The title of this post is concerned with something that people often do not do. And that is actually see people! By that I mean see the actual person, not what they do, what they look like or how they dress. The actual person themselves!
As human beings we have many mental short-cuts that enable us to function as human beings quickly and often without too much thinking. Therein lies the problem.
For very good but ultimately socially unhelpful reasons we think in stereotypes. In them and us. In this and that. People are more complicated than that. People exist beyond a surface impression, have deeper lives than their appearance and are more than stereotypes.
People are highly advanced social primitives. We’re thinking animals. We have the ability to intellectually override our instincts if we so choose. The trouble is that sometimes we don’t and we make the mistake of thinking that people are actually those superficial impressions. We are all more than what is on show. Sometimes people only want to see the surface, the simple the easily categorised. It makes life simple and saves them from thinking, from difficult moral decisions, from challenging the easy assumption. It’s easy for a lot of people for instance to associate some modes of dress with simple definitions. For instance ‘slut’ with certain manners of dress and the assumption that goes with that as to someone’s character, behaviour and ultimately worth as a human being. You don’t have to think very hard to realise that there is more to someone than what they’re wearing. Sometimes though it seems that many people can’t think very hard at all.
What about what you do for a living? People make all kinds of assumptions both positive and negative about people based on their jobs. Any models reading this will know what I mean by that, especially if they are involved with anything in the adult realm. And why wouldn’t you make those assumptions? After all time and time again experience has shown that people can be judged from their professions hasn’t it? Bankers are reliable and good with money. Priests are automatically trustworthy. Politicians are truthful and tireless servants of their fellow men. Adult models are… Never been sure what exactly but something not nice right? Something that makes people uncomfortable certainly. Well if all these stereotypes are right then I guess the one about people in adult work must be just as true as the ones about Priests, Bankers and Politicians right?
My experience of adult models is diametrically opposed to every stereotype and easy assumption that people seem to make about them. OK so I don’t know every adult model in the world and can’t speak to every one of them but! The one’s that I do know are a bunch of happy, by and large well adjusted, well educated people who do what they do because they want to and they enjoy it. Not a one that I can think of is sad, self hating, desperate, supporting a drug habit, being forced or coerced, a victim of circumstance, or in any way an unwilling casualty of their chosen professions.
Which leads me to the question; where do these ideas come from? I mean in this day and age when we know that you cannot automatically assume that Bankers are honest or that Politicians have our best interests at heart. How do you justify the assumptions about the character of anyone in adult related work? Not only were the stereotypes not true now, they were never true! And yet, use the word porn or say adult work and see how it makes a difference to people’s attitudes. Sometimes even with people who should know better. Though really everyone should know better.
Stereotypes exist for a real reason, we have to make instant judgements sometimes, it’s built in, it’s part of how humans work. It’s animal, it’s instinctive. But we are more than animals, we can overrule instinct, we can teach ourselves different reactions and we have to because the world in which those built in processes were formed is not the world in which we live now. It is not the world where it’s that simple any more. It hasn’t been for a long, long time. An instant ‘gut’ reaction might be natural but that is not sufficient in a world where we those around you are more than animals. Not being able to master that primitive instinct with our higher brain function is just lazy. It’s worse than lazy it is a failure to do that which makes us more than animals at all. It is a failure to reason, to think.
I once wrote about the problem of thinking of people as things. This is a people as thing kind of problem. Thinking of people only in terms of easy labels is a kind of objectification. The thing about thinking of people as things is that things are never real people. They are ‘them’, ‘the enemy’ or ‘others’. Once you think of people as this kind of somehow not people and just as ‘them’ devoid of real depth and life and feeling they you can treat them like objects too. All too often this seems to be what’s happening. The person is overlooked and categorised as only having an existence defined by the label put onto them.
Once you are so far down this road people can find it hard to turn back. Once you start thinking of people as actual people you have to admit that they have all sorts of properties beyond their labels. Things like feelings, complex lives of their own, families and loved ones. Just as much right to enjoy their lives without being judged and dismissed by a simple label as anyone else. I say tough for people to turn back because to admit you have done this is to admit that you have been inhumane to your fellow humans and treated them as less than human. And none of us want to feel that we are like that do we?
None of us are perfect in our dealings with others, I know I’m certainly not, and there are very few people in our lives that we really know very well. There is therefore no helping the fact that our views of some people is superficial. But knowing that the label isn’t the person and that we are more than the labels and assumptions, that there is always a person beyond the surface* can help us think more constructively and not be suckered by the simple assumptions and patently untrue stereotypes of the past.
*And here the cynical part of me cannot help but think that it may not be a particularly nice or good or worthwhile person.