The Satin Bowerbird a video by Eliot Burch (via YouTube) an intense and class act, flaunting his bower, and using his wiles to attract a mate.
As humans we do that a bit, we engage a person and flaunt ourselves in various ways, our humur, intelligence, sexy looks, wealth maybe, some talent we may have, power and more. Flaunting is signalling to others – look at me. And we do. There’s that old saying, “If you’ve got it flaunt it.” But in this age we have learned that flaunting wealth is certainly crass (though many still do it), flaunting power is vulgar (though some still do it), and flaunting our sexiness may, sadly, be misjudged.
In this age of #Me Too we are reminded of the delicate balance between signalling “Look at me” to (mostly) women being at risk of sexual harassment, worse, assault. Modern pornography (not to be confused with the erotic or an appreciation of the human form) has reduced women and men to mere functionary objects, to the point that they are simply a function of their genitals. Surely this is an abuse? Objectification leads to consumption, and we sexually consume those we sexually objectify. Objectification is also a power exchange in which the object has no power, whoever is objectified is used, positioned, directed and consumed. I don’t have a definitive opinion on sex dolls, but the mere fact they can be bought is further proof of the reduction of the real person to an object.
#Me Too, which had its origins in 2007, was coined by Tarana Burke who was using the phrase to promote empowerment through empathy for women of colour. In 2017 Alyssa Milano encouraged the use of the phrase as a hashtag on Twitter. Both have had a powerful community impact, and for the better, though I think we have a long way to go to undo and prevent further occurrences of sexual harassment.
Another protest from women has been around the manner of dress, that a sexy look, or a provocative or flaunting look does not equal consent to sex. Flaunting shouldn’t lead to being drugged and raped (as has happened in some cases) or sexually touched, or verbally assaulted. Women and men are not sexual disposable objects, they’re not to be used and thrown away. Soemhow we need to get back to being people and to sex as mutual embodied experience, and as invitation not as right.
I hope men and women still flaunt, its refreshing and pleasant, there’s something beautiful about the human form as Renoir, Gauguin, D.H. Lawrence, Robert maplethorpe, and Anais Nin would testify to, but I hope we can encourage that as a safe and natural behaviour devoid of power and abuse. Flaunting isn’t an invitation to objectify and use and abuse, it is simply a gift for the eye and heart to treasure. The invitation may come.