Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Casual Sex. A Post on the Meaning of Terms.

Nope.  This is not going to be about the pleasures (or otherwise) of casual sex!  The headline was just a hook to reel you in.  This post is going to be about how we interpret terms and words and how that differs depending on who we are.  You know, the kinds of terms as "freedom," "democracy," "justice."

But casual sex comes into it.  And the fact that I now live in a second language.  For some odd reason the images I get whenever someone mentions "casual sex" are these: 

A participant has a bit of sex, goes up and makes a cup of tea, stands by the window and watches the birds meditatively, goes back into the bedroom for a grope of two, remembers the bills and pays them, returns to the bedroom, gets up and pulls out extraneous body hairs, goes back to sex and so on.

This goes on at the same time as my divinely logical brain knows full well what the term really means.  And similar double images apply to many other concepts  which are tossed around flippantly.

"Freedom" is one of those.  Whenever a politician says "freedom" the audience inserts their own meanings, and those meanings can be quite different from the one the politician means.  For instance, a Mitt Romney calling for more liberty or freedom has no intention of giving it to me, ever.

"Family values" is a similar press-the-right-buttons term.  A few decades ago all conservative politicians were about family values.  They just never defined what they meant by "family" and "values."  The idea was for us to plug in those secondary images of our own families, love and apple pie and such.

Now think of the term "feminist."  What it means in my head is an important aspect of general equality, fairness, justice.  All those good things which are ultimately good for you.  What it means inside the head of someone like Rush Limbaugh is the end of a world where someone like he can sit in the top saddle, unchallenged.  My paradise is his nightmare. 

And when it comes to flavoring a concept with those secondary images, the Rush Limbaughs of this world are winning.  People with feminist values dare not use the term!  They might be accused of man-bashing!   Armpit hairs might be sprouting!  Ugliness would rear its head!  Besides, if you are openly feminist you get nasty e-mails.

It's social control, of a type, and it works. 

The reason why I write about this at the eve of the US presidential elections is because so many of the political soundbites apply those secondary meanings of terms.  We hook onto that part of the speech, rather than asking the important question about what the speaker truly means here.  Details are boring and require the use of the brain to absorb.  Much easier to float on the emotional stream, right?