I have some things to say. Some things which I would normally shy away from saying but I’m seriously reaching a breaking point here.
Okay, first. I am so incredibly sick and tired of hearing any sort of sentence which begins with “Americans are so…” and ends with any of the following: “hung up about sex/Puritanical/repressed.”
First of all, I really genuinely have to wonder where the people who say such things get that idea, considering how thriving the pornography industry in the US is. Considering how raunchy the humor in US TV shows and movies can get. Look at our magazines or newspapers, listen to our radio shows. You’ll find sex, I promise. Hell, look at me and what I write for EC.
Second, will someone please explain to me what exactly is so wrong with believing that maybe, just maybe, we should keep our genital urges private? That perhaps it isn’t a good idea for young children to be exposed to explicit sexual images? That, to use the most common example of American’s Terrible Puritanism, some people don’t want their kids seeing, in the middle of a sporting match, a white man tearing off a black woman’s clothing and exposing her nudity in a humiliating and aggressive fashion before thousands of people? Did anyone else wonder why the racial issue wasn’t discussed, why the uncomfortable allusion to slavery implicit in that little moment was never an issue? Why wasn’t Janet Jackson allowed to be the aggressor? Why wasn’t she allowed to rip off JT’s shirt and make him her bitch? Why was the power in that moment placed explicitly in the white man’s hands? (Perhaps I’m wrong for seeing the racial side of this. Perhaps I’m way off base. And I do see the other side of that coin, where it’s a good thing nobody discussed it because it means the idea of interracial sex wasn’t even an issue, which is great. But I always found that interesting and wondered why more people didn’t discuss that as another reason people had issues, even subconsciously, with that moment. Hell, even if they’d both been white or both been black I would have had an issue with the way the woman in question was forced to be the sexual submissive while the man stayed calm and fully clothed. I find that hot in books, but in public I think it might be better not to have our impressionable children think The Way It’s Done is the man tears at the woman’s clothing apropos of nothing.)
But honestly, (and I can’t believe I’m digressing into this incident so far when it’s years old) I believe the biggest problem with that wasn’t the Wardrobe Malfunction. Heck, Lucy Lawless fell out of her top one night singing the National Anthem and treated everyone in attendance to a view of her own Ramparts, and nobody said a word.
I think the difference is, the intense sexualizaton our children are exposed to and the pressure we put on our daughters, girls as young as ten, to be “sexy”. And this is why I get angry when the US is derided as being Puritanical or Hung Up or Prudish.
What’s wrong with wondering, and debating, whether or not it’s a good thing for kids to be exposed to such things? What’s wrong with questioning our direction? With talking about what we do and do not value, and what sorts of values we want to pass on to our children?
Isn’t it better that we do that, instead of just saying, “Ah, they’ll be okay,” while we show them pornography at age seven (or whatever)? Isn’t it better to examine our changing values and our society as a whole than to just shrug and say “Whatever”? Isn’t that sort of debate what a responsible society does?
Here’s a prime example (this is where the whole rant comes from). Britney Spears. A sixteen-year-old girl paraded around by her own mother in tiny halter tops and mini-skirts behaving in an overtly sexual manner (yes, I realize I’m skating dangerously close to sounding like the Church Lady here). A GIRL. A GIRL who could barely drive a car, being told over and over again that the most interesting and valuable thing about her was her (admittedly fabulous) body and to what degree she flaunted it. A GIRL thrown into an adult world at an age when most girls are still confused about just about everything, when the slightest bit of criticism is incredibly painful.
Is it any wonder the poor thing is having a nervous breakdown, stage by stage? Is it any wonder she was so desperate to really feel like the grown-up everyone kept pushing her to be that she jumped into two ill-advised marriages at age twenty (does anyone else wonder if she got pregnant so quickly and consecutively in an attempt to finally NOT have to be sexy all the time)? That when her parents should have been guiding her into real womanhood they instead urged her into tighter and shorter outfits and left her to fend for herself? That being young, beautiful, and wealthy, and thus able to do whatever she wanted, was too much for a girl barely out of her teens? That her own parenting skills are appalling? Are we surprised by any of this?
Is it so prudish and narrow-minded to say, I’d rather my daughter be valued for something other than their breasts and flat stomachs when they hit their early teens, and to that end maybe we could step back on the intense emphasis on sex and sexuality that seems to be everywhere? Is it so prudish and narrow minded just to say, hey, maybe this isn’t good for our kids, and maybe we should think about how our actions affect them?
I’ll say one thing about those Chastity Balls everyone was discussing a while ago–at least the girls attending those parties knew their fathers cared how they comported themselves, and valued them as people and not as sexual objects, and most importantly wanted the girls to value themselves as more than that. I’m not saying the Balls didn’t squick me out or that I didn’t find it creepily vagocentric. But how many girls out there might be glad to know that at least somebody wants them to value their bodies as more than some hormonal teenage boy’s sex toy? That someone will think they’re good and honorable for saying no to sex, instead of an idiot, because sex is No Big Deal? Sex is a Big Deal, it’s a big huge deal, as any girl who’s waited in vain by the phone after letting some guy into her body can attest, and I don’t see what’s wrong with acknowledging that and trying to teach our kids that.
I don’t want to sound like some “Turn back the clock to 1955!” incendiary. And I don’t want to imply that such incendiaries don’t exist, or that there aren’t people out there who hold dangerously backward views on a lot of issues.
But I don’t think the majority of Americans are like that. And I don’t believe that simply wanting to make sure that our progress is positive and not precipitous is a dangerous and reactionary thing, but a good and responsible thing. I’m tired of hearing Americans described as stupid, homophobic, puritanical, racist, etc. Some of them are, sure, and it’s a terrible shame, but no more than I’ve seen in any other place.
I am certainly not for censorship, or outlawing porn, or anything of that nature. I like my adult things and want to keep them, and I don’t want children to think sex is dirty or bad or anything either. I just like the idea of balance. I think they should know about birth control and protecting themselves but would also prefer to teach my own daughters to wait (at least until they’re in a long-term relationship, and by long-term I mean more than a few months), rather than have them be told “Everybody’s doing it, it’s great!” and pushed into the world of adult sexuality before they’re ready. I think adults should be able to do whatever adults want to do with each other but would prefer they do it where I don’t have to watch, and find it interesting that while we refuse to allow people to smoke in public because a child might be in the vicinity it’s considered horribly backward to worry at all about children when, say, people are having oral sex in a park. Isn’t that a bit odd?
So there you go. I guess I’m all fired up politically because of the primaries happening. I used to love politics, especially election years. I used to stay up late to watch returns, I’d take the day off to watch the Inauguration, have parties, all kinds of things. So much hate has crept into politics over the last eight years I’ve been weary of the whole thing. But the primaries so far have been fun, the debates have been fun, and I’m hoping it stays that way. I’ll even go so far as to say there is one candidate in each party who I’d vote for in a minute, and if they both end up on the ticket, as pundits are predicting they will, I will have a very hard time making a decision (this based on what I’ve seen so far, of course.) It feels good to think, “Boy, that would be a hard choice.” It’s been a long time since I’ve thought that.
And that is the last political post you’ll see here, btw.