, conquests, are used as something men hold over one another to decide who embodies the most masculinity, it is a cruel, waste of energy. And when women compete to be the top choice of said men, it is an inauthentic isolation from sisterhood. We’ve got ourselves so caught up in worrying what everyone else thinks that we’re missing what’s there. Sacrificing fulfillment of our own needs and joy for the sake of pleasing others? And it’s all very bizarre because surely those that love us would not want us to find ourselves in that position?

The plot thickens.

We have a deep desperation to be somebody; the best type of somebody. One that’s adored and epitomises one or other of the genders that we feel we resonate most with. That’s what it really comes down to: acceptance. Only, our perceptions about what defines the genders is incredibly out of whack. The day we start allowing each other to be the people that we actually want to be, rather than the people we feel we ought to be will be the day that we stop with all this bullshit.

The problem with this whole hook-up culture is that it means we’re missing what’s there. We’re suffering an unimaginable loss of genuine connection with one another and it’s wreaking havoc. The entire point of life is to follow your joy and make meaningful connections with others. Every positive memory you have has a feeling signature attached to it that your moments shared with other people created for you. But if we’re missing the opportunity for connection, I truly fear the repurcussions long term.

An unhealthy balance of energies in men and women is what is causing some men to think it’s OK to treat women as objects; like cars they can buy. It’s a constant effort to try to get the one that’s the most attractive, until boredom strikes and then it’s back to the barrel. And when women aren’t seen as people on the same level, terrible things can happen and a lot of unnecessary pain can fester. When we are treated like posessions, our subconscious makes us question our own self-worth. If the messages women are bombarded with from popular culture and their peers are ones of superficial qualities deemed vastly more important than things which truly matter, we begin to believe them. And that’s a sad day for everyone. There is nothing more fierce than a woman made to feel empowered and nothing more courageous than a man who encourages it.

 

Idees Noires

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be famous. A big part of me shudders at the thought; the being so conspicuous, the death threats, the obsessive stalkers, the pressure to do certain things or act a certain way. The idea that you have managers or stylists or publicists or whoever else transforming or representing you based on their idea of beauty or perfection or appeal to the masses rather than your own personality and truth is not right at all. Not right for the soul.

But it must also be a giant ego boost to know that you have fans; to know that what you do or say could influence the next big wave of thought or action. There is great power in that. Everyone wants to feel desired, right? If you’ve got an idea that you feel worth shouting about at the top of your lungs, you want to be heard, right? Being in a public position allows you to have the means by which to get that message across.

Striving for greatness and having fame as a by-product is fine, in my humble, nobody, average-kinda-gal opinion, but what about these people that make up a substantial portion of the famous-that-be? You have got to be kidding me with these socialites and their contributions that stretch little further than how to be aesthetically-pleasing – only part of the time. How is this the way that the world works? I’m referring to these social-charmers that because of their looks and supposed sex appeal are dangled in front of us through a variety of media, setting disgraceful standards for what is considered a role model; a person to be inspired by. I’m talking about these people that put all the emphasis on surface-level bull-crap: appearance and money.

Why are the pioneers of a better world not the face of big brands, on the pages of magazines, on the front covers of the papers? I’m referring to the type of person whose aim is to encourage us to grow and develop and cultivate our passions. It’s rather simple really; it all comes down to our narrow-track, carnal, animalistic, basal nature: sex sells. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve paved the road to adulthood, it’s that your sexuality plays a damn important role in your life. It will either be the reason you’re discriminated, ostracised, praised, facilitated, endangered, victimised, or worshipped.

We like to think we’re all high and mighty, but we are still putting the wrong people on the pedestals of western society. Granted, you can ignore a huge chunk of these shallow sources that serve you in no way, but you can’t get away from it all. And in particular it’s the youth that are hit most. I don’t think I’d be the only one to say that I am glad my awkward teenage years are behind me now. That is not a period of my life I’d like to relive, because at the time I had little sense of identity, little confidence in many respects. I was easily influenced and forever changing my persona based on what I thought was cool that week. So with this in mind, why are we flaunting entirely the wrong type of person to young people and telling them that this is who they should aspire to be? We are not inspiring good mental health in the next generation, that’s for sure.

I think certain face and body types are always going to be more aesthetically-appealing to the masses and it’s not even that I’m an advocate for eradicating that, it’s just that you’ve got to ask: being ridiculously good looking does what for the planet? Sure, humans are like art: no two pieces are the same and each has something interesting to cast an eye upon, but beyond that…we’ve got serious issues that need addressing right now – as soon as possible – so we need to be praising the great minds behind the faces; the important stuff.

If I have a kid one day, or a niece or nephew, I want him or her to see kind, selfless, smart souls on the TV or in their magazines; not some self-absorbed, narcissistic so-and-so that has little appeal other than their looks. We can only be the best version of ourselves, but at the end of the day will always be just that: ourselves. So with that as a universal truth, please, for the love of God let’s shift our idols to those with good hearts and souls; give the underdogs a chance to shine.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Photos: Stephanie Lepoint @ Flickr & Southbank Centre @ Flickr