Learn To Bead

At Land of Odds / Be Dazzled Beads – Beads, Jewelry Findings, and More

Posts Tagged ‘Sexuality’


Posted by learntobead on May 24, 2020

Not too long ago, I tried to link one of our web-pages — the announcement about our Beaded Tapestry Contest — to a crochet-themed web-ring. I received an email from this web-ring manager that she had received my request, and had visited our web-site. She discovered that we were linked to several Art-themed web-rings, as well. This, she pointed out, was unacceptable. She indicated that her web-ring was “G” rated, and that Art web-rings allowed pornography.

There was no more elaboration. I was wondering what she meant by pornography. It was difficult to imagine that any real XXX sites were linked in these ART web-rings. These websites allowed various artists in many different media to showcase their works. It was much more likely that some of the art-related sites had images that showed portions of the female or male body, perhaps in erotic poses, perhaps not.

I didn’t consider these kinds of things pornographic. She gave me the option either to delete myself from these Art-web-rings, or unsubscribe from hers. So I asked her to unsubscribe me from her web-ring. I guess she was a bit taken aback from my response. She emailed me a few more times to clarify my decision. I had picked Art over her. Supposedly porn over craft.


I replied “let’s just unsubscribe me.” Nothing more. I kept it short, simple, unemotional. I didn’t ask for any more clarification on her views. I didn’t share any of my views. If that’s how she defined “G” rated, fine. I didn’t define it the same way.

And of course, she got a little retaliatory, as I found out after the weekend, that I had been removed from four more crochet-oriented web-rings, without any explanation.

I’m sorry, people, you can’t separate JEWELRY from SEX and SEXUALITY. Playing with beads and designing jewelry is not ColorForms. It’s not dressing up paper dolls. There’s nothing one dimensional about it. There’s nothing asexual about it. You can’t separate jewelry from sex and sexuality.

It can’t be done.

It can’t.


Get used to it.

As a jewelry designer, you have to be very aware of the roles jewelry plays in sex and sexuality. These include,

(1) The Peacock Role
(2) The Gender Role
(3) Safe Sex Role

One sexual role of jewelry is the “Peacock Role”. People wear personal adornment to attract the viewer’s attention. This means that the jewelry not only needs to be flashy enough, but also must contain culturally meaningful elements that the viewer will recognize and be sufficiently meaningful as to motivate the viewer to focus his attention on the jewelry and who is wearing it.

These culturally meaningful elements might include the use of color(s), talismans, shapes, forms. They clue the viewer to what is good, appealing, appropriate, and to what is not. But the jewelry must also provide clues to the individuality of the wearer — her (or his) personal style, social or cultural preferences, personal senses of the situation in which they find themselves in.

Another of these sexuality roles — The Gender Role — is to define gender and gender-rooted culture. Certain jewelry, jewelry styles, and ways of wearing jewelry are associated with females, and others with males. You can easily label which jewelry looks more masculine, and which more feminine. Some jewelry is associated with heterosexuality, and others with homosexuality. I remember when men, in a big way, started wearing one earring stud, it was critical to remember whether to wear the stud in the left ear lobe (hetero) or the right one (gay). For engaged and married women, it’s important to recognize which style of ring is more appropriate, and which hand and finger to wear these on.

One of the most important sexuality roles, however, — The Safe Sex Role — concerns the placement of jewelry on the body. Such placement is suggestive of where it is safe, and where it is unsafe to look at or touch the person wearing it. The length of the necklace, relative to the neck, the breast, and below the breast. How long the earring extends below the lobe of the ear. Whether the person wears bracelets. The size of the belt buckle. If a person has body piercings, where these are — the navel, the eyebrow, the nose, the lip.

Jewelry calls attention to areas of the body the wearer feels are safe. It’s like taking a sharpie marker and drawing a boundary line across the body. Jewelry gives the viewer permission to look at these areas, say above the line, and not others. Jewelry may give the viewer permission to touch these areas, as well. The wearer may want to call attention to the face, the neck, the hands, the ankle, but also to the breasts, the naval, the genital area.

We know that certain areas of the body are more sexually arousing than others. We know that different people are more or less comfortable with these areas on the body, or with someone sexually arousing these areas on the body. But how does the wearer communicate that? How does the wearer communicate her (or his) personal views of what is sexually acceptable without having to physically and verbally interact with someone in order for that person to find out?

Jewelry. How jewelry is worn is one of the most critical and strategic ways for achieving this Safe-Sex goal. The line of the jewelry imposes a boundary line on the body. Do not cross it. And make no mistake, this boundary line separates the permissible from the impermissible, the non-erotic from the erotic, the safe from the unsafe. Jewelry is not just a style preference thing. It’s a safe-sex preference thing, as well.

When news of the AIDS epidemic first burst on-stage, you saw a very dramatic change in jewelry and how it was worn. We’re going back to the 1970’s. Right before the AIDS epidemic, large long earrings were in style. Remember shoulder dusters. But as awareness of AIDS spread, most women stopped wearing earrings for awhile. Then gradually, they began wearing studs. Then very small hoops. It wasn’t until around 2004, that some women wore the “new” chandelier earrings, and you saw longer earrings on actresses as they paraded down the red carpets of one award show after another.

Prior to AIDS, the necklace style was for longer necklaces — 24” to 36” long. The necklaces were full — multi-strand, lots of charms and dangles. Again, as awareness of AIDS spread, the necklace profile changed rapidly to no necklace at all, or to thin, short chains and chokers. You would typically find ONE charm, not many, on a necklace. Attention was pulled away from the genital area, the navel and the breasts, all the way back up to the face.

Prior to AIDS, necklaces and earrings were the best-sellers in the shop. After AIDS, it became bracelets. Holding hands. Not necking. Not fondling. Not sexual intercourse. Holding hands was now the acceptable norm. This was safe.

Body piercings came into major vogue during the 1970s. And look at what typically got pierced. Noses, belly buttons, eyebrows, lips. Think of this as a big Body Chart for safe sex.

As society became more understanding of AIDS and how it is spread, the jewelry became larger. It extended to more areas of the body. People wore more of it. But in 2009, it was stilled restrained, when compared to what people wore before the 1970s.

In the sexual hunt between the sexes, jewelry plays an important boundary-defining role. Let’s not forget about this. Jewelry, in some sense, is an embodiment of desire. Jewelry communicates to others how the wearer comes to define what desire might mean for the self. It communicates through placement, content and elaboration.

Jewelry does not have to be visibly erotic, or include visual representations of sexual symbols, in order to play a role in sexuality and desire — a role that helps the hunter and the hunted define some acceptable rules for interacting without verbal communication.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Oy Ve! The Challenges of Custom Work

The Importance of Self-Promotion: Don’t Be Shy

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

Don’t Just Wear Your Jewelry…Inhabit It!

Two Insightful Psych Phenomena Every Jewelry Designer Needs To Know

A Dog’s Life by Lily

Copyrighting Your Pieces: Let’s Not Confuse The Moral With The Legal Issues

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Design: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A “Look” — It’s A Way Of Thinking

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

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Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

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