11 September 2013

Sexual Ethics as the Parent, Part 2:

The first step is admitting you have a problem, and we have a big one. 

The middle step, before you can go about solving a problem, is to really get your definitions, roots, and things like that straight.

And so, now comes that attempt to flesh out the problem.

The problem, as mentioned before, is that our children are growing up in a sexually corrupt and corrupting culture, and there is no insulating them from it.  Even if we (mistakenly) believed that was a good way to go, it is not possible to move to the mountains.  The internet follows you to the mountains.  

So, whose fault is the problem?  To whom does it apply?  From whence does it come?  Why is this happening now?

Well, I'd like to make a few points that are bound up in our thinking here. 

1) Sex is great, and is not the problem. 
2) Sexual corruption is not new, but it is different.
3) Sexual corruption is not a private problem.
4) Nor is it a gender-specific problem. 

Sex is great. 

Paul and I like having sex with each other.  Our grandmothers may have lived in a world where ladies didn't say such things in public.  However, if Miley is going to stick out her tongue and rub her giant hand on a man's crotch in front of tens of millions, someone is going to have to say something other than "ladies don't do that."  So, we'll start with the fact that sex is great.  Not only is it super fun (when done well, which does take practice, by the way), but it is great for you.  Pick up any health magazine and you'll notice consistent research that shows that healthy, monogamous sex lives are linked to almost all good things, and lack of them are linked to almost all bad things- cancer, depression, heart disease, stress, trauma, anxiety, and on and on we go.  Three cheers for sex.  What the heck, let's make it nine cheers for sex.

And, since we're cheering for something, we are to want it for our children.  I want all four of my kiddos to grow up and find someone to marry with whom they can have really great, healthy sex.  I want them to drink good wine, eat good food, read good books, serve the world, and make-out with their spouses like there's no tomorrow.  I don't so much want in on the particulars, but I hope it for them all the same. 

The corrupt sexual culture is not new.  But it is different. 

So, sex in the 1950s (or 1850s or 1750s or on and on we go) was not healthier than it is now. Men and women weren't going around in happy marriages, just cheerfully pleasuring one another, and everyone loved each other and had monogrammed napkins to boot.  Nope.  Women were abused.  Legally, there was no marital rape, for goodness sake.  A man could force himself on his wife, and that was a-okay.  We put married couples in twin beds on television.  A man can rape his wife with impunity, but not admit publicly to sharing a bed with her.  Does that sound like a sexually healthy place to be? Sex was corrupt and corrupting then and has always been so.  Why?  Because with great power comes great potential for corruption.  It was ugly like Miley's tongue.  Don't let your mother's nostalgia for the good old days fool you.

So, the problem is not new, but has changed.  There are different problems.  We are post sexual revolution and post technological revolution.  Both of these have shifted the landscape.  Instead of women who approach wedding nights with fear and shame, now we have women who approach puberty aware that their bodies are potential tools of manipulation.  Instead of men who approach wedding nights with idiocy and fumbling, we have men who approach puberty already knowing four or five slang words for a vagina.

Sexual corruption is not a private problem.  

No man is an island.  No parent is an alone.  No child is protected.  My kids have proudly read to me the Hooters' sign and the Strip Club Billboard many a time.  You can limit exposure, and we should (more later), but pretending as though "no R-rated movies" solves the problem is a step beyond naive.
Because sex is public, it is a public problem.  We live in the public sphere.  We may or may not choose to have conversations about position choice (being southern ladies and all), but that doesn't change the fact that sex is everywhere.  Ev.er.y.whe.re.   It is everywhere, because it is part of us- because we are made gendered.  Watch a six month old boy - he knows he's a boy.  And enjoys that fact.  

Great novels (for children and adults) assume the sexuality of beings.  If your child reads books, watches movies (every.disney.movie.ever), listens to country music (or any other kind....), has friends, or anything else, sexuality is part of his or her life.  And so, like with food, sleep, education, and all other aspects of their lives, we have a responsibility to help our children know truth and choose wisely. 

The choices we make affect other people, and the choices made by others affect us. 

In the same way, sexual corruption is not a gender-specific problem.  

This is where I get off the boat with both sides to the current debate over the "FYI" post by Kim Hall over here.   It is not simply the girls' problem that the boys are being bad, as Mrs. Hall would direct us, and it's not the boys' problem that the girls' are being objectified, as the folks here would argue.  Equally true, though, it is not only the boys' problem that they're objectifying the girls and it is not only the girls' problem that they're objectifying themselves.

Everyone is involved.  Everyone is to blame.  Everyone is affected.

If you are a parent to sons, you better be on it.  Their lust is their own problem, and it's causing girls to feel broken and as though they can only offer one thing, and so they are offering it.

If you are a parent to daughters, you better be on it.  One cannot portray herself as a sexual object and have her feelings hurt when people sexually objectify her.

We don't know which came first - the chicken or the egg - and trying to figure it out is a giant waste of time.  Girls in underwear cause boys to lust after them, and the receiving of that lustful attention causes girls to want to pose in their underwear.  Boys paying attention to the girl in the smaller bathing suit causes girls to wear smaller bathingsuits, which causes boys to get excited and thus pay more attention to the girl in the smaller bathing suit. 
'Round and round we go; where we stop, nobody knows.  

Miley's reflection of us hurts our feelings, because it scares us that she is representative - that no one has a healthy sex life, much less a healthy sexual history.  

And that's what we want for our children, right? Right?  We don't want a life of experimentation and regret, nor do we want frigidity and embarrassment.

We want joyful monogamy. 

We want great sex.  After all, sex is great.  It's just that it is powerful in every realm.  Which means we must handle it with great care. 

So, how?   I have no idea.  ;)

But, it is an issue near and dear to our hearts; I am constantly quizzing those wise folks in my life.  I know they're all sick of it.  
Paul and I have developed a current strategy.  And it doesn't include sitting around the table with our sons going through their friends' photos and being critical of them.  It also doesn't include thinking that what our daughter wears is everyone else's problem.    It doesn't include sticking our heads in the sand or moving to the mountains, nor believing sexuality simply begins at puberty, so we'll talk about it then. 

It involves prayer and humility and humor and wine and honesty.

Part three.  The Principles of Solution. 

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