The portable toilets on your average construction jobsite are unpleasant, to say the least.
For a start, in the heat of a Texas June, the stench is almost unbearable – and I have almost no sense of smell!
More than that, though, they are the forum through which the foul-minded souls of my coworkers air their noxious effluvia before the world, hiding behind the anonymity of graffiti.
As soon as you have more than about twenty workers on a jobsite, you are almost guaranteed the presence of graffiti, and my current site is humungous. And through this crude medium, all that is sordid and vile in the world finds an outlet.
It could be just that the sort of people who scribble on toilet walls are particularly low specimens of humanity, but judging from the graffiti (which is partly backed up by the sort of comments that get thrown around), I’m in the land of the Cro-Magnon.
Every sort of base behaviour is on display: racism (“White Power” and the initials KKK seem bound to make an appearance sooner or later. Aren’t we past that idiocy yet?), nationalism of the most stupid sort (variations on “Mexicans go home”, though that’s polite compared to most of them), crudity, misogyny and porn.
I think it’s the presence of these last two that bothers me the most. They go together, of course, because pornography is inherently misogynistic: crude scratchings of male genitalia and naked female bodies. No heads, you understand. Just the bodies.
This is porn stripped down to its most primal and disgusting core. The penultimate evolution of the objectification of women in order to manipulate the male sex drive. No longer human beings, these grotesque headless bodies are malformed and hideous, the glorification of ugly and the final reduction of womanhood to the status of an object.
This is the sordid, rotten, maggot-infested core of pornography: women as objects to be used by men; the manipulation of masculine visually-cued sex drives for profit. You can dress it up in whatever hypnotic beauty you like, but the dark heart of it is right here on the toilet wall. Headless female bodies. No longer human beings.
The Cro-Magnon reference above was no accident, by the way. The crude, malformed, headless images of the jobite toilet wall remind me of nothing less than the Palaeolithic fertility statues known to archaeology as “Venus figures”.
Thought to be cultic statues associated with female sexuality or fertility, they have been discovered throughout much of Eurasia. And they are eerily similar to the filth that adorns the portable toilet walls.
The Venus figures are grotesquely fat, with shrunken, faceless heads, almost-nonexistent arms and legs, and huge, pendulous sexual characteristics. They are self-evidently female, but just as self-evidently not actual women. Parodies of humanity, their sex organs swollen to hideous proportions and everything else shrunken to compensate.
Is this pornography, 10,000BC? That’s beyond my ken to answer. But the similarities are striking.
It’s the facelessness and headlessness that really drives home what is going on here. On one level, it’s almost amusing in a bleak sort of way: apparently my coworkers really are a bunch of knuckle-dragging cavemen.On another level, not so much.
If this is what men think women are, it’s scary: Your face is irrelevant. Your mind does not exist to me. Your personality also, except insofar as it serves my needs. You are just a container of sex organs, a tool for my gratification, an object to be fouled by the effluvium of my lust. Furthermore, your entire sex is interchangeable. You are all the same.
No longer human beings.
If this is what my coworkers really think, it scares me. I can only hope that the fact that I can see it for what it is is insulating me in some measure from subconsciously conforming to this same sick attitude.
Now, I know this is the construction industry, and construction, along with oil drilling and other almost-exclusively male professions, is notorious for dragging its feet about entering the human race with regard to attitude to women. But frankly, why should we accept this?
What is it about large gatherings of men that seems to bring out the worst examples of sexism and misogyny? Why do we see this crap and merely shrug our shoulders with a “boys will be boys” sort of sigh, and continue on in silence?
I want to say right here and now that I don’t believe this is good enough. It’s the silence of those of us who aren’t like that that allows the evil to fester in the semi-squalid darkness of all-male environments.
Being a man isn’t about objectifying women, whether they are physically present or absent. Proper masculinity shouldn’t feel threatened by female strength, because it isn’t a threat. Male-female relationships shouldn’t be a power struggle.
Are we that insecure in our manhood? Do we need to grow up that badly?
Isn’t it time that we stopped allowing masculinity to be defined by the lowest common denominator? That we called this puerile, juvenile and worthless crap what it is? That we stood up and said Enough?
Enough objectification and dehumanising of women.
Enough manipulation of men via their sex drives.
Enough toleration of this sickness in the name of masculinity.