Throughout history sexuality and violence seems to be two suppressed subjects of conversation and only in recent history has the topics been more widely discussed as the newspapers provides stories of violence against women, wars being waged and the positive associations between “looking good” and success or “feeling good.” We are as a society bombarded with these images on a daily basis, but don’t think much of it until the problem comes closer to home such as teen shootings, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, stalking/ predation and child abductions. In today’s society, children see and feel more pressure than the children of yester year however open conversation of these issues is non-existent or not to the extent they need to be. Many times the combination turns deadly for one or both parties involved as teens see their value in their sexual desirability and devalue self worth potentially leading to violent outbursts. Even as adults, we struggle to grasp the concept of our own sexuality leading to confusion and anger when bombarded by images of what we are supposed to be based on unrealistic exceptions potentially causing some to move towards violence against others or to themselves. This page is meant to start a much needed discussion of something that is almost taboo to talk about.
First definition of the terms are in order before we move forward so the audience can follow the smoking gun. The American Psychological Association defines sexuality in three stages: desire is an interest in being sexual, excitement is a state of arousal that sexual stimulation causes and an orgasm is the climax of pleasure. A sexual disorder occurs when problems occur in one of these stages. Men and women are often defined by their sexuality or stereotypical characteristics of how men and women are perceived to be dating back to the cavemen, a hunter and gatherer mentality so to speak. If you do not fit the mold then you are consider an outcast by mainstream society. Several factors affect our sexuality not just orientation such as environment and the culture we live in. In certain societies it is suppressed or even taboo to talk about this subject therefore very strict roles or purposes for men and women are followed, while other societies express sexuality more freely now than in the past leading to almost a glamorization of it in the media trying to fit everyone into a tiny mold. The inherent problem with so much pressure built up can lead to a god like complex or a napoleon type complex with the potential of violence.
The second subject connected in many ways to sexuality is violence. As defined, violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, group or community resulting in or potentially causing injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation. According to the APA, violence has many causes including frustration, exposure to violent media, violence in the home or neighborhood and the actions of other people perceived as threats. Aggression increases with environmental factors like heat and overcrowding as well as drinking, insults and other provocations. Like Red says in Shawshank Redemption, “That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time.”
Gender and sexuality seem to go hand in hand as throughout history men and women are expected to be a certain way pushing some to the breaking point as expectation and reality lead to disappointment and despair even violence. Globally, violence takes the lives of 1.5 million people annually with 50% due to suicide, 35% due to homicide and only 12% a direct result of war or conflict. For every violent death, there are dozens of hospitalizations, hundreds of emergency department visits, and thousands of doctors’ appointment. The aftermath of such violence leads to physical and mental health issues as well social such as slow economic and social development. Violence is preventable as evidence shows that levels of violence and potentially modifying factors are strong such as concentrated poverty, income and gender inequality, harmful use of alcohol, bullying and the absence of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between child and parents.
Scientifically credible strategies to prevent violence are available and proven to work to deter individual from acting out with violence. These programs include education based programs on preventing child maltreatment, home visits by nurses, life skills training, addressing gender norms and attitudes and reduction as well as enforcement of liquor laws, taxation and pricing, reducing guns and knives and promoting gender even sexuality equality. By dispelling myths of what it is to be a man and a woman therefore the very definition of sexuality, the violence is preventable and therefore the aftershocks of such events will not happen.
We all in some way play into the stereotypes of gender roles as well as what sexuality means as the media has heavily influenced the way society sees men and women, but media does not completely explain the problem as cultural norms and attitudes play into what is socially acceptable. Some deal with the frustration using violence to dominate their victims and gain some control over how they see the world. Inevitably, the person who has been pushed toward the edge will react with violence in varying degrees against others or themselves. In a lot of these instances of violence in school, teen pregnancy, suicide, homicide, and sexual abuse it is a cry for help hiding a much deeper issue than doing harm to others or to oneself. With an ever changing world it is important to recognize these subtleties in order to prevent the much larger problems resulting from such violence. Stereotyping is hurtful and wrong. Even if the preconceived notion is correct, putting someone down based on assumptions will not encourage a person to succeed and can in cases lead to bullying of an individual. The act of bullying may start at an early age but carry on through adulthood. Defining people based on sexuality and gender can lead people to live their lives based on hate and victims to live in fear of being bullied or harassed because they do not follow what is socially acceptable. In the end, no one wins and many suffer.