“I Wish They Would Stop Teaching Me This”

A while ago I made a post about voices. About how there are the voices in your head and the voices all around you from people, media, etc, and how both the voices in your head and the ones around you are habit-forming.

We all imitate. The more we see people doing something, the more likely we are to do it. The more we do something, the more likely we are to keep doing it. Whether it’s high fives, baseball, drinking, talking with an accent, being bigoted, being helpful, or eating bananas. The fact that we learn by imitation is why I think one of the most helpful things people can do to better themselves is to spend time around people who act in ways they want to act. It makes learning to be a better person almost involuntary. On the flipside, hang out with assholes, and you tend to acquire some asshole-ishness yourself.

This ties into a conversation I was having with a friend yesterday from which I got the title of this post. I was watching an episode of White Collar and there’s a scene where the main character, Neal Caffrey (a former con man now working for the FBI), is having a conversation with an old rival, Keller. Keller taunts Neal about a girl they have a history competing over, implying that he’s been with her in some sense while Neal was in prison. I found the whole conversation annoying. The subtext is a narrative that’s familiar to all of us, I imagine.

Keller: Well, guess what, I’ve totally had sex with a girl you like!

Neal: How dare you, I am incredibly threatened by this, and I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN!

This narrative annoys me. It reinforces cultural myths that annoy me. Imagine if the conversation had been like this:

Keller: Well, guess what, I’ve totally played tennis with a girl you like!

Neal: How dare you, I am incredibly threatened by this, and I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN!

It would be weird to see someone threatened by a game of tennis. Not so much with sex. And I don’t think anyone’s ever given me a good reason why that isn’t rooted in the crazy cultural mythology we’ve built up around sex–that sex is some sort of magical, soul-stealing act with inherently greater significance than any other thing we do. Don’t get me wrong, sex is great fun, and a more powerful experience than a lot of other things much of the time. But it’s not magic. For me, playing music with someone is also an experience that’s can be more powerful connectively than most other things. But it’s not categorically different, and neither is sex.

Now, I’m just as subject to this sex-mythos as anyone who grew up around the same time I did. The “I fucked your girl” narrative resonates with me more powerfully than the “I played tennis with your girlfriend” narrative would. The point is that it shouldn’t. And I’m annoyed that White Collar (and pretty much any mainstream show these days) reinforces that mythology. I know every time I watch that scene, I’m reinforcing that mythology. I’m listening to a voice that tells a narrative that is habit-forming, just like all narratives are if you listen to them enough.

I resent being taught this bullshit over and over. I resent being taught that sex is magic. I resent being taught absurd standards of attractiveness. I resent being taught that men are rational and women are emotional. I resent being taught that monogamy is the only way to do relationships. I resent being taught that the solution to bullies is never to fight back and always to get through to their human side (watch any kids show from the 90s, I guarantee you’ll come away with this message, implicitly or explicitly). I resent being taught absurd gender roles. And a thousand other things.

I wish they would stop teaching me this stuff.

Advertisements