Monday, January 07, 2008

*Hope nobody hates me*

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.


pacatrue said...


I actually didn't mean that facetiously. I don't agree with everything, but a lot I do.

I will say that what bothered me more about the Jackson/Timberlake routine was the thrusting and gyrating and grinding more than any exposure. I'd much rather my son (4) see a woman's breast than a man thrusting into her even when both are fully clothed. I'd also rather him see a nipple in a movie than a man wielding a chainsaw on unsuspecting campers.

I guess for me my problem is more about exposing children too early to sex than to nudity.

I have no problem with Jerry Springer on TV, but I'd rather it not be scheduled for the after school hour.

I'm wandering, but your post inspired a lot of different thoughts.

pacatrue said...

I wanted to add that being exposed to sex, which is something I don't want for children, is completely different from sex education. A class at the age of 10 about how your body works is completely different from a late night with Cinemax -- not that I have any idea what's on Cinemax around midnight. I'm not even sure what Cinemax is.

December/Stacia said...

Exactly, Paca, that was the point I tried to make about the Jackson/JT thing. A breast is a breast, big deal, but a breast exposed in such a sexual fashion is a bit much. I wasn't personally offended, but I don't think anyone who was is automatically a narrow-minded prude for being so (and I didn't have kids watching, either, at the time, which might make a difference. I know I don't let the kids watch Sex and the City anymore, although when Princess was very little I did all the time because she wouldn't understand any of it anyway and didn't actively watch either.)

And yes, I'd rather they see a breast than horrible violence. But it would be nice if I didn't have to be constantly on the alert for either in the middle of the day. It's my responsibility and no one else's to police what my kids watch on TV, but it's hard to keep them away from some things when they're constantly bombarded everywhere they go. And you're absolutely right about sex ed, there is a difference.

Cinemax? Is that a new movie theatre snack? Lol.

I'm glad I inspired a lot of thoughts. I was actually doubting myself and wondering if I should just delete the whole thing but if it worked for you, I won't.

Bernita said...

I agree.

Anonymous said...

Sad to say, December but for many it's all about doing what makes me feel good right now and taking the easy way out.

We are a hedonist society (although not all of us are into it thank God). -V95

BernardL said...

Stupidity drove the Jackson/Timberlake half-time show: just an aging pop-star, and a kid with no talent. The music was so bad, it was hard to focus on anything they were doing. I agree with your point about the children. I can think of very little sicker than dressing little girls up like hookers.

There’s really nothing wrong with blogging about politics if the participants refrain from attacking each other once they run out of legitimate facts; which in this day and age, dooms such discussions before they even begin. :)

kirsten saell said...

I will say that what bothered me more about the Jackson/Timberlake routine was the thrusting and gyrating and grinding more than any exposure. I'd much rather my son (4) see a woman's breast than a man thrusting into her even when both are fully clothed. I'd also rather him see a nipple in a movie than a man wielding a chainsaw on unsuspecting campers.


I can even understand why people might have issues with sex-ed. If the only two choices in my kid's school were "abstinence only" or "here's how to put on a condom, go have fun" I'd be peeved too. It's more balanced here in Canada (at least I think it is). They teach kids all about the biology, STDs, birth control, etc, and they're still allowed to say the best way to avoid getting the clap or a baby is to NOT HAVE SEX.

But the entertainment industry is NO PLACE for kids to learn about normal sexuality. I caught my 13-year-old son watching some hentai videos (clearly marked as adult content) on one of his animation sites and it just made me cringe. "Click here for happy ending". Niiiice. Needless to say, that site is banned now.

But then there's the insidious stuff that should come with a warning, but is aggressively marketed to kids. I used to cringe every time my daughter got a Bratz doll for her birthday--the whole idea of those dolls just squicks me out, especially the Bratz Baby dolls with their blue eyeshadow and midriff-baring diaper/Tshirt ensembles. Yeah, sexualizing a baby and selling it to preteen girls isn't twisted at all. Bleh.

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.

And I missed it? Damn.

Sam said...

I've always been careful about what my children were exposed to - (that sounds strange, lol) because I fugured I was the PARENT and I had an important role to play. You'd be surprised at how many perents let TV raise their children...
Anyhoooo- living in France has given me a whole new outlook on American Puritism. You have to realise that whatever is suppressed immediately becomes a prime interest. (human psychology 101). So, if sex is indeed repressed, you are going to get a very powerful underground movement to overcome and get by this. There is a fascinating article in the Guardian today that brushed upon this (Virgins in Egypt) go read it - it might answer your questions as to how so much porn and sex can come out of a Puritanical society. But if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. My husband, who is French, thinks the Americans are terrible prudes. The sex and porn industry is a backlash, not a mainstream event. Britany Spears is a disaster, and her parents should be ashamed of themselves. I really hope she loses custody of her own kids - it's a crime to let her raise them.

Anonymous said...

"And that is the last political post you'll see here, btw."

I totally don't believe that. You are way too eoquent and intelligent to leave it at that.


December/Stacia said...

Thanks, Bernita! :-)

That's very true, V95. Mark Henry pointed out on my livejournal that what this all really boils down to is a lack of personal responsibility, and I agree. Sad, but true.

I think the thing is, politics are often so personal, Bernard. We're talking about deeply held beliefs and values, so it's far too easy for disagreement to feel like a personal attack. I just try really hard to make sure everyone feels welcome here, whether or not they agree/disagree or I suspect they agree/disagree with my own personal beliefs.

Exactly, Kirsten! I'd much prefer a happy medium on the sex ed front, and honestly, the "They're going to do it anyway" argument always bigs me a little. Not because I don't think it's important that they be educated but because it assumes our youth, or humanity as a whole, is utterly incapable of exercising restraint. That makes me sad.
I agree about Bratz--my girls aren't allowed to have them. Princess doesn't even ask anymore.

You might be able to find the Lawless boob by googling or going on Youtube. I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

December/Stacia said...

*shrug, smile* We'll have to disagree on that, Sam. I've never felt America is a repressive or Puritanical society. I don't know for how long your husband lived in America--I assume it was quite a long time, for him to feel confident making such blanket statements--but to me you can't judge an entire nation based on one bit of experience. That would be like me saying all Frenchmen are sexist who cheat on their wives, simply because Mitterand had a mistress and some French citizens thought that was just fine, and the French have fewer women in their government than almost every other EU country (they rank 22nd out of 27, with only 12.2% of MPs being women).

You and I both know that isn't true, that every country has its good and its bad and that statistics or living in one city or even area can't truly give us an accurate or fair picture of an entire nation, which is why generaliztions like that are generally so hurtful and offensive. :-)

Nah, Seeley, I'd rather keep everything peaceful. I don't want this to turn into a political blog. Thanks though!

McKoala said...

Also agreeing here. And how about Brazilians at the age of 10? Apparently it's happening; check this out -

Robyn said...

Do ten year olds even have hair yet? ICK.

Completely agree, December.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a political post, December, it's sociological one. I do not believe that America is prudish as a whole, and you're right, what message are we telling our kids "Don't have sex" "Oh, but you want to be madly desired/sexy". How bass-ackwards are we?

I work very hard to impress a sense of personal responsibility on my children. We always explain that time out is for calming down, and give them an option to choose to calm down on their own, to choose to change their action first. My kids already get little comments and lessons from us about sexuality, that it's something to bother with when you are older and that they don't need a partner or to dress a certain way or act a certain way to be a good person. I can just continue and hope like heck that they fall back on that and nt something else

December/Stacia said...

Sheesh, McKoala! I prefer children to be allowed to be children. That's tragic.

They say girls are reaching puberty earlier these days, Robyn. So maybe they do. But still.

True, Michele, but that last paragraph is political. Sociological stuff I've discussed before, although not usually this pointedly, I don't think, but I do really try to stay away from politics.
Yep, it's important to let kids know there's plenty of time when they're older to worry about that stuff, and that their sexuality is only one aspect of themselves as whole people. I wholeheartedly agree.

Camille Alexa said...

I don't hate you.

I'm still too busy being annoyed by those doofuses who think Santa sends children an unhealthy body image.