So I'm teaching this class, the Lit of Diverse Cultures class, and we've just read Churchill's Cloud 9, an interesting and bizarre text, and we had an interesting session on it.
Among other things, I pointed out to the class how much violence was in the text -- and found they had not even noticed that. "Huh," one student said. "You know, I saw all the sex. And now I can see all the violence. But until you mentioned it, I didn't even notice the violence." So then I got to spin out on that for a bit, about how violence in our culture is so normalized that we don't even see it, that it's fine for us to see people being beaten up and people's heads blown off and people being burned alive, but oh, show a tit on TV, and yikes, Western Civilization is going to Fall!
And I talked to them about the roots of the word obscene, how it's from the Greek for off-stage, how for the Greeks violence was the thing that was obscene: how the Greeks never allowed violence to take place on-stage. It was obscene: it always took place off-stage. But sex? That was fine. Sex could happen, and did happen, giant phallus, humping, naked men and women, that could be on-stage all you liked, and did. Sex was good. Violence was risky.
And what do we communicate to our children, with our different rules -- that sex is obscene, that violence is a fine thing to show?
But what I started out to post about is another thing. This is, after all, the Gay Lit part of the class. In one bit of the play, Harry, a guy who's meant to be gay, has sex with a little boy. One of my smartest students, who's also a conservative, put forth the theory that this event is what makes that little boy gay.
Teh gay, she says, is caused by little boys being molested by adult men.
I explained that no, it was not. I assured her that being sexually molested as a child will make a child more likely to have mental issues when the child grows up, but it is not what makes the kid a gay kid.
She gives me a cool, superior look. She didn't argue. But she knows better.
I didn't argue either. I moved on.
I'm not sure what I should have done. This is one of my smartest students. But she's also rigidly conservative -- I'm not sure I could have said anything that would have made her listen. She knows that being gay is a dysfunction. She's not about to listen to anything I say that says anything different.
I wish I could have thought of something, though.