Visibility has come to take hostage of our understanding of sexuality. I would blame the 1960s Sexual Revolution, but I lack the academic credentials to do so. However, this idea of visibility as the sole expression of sexuality can easily be traced to the Sexual Revolution, which saw the breaking down of shame and humility previously associated with sex.
Today, we tend to think of expression of sexuality primarily in terms of sexual activity, breaking sexual norms, and the Pussycat Dolls present Girlicious. There’s a popular linear mode of thinking related to these manifestations – primarily that one is sexual when one’s sexuality is more visible. In Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy takes the readers through the mind of the modern American woman who has come to believe that the adoption of patriarchal male sex culture constitutes a liberated sexuality. Promiscuity, Rainbow parties and Katy Perry equal comfort with one’s sexuality. Anything opposing is a repression. In other words, I need to shake my ass in order to assert my sexual liberation.
There definitely is visibility in sexuality. Clothing, hair, shoes, body shape, eyes, finger nails – they all have something to say about sex. However, the visibility we associate with sexuality is rather essentialist, and an explicit one; skin constitutes our idea of visibility.
While most would not immediately think of it in this manner, the hijab, the Islamic veil worn by many young women here at McGill, is an extremely visible expression of sexuality. It is visible in its hiding of explicit sexuality. And young Muslim women are not alone in this; many other young men and women, for religious or personal reasons, choose to take the implicit route when it comes to their sexuality. Hiding skin or hair is not a repression of sexuality, it is an expression. Humans are sexual creatures. We are also expressive. However, as individuals we all differ from one another and thus our expressions differ. The way you choose to express your sexuality is different from how I choose to do so. I’m a sexual being just like my floorboard-shaking neighbour upstairs, however I’ve chosen a far different route of expressing it.
This is why the discourse around the banning of the hijab in Quebec public spaces is so concerning. While the Bouchard-Taylor commission laid out a rather entertaining report, essentially stating, “The hijab is here to stay,” the debate is still thriving.
Turkey, everyone’s favourite identity crisis, has taken extreme measures to ensure that no religion mixes with its public realm. For years now, young Turkish women have been denied a university education and/or jobs in the public realm due to their decision to be implicit in their sexuality by adorning the veil. Turkish women are being forced to choose between higher education and their sexual expression, which is a part of their religious belief. With a single law, a woman’s worth, knowledge, and character are thrown aside – why? Because of her outward appearance, which is an expression of her sexuality. If we find the firing of a transgendered individual from their place of employment disgusting and shocking, then why not this?
If you think the hijab is honestly a threat to your establishment, then that says wonders about your confidence in what you’ve built. Modesty isn’t repression nor oppression. If it’s a threat to anything, it’s the objectification you cast upon a sex.
Sexuality is not linear. Human beings are sexual beings, and the former cannot be disassociated with the latter. So if you will excuse me, I’m going to stop shakin’ my booty.
Sana’s column appears every other Thursday. Send booty shots to firstname.lastname@example.org.