Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Better Than

[TW: Sexualization of children]

A part of me wants to believe something was lost in translation, as I've seen several different versions of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's latest fun quote, this one in response to criticism lodged at him for sexual activity with an underage girl. Via the Mirror:

"Defending his decision to shower a teenage belly dancer with lavish gifts, the 74-year-old Lothario joked: 'It's better to be passionate about beautiful girls than to be gay.'"

Three things are happening here.

First, via this overeager display of heterosexual male sexuality, note that Berlusconi is discussing his sexual attraction to girls, rather than women. Many societies extend this entitlement to sexualize children and teenagers to heterosexual men but pathologize and demonize it in LGBT people and, especially, gay men. Indeed, Berlusconi himself argues that it is better to sexualize "girls" than it is for people to be gay. Being sexualized by men is what girls are; it is their very definition.

This, too, is how Rape Culture works. By framing a small segment of the population, few of whom are actually abusive, as sexual predators, men who blur the boundaries between adult and child female sexuality are seen as Normal and Healthy because their sexual drives are properly channeled toward the other sex, a sex that was designed for and exists to be sexualized by men. Male access to women and girls is guaranteed, while girls are taught that what's most important about themselves is their sexual appeal to men. Women sexualized under the male gaze remain in a state of perpetual childhood, not taken seriously by men outside the realm of sex.

Indeed, according to this Newsweek article, only 45% of women in Italy work outside the home and when they do, they earn 20% less than men (the latter figure, of course, being sadly comparable to what women in the US earn compared to men).

Which brings us to two. Re-read his statement:

"It's better to be passionate about beautiful girls than to be gay."

Here, he is speaking from the "Objective Male Viewpoint" wherein all humans are men, including the gay ones, and "girls" are the things that it's awesome for people to be "passionate" about. It is a viewpoint, sadly typical, that eradicates women from the category "gay" and from any role other than as the members of the sex class. Indeed, as someone with 95% of control over Italy's TV market, even Newsweek wonders if Berlusconi is intent upon "creating a world in which women are seen first and foremost as sex objects instead of professional equals."

Ya think?

Three, the Big Sin with respect to Berlusconi's latest sex scandal doesn't seem to be his improper sexual advances to a teenage girl, but rather, that he offended gay people, a group he and many others seem to believe is a group comprised mostly, if not exclusively, by men.

For instance, rather than calling him "creep" or "pervert" or "borderling pedophile," notice how the Mirror article cited above calls him "the 74-year-old Lothario," as though his fixation on objectifying and sexualizing women is a somewhat endearing quality of a dirty old man. If you click on the link, you'll see that the caption under his Totally Macho Sneering photo reads,"Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi sparked fury yesterday with a tactless jibe at homosexuals," as though his sexualization of girls and women is an inconsequential jibe not worthy of inducing similar fury.

With his quote regarding comparative worth of sexualizing women versus being attracted to men, I offer that what Berlusconi really meant to say is that it is better for men, and male dominance, to be passionate about objectifying women than it is for men to be passionate about doing the same to men. In this way, it is abundantly clear how rape culture, homophobia, and the sexualization of girls and women work together to preserve male supremacy.

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