The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Denial and Political correctness

A great piece on denial and social evolution.
The recent conversations about homosexuality are a good jump-off to discuss political correctness, I think. A last thought: I never said that gay men WOULD get erections in a roomful of naked men. I said they’d be more likely to get them than straight men. Now, it’s possible that I was wrong about just how MUCH problem that would be. But what I REALLY missed was the amount of emotional load on the entire issue. Not understanding how tender it is, I spoke casually when I should have been more sensitive, made light of it in a way that seems to have caused Jasper discomfort. For that, I apologize.
Personally, I probably have as much aversion to watching two gay men kiss as most whites have to watching a black man kiss a white woman. A little. Not enough to keep me from enjoying “Brokeback Mountain”, but probably enough to keep me from going to see the sequel, if you know what I mean. I certainly used to have more aversion, but probably that came from wondering about my own impulses. I think young men want sex, and if they are in a cosmopolitan setting, they grasp pretty quickly that if they are gay, they can get sex more easily than if they are straight. Heck, men were coming on to me in the exact same way I was coming on to girls. They offered to take ME out, give ME presents, and in a perfect world, I would have been happy to say “Sure!” and hop into bed with none of the pleading, begging, cajoling, and seducing required to nail a chick. Sigh. But the little light bulb at the back of my head just doesn’t go off when I see, say, Brad Pitt the way it does if I see a half-naked Jessica Alba. Let alone Halle Berry. Good Lord. But the temptation to take that road was there. Step back and add self image stuff (“who am I”) and social stuff (“What would Dad say”?) and practical stuff (“Shit, I’m already black, do I want to add THIS to my problems?”) and I could feel more pain than pleasure down that road.

My attitude? Anyone who’s been around animals much knows that animals indulge in homosexual behavior, so it seems pretty “natural” to me. And it’s also pretty obvious that probably 80% of us or better have some of that proclivity in us. That under the right circumstances, most of us would choose human contact of any kind over none at all. I know EXACTLY the kind of guy I’d shack up with if sentenced to Life on Devil’s Island. Slender, smart, wiry, deadly, funny, and sweet. And very oral.

But then you get into strange sociobiological stuff. Producing maximum numbers of children. Well, plenty of gay guys produce children. How about not letting other guys too close? I doubt there’s a culture on the planet where men have more freedom to touch and cuddle than women do. Where is “Guys Gone Wild”? I see no one getting rich with THAT franchise any time soon. Social reinforcement of some odd core wiring, I think. But am not sure.

What I do know is that love, and touch, are precious things. And however a person finds love with another adult, good for them. And I do like to subtly flirt with cute, smart guys. They’re fun. But I’m sure I still have some residual attitudes, and it’s important to be aware.
I think that there’s the bare wiring, and then on top of that is the social conditioning. “Politically Correct” behavior, at its best, arises from people being conscious of the unconscious drives, and saying, “all right, if we’re not careful, the unconscious stuff will cause us to behave badly. Let’s bar certain words and actions from public behavior.” According to Orwell, this makes it harder to think the underlying thoughts. The aspect that is social conditioning can fade (to a degree), leaving us with something closer to the underlying wiring. I trust that stuff, basically. Assuming that the person has no real reason to feel threatened, or isn’t under enough threat to feel strain, the nervous system and society begin to evolve. (Under strain, it devolves. Note the way torture crept into the national debate the instant we felt unsafe. I would bet anything that few thought it would happen so FAST.)

While honesty is better, it requires a higher level of attention. Many will be cruel under the mask of “I was just being honest.” They’ll say “You’ve got an ugly baby!” because they were thinking it. If someone has a child I consider ugly, and there is nothing I can offer to make the situation better, I can complement a voice, a smile, intelligence, the way the child is dressed…if there IS something they can do, I might, if the rapport is strong, make a subtle suggestion. But only after complements.

Political correctness has its place. Honesty is the higher value. But while we still function on the tribal level, I’ll take courtesy over “Nigger” every time.

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