A Brief Look at Institutionalised Bigotry
I’m not going to make any unrealistic claims, here. There’s no way I’ll say that I’m not sexist or misogynistic or anything like that. We all have those tendencies within us. We all have moments of misanthropy, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, - all sorts of prejudices. Because we all have things that shape us. Environments that raise us and nurture us... but which also seed in those insidious little details that limit us. Those little voices at the back of our heads, which don’t really belong to us. They were put there by our parents, our teachers, the other kids in the school playground, the media, the newspapers - a million other sources.
The Project isn’t going to be about all those other forms of bigotry, though. When I first started writing it, I thought it was specifically going to be about sexism, gender roles and the power imbalance that lies between men and women; but that isn’t strictly accurate, either. It got to the point where feminism and gender roles became recurring themes, but I no longer knew what the central concept was. And from the very beginning, I knew I definitely wouldn’t know how to tackle any of the others.
So what about the stuff I can tackle..?
The good news about our more bigoted thought processes, is that they’re generally not instinctive - they’re learned. And what’s learned can be unlearned. We just have to become more aware of those thought processes that support our phobias and undermine our tolerances.
And I’m aware that our gender is not defined by our genitals. But while I’d really like to broaden this concept out to incorporate the transgender community, I’m going to have to keep it binary, for the moment. In fact, the core idea practically embraces and supports the whole binary mindset. If I can find a way - naturally - to be more inclusive, then I’ll definitely do that. But right now, any such inclusion will most likely come up sporadically, as I recognise and acknowledge the ways in which they’re being excluded.
I’ve been using words like “apparently” a lot, here. So far, I’m making no specific claims of my own. I’m going to try to find out.
So, my idea, was to explore what it means personally. To find out - at first hand - how different women cope with the power, if it’s handed to them. I would wear the devices, I’d describe them to anyone who’s interested, I’d offer practical demonstrations. I’d point out the security issues. I’d talk about the discomfort and the impracticalities.
And sometimes I’d offer up the keys. Not to everybody - but sometimes, when it seems like there might be a rapport or an understanding, I’d hand them over and see what happens. I’d offer a fleeting glimpse of the power to selected people, so they could get the tiniest taste of it to find out if it was for them. And I’d get the tiniest taste of what it was like to have that person wield that authority over me for a while. I’d find out the different flavours and personalities that different keyholders would bring to the concept. And I’d get a better understanding of the practicalities, the drawbacks and the flaws in the system.
And when I got to be more confident... when I became more comfortable with the plan... when I understood more about what I was looking for... then I’d bring it out into the open. I’d set up an installation, I’d work with a willing keyholder and I’d expand the project. I’d run it for a month, I’d create a multi-media gallery space and I’d give full expression to the concept.
I knew, from the very beginning, that there were teething troubles that would need to be addressed. It took me a while to realise, though, that the basic central concept was fundamentally flawed.
But enough about all of that... I want to talk about The Project.
For a while, now... for years, in fact... I’ve been intrigued by the concept of male chastity devices. About how these contraptions can be locked onto the male genitalia and completely restrict almost every single feature it evolved for. In most male chastity devices, the only thing function that the penis is capable of performing is urination - and even then, the chaste man will usually have to sit down.
I started reading a lot about male chastity. It was hard to weed out the porn, which mostly tended to be sloppily written, wish-fulfilment stuff, created by men who had fantasies about being owned. And even then, most of the stuff that I found was anecdotal - I’m not sure if anything at all has been subjected to proper scientific scrutiny. That might mean that “real” scientists, or students of sexuality consider something like this to be beneath them. And I’m hardly qualified to debate that with them.
Many of the anecdotes describe an idyllic scenario. They describe a situation where chaste men become more attentive and less selfish. They start to recognise the difference between ejaculation and orgasm, and as a result of that, they realise that they don’t orgasm all that often. And they stop seeing those ejaculations as a right - something they can achieve through a few minutes of furtive masturbation. In a lot of the more thoughtful and philosophical stories, it’s claimed that men are goal-driven - and if they can masturbate or have sex, then the goal is their own ejaculation. So then the philosophy becomes something like - remove the ability to ejaculate, and a different goal will take its place.
Apparently, the keyholder can influence that goal. So self discipline is generally not considered to be an option. So... if the discipline can’t come from within, it has to come from without. And this is where chastity - complete with keyholders and authority - comes into play.
This is not going to be a particularly scientific project. I’m not even entirely sure what “scientific” actually means. I mean... I know that you’re supposed to start with a hypothesis and subject that to testing. If it stands up to scrutiny, you can elevate the hypothesis and start calling it a theory. If that stands up to further scrutiny, or if enough people agree with you, then it becomes a fact. It’s something along those lines.
But I’m sure I also heard that a good scientist doesn’t start with a theory and then work backward, trying to find the evidence to support it. Apparently, a good scientist starts with nothing, then works forward to see what he learns. This is, apparently, going in with an open mind. But it seems to contradict the whole “start with a hypothesis” scenario.
I’m not going to trivialise years and decades and centuries of institutionalised sexism, here. I don’t want to undermine the struggles and realities of women, by making ridiculous and simplistic claims. I’m going to explore gender roles and hopefully, along the way, I might find I have some interesting points to make.
I’m making a lot of this stuff up as I go along. It’s going to be fun, sometimes, and it’s going to be a struggle at other times. It’s not intended to be easy. In fact, it’s not going to be particularly rewarding, unless it’s genuinely difficult and stressful, sometimes. But hopefully, I’m going to learn some stuff.
So I’m going my own way on this. It’s an adventure.