Sexual Inadequacy: The Exposure Myth
I am Garland Grey and this is the first post for my new guest blog, Sexual Inadequacy! For about a year I've been exploring issues of gender and sexuality at Tiger Beatdown and I'm hoping to expand upon that work in this new project. I just recently moved to Austin, Texas and I'm looking forward to a summer filled with vegan soft serve and radical queer couch potato criticism and maybe a bike ride or two, some light kite flying. But first I'd like to talk about Glee.
In March the basic television musical Glee, site of so much critical dissection, had a show about sex and sex education called "Sexy." It was a bold move for Fox to give airtime to an untried commodity like sex. The question on everyone's mind was, of course, would it sell? In one scene the Glee Club director Will Shuester (Matthew Morrison) is talking with Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) about teaching the students about sex and its consequences, and he remarks "These kids are already exposed to so much." I was doing something else while the episode played on my laptop, but I took a moment to suck my teeth at the screen. The state or district a queer student lives in determines how much access they have to sound, safe advice about sex. There is nothing else that can take its place. Pornography and erotica are terrible sex education tools and do not stress safety and hygiene if it does not suit them. So partly, this is about looking at what awful preparation queers are given for sexual maturity and the identities they form in spite of this lack of information or guidance.
Sexual Inadequacy refers to the poor representation of queer sexuality in the larger culture and in the media. Sexual Inadequacy is about the story straight writers and producers tell queer people about their own lives. Sexual Inadequacy is a comment on the amount of information queer students are given about their bodies and their sexuality, especially when these students are told absolutely nothing. Like in Tennessee, where a bill barring local municipalities from drafting their own non-discrimination ordinances was recently passed with massive support from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce (backed by Nissan, Alcoa, Fed Ex, AT&T and a host of other companies—Pam's House Blend has the complete list here) and SB 49, the so-called "Don't Say Gay" Bill, recently passed the Senate. If signed into law SB 49 would bar any discussion of non-heterosexual sexualities in schools in the state of Tennessee. Which is genius, if you think about it. How do you stop people from talking about something, especially juveniles? You tell them it's off-limits! Yes, of course, that solves everything. (To read more about the situation in Tennessee, click here.) Except, of course, for all of the queer students in Tennessee, who are being deprived of information and having their health and safety sacrificed to garner voter approval and to make conservatives more "comfortable."
I'd like to discuss how we depict queer relationships and queer sexuality in the media, how that representation is changing as society becomes more "comfortable" with the idea of queer sexuality, and how these shifts have mirrored the course of the queer civil right movement at large. While the number of depictions of queer characters in pop culture has risen in the last few years, queer characters are often slighted, disrespected, forgotten about, or used for a specific function and then discarded. Audiences are used to queer relationships being neutered and inoffensive, used to seeing queer couples who keep it to themselves, at least on camera. Which reinforces the idea that heterosexual sex represents an infinitely more palatable form of sexuality, since it's so pervasive and well-represented. You don't see the nice queer couple do anything but help each other with groceries or take their kids to little league because if you saw what went on after, in their bedroom, you'd probably feel all icky about the whole thing and buy less popcorn.
Sexual Inadequacy is about all of these things and so much more, and I'm looking forward to it! If you have any suggestions, tips, requests, or questions leave them in the comments!
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