, Research Paper
Rituals are activities consistently repeated to serve a significant purpose for a person or group. These rituals can be simple or complex and various groups can have rituals that revolve around the same idea, yet they are different under the surface. Sex is used as a ritual for both the Spur Posse in Stiffed and the teenagers in “The Lost Children of Rockdale County.” There is dissimilarity, however, because the Spur Posse uses the ritual of sex for points, where sex is seen as a game and the young man having intercourse most frequently is seen as more masculine. The teenagers of Rockdale use sex as a pastime at parties, where they perform the ritual of group orgies. Identity becomes the questionable aspect in the performance of these rituals in the discretion of what identity the members of each group will take on. Identity is the image people create for themselves, which can often differ from the way they really are or the way they would like to be. The members of these two groups attempt to create their identities by conforming to the rituals of those around them, therefore, sacrificing their own identity in order to find acceptance within a group.
The Spur Posse believes that women now have all the power in relationships, in which they can cry rape at any given time, and men have lost the control that once allowed them to dominate. This desire for power stems from male chauvinism, and the Spur Posse create the ritual of sex for points so they will each feel masculine and domineering when they have sex with women because it will earn them another point in their game. They each show that power lies within the act of sex, and so they create an identity of men who love control and feel like they gain supremacy by engaging in sexual intercourse. The pride of these males, and their desire to maintain it, causes them to conform to the group’s norms and perform this ritual to create an identity revolving around power and male dominance.
This ritual is a reaction towards the women’s movement, in which now “girls have all the power” and men fear losing their gender roles to the opposite sex. The women’s movement gradually built up women’s control to the extent that men no longer have full authority. Women are now working in chemical plants with men and fighting in the military. These achievements leave men terrified that they may lose their masculine authority to the uprising of women’s liberation. Men feel that if they have sex with many women, then, in some way, this will give them back the power they strive to regain. They feel like they can “put women back in their place,” in which females will degrade themselves back to their submissive role as housewife and complete abider to all the male formulated rules, if a man can victoriously dominate women by means of sexual intercourse.
The ritual of sex for points allows the Spur Posse to feel like they can gain back the control that they have lost by “conquering” women and therefore winning the game. The changes is society has caused these rituals to come about for this group, where the young men feel that they need the power associated with masculinity, and so they do not perform feminine acts, such as crying, and instead have sex with many women. They believe this will take away the control that women have gained and allow them to regain the authority that feel they deserve because that is what society teaches them. Getting emotional is seen as a feminine characteristic while the desperation for sex is a manly trait. The Spur Posse feel “macho” when they can treat women like a possession and fully dominate a relationship.
These young men conform to this ritual to be conventional with their peers, in attempts to belong to the group and retain their pride. The problem is that this identity masks the true self of each individual partaking in the ritual. Their attempts to be famous for all their antics show that they are truly just striving for attention, and the interest people showed in them allowed them to be invited to various talk shows, which they looked at as an accomplishment. In actuality, the Spur Posse suffers from loneliness and a lack of male self-worth. They believe that the fame they receive as retribution for their actions gives them the fulfillment that they need, but that is due to the fact that they are truly feeling alone outside out of their public life and needs the media to help them get over their lonesomeness. The only way to make them feel important is by publicity and performing their ritual. The ritual reflects their doubts of how strong of men they actually are, and they feel that if they can prove their manliness by performing this ritual, then they have shown the importance of masculinity in society, as well as raise their self-confidence level. They reject their true identity and go along with the rituals of the group as a whole to prevent their loneliness and to feel like part of a group instead. As a member of the group, they follow the norms set forth by the group as a whole and never question the actions because it was accepted in their own little society they created for themselves. By being part of this group and conforming to the ritual, the identity they create for themselves is more desirable than any identity they would have had if they were an outsider because they now have the self-esteem and pride that they always wanted.
The children who suffer from the syphilis epidemic in Rockdale County engage in a sex ritual as well, but it differs in the fact that group orgies are an activity at their parties. This ritual gives the children the attention they strive for that they do not get from their parents. While parents are out earning money to provide their children with only best, the children are rebelling and looking for attention in places their parents never would have imagined. These children feel lost and feel that they can “find themselves” if they belong to a group, and they will perform whatever rituals necessary to do so. The ritual these children choose is having sexual intercourse with multiple partners. Whether many guys are having sex with many girls or guys are lined up outside the door to have sex with one girl, the teenagers all feel that they are getting the love and attention that they are not receiving at home.
These children create the identity of being fun loving, reckless, and wild all at the same time. They feel that the group will accept them if they take on this identity, and so they perform this ritual to become part of a “family”, to gain the confidence and love that they are not getting in their own home. The ritual represents their loneliness, lack of love, and cries for attention. They hope that the orgies will give them all that they are missing in their lives. Amy says it got to a point where they do not even know if they enjoy the sex anymore; it just becomes an act that they got used to doing. They do not even remember what the purpose of the ritual is, and instead only know that it is just done and accepted. They fail to realize the problems that could arise, being the media portrays sex as a desirable activity without showing the consequences, which is where the idea for this ritual came about.
Through the media, sex is viewed as a positive activity that brings pleasure with no remorse. Pornography plays a big role in the creation of this group orgy ritual, in which the children watch the Playboy channel and act out the actions that they view. The stars of the films are never showed using condoms and worrying about pregnancy and diseases. One boy in Rockdale at least has the knowledge to provide condoms for their sex parties, but the extreme promiscuity still has a lot of consequences, especially when there is not the use of a condom. The lesson is learned too late, when syphilis begins to spread through the middle class county among the teenagers. It is then that the children learned of the consequences to their ritual and the parents realized what their children were doing at the parties.
The parents become a scapegoat for the problem, in which full blame is placed on them for the neglect of their children and not teaching them the dangers of promiscuity. Their late work hours are looked at as negative, in which they are seen as responsible for their children’s acts and are accused of not being there for their children. The parents are working hard to provide all they can for their children, but when the children rebel and get caught, the parents are then criticized as being bad parents. The parents are part of the reason because of their lack to show their love towards their children, but it is not completely their fault. Even though lack of guidance in the home is a big part of the problem, the children’s need to rebel would have caused some problem to arise anyway. Children naturally rebel when they get to be teenagers and they commit acts of which they know their parents would not approve. Another big problem is the lack of extra-curricular activities where the children would have been able to learn better things to do with their time than having sex.
The children of Rockdale performed the ritual to feel like they were part of a group and to mask the underlying problems buried beneath the surface. The children felt unloved and unwanted, but they feel that if someone wants to have sex with them, then they must be special a person. The one girl who had the boys line up at the party and she had sex with all of them felt great about herself afterwards, yet she did not care that she was just taken advantage of, being none of the guys really had feelings of love for her. Also, not everyone found her actions tasteful, to where Nicole actually described the scene with utter disgust. The children found themselves this identity to live behind, which blocked their true fear of growing up without the love and support that children need. They covered up their broken hearts and were left unguided to stumble upon this ritual, and when they see all their peers accept it, they engage in the activity to belong to the group of friends that they admired.
D.J. explains that he felt lost as a child being his parents were divorced and he lived with his uncle. He wanted to become friends with this one group and Miguel discusses the fact that D.J. was young but they let him in their group because he offered to use his money as a tool for the friendship. D.J. then found himself performing the ritual just to have fun and do what all the older children were doing. He conformed to the ritual so that he could be part of the group of friends and gave himself the identity that was created for him.
In Stiffed and “The Lost Children of Rockdale County”, sex is a ritual used as a tool of conformity. The members of the Spur Posse and the teenagers in Rockdale all find themselves torn between two identities; one is their true character and the other is the one created for them by the group. They all seemed to reject the former and take on the identity described in the latter, so that they belong to a group and feel that there is always a place for them in that group as long as they continue to perform the ritual.