On the True Devastation of Social Stigma

 I meant to write on this ever since I read Gillian’s post of 24 May on this very subject. “For the entirety of my life”, wrote Gillian, “I’ve fought this pointless war of my urges versus societal expectation.” And this makes finding the “right” partner so much more difficult, as we hide “blue”. It may be tempting to take the “social science” route to approach the problem: individual desires – “urges” – versus society’s repression. Indeed the Freudian explanation for psychological disorders caused by the effect of repressed desires is well understood. However I wish to take a somewhat different angle on this, that of the writer, of a writer’s role. Gillian is a marvellous blogger, always interesting, and supremely honest. I suspect that she is also a very interesting fiction writer, although I am far too junior in this game to comment with any authority on her talent as writer: let me just say that I enjoy reading what Gillian writes, and the Black Door Press is one of my very favourite spaces on WP.

Coming back to the subject, we know since Lady Chatterley, quoted by Gillian, that tartuffery is alive and well, and not only in officialdom. D. H. Lawrence’s work had to wait until 1960 to be published freely in Britain! Of course we knew that before, and we all have met people who pretend to condemn and be shocked, whilst being as prurient as any in their demonisation of x or y: “ Did you see what she did?” Bigotry and prurience are time-honoured bed-fellows… One of the reasons for the continuing success of the so-called tabloid press must be the sulphurous appetite for the dirty details, and the prettier the celebrity, the uglier the details, and the more copies of those rags are sold. Those “papers”, their management, readers and censors do not represent “society”, they represent the contemptible end of it, to be polite. The collusion between politicians  – paragons of virtue as we all know – and the “media” has been exemplified by the current judicial enquiry in the UK.

But what of the writer’s role in this?  “Writing and sharing my thoughts on all things sexual”, writes Gillian (emphasis mine), “actually makes me feel like I’m contributing to breaking down barriers that cause so much pain in our lives.” This is, of course, at the opposite end of prurience: it is openness, honest expression of the true – or imagined – self. This clear difference – to oversimplify – between exploitative pornography and writing about sexuality, “marching for healthier fucking”, as Gillian put it, is honourable, and must be supported by all of us, great and small, in the writing community. But so is marching for saving the whales. Could it be though that exclusive concentration on the one single issue – am I showing my age here? – might make us miss the real target? How about homophobic tartuffes? How about agism? How about the demonisation of the poor (the “socially disruptive” of the British conservative press)? Am I mixing things up badly here?

I think not. The very barriers Gillian wishes to break down, have, in sometimes unpredictable ways, be consolidated by single issues interests. The taboos of D. H. Lawrence’s time have survived in even more nefarious ways: for example the refusal, by the mainstream media, to admit to the brutal exploitation of poor girls from the “liberated” baltic countries, in clean and democratic Sweden, as Stieg Larsson described in his best selling novels. What I am trying to say is that we have to be inclusive: “I’ve lived my life in fear and shame of my urges, my thoughts, and my desires” writes Gillian. But the diversity of urges, thoughts, desires, has to be respected also, now that some of the barriers appear to have been, if not broken down, seriously weakened. And, please, please, let us not forget that social stigma is often a smoke screen for exploitation.

Our fellow blogger, delightful and youthful Sextails, writes about hot and healthy heterosexual encounters: some may read her posts as innocent musings, others as risqué. Others write beautiful stories about gay love. Two characters in my unfinished, and probably never to be published novel – moaning now –  are, respectively, deaf-mute and paraplegic – and exquisitely beautiful. All those views are respectable. Yet if I write about BDSM, and the treatment of submissive human beings by cruel masters or mistresses, am I writing women (or men for that matter) as sex objects, as opposed to sex subjects? Am I guilty of that ultimate sin: being a Tartuffe myself, claiming the one truth while really supporting the other, that sex, in writing, films, pictures, merchandising or bodies, is a cheap and eminently sellable commodity.

“We need to drop our masks and embrace our sensuality, our sexuality and not settle until we find our compatible partners rather than trying to change to fit into a culture that is, at its core, dysfunctional and unhealthy.” I searched for Blue, and found her, but am I honestly fighting the dragons of bigotry and stigma as a writer? I am marching with Gillian, knowing I am somewhat dysfunctional myself.

4 thoughts on “On the True Devastation of Social Stigma

  1. Exquisite post, my dear and you honor me most graciously.

    I think, at least in my own mind, this goes back to what I wrote on in Aspiring to Do Small Things. We all have our place. You are so correct and the vast amount of causes and needs within the world would be overwhelming for any one person to try and take on, as such we gravitate. I think if we were all true and embraced the things we gravitated to, while respecting that others will follow a different path, we might just achieve a healthy society.

    Much love!


  2. Pingback: Beyond fear itself: a healthy relationship with fear « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

  3. Pingback: Social versus societal « Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides

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