Monday, June 28, 2010

Class, Culture, Libido, & Gender - A Reponse To Camille Paglia

I should have known better than to read this piece by Camille Paglia. In fact, I should have known better than to read anything by Camille Paglia. Alas, I did so, and received my just desserts - an eyeful of painfully stupid stuff.

Her thesis, if I read it correctly, is that the upper middle-class is far too busy to be interested in sex; the striving of the lower echelons of the bourgeoisie leave little room for the more sublime pleasures of intimacy. Even as the FDA begins to consider a medicinal approach to the failing libidos of middle age women, the same target population seems to be offering, via popular culture, a collective shrug at the prospect.

It was this last that made me cringe. The thought that our popular culture - television, film, popular music - is desexualized is ludicrous. Even if this were true, how do we determine if this is a gauge less of the strivings of the petite bourgeoisie and the demands of the bourgeoisie? It would seem to me that stripping popular culture of the fine lineaments of sexuality would be more along the lines of the demands of the ruling class, insisting on more work and less fun. Since this isn't happening, an alternative, semi-Marxist interpretation of the on-going presence of sexualized popular culture could be that, in tough economic times, it is as fine a distraction as any from the possibility of class solidarity. After all, if working class men and women are competing for sexual favors, there is little emotional room left for organizing, true?

The conversion of the collapse of libido from a psychological to a medical condition in both genders, and the attempt at a medical remedy, would seem as much a part of the ruling class to impose sexual distraction upon the shrinking ranks of the upper middle class as the long-term conversion of most of the things in human life in to problems in need of a medical cure. While there has been, since the discovery of Viagra, an ongoing complaint over its acceptance (and probably over-prescription) by insurance plans, including Medicare even as conception control for women is not covered equally, one can easily imagine a scenario in which a libido enhancer for middle class and upper middle class women becomes acceptable.

Yet, while the cross-currents of class and gender discrimination certainly converge on this question, beginning with the assumption, as Paglia most clearly does, that the upper middle class is not interested in sex is just not born out by any analysis. In particular, the attempt to read in to pop culture anything resembling a lack of sexuality is ludicrous, even ignorant.

Whether or not a medicinal response to a decline in libido among upper middle class, middle-aged women is necessary begs the question of whether or not such a thing exists (a question still not asked concerning Viagra for men). The only benefit Paglia's article offers is a chance to respond far more intelligently to these questions than she has.

Virtual Tin Cup

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