Monday, April 26, 2010

Boobquake And Human Custom

On July 4, Americans will watch fireworks, drink beer, cook amalgamated meat products over open flames, and eat them. None of this will result any substantial domestic or foreign policy advantages for our country, and it would be silly for anyone to think they've done some great patriotic deed for having grilled things. But that doesn't mean it's foolish to participate in July 4 festivities. It's perfectly fine to do unusual things on a special day to express how you feel about something.

And that's why I think Jen McCreight shouldn't be worried about the fact that Boobquake doesn't actually accomplish any direct political goals. It's like the fourth of July -- it's there for expressive fun reasons, and it doesn't cost anything. Nobody is going to look back on this with regret and say, "We could've gotten contraception for poor women in Central America, but we blew all our political capital on Boobquake!" We shouldn't require feminist holidays to have tremendous political efficacy -- it's hard to see how any cause gets significant mileage out of holidays, anyway. (Now, making Election Day an official holiday where the working class had time to vote -- that would accomplish a whole lot! but anyway, back to the issue...)

Some women feel uncomfortable with Boobquake because of obnoxious male responses to all the boobs. Beth Mann has a response along these lines. And, yeah. I see how that could really spoil the whole thing. Having to understand the significance your body in terms of the reactions of the creepiest guys is a very unfortunate way to be. I'm not sure what's to be done about that, other than guys just being a lot more respectful.

The appropriate way for a straight man to respond to female nudity, I think, involves quiet, appreciative awe and reverence. I've never been in a Catholic Church during Communion, but I imagine that it's regarded as a loutish behavior to yell out, "Wooooo! Show us the Body of Christ!" I would like to live in a society in which male responses to female nudity paralleled the attitude of the religious towards their miracles.


Aaron said...

I think that last line would go over better if it weren't gendered in only one direction.

Glenn Fayard said...

Speaking as a Catholic, I'd like you to know that we shout "HOO-RAH~!" and thrust our crotches no less than thrice. And don't you forget it.

Briggs said...

Here's something men can do in addition to being respectful of women's bodies: put your own bodies out there for evaluation. I'm not saying that just out of prurience. (Not just out of prurience.) As long as only one gender is being evaluated for hotness, we cannot have a truly equitable society.

Also, maybe if there's another Boobquake it should include more explicit acknowledgement of immodest clothing options for gender-variant women? I'll go ahead and appoint myself chair of that subcommittee.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Yeah, that would be more equitable, Aaron. But the thing is that I've never heard men complain that women get obnoxiously boisterous about male nudity.

For my part, if lots of women were yelling at me to take my shirt off in some kind of drunk party situation, I'd think it was kind of awesome and do what they said.

Briggs, maybe that's in line with your proposal. And if I'm someday lucky enough to have the full combination of (1) fuller job security, (2) youthful good looks, and (3) a bit more muscle, I'll see if there are appropriate avenues of expression.

By the way, I always appreciated this feature. Reading the excited female comments was the most fun part for me.

Briggs said...

Neil, I do have a small handful of stories from male friends who have been sexually harassed by women. It's nowhere near as common as women being harassed by men, but it does happen. It can be extremely terrifying for the victim irrespective of the genders of the people involved.

So I can't endorse surrounding men and yelling at them to take their shirts off. It sounds fun in theory, but probably wouldn't be so great in practice. (And even if you wouldn't mind, there are a lot of men who would, so it wouldn't be fair to just surround innocent men and start mobbing them.)

I do adore Thursday Lechery, though. I remember Sheelzebub posting one absolutely breathtaking photograph of a shirtless man in a kilt. To my great disappointment, that photograph has seems to have disappeared from the entire Internet without a trace. Which is why you should always download dirty pictures straightaway.

I will support you in your beefcake ambitions when we are both flush with job security.

Quirk said...

Your joke about quietly worshiping female bodies on display is kind of funny, but also makes me uncomfortable.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I'm curious to hear more about that, Quirk. Are there other ways for men's sexual desires to manifest themselves that you'd be more comfortable with? Or is it just something that necessarily goes with sexual desire?

Which is why you should always download dirty pictures straightaway.

Words I live by.

Janet said...

The next time I'm at mass I'll definitely hoot for Christ (but I haven't been in any kind of church service since I was 4)

Boobquake DOES have a political point, though. It's science. Admittedly, there are some loopholes in the imam's hypothesis, and the Taiwan earthquake may actually prove him right (not strictly statistically).

Quirk said...

This is a little disorganized because I'm not sure where to start. It makes me uncomfortable to be reminded that lots of men see my body as something God created for them to appreciate, especially as some of them might skip over the part where I am the one in charge of it. I know you (Neil) don't mean this, but the phrasing says that to me. And in fact it's not just the creepiest guys we have to worry about, it's a lot of guys who think it's okay to classify women in terms of sexiness before personality. They might not harass a woman, but they also might not have ears for her words.

Perhaps the short answer is: any expression of sexual excitement directed at a stranger is likely bad, and one generalizing in the absence of real people is certainly worse. At more length, the problem with cultural male expressions of heterosexual desire as I know them, is that they usually involve women's bodies or even body parts as distinct from the people. It's too commonly done, and it's called rape culture. With it people can blame women for being raped or abused because their bodies had power to make some man react. (1) That, I imagine, is part of the original point of Boobquake, but also why it is problematic. So to be respectful it isn't enough to be nice; one has to recognize a woman as a person female.

One definition my friend came up with for "sketchy" in the sense of harrassment is anything that one can't really say "no" to, by its very nature or by the tone in which it is presented. One can't say "no" to a stranger's visual appreciation except by covering up, and often not even then. One can say "no" to a proposition of any sort, if it is made in good faith and withdrawn without threat--many read as threats in current society of course.

Maybe it's easy for me to say, but I don't see all of my preferences above as restrictive of male heterosexuality. People just have to think a bit differently.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Thanks, Quirk.

Wayfarer said...

Boobquake has been animated.

And also upgraded to Boobageddon.