How the Evolution of Sexual Communication has Evolved and Shaped the Nature of Sex and Sexuality Today.
Music by Lostboycrow - Powers
Sexting, as it was first described as such in 2004, is not a new form of communication; in fact, sexual communication has been an integral part of society for centuries, yet it maintains a status of something taboo, something that is not supposed to be talked about (Vogels).
Summarizing Freud and all of psychoanalysis most succinctly, Robert Michel's (personal communication) wryly suggested:
“Everything is about sex, except sex: sex is about power.”
(Seelig et al).
Women are stripped of their power and autonomy through various cultural practices, although, through modes sexual communication, people can obtain personal authorship and empowerment. There is evidence for sexual communication throughout all stages of the evolution of communication and has helped to advance interactions between people despite distance, space, and time. Today, a significant amount of sexual communication is executed through online mediums. As noted in The Handbook of Language and Gender
“Text-based computer-mediated communication, with it’s lack of physical and auditory cues, makes the gender of online communicators irrelevant or invisible, allowing women and men to participate equally, in contrast with traditional patterns of male dominance observed face-to-face conversations”
(Meyerhoff and Holmes 202).
The internet today plays an integral role as both a time and space biased medium in which communication history can live on permanently.
Exploring the history of sexuality since the 18th century, Foucault always equates Knowledge with power, and thus power, with sex. Foucault calls this the repressive hypothesis; how sex was handled hundreds of years ago, and how it is even handled today, its restrictive, there are rules and regulations on all acts whether public or private, there is a constant higher power determining what is right and wrong concerning acts executed behind closed doors (Foucault 36). This power can be through law, religion, and societal expectations. Sex and communicating are both such highly regulated expressions despite being arguably the most personal. Throughout history, sexual communication has been extremely relevant and telling in terms of societal and cultural norms and practices.
Egyptian hieroglyphs were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt. It combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters. Upon recovery, there have been many instances of sexual communication through hieroglyphs to depict and give information about the nature of ancient Egyptian sexuality. Sexual communication can reveal copious information about societies and their norms. For example, in Egyptian societies, through hieroglyphs, we can observe that there was no concept of virginity in that time. This shows a stark contrast in the view of women at the time. Without a concept of virginity, there is a lack in a way to devalue and simplify a woman down to whether she engages in sexual activity or not. Even today, women across the world are shamed for partaking in sex, or not withholding her virginity for marriage.
In ancient Egypt, women held great deals of power, such as Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Tiye, and Hatshepsut- their sexualities never held over them. Egyptian hieroglyphs also depicted the sacristy of both male and female masturbation (Cleopatra made a vibrator for herself with bees) and men ejaculated into the Nile River to to encourage the fertility of the Nile. In relation to this, hieroglyphs also introduced the nature in which bestiality and zoophilia was present within culture of a society (Brewer and Teeter 211). Sexual communication provides extensive information about power, social structures, and cultural norms within a community. Without the hieroglyphics depicting sexual norms and practices, we would be ignorant to the history within that area. The dominant class of a society has the resources to lasting communicatory devices, as exhibited of hieroglyphs in ancient Egypt. The means used to create lasting impressions on the evolution of sexual communications are those of which travel through time and space to become relevant today (Lyon 2014). Another contrast between the sexual communication within ancient Egypt compared to that of today is an explanation for the status of homosexuality. While there is not explicit adaptation of homosexuality as depicted through the hieroglyphs, “Marriage is no evidence for a lack of ‘homosexual’ activities or inclinations, but it is an indication of the prevailing social attitudes” (Parkinson 1995). There are certain adaptations of stories in which males partake in sexual intercourse with those of the same sex to assert dominance and put men in a “womanly” or submissive position(Mark 2016). Today, within Egypt, it is not explicitly illegal, “but people are routinely arrested and imprisoned on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity” (Stewart).
Power over sex is held throughout all facets within society. This can be equated to the grave sins, that encompass and regulate billions of people these include, Debauchery, adultery, rape, spiritual or carnal incest, and Sodomy, or the mutual "caress.". Speaking to the last point, sodomy and its mutual have been a term to describe any "sexual perversion". The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; taken further, it was made that the homosexual was now a separate species from heterosexuality. As to the courts, they could condemn homosexuality . What was taken into account in the civil and religious jurisdictions alike was a general unlawfulness. These ideologies arose due to the separation of classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
Broken down, if you are not part of the one percent, it is believed that you should not take part in any activities simply for pleasure- because then you are not constantly working your way up in the classes. This includes casual sex. Its looked down upon. Even today, we look down upon people, especially women for partaking in casual sex. Sex outside these confines is not simply prohibited, but repressed. That is, there is not simply an effort to prevent extra-marital sex, but also an effort to make it unspeakable and unthinkable. Schools, laws, workplace, politics, everything became interested in the sexual relations and deviations of individuals.
Sex should be "economically useful, and politically conservative", meaning you must deter from unproductive activities, to banish casual pleasures, to reduce or exclude practices whose object was not procreation. Peripheral sexualities are deviant from creation, heterosexuality is normal, homosexuality and everything else is deviant, abnormal, and unproductive. Foucault suggests the repressive hypothesis is essentially an attempt to give revolutionary importance to discourse on sexuality. The repressive hypothesis makes it seem both defiant and of utmost importance to our personal liberation that we talk openly about sex. Our discourse on sexuality, in its promise for a better, freer way of life, is a form of preaching (Foucault 36).
Sexual communication has evolved thoroughly to become what it is today- although there is still copious measures to be done to allow for it to be the most effective as possible. Still today, as noted by Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie in a 2012 TED talk, we police girls, we praise girls for virginity, but we do not treat boys the same way (Adichie). Many inequities maintain a standing position. Technology has been a major push in sexual communication. Sexual communication has a monumental impact on technology and society. As noted in the Globe and Mail article that first introduced “sexting”, “(Naked) pictures helped cameras catch on; porn got a start in film and went on to make video and then the Internet huge. Chat rooms are full of dirty talk and spicy e-mail has launched many an on-line affair… Now, text messaging (also known as Short Message Systems or SMS) has become the new phone sex” (Vogels). Online sources of pornography have become a sexual education tool for many teens and adolescents to fill in gaps of knowledge and to learn about sexual interaction.
The intersection of sex and technology is impossible for the public to resist and the consumption of sexual communication devices can be educational as well. According to a survey of college students in Britain
“60 percent consult pornography, at least in part, as though it were an instruction manual, even as nearly three-quarters say that they know it is as realistic as pro wrestling.”
Sex work has evolved and developed through the increase of sexual communication technology. Pornography, live "Camming", subscription services and so on allow for the use of sexual communication to develop authorship, professional independence, as well as steady income for many people. The internet allows for women to self-publish in terms of sexual communication and thus “engage in profitable entrepreneurial activity on par with men” (Meyerhoff and Holmes 202). In doing this, pornography and other forms of digital publication of sexual communication, cultural artifacts are developed that are telling of the time and the standing of even more personal than pornography, is sexting.
Sexting allows for the direct communication of a person's innermost sexual desires at the blink of an eye. Sexting falls at the intersection of culture, technology, and the evolution of communication. As history has shown, humans continue to act in ways that rebel against cultural expectations, for example, circumcision, homosexuality, and gender reassignment surgery (Foucault 47). Sexting was first reported in the early to mid 2000s and by 2009 laws were introduced to allow for safe consensual sexual communication. Moving forward, faster technological changes will drive faster cultural changes. Viewing digital sexual communication (sexting, pornography, etc.) as media production rather than rebellion encourages positive and beneficial research to be conducted as well as highlighting opportunities for authorship and ensuring safety and privacy rights for those involved (Hasinoff 449).
From a postfeminist point of view, sexual communication of today parallels hieroglyphs, numbers, emoticons, and images, all move forward the discussion of sex. As a trend for centuries, there is a double standard for women and men (and those partaking in non-heterosexual relationships) for what is societally accepted according to gender. Many women feel pressured to partake in sexual communication with partners and even strangers, while also being scrutinized for doing so. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don't. There is a gendered value in digital exchange in sexual communication. There is a continued trend throughout all media outlets of inequality between genders as well as sexual double standards. Girls are called upon to produce particular forms of sexual digital production, yet face legal repercussions, moral condemnation and ‘slut shaming’ when they do so. Through a postfeminist approach the production/circulation of gendered sexual value and morality sexual communication is examined as a cultural product (Ringrose et al. 305).
Many of the responses to sexting are ineffective, unjust, and harsh. While the act itself is usually meant to physically or romantically attract affection or attention, the repercussions can lead to lifelong struggle. Teenagers caught sexting face charges under their state child pornography laws. These laws are intended to protect children from adult abuse and exploitation, but they do not exempt personal authorship (creating sexual images of oneself) (US Department of state). Authorities blame the victims of non consensual sexting, use harsh child pornography laws against naïve minors, and give teenagers the advice to simply abstain. Such severe laws are outdated and have not evolved with the change of communication and technology. Rather than responding to the evolution, they put many unsuspecting youths in criminal situations. An alarming number of teenagers who are caught possessing or distributing the pictures face criminal charges for child pornography. In Texas alone, 100 people a week are added to the sex offender registry (Ostragner 717). Some face the possibility of jail time; others must register as a sex offender. An issue with this is that registries for sex offenders become crowded, thus, law enforcement officials must be monitoring all of them, whether they are a teenager partaking in sexual communication with a peer or a child molestor. There is still evolutions to be made to the law as there is to be within sexual communications in itself.
Feminism plays a role in which women are represented through sexual communication. Today, where there is more of a progressive attitude toward sexual communication, there is still a stigma and it is taboo for women to take part in it. Women are taught shame through sex- the notion that with being born female, there is an ascribed guilt whereas in communities in which women were the dominant force, there was no stigma around sexual acts and sexual communication for women (i.e.. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs). Communications technologies are often interested in aiding with the user’s hopes for change in social order (Meyerhoff and Holmes 19). Within this world of modern technologies sexual communication has, and will continue to thrive, create new content and thus be a tool to inform societies of the future of the status of communities today. As Marshall McLuhan said in a Playboy interview,
all media are extensions of the man “that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment.”
(“The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan” 4).
Each artifact of sexual media produced holds value in a societal context. Sexual communication can highlight the current beauty standards and ideals, the legal state of sexual acts, as well as provide a framework for the inner workings and interrelations within a society.
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