Author: Nahal Batmangheldj
On Saturday, April 6, MCAB sponsored an event titled the "Art of Kissing." The event opened with a scenario that required the men in the couples on stage to simulate dentists, and the women to simulate patients. The "dentists" were instructed by Mr. Christian, the presenter, to insert their tools into the mouths of the "patients," who were told to imagine that the tool in their mouth is the "dentist's" tongue. The "patients" start to "ohhhh" and "ahhhhh" in apparent pleasure as the dentists actually begin to kiss them.
Upon completion of this scenario, Mr. Christian, asked the audience, "What will you be thinking of the next time you go to the dentists office?" And because the audience was never given a chance to answer this question, allow me to pose it to you now. "What will you be thinking?" I'm going to be thinking of how best to beat the crap out of my dentist should he try a move like that on me.
Later in the show, a similar scenario was played out, except the players in this scenario were professor and student. As with the previous scenario, the men were in the power positions (professors) and the women were the students, who appear to love their professor's sexy touch, which Mr. Christian informed us is something that "they have been dreaming about."
Apart from these two disturbing scenarios, there was an equally disturbing commentary that took place on the part of Mr. Christian, who informed the audience that he finds spanking sexually arousing. He went on to recount an event that took place in his basement where his girlfriend at the time "bent over and [he] raised his hand as high as [he] could to spank her." Of course, we were not given any information as to whether this action was pleasurable for her.
Five women, myself included, decided to protest this event. Our posters were ripped away from us and one of the protesters was kicked out of the show. Following these events I received sympathetic comments from students, who informed me that the security guards and police officers had shamelessly robbed us of our constitutional right to free speech. And while I appreciate the support, if given the chance, I would have gladly agreed to censor the "Art of Kissing." Why? Because unlike most people, I know that civil liberties were not only created by men in positions of power, but are also aimed at helping the powerful maintain their power. The first amendment, under the guise of freedom for all, protects the rights of the powerful by ensuring that the powerless remain silent.
I am not anti-free speech. I am, however, against speech that silences. What good is the first amendment when the speech it protects silences the powerless? When female patients are depicted as enjoying being sexually victimized by their doctors, when female students are depicted as desiring the advances of their professors, when Mr. Christian sent the message that women enjoy sexual violence and when all of this is done under the guise of "good fun," then women, who lack formal power because they don't make the rules that govern this society, are being robbed of their speech. Why? Because most women do not want to be assaulted by their dentist. Most women attend college to learn, and would rather not be taken advantage of by the professors who are supposed to be educating them. Most women don't like to be "spanked" or otherwise victimized by men.
When you send the message, through your speech and/or actions, that women enjoy things that they don't necessarily enjoy, they are being robbed of their speech. I submit that all the women who attended the "Art of Kissing" were robbed of their speech. By depicting all the women on stage as desiring the same thing — to be sexually victimized — then it is the their speech that is being robbed. Put differently, if their speech is the speech that Mr. Christian allows them to have, then these women have no speech of their own. They have been silenced.
Some will counter my argument by suggesting that women on this campus, like Mr. Christian, have a right to express their opinions. And to those of you who feel yourselves drifting towards this line of thinking, ask yourselves why only five women showed up to protest the event. In theory, we have the ability to challenge Mr. Christian through our speech, but how many women will really choose to do so? There are plenty of female students who thoroughly disagree with my opinions, but there are also quite a few who agree with me, and it is significant that of all the people who agree with me, only a few choose to stand with me and express their beliefs. Why? Because in the same way that I am going to be labeled an anti-sex angry feminist for the beliefs I hold, they too, by expressing similar beliefs, will be setting themselves up for a similar criticism. So ask yourselves, whose rights are the first amendment protecting? Does everyone really have the same access to this right?
I recently learned that there were a few participants who backed out of the show at the last minute. Consider the possibility that the women who backed out were not the only ones who did not want to participate? Those of you who could see the look on the faces of the female participants as they were instructed to offer their arms to their male partners, who then gave them hickies, might know what I mean. Do you really think that they all wanted to have a disgusting bruise on their arms? A hickie, it seems to me, is far more like a dog marking its territory than an act which both partners equally enjoy.
In this way, the "Art of Kissing," much like pornography (and I am hesitant to distinguish between the two because they are one in the same), is not merely about words, it is about actions. To quote feminist legal scholar, Catharine Mackinnon, "pornography is action, because pornography says what it does." The "Art of Kissing" was action because the on-stage participants did what Mr. Christian was saying.
My challenge to the show is not limited to speech, it extends to what the participants were made to do. Whether they were all equally engaged and willing in what they were doing is not something I can comment on because I just don't know. However, to those of you who are inclined to defend Mr. Christian, know this: not only are you defending words, but you are also defending actions.
Finally, allow me to anticipate yet another challenge to my views by informing you that I am not a conservative. This is not a moral issue for me. I am not concerned with family values. I am concerned with harm. I am concerned with the harm that some of the participants may have endured. And I am concerned with the harm that women are forced to endure compliments of men such as Mr. Christian, who normalize the victimization of women.
Do you really think that the perspective offered by Mr. Christian is progressive? Do you commend his deviance from conservative values? Because if you do, you are dead wrong. At the end of his show he commented on two types of women, "the good girls" and "the bad girls." That is the most conservative stance that one could possibly take. Historically, women have been divided into these opposing categories. Women are constantly being sent the message that we have two options: we can be whores or we can be respectable girls. I don't know about you, but neither of these options sounds appealing to me.
No, Mr. Christian is not a deviant. On the contrary, he stands among the most conservative of the conservatives. Next time you think you are being progressive by pushing a sexually liberal agenda, think about the values that you are really endorsing. What is so often considered sexual liberalism may actually function to uphold conservative values.
Disturbing Scenarios Perpetuate Stereotypes
Author: Nahal Batmangheldj