Remember your first time falling in love? Sweaty hands, weak knees, probably wearing braces your food would get stuck in? If you could eat at all, with a stomach full of butterflies. It is a common experience, evoking happiness and sometimes embarrassment, commercialized to the max by Hollywood and co. Regardless of the quality of your first kiss or your questionable outfit for your first date: connotations to love, relationships and break-ups are deeply intimate.
This is what makes them so political.
Loving also means dealing with fears, private desires and taboos. These attitudes towards love and sexuality have been ingrained in most of us by the society we live in. We don’t make them up personally, but probably have at some time shared some values of our surroundings. This is not necessarily bad, as it can teach us to treat people with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation. But it can also express repression, stigma and belittle violence.
Falling in love is a challenge for everyone. There might be a rival wooing your crush, trying to mess things up. Now imagine falling for someone of the same sex or of a different race. Suddenly, your rival might not only be another person, but the law which bans you from getting married. Or society, viewing your relationship as immoral. And now remember that those views in society and even within political parties are not homogeneous. In Mexico, for example, president Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) advocates for the same marriage and adoption rights for straight and gay couples. Last week, his bill did not pass senate due to downvotes from his party allies. PRI-leader Emilio Gamboa said the matter was “not a priority” in the party’s center-left policy-making. Having your possible childhood dream of building a family with your significant other discussed by the senate blurs the line between the public and the personal distinctly.
It might even become dangerous if the close relationship between public issues and private conflicts is not considered. For years, Amnesty International has been criticising Mexican authorities for not fighting domestic violence against women enough. Violence within a marriage is frequently deemed too private to be investigated by the state. But is it really private if marriage is the most official, institutional manifestation of love? Although Amnesty International also states that the situation in Mexico has improved, the problem remains urgent.
In Mexican culture, the attitude towards sex and power has been conflicted for centuries. So conflicted, that it is even inscribed the Mexican founding myth: When the Spaniard Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico to subject the country, he took the indigenous woman “La Malinche” as his lover and translator. Speaking various languages, she helped Cortés to find allies to eventually conquest Mexico. La Malinche is still said to have born the first mestizo child in the country. Today, she is considered a glamorous historical figure by some. Others see her as the first and worst Mexican traitor.
The story of La Malinche is one of collective trauma and national identity. But it is also the story of sex as a decisive political tool. And it is the story of an ambivalent, exploited woman whose sexual relation is condemned more than the cooperation of many, many regional authorities who were exclusively male. Private part of every Mexican’s own identity and base of a national narrative – the story of “La Malinche” is the perfect example for an interface between public and private perceptions of sex.
The deep emotional attachment we have to our romantic life makes it natural to assess it morally within a society. It also makes us vulnerable, since it speaks to our most intimate emotions, our pride and our position in said society. And it makes it necessary for politics to intervene. With a topic as complex, controversial, influential and omnipresent in the media, some kind of regulation is needed – a kind of ratified rationality and sober protection within the overwhelming mess we call love.
But just because it is political and regulated does not mean that it’s static. As society evolves, concepts of love and reactions to it evolve. So, laws have to change, too. And for those who think, progress or conservativity were necessarily linked to the wealth of a country: While same sex marriage is allowed in most Mexican states – on a federal level, not on a national one – it is forbidden altogether in Germany.
The struggle between politics, society and innovations is as real as your confusion over your first kiss. This online publication is happy to guide you through this challenge and many others and is looking forward to getting lost itself.