What do honour killings, the firing of a Brigadier General for having an affair, Playboy and Polanski all have in common?
Well, they were all on the front page of the Globe and Mail in the last day.
They are all, in their own ways, unique stories about the place and status of sexuality in our society. Honour killings: Minister Rona Ambrose decided to lecture immigration communities that honour killings would not be tolerated in Canada.
Ambrose as quoted in the Globe and Mail: “Let me be explicit: This type of violence, the most extreme of which is often known as ‘honour killing,’ has no place in Canadian society,” Ms. Ambrose said. “Killing or mutilating anyone, least of all a family member, is utterly unacceptable under all circumstances, and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
This is news? Fair enough – its murder, and murder isn’t tolerated. But how is this news?
There is a perverse fascination with women’s sexuality in “other” cultures, and the need as Gayatri Spivak put it some time ago, for white men to save brown women from brown men. The oppression of women within other cultures was long used to justify colonialism, and some say, neo-colonialism. And it often seems to be used to deflect the attention from the less than fabulous conditions of women at home. So, Ambrose might have used the opportunity to condemn domestic violence in general – rather rampant in Canadian society. But, instead, she focused on an extreme and rare cultural practice, honour killings, which then come to be associated with the community as a whole. Hard not to see as just another performance of orientalism, but one that will play all too well into the populist/anti multicultural mind sets of the Harperati.
Polanski: The Swiss let him go. The US wanted Switzerland to extradite Roman Polanski to face criminal charges for having sex with a minor in 1977. The Swiss said no. The Justice Minister said their decision had nothing to do with guilt or innocence, but that they just didn’t get the legal stuff that they asked for from the US.
Hmmm. Really? Its tough being Swiss, and figuring out how not to take sides. Here the controversial question has been whether or not he should face charges for a sexual assault committed against a 13 year old girl more than 30 years ago. But, I guess the Swiss are resourceful. They figured out exactly how not to take sides, by letting him go, and blaming the US for tying their hands. Nothing if not neutral, those Swiss authorities.
Playboy is for sale. Maybe. Or maybe not. I confess to not understanding this story, and not only because it was the top business story. The price of Playboy shares soared, on speculated rumours of Hugh Hefner buying Playboy. In other words, he wants to buy it back and take it private. Apparently, Adult Friend Finder, an online sexual networking site owned by Penthouse, is circling too. All this, despite the fact that readership has plummeted over the years, and well, porn magazines aren’t exactly on the cutting edge of money making propositions in the digital age.
And last, but not least, the Brigadier General Daniel Menard. Poor guy. First, he gets nailed for shooting his gun off at his base in Kandahar. Opps. Forgot that safety on C8 carbine rifle again. But, then he gets nailed for having an “inappropriate relationship” with one of his soldiers. I suppose we can all be thankful that it was with a woman. Cause imagine the uproar over gays in the military, just when the US is considering the repeal of DADT. Anyways, he has now been charged with criminal and military offences in relation to allegations he had an affair with a subordinate.
This is not a case of unwanted sexual attention or sexual harassment. It aint’ like the allegations over at Penguin Books, where the publisher went down in the flames of sexual harassment. There is no allegation that the relationship was anything other than consensual. But, in the army, the problem isn’t just about the potential abuse of power. In the army, sex isn’t okay. Period. According to military protocol, it disrupts the kind of discipline and cohesion needed in a unit.
Its hard to know where to begin to comment on this one. How about this one. Control the sexuality within the army unit, while ‘externalizing” the costs of this control. Here, externalities include all the consensual and non consensual and questionable consensual sex between soldiers and local populations. Externalities include everything from the trauma of rape to the forgotten children of soldiers. There’s a long, far too well documented history of “externalities”. But, hey, we are soldiers, so no sex. At least, not with each other.
Sex, sex and more sex. Regulated, negotiated, exoticized, speculated, exonerated, and more.
And that was just one day in the news.