Open Thread: What Got YOU Interested in Gender and Sexuality?

(Source: YouTube)

I’ll start.

Do you remember the rave scene from The Matrix Reloaded? What did you think of it?

Most people I ask express their disdain. To them, it represents everything that went wrong with the sequels.

I hear them about the sequels I tell them. In general. But this particular scene? They don’t have to like it, and there’s much to complain about the execution. Yet for all its flaws, it is integral to the story, as “Signal Chaser 76” makes clear at arts technica:

The scene represents humanity, a beleaguered and nearly extinct humanity. It’s humanity at its most reckless and youthful stage, humans engaged in wild, primitive, and raw sexual dancing, humans dirty with mud from the caves gyrating to primitive but hypnotic beats, vulnerable to the ambiance of the party and their situation under ground.

It’s humans inspired by a great speech to celebrate what makes humans human. This may be the last time they can dance like this, this may be the last time they can celebrate what makes them so peculiar and odd in a world of robots and virtual reality…

…It is offset by the relentless precision of the machines, their singular drive to destroy Zion, their unemotional quest to destroy any semblance of humanity in the heretofore tolerated Zion. Cold, steal, mechanical- the machines are precisely the opposite of the dancing humans in Zion.

I can’t pretend to have been aware of all that back in the theater in 2003. But I did get an inkling. Because, sitting in my favorite spot in the front row, the sudden eruption of gargantuan raw flesh in my face, with all the glistening breasts, the nipples, the muscles, the biceps, the grinding in rhythm to deep, pounding, hypnotic beats…made me realize right then and there just how fundamental sexuality was to being human, and how anybody that pretended otherwise was just fucked up.

Yeah, those really were my exact words to myself in the movie theater. You can see why they provided such a big step on the path that led to this blog.

I mention them fourteen years later, because I was actually writing a post about two feminist artists, and wanted to explain why I’m so drawn to those brave enough to call out all the bullshit surrounding sexuality. Much better though, to actually focus on the artists themselves in the introduction to that post, and to use this one as an opportunity to get a conversation with you going instead.

Your turn now! :D

9 thoughts on “Open Thread: What Got YOU Interested in Gender and Sexuality?

  1. I have never seen the rave scene in Matrix Reloaded.
    I was first interested in Gender, decades ago. Gender and feminism then rippled through every corner of my life.
    The way sexuality is used to sell — whether perfume, songs, movies, books… is often through objectifying women’s bodies, and now men’s bodies as well… As a grandmother, I’m unhappy when I see young girls allowing themselves to be used this way.
    Sexuality is a beautiful thing. Too bad it’s so often misrepresented and misused.

    • Thank you for your comment. I was surprised that both you and Gwenael hadn’t seen Matrix Reloaded, but I guess it did come out a long time ago, and perhaps didn’t have as wide an appeal as I thought.

      I wonder what some more modern equivalents that teach the same message would be? Any ideas?

      • Hum, I don’t think it’s matter of age, most of my friends saw Matrix reloaded, but even the first Matrix didn’t gave me a so huge impression. I mean, it was cool, but a little boring sometimes (well I watched it in a reaaaaaally bad divx quality).

        Not modern, but a movie who impressed me about sexuality was “Queen Margot” in 1994 – from Patrice Chéreau. It’s a french movie with Isabelle Adjani, talking about the religious war in during french middle age. The movie is full of blood and treasons – and… sex. There is a scene where the young Margot, future queen of France go out during night to find some male to please her. This scene fascinated me and I watched it again and again when I was 9 ur 10 yo. As one of my first “sexual scene”, I supposed it could have an impact on me and about the place of woman in sexuality.

        Maybe grew up in France, having access to erotic movies on week-end (not porn), gave me an earlier conscience about it. I don’t know. But in all those erotic movies I watched from my 10 or 16 yo, the only ones who impressed me were those where the woman takes control and be free about their desires. I suppose my personal story and education have a strong impact on this too, but no need to analyze my own desire here. ^^

        I asked my wife to know if a movie had an impact on her, and after thinking a lot, she told me : “The Lover” – from Jean-Jacques Annaud (1992) based on novel (and life) of Marguerite Duras – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lover_(film) – She watched it when she was around 15, so same age as the main character. The movie happen during colonisation in Indochina. The main character is a teenager girl who fall in love and have her first sexual relationship with an 32 yo old (handsome) chinese. Seems, most of my female friends watched this movie and considered it as one of the most sensual.

        • Oh, but I didn’t say liking (or even watching) The Matrix series was about age though(!), especially after grandmother claire46 said she hadn’t seen the rave scene either. That said, I do think the younger someone is the much less likely they are to be impressed by it, simply because they’re so used to the CGI now, whereas everyone who saw the first movie in the theater in ’99 was mouths agape at the opening fight scene with Trinity.

          But it’s just an SF movie of course, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

          Either way, thanks for mentioning and explaining those scenes and movies. Frankly I’m again envious though, because although of course there were various sex or sex-related scenes in TV series and movies that had a big impact on me while growing up, they more helped define my own sense of eroticism than provided any take-away messages about sexuality and sexual roles per se (or at least, they didn’t to me personally), and so probably wouldn’t be particularly meaningful or worth explaining to anyone else. But I can pinpoint one thing from a book I learned at 12 that I thought might be interesting to others though, which I’ve already discussed here.

          Two more interesting things (not about me!) that came to mind while thinking about your comment were:

          1) By coincidence, I saw Wonder Woman with my family yesterday, and I was reminded of how last year there was some criticism by fans of the original comic and/or series over the casting of Gal Gadot, because her breasts are much smaller than the character and/or actor in those respectively. I didn’t think much of that criticism as you can imagine, but then a Facebook friend whose opinions I respect chimed in with the same, which got me thinking for a moment…and ultimately I decided I still didn’t think much of that criticism. Because sure, I understand his own personal disappointment, but of course there’s much more to Wonder Woman than simply her breasts, and there’s no rule that states the role can’t ever be played a less busty actress, lest old fogies like him get hurt feelings. What’s more, Gal Gadot looked simply amazing in the movie, as even my wife pointed out, and was clearly well-suited to the role. So I’m sure she will have had quite an impact on many, many boys and girls in the audience, just like the comic and TV series did on my Facebook friend when he was a boy. If Gadot still doesn’t do it for him though, then so what? He can just dig-out his old comic-books and videos to get nostalgic about.

          2) Naturally, I’m especially interested in shared scenes, books, etc. that had an impact on Korean audiences, but unfortunately most of the examples I know of are quite old. One is Madame Aema (1982), and another are images of Haenyeo, because I have a very firm memory of reading in a Korean history book something along the lines of “For a long time, every Korean schoolboy grew up on images [in their head?] of scantily-clad women diving off Jeju.” But unfortunately I can’t find the book, and people much more knowledgeable about Korea than I tell me it sounds very unlikely. Recently though, I came across these (NSFW) images of Ama divers in Japan, and note that Haenyeo too undoubtedly dived semi-nude and didn’t wear wetsuits until the 1960s. So, although I can still appreciate that there might not have been many–or even any–images of nude Haeneyo circulating around in conservative Korea in the ’50s to ’80s then, there may well have been some illicit ones of Ama, and either way I’m sure that the notion of scantily-clad Jeju divers definitely existed in people’s minds. It would be very interesting to see to what extent that was exploited in promotional material about Jeju later too, and if it had any impact on its later reputation as a honeymoon spot.

  2. I watched only the first Matrix, so I can’t say nothing about it. ^^

    I guess I always get interested about gender and sexuality. I always talked about those topic when I was teenager. I had more female friends than male, specifically when I was in high school, when start the first relationship. Most of my friends considered me as a girl when it come to talk about these topic.

    In university, my main teacher worked a lot about gender stereotype and identity threat. Even I worked more on self-esteem measurement and differences between France and Japan ; I participate to some of her studies and I guess that gave me some seeds.

    Then, when I discovered Korea and make a lot of korean female friends, I felt something was specific, or at least different in relationship between guys and girls. I think I talked about these topic with more than 150 korean women… Finally, last year, after Gangnam incident, I saw a lot of student in street claiming for women’s rights. When I came back in France, I searched if I could find some books about korean woman, or feminism in Asia – I found nothing in french except two thesis made in 2005 by korean students in Paris. Nothing easy to read for a quidam. So, I decided to write a book about it and I started interviews in Korea with woman last summer. Work in progress.

    • Thanks for your comment also, and I can definitely relate to being pigeonholed for having an interest in gender and sexuality, and for having more female friends than male, although both only happened to me once I arrived in Korea. I’m envious that you were interested at such a young age too, because I had — and still have — a lot of learning and catching-up to do on those topics after only really starting in 2007, and certainly wouldn’t have chosen the esoteric “The Grand Narrative” as a name for this blog if I’d known it was going to be about (Korean) feminism, sexuality, and popular-culture!

      But that’s enough about me though :D What’s your book going to be about? (Please forgive me if you’ve already told me sorry!)

  3. This is basically a book about interviews – Obviously I’m not a woman, and I’m not korean, so I prefer to let woman talking about their own life and thinking about Korean society. The topic is vast : “What is to be a woman in Korea” – focusing in Gender Issue, Girls/Guys Relationship, Feminism and Sexuality… As I said, nothing really exist in french about korean woman, so I choosed to not be too much specific.
    If I have some specific topic I wanna talk, the interviews were really free, in order to let the girls talking about what they want. So, we talk about society, childhood, love, friendship, wedding, relation with family and husband family, childrens, education, fashion, K-pop, work, job-interviews, fantasy, religion, sex…
    I tried to met different kind of woman, from 16 to 55/60 – from Seoul or in countryside, married or not, mom or not, working in company and housewife, straight or bisexual (still no lesbian unfortunately), conservative or open-minded, virgin or active… Of course, it cannot be fully representative, because I’m not staying a long time in Korea, and because my korean is not good enough to do interviews. But I try to catch their true life and thinking. I’m inspired by the work of Muriel Jolivet, a belgium sociologist who teach in Japan. She wrote a fabulous book about japanese man, in early 00’s

      • I used many ways to meet many women : Tinder (dating app), Meef (exchange language app), Couchsurfing (website and hangout app), Interpals (penpal website), facebook, people I meet in cafe, friends of friends… Whatever the way I meet or talk with women, I talked about the book. Usually they are interested to know more, because I’m a man and write about a feminist topic, because I’m french and come from Paris to do it, and because I’m psychologist…

        Usually, I didn’t really need to ask, just to talk about the project, and naturally manny woman asked me if they can participate. Sometimes I suggest it could be interesting to do an interview. But it’s important to me to say I didn’t meet those woman only for doing interviews. First, I love to meet people and to heard about their life, to discover who they are. That makes me think. I don’t wanna try to convince or force them, because if I do it, it will be hard for them to speak honestly to me. There is some exception of course, because I choosed some profile. For exemple, I didn’t wanted to let any doubt in situation when I contacted teenagers, so I asked them directly to participate.

        So I met manny woman without doing interviews but just grapping their stories, talk about those topic and drinking a beer or a cafe. Maybe, the interviews are made with them who really had something to say and share. Manny woman didn’t the opportunity to talk about those topic with a stranger and to speak honestly, without being judge. It’s difficult to judge about “why”. Some wanted to help me, some needed to talk about their (painful) life, some thinked it was fun, some are feminist and see in it a good way to speak about their opinions… It’s important for me that the woman I interviewed are not statistics or examples. They are specifics persons with specifics lifes.

        So of course, I’m conscious about the limit of the process. The woman who answer me were open minded enough and english speakers (even I used a few of korean). Some interviews tooks only 2 or 3 hours, some others 7 or 9. Depends of schedule, of opportunity. All the interviews was made in Korea, but if I need to complete (and because I’m out of money – I pay every thing by myself), I will do two or three interview more in Paris.

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