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Forced Nudity as Subjugation
New pictures of the abuse of detainees in the Middle East are starting to trickle out, as offered in a link from Peter of Lone Tree's latest Big Brass Blog post
. As noted in a comment there by contributing writer Debra, these photographs seem relatively mild, principally because they appear to show nothing more than Arab men naked.
Despite what might at first glance seem like nothing more than soft-core pornography, those pictures carry large subtext that spans Islam, American culture, and the chasm that exists between ourselves and those we harm.
Throughout history and across cultures, forced nudity has been a common and widely practiced form of subjugation against both men and women. As I commented on another blog some time back, it is still used to this day as a means of establishing control over those forced to display their genitals.
It is practiced (or, at the very least, it used to be) in the military during basic training; it is used by law enforcement personnel, especially in the penal system; and it is used widely, routinely, and ritualistically in hospitals and other medical settings. Its purpose, notwithstanding claims to the contrary, is subjugation: the person forced to be naked is reduced, made vulnerable, and psychologically (and physically) put at disadvantage.
A considerable percentage of pornography involves nudity of females with the purpose of sexually arousing men by the humiliation the women are supposed to be enduring. Female pornographic actresses often feign embarrassment (as well as ludicrously contorted, surprised, and pained looks on their faces) specifically to enhance the appearance of degradation through which they are being put. To many men, this is erotic. In a patriarchal society, women are supposed to learn to associate their own involuntary nudity with eroticism only because they are taught to define their sexuality in terms of the effectiveness with which they can arouse men.
Government authorities now allegedly, routinely with no reserve at all force people, both men and women, into compromises of dignity in public settings. The Transportation Safety Administration supposedly uses clothing penetrating scanners at airports, and this has become common knowledge among air travelers, at least by assumption. You are being seen nude, your genitals are on display, and your right to the privacy of your very body is removed without even the slightest concern for your sentiments, religious convictions, or possible protestations. That this is done by strangers is all the more important as a means of control of people about to board airplanes. The theory (unstated and subject to righteously indignant denials) is that this subliminally degrading experience assists in docilization, much the same way as forcing prisoners to be naked is supposed to subdue them.
The forced nudity in the pictures of detainees being abused is quite a bit worse, however. Unlike Christianity in which most of the practitioners have become quite loose and liberal in their beliefs, taboos, and ritualistic, everyday lives (and this applies every bit as much to Evangelicals and some Fundamentalists) a considerable percentage of Muslims adhere operationally more closely to traditional values. That is not to say there is some extraordinary uniformity in Islam. There is not; in some tribal regions of Aghanistan, for example, the use of very young boys for sex acts is well documented, but this is most decidedly a cultural tradition, not a mainstream, religiously sanctioned activity. Exceptions like that aside, in mainstream Islam, there really is a better articulation from early childhood of what is and what is not religiously acceptable. A Muslim mother would be far more likely to tell her son from early on that his penis is not something he should display nor even touch in many circumstances. This does not mean he will not, especially in his years when his body and his will are at war within, but what it does mean is that he will know when he does that it is not a good thing. In American culture, male hierarchical structures have gone so over the top that we now accept as somehow "correct" and "healthy" that penises can
be touched. Most Americans would accept a male child touching his penis as somehow acceptable, if maybe a little embarrassing. The idea has become pervasive that harshly, consistently reprimanding a boy for "being a boy" will psychologically damage him.
Although we have residuals of aversion in American culture to penis display, the perception of the penis as good is pervasive. Virtually every rock musician uses an electric guitar as a blunt symbol of an erect penis being masturbated, and the brandishing of firearms in popular television shows and movies is nothing other than metaphorical penis display in its "natural" context of violence, competition for dominance, and the prospect of death (and, therefore, reproductive denial) for the loser.
We have gotten to the point where women actually believe that sucking on a man's penis is something other than her voluntary submission to a man's will so completely that she is willing to engage in what the man understands very well is an unsanitary act meant to degrade, debase, and dehumanize her. Fellatio is, in its culmination of ejaculating on her face or down her throat, meant to make her dirty enough to be called whatever the man wants to call her in his own mind and to his friends, should he so choose.
Very few people in our culture would entirely agree with what I wrote in that last paragraph, and many would take greater or lesser exception to what I wrote in prior paragraphs about American culture's sexual desensitization. I would submit that this is very much part of why we in this culture cannot understand the awfulness of how peoples of other cultures are affected by things we consider routine and even okay. We "get over it," even when it is bad for our deepest well-being.
We celebrate the bad, we laugh at cruelty, we play feigned shock and titillation with sex. We even put on parade the Lolita look of the shaved vulva and the emaciated, pubescent-looking female ice skaters in tiny costumes, all while soothing our consciences with blanket bans on pictures of nude, under-aged females and stories of shocking, shocking
pedophiles hunted down. But then
what do we do? We prowl the Web to see just how much of Miss California's titties she actually showed in those Victoria's Secrets photos she did when she was all of 17 years old.
Turn our heads? Heck, no. We might miss something good.
Many of the men in those detainee abuse pictures were not brought up with that cacophony of mixed messages that defines the American way. Those Arab men were told by their mothers not to look at naked people and not to touch themselves down there. They were always told to keep themselves modest, and to do as Allah bids.
For some of them, that last directive is why they are detainees: they were in battle for Allah, and we Americans were on the other side of that fight.
What we did to them in captivity has served quite well to prove to them that they were right.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.
That's an interesting perspective.
I would've thought of it more as a voluntary vs. involuntary show of nudity.
I would characterize the forcible show of nudity as rape.
As to our societies duplicity in showing off teens and children as sex objects, while characterizing the thought of them as sex objects as evil, has got to screw with a lot of people's heads.
The Jon Benet Ramsey case, sickened me with the press coverage. When I saw images of the world that this girl was growing up in, where children are made up to look like sex dolls, I threw up a little in my mouth. I couldn't help but think I was looking at video from pervert's convention.
Now as far as consensual objectification, I have tough time feeling bad about that. It's my experience, that mutual objectification can be a lot of fun. And I got the feeling that some of the things that you argue are intended to make the woman submit, might be viewed in her perspective as a means to make the man submit to her. I think men are often too quick to think that it's all about them. If she's eager to do something, it's probably for her benefit more than yours...
But on context of the detainees. This is pure and simple photographic rape. I can't help but wonder how many White House Residents collected these photos as porn.
Good afternoon, Weaseldog.
As bizarre as it might sound to normal human beings, I have personally met my share of people who actually get a kick out of those Abu Ghraib photographs. I have also heard some of the Right-wing talk show hosts utterly trivializing the horror depicted. Rush Limbaugh had a listener call in and declare that what was going on at Abu Ghraib was on the level of "fraternity pranks," and Limbaugh jumped in, saying, "Exactly! Exactly!"
Yeah, right. I have known of ungodly violence in fraternity initiations, and it's nothing to joke about. Ditto for some of the initiation rituals in military units, which border on cults as far as I'm concerned. But to trivialize state-sponsored violence is unspeakable.
However, to suddenly, after the fact, have George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfelf pretending they were shocked by what they saw in the photos is beyond unspeakable.
It is, in fact, laughable.
The laughing part will come when those torturers are marched off to prison for the American penal system version of state-sponsored torture.
The Dark Wraith is, of course, not holding his breath for that glad day to arrive any time soon.
I tuned into Rush Limbaugh one day a few years ago...
He was saying over and over, "It's good and wholesome." I listened for a time, trying to figure out what he was talking about, and hoping my guess was wrong.
Sure enough, he was talking about torture. Rush Limbaugh characterizes torture as 'Good and Wholesome.'
As to torture and hazing, we're back to the voluntary and involuntary question again. I'm not aware of any hazing though, that spans years or decades with no hope that it will end before death comes, while wishing that day would come sooner than later.
John Yoo says that torture in the form of crushing a child's testicles with pliers is legal if the president does it. Perhaps Rush would let someone try this Good and Wholesome technique on him some day?
Such torture as crushing testicles with pliers is predicated not only upon the torturer having a decent pair of pliers suitable to the purpose, but also upon the victim having his end of the bargain similarly suitable, at least by size, to the purpose.
The Dark Wraith finds good pliers easy to find at any quality hardware store, but also finds evident testicles quite difficult to find among Right-wing windbags.
I'm afraid that as a female I've never felt "giving head" as a subjugation sort of activity...of course, I fully expected the reciprocal activity as a reward (and if it was "too gross" for the poor pussy, I found a new boyfriend). I am however, well aware that a segment of neanderthal males may in their heat of hearts feel this way, and some ladies may thrill to having their head held down and being forced (which in some contexts, such as BDSM role play, can be exiting as hell...or so I've heard). But if fellatio is female subjugation-all narsty and unsanitary-what of cunnilingus? Is the evil mom bitch subjugating the man by forcing him to perform a degrading and unsanitary activity? Sperm at least has some minimal nutritional value, as well as being good for the complexion (the latter I have no personal experiance with, and it may be folklore).
Scenes in bad porn flicks do show a cetain subugation aspect in such activity...I've seen a couple good ones though that match more with my experiance...there is absolutely nothing more helpless than a man when he is being given good head, and I'll admit to occasionally power tripping on it in my purple past.
I do however agree with your point that many in our culture, lacking critical thinking skills or historical knowledge, are clueless as to the social/sexual mores of other cultures and have no clue how horribly our torture techniques have buried us all deeper in shit as far as ever getting along with the typical middle eastern muslim.
I fear that this frank conversation is taking me perilously close to getting fined by the moral crusaders at the FCC.
The Dark Wraith should have known better than to bring up the topic of oral calisthenics around the crowd at this diner.
I wondering why I felt I had to tiptoe around the topic. :)
Nudity is like a box o'chocolates! Ya never knows whats yer gonna gits tils ya takes off the wrapper!
"What we did to them in captivity has served quite well to prove to them that they were right." You wandered a ways but eventually got to the point, with which I absolutely agree. What we did to detainees was disgraceful and a whole lot of people in and out of uniform should have been fired and imprisoned.
I'm not sure nudity is all that significant a component of abuse for us Westerners, though. When I went through Air Force SERE training before going to Vietnam I was stripped naked and tossed into a bamboo cage in the middle of the night with another guy, to punish some of our colleagues who were doing the obligatory escape attempt. It was all guys in that exercise, so the nudity wasn't a big deal except that we froze our butts off for a couple of hours. But for Muslims, their mileage may vary, and we sinned deeply by doing what we did to them.
I have this radical notion that all religions, theirs and ours, ought to get out of the anti-sex business. Morality has no inherent relationship with sex -- it has to do with abusive and exploitive behavior. That's what preachers and mullahs ought to go after, rather than getting all wrapped up in who's screwing who and the genders involved.
Good evening, rm hitchens.
They didn't call it "SERE," but the whole POW gig was around in my time. I thought it was SOP, but as time has passed, I'm not so sure.
In an article I wrote recently about Sean Hannity, I alluded in passing to my annoyance with this whole thing right now about "waterboarding" as if there's one and only one way it's done, and everyone who's hip and with it knows exactly what the procedure is.
Well, I've got news: "waterboarding" (and even that term trivializes it) can be done a whole lot of ways, and the one that seems to be what everyone talks about now strikes me as being a couple of light-years from at least one way I could describe in graphic detail.
But on the subject of nudity, it has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, which just hijacked a social taboo that spans quite a few cultures and a pretty impressive scope of the human time on this good Earth. Although nudity is not particularly offensive in some cultures that are far from industrialized, it is generally frowned upon in more "advanced" civilizations, and it always has been, regardless of what religion was practiced. Slaves were forced into one degree or another of nudity, at least from visual depictions we find, although this might have been as much cultural fantasy as anything else; we find even forensic evidence that captives were stripped naked as part and parcel of their brutalization; and we rarely find, in any culture, evidence that the wealthy and powerful were given to bouts of public nudity other than for the deliberate — and, again, sometimes fantasy — display of phallic power through dominance. Descriptions, depictions, and evidence of nudity practiced widely by the upper crust of societies has usually been part of the effet sub-culture of the rich and famous, something that has no boundaries in time or geography.
No, religion just hijacked nudity as a proscribable act; and even as we become more culturally liberal and less prone to genuine piety, we are becoming more and more driven to treat it as something scornful. For us, at least to a certain extent, we do that just so the violation of the proscription can be an enhanced titillation, although we are becoming progressively harsher in cracking down on it as criminal activity. We have also seen how government censors have become appallingly strict about presenting nudity on television. The dichotomy, which I mention in the article, above, is almost laughable; but it is very real and very much an indication of something greatly amiss in our culture — and that's our culture, not some shared "religion" — that is not going to get any better, but is instead going to get far worse.
But back to a primary point, nudity as part of brutalization in military training was quite common, as I pointed out. It was done as part of training, and it was done during training for the clear and transparent (at least, to me) purpose of destroying my ego as a private thing the military did not own. For the war makers, a soldier belongs to the service, and he needs to get over thinking that any part of his body is private and beyond use and destruction for the cause of the flag for which he fights.
There is not a hint of organized "religion" in the mentality that believes warriors are made by destroying human dignity.
But, then again, the military does not want warriors; all it wants is soldiers.
The Dark Wraith has said enough about it all for now.
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