Bring It On!

Musings On Prudes, Perverts, Photographs, & Polygamists

May 3rd, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

Two recent news items led me to today’s musing. The first is the Texas polygamists and the second is the Vanity Fair photo of Miley Cyrus. Both serve to demonstrate the fact that numerous American’s have yet to resolve the unhealthy dissonance that seems to accompany any event that can be seen as remotely sexual. That inability provides the backdrop for countless conflicts that surface with virtually every event that remotely triggers the trepidation.

With the Texas polygamists, we have a group of men who seem to be obsessed with having numerous females available for their sexual gratification…couched of course as part and parcel of their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, that obsession apparently leads to a virtual paranoia with regards to insuring that the appearance of their women won’t display the slightest hint of sensuality.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but wouldn’t you think that if you were going to have multiple wives, you’d want each of them to have a look and an identity of their own? Crass as this may sound, can this preoccupation simply be about having access to numerous vagina’s? At the same time, are these individuals so driven by the fear that other males might covet their women that they embark to dress them alike…in garments designed to make them sexually unappealing? No, I don’t claim to understand polygamists, but if you look at the pictures of these women, it seems to me that they have been transformed into the equivalent of low budget Stepford wives.

As I look at their prairie day’s dresses and their caricature coifs, I can’t help but feel for these women and their seeming inability to break free from their oppressive overlords. I’m even more disturbed by their willingness to indoctrinate their daughters into a life that has to be viewed as little more than a patriarchal prison. The structure and the system exude an array of pathologies. It also speaks to an imbalance that seems to be ingrained in many aspects of our society at large.

An example of that manifestation can be found in the recent events surrounding Disney sweetheart Miley Cyrus and the Vanity Fair image taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. The photo drew tremendous attention and elicited a level of outrage that struck me as rather odd…and abundantly indicative of America’s inability to distinguish between puritanical prudery and limitless licentiousness.

In my estimation, the Leibovitz image was harmless…especially when juxtaposed with many of the images, inferences, and adult themes found in the Disney movie that propelled Cyrus to stardom. Frankly, I suspect that this battle between priggery and perversion is a permanent resident in the minds of many adults. As such, they are intent on attaching sexual connotations to each and every event.

The perpetual conflict this creates simply results in irrationality and an inability to strike a reasoned moral balance. It also facilitates calls for the erection (no pun intended) of barriers designed to keep the individual from acting on impulses they feel remiss to control voluntarily. I see religion as an adjunct in this effort to deter desires…one that often exacerbates the inclinations to act out in ways that are apt to sabotage the self and subjugate the actual identity.

Freud compared this to placing the lid on a tube of toothpaste without alleviating the pressure that is being applied to force it’s expulsion from the inner layers of it’s dark domicile. In this unnatural state, the toothpaste…or in the case of the individual, the often subconscious psyche…seeks out alternate outlets. Rarely are those outlets advisable or compatible with the process of self-awareness.

Returning to the tumult created by the Vanity Fair photo - truth be told, the image of Cyrus has been depicted in classical art forms for centuries and it needn’t be viewed as sexually provocative. In fact, it is far less sexual than much of the clothing parents purchase for their children as well as the endless commercials that dad watches during any televised sporting event.

I see the outrage as evidence of an alternate outlet…one that fails to address the underlying discomfort or serves to diminish the dissonance that drives the demands for deterrents and/ or the squelching of subtle triggering events. Like the pendulum in a clock, this approach necessitates extremity as the individual (and therefore often the society) careens from one side to the other until such time as it can be pulled back towards the center.

In the end, the clothes worn by the Texas polygamist women or the lack of clothing worn by Miley Cyrus are simply outward evidence of an internal upheaval that requires recognition. Only then can the individual and the society begin the process of resolution. In the meantime, we’re just a Janet Jackson breast away from our next moment of misguided moralizing.

In the following video, Mo Rocca and Tim Gunn take a tongue-in-cheek look at polygamist fashion. I get the impression that both men think the look is more akin to recidivism than with a retro revival.

Following the video are two graphics that seek to capture the intertwining, and the essence, of these two events. Hopefully they will also trigger a few moments of reflection as well as an honest assessment of the hypocrisy that has come to typify our convoluted culture.

Click on image to view full size

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 4 Responses to “Musings On Prudes, Perverts, Photographs, & Polygamists”

  2. By Paul Watson on May 3, 2008 | Reply

    That picture’s what the fuss is about?? It’s a good, classical style photograph. It’s no more sexual than Demi Moore’s pregnancy shots (probably less, actually).

    As for polygamy, I’m fine with it as long as polyandry is also allowed (which is where my plan falls down horribly as that ain’t ever gonna happen) and everyone in the family gets married and has to agree (to be fair, it probably falls down pretty hard here, too). I don’t care if other people want to do things with their lives that I don’t. If they’re all ok with it and not hurting anyone (excluding masochists. Again, don’t do, don’t really understand, but, hey, if it floats your boat…) I don’t see why it’s any of my business.

  3. By rube cretin on May 4, 2008 | Reply

    We Nabakov fans have always been fascinated by butterfly’s. But, any man who collects more than one is demented and lives in a special kind of hell. Seriously, your insights are always interesting.

  4. By Daniel DiRito on May 4, 2008 | Reply

    Rube,

    Another way to say the same thing may be that a focus on quantity frequently leads to a decline in quality. Hence, seeking to own more precious stones becomes pointless when they can easily be had in abundance.

    Or as my father likes to explain it…”I have enough trouble dealing with one wife…why in the hell would I want several?”

    Daniel

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