Caution - Mature Subjects - Grownups Only!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Some Fooleish Advice for the Young and Impressionable

Provoked: Body Image My first reaction to this post is "God, I feel old." I remember this exact same sort of discussion going on over tube tops and french cut jeans. Just a little bit older, and I bet I could remember it in reference to cashmere sweaters and poodle skirts - and Oh, the Horror!

Some argue that dressing in a provocative manner is empowering to young girls. They are free to express their sexuality and do not have to hide their sexuality as if it were something to be ashamed of. I believe in free speech, freedom of expression, and that it is good for people to feel free to express their sexuality. However, I do not think that young girls should be encouraged, even pushed, to be sexual before they are mature enough to have sex. Pollet and Hurwitz state that, “many adolescents embrace these products as a harmless and fun way to wield sexual power, defending their right to express themselves . . .” (Pollet, Hurwitz 20). Are they expressing themselves, or are they simply imitating a stereotypical image of what they believe femininity is? Young girls see so many images everyday of what femininity supposedly looks like, many young girls do not even consider that perhaps there are other ways to be feminine.

CBC [The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] followed around a preteen for a day. When asked why young girls feel the need to dress sexy, the girl replied, “You get more attention and strange guys come up to you and try and get you to go to nightclubs.” ( Buying into Sexy… CBC). The fact that this preteen believes that a “reward” for dressing sexy is to have “strange guys” invite her to nightclubs is absolutely frightening. Pollet and Hurwitz say that young girls enjoy “. . . a coy yet brazen, look-but-don’t-touch sexual persona” (Pollet, Hurwitz 20). This off-limits but desirable look makes young girls feel powerful.

Now, it's not that I disagree with what's being said here, nor most of the conclusions being drawn. This viewpoint is at least more sophisticated than the common "cheerleader good, slut bad" sort of logic, where it seems that the distinction between "slut" and "cheerleader" is not the clothing, but the socially approved role. A role, by the way, that includes many of the very same boys as would that of the "slut," and in very many of the same positions.

In other words, if a girl is only sexually available under the correct circumstances, she is not a "slut." If she is social with sexual tension outside of a context where that tension is recognized as “appropriate”- actual sex has little to do with one's reputation. It has everything to do with controlling the sexual expression of girls, and without sneer quotes, for their own good. And it might actually work if the chosen mechanisms had some traction, and the motives were stated out loud, because… well, this idea hasn’t worked noticeably well any time during the rough half century I’ve been around, and my reading suggests that it didn’t work very well before then, either.

Yes, teens and pre-teen girls can get very infatuated with their ability to make boys walk into walls and generally behave like drooling, stunned oxen. Without the proper ethical structures and the ability and permission to set and defend boundaries, this can lead to very toxic circumstances - indeed, the exact circumstances you will find in any Jr. High, or High School.

The fact that sex education has become more moralistic and less factual has simply made this worse. People who live in a state of constant oppression are exquisitely sensitive to cognitive dissonances and the hypocrisy of the society around them. Different people respond to this in different ways; some conform, with the evident goal of becoming oppressors themselves one day, others rebel, either due to need-based necessity or out sheer stubborn unwillingness to play such an obviously perverted game. Those people tend to go toward the extremes; asexuality, or outright slutty. Some even excel!

I don't personally attach such a negative connotation to the word "slut" as most people would - because I've been exposed to "The Ethical Slut."

The Ethical Slut - and a variety of other books, such as Jay Wiseman's "SM 101" and "Different Loving" by The Brames grew out of the early ferment of the explosion of sexuality on the internet, when Ugol's Law became manifest.

Please note that Wiseman's work is linked below, while the Different Loving is not. I do not personally agree with many of the assumptions made and have disagreed with the Brames strongly and publicly over the years about their views about "Real Submissive Women." Nonetheless "Your Mileage May Vary," it's just that their advice is not so broadly applicable as they would like to believe it is.

By way of contrast, Generation SLUT offers a perspective that validates The Darkhaired Girl's" worst nightmares. I offer Hunter S. Thompson's review of this book by 20something author Marty Beckerman: "Good work, you morbid little bastard."

My own perspective is somewhat distinct from both: I feel that a significant part of this trend is that Christianist morality has become so fear based and so focused on the appearance of conformity that it manages to be completely useless, if not actively dangerous to persons who need practical guidance in private circumstances.

Moreover, traditional Christianist moralism has become completely irrelevant to the needs and desires of ordinary human beings who are still operating in the hormonal storm belt. There needs to be more practical sailing advice, because for most people, staying in the harbor until the weather clears isn't really an option. When morality fails us, we must turn to the ethical principles that morality is supposed to be founded on to see where we went wrong.

"An you harm none, do as you will" and "That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others; all the rest is commentary" are two of my favorite "rules of thumb" in regard to any behavior.

Like all rules of thumb, though, they require a bit of context to truly understand. For instance, in the first, which is a mostly Wiccan concept, the whole idea of "will" is among other things, about being authentically yourself and acting for your own, well considered and conscious reasons. If you are appearing to conform, it is not that you are going along with the herd, it's that you are in the midst of a crowd of individuals acting in concert, for reasons of their own, individual wills.

"An you harm none" is a conditional absolute. That is to say, it's a physical ideal that is impossible in practice; perfect observation would require perfect understanding of everyone you ever come in contact with, and all the possible consequences. Even more impossibly, it would require perfect self-knowledge.

But like all truly useful moral guidance, it is as useful in the breech as in compliance. In other words, when we make a mistake and do harm someone, it gives us a framework to understand how to avoid related actions and circumstances in the future.

And this leads me to the great fault of this otherwise interesting and useful bit of writing; the idea that there can be and should be "Safe self-expression."

NO form of self-expression is ever safe. There is always someone who will object or misunderstand, or take it as an excuse to violate your boundaries in some way. Many see that as a reason to restrict, even prohibit certain forms of self-expression that they consider dangerous, subversive or “icky.”

As if that ever worked. Sexuality oozes from our pores once puberty hits. Deluding ourselves that we are NOT sexual beings is outright folly. Only by admitting who and what we are to ourselves (at the very least) can we avoid the absurd and dangerous situations caused by stumbling around in a state of denial. Or in other words, if you don’t wish to act out badly (or do not wish others to), you have to first understand and speak out loud about why people do act out.

Mostly, they wish to get laid, for all the complicated reasons and rewards. And the reasons why Other People wish to keep you, and other folks from getting laid are complex and filled with contradictions, but it boils down to this; they would like to choose, or at least influence who and when you get laid, if other.

That’s not bad in itself, but in far too many cases, those doing that wishing won’t admit their reasoning to themselves. Sometimes, that’s because if they looked at it, there’s more than a little dog in the manger there; if they cannot lay you, none will.

My cynical view is that people who are unwilling to talk to their children about sex – well, it’s probably for the best. The gutter is probably a more sanitary place than their own personal reasons and rationalizations. Probably what they think of as morality, an anthropologist would refer to as a “conditioned aversion,” a “taboo” or “denial.” And that’s the problem. Too much moralism, not nearly enough sexual morality – as in examples of people who live a sexually moral life in full mindfulness of what they do and why.

What we need as a culture is a sane, practical-minded and useful approach to avoiding harm, both to oneself and to others under any circumstances that we may reasonably expect. That is the very essence of "morality." Practical, specific guides for behavior based on ethics and human nature, based not on shame and guilt, but example and praise.

Until there is such a thing, it's pointless to blame teenagers for rejecting what they see as foolish, impractical or actively silly ideas foisted upon them by often obviously delusional, neurotic adults.

Do you wish an example? Have you ever met a "preacher's kid?"

The Trained Stunt Pervert Trucker Hat
was created as a refrerence to my good Internet Friend, Phillip the Foole, who, I believe, actually coined the phrase. The Official Archive of Ancient Kung Foole Proverbs contains a depth of practical wisdom and practical moralty the author would be the first to disavow. But you could do far worse than to learn from his mistakes - and successes.

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