Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Porn Generation


I have long felt disdainful of the enduring habit of nearly all Westerners, on the left and right, of viewing everything through the lens of impending apocalypse. For lefties these days, the world - at least humanity - is about to end in a flash of environmental meltdown and resource scarcity. For righties, especially of a religious bent, culture is always "slouching towards Gomorrah", getting more and more depraved and violent.

While both views contain elements of truth, both rely on simplifications and distortions of very select slices of reality. The world's food and water supply, for example, has never been as clean, safe, and bountiful. At least in America, mega churches continue to thrive, AM radio is saturated with Christian, social conservatism, and family-style entertainment options continue to be widely available.

But I think it is fair to say that in one respect at least, the righties might be on to something. From what I can tell, there seems to be a substantial segment of girls these days, from, say 16 to 26, whose biggest dream in life is to dress, talk, and behave like porn stars. Binge-drinking, wild forays into even the darkest regions of human sexuality, completely loutish behaviour...it has become "normal".

Not so long ago, most high school girls were quite conscious of maintaining their reputations for self-respect, and would feel a sense of mortification if it ever got out that they had "gone too far" with a boy. By contrast, many girls nowadays are keen to build up reputations for just how far they'll go. Sex acts which, literally, would have ruined a girl's high school social life not so long ago, now confer a kind of bizarre status on to her, and are often bragged about by the girls themselves. Forget second base - now it's...well, I won't say it.

I don't have any particular religious beliefs, but this all makes me feel nauseous. Human beings - including teenage girls - are, or certainly can be, multi-faceted. We are more than just sexual impulse, aren't we? And that so many girls seem to have wound up identifying themselves primarily via their ability to whip themselves up into a frenzy of orgiastic insanity so that lunkhead boys can get off on them, seems gross. Why sign up to be no more than a trashy, hyperactive inflatable doll, when you can be a beautiful, intelligent, self-respecting young woman? Somehow or other, Jenna Jameson - not Rosa Parks, or Florence Nightingale, or Uberfrau Ma Walton, or Amelia Earhart - seems to have become the great idol. Jenna Jameson, the porn star whose "achievements" boil down to only be able to do what any ape or dog can do - have sex - has obliterated them all. And yet we all look over at the Muslim lady in the supermarket wearing a veil and think, "The poor soul...brainwashed...what a pity". Yet I cannot see how obsessively trying to put more mileage on to yourself than the space shuttle, and walking around with your butt and thong and bellybutton and bra and boobs hanging out for all to see, and dishing out blow jobs in pub lavatories or school parking lots, is more praiseworthy than the choice of some devoted wife and mother to wear an outward symbol of her religious commitments. Something's gone really wacko here...

I have children in high school, and based on my own observation, I would bet a thousand bucks that most of the students are far more versed in every last aspect of sexual depravity than in Milton, Newton, or Mozart. Kids can go through an entire 12 years of public school these days without ever being forced to learn how to punctuate a sentence, spell correctly, or do rudimentary math. Yet they all emerge fully prepared to direct porno movies. What happened?

When I ask, what happened?, let me be more clear. What happened to self-respect? What happened to self-discipline? What happened to the ideal of education both deepening and broadening our souls? What happened to the moral centre of the education establishment? I don't get it.

In my perfect world, parents and schools would join together to inculcate habits of self-discipline and self-respect in the young. I would absolutely favour schools adopting dress and grooming standards for students (yes, uniforms), and holding children accountable at every stage for their academic performance. In designing curriculum, I would accept the fact that humans will always idolize someone or other, and see to it that those men and women truly worthy of emulation are held up as such.

I would also favour tying educators's salaries to their achievement, instituting vouchers so parents can choose between schools, and apportioning tax dollars for religious schools (as they do in Canada) providing they meet certain standards. And if some school wants to include corporal punishment for designated offences, and the parents are okay with that, then great. Better a smack on the butt than, say, a cuff on the wrist, or more to the point here, a bun in your girlfriend's oven.

Here I've mentioned only a feeling of nausea and disappointment about all this. I haven't mentioned the STDs, the heartbreak, the unwanted children, the abortions, all the practical reasons for trying to institute some sort of order in this area. But I guess that's a topic for another post.

12 comments:

Cynical said...

Wow, Tal, I'm impressed. Judging from the picture you attached to the post, you've managed to get yourself in pretty good shape. It must be the rugby.

You’re hitting on issues that also concern me as a parent. Whether it comes from religion or a sense of common propriety, we do need to instill some measure of discipline and self-respect in our children. I’ve been reading World War II biographies and autobiographies lately, and I’m struck by the fact that while many of the men who served in the war swore like sailors (literally), drank hard, visited prostitutes, and so on, they also maintained a strong sense of purpose, hard work, and commitment. In other words, they weren’t always perfect gentlemen, but they lacked the feeling that is so common today that “I’m entitled to this,” “I shouldn’t have to wait for that,” and “My first duty is to please myself”--and they were better for it.

rachael chatoor said...

Well said. Having a daughter myself, I've often perplexed about that very subject and I agree with your thoughts. So true that it wasn't long ago things were very different, I remember it.

Now, I'm not sure at all how to combat, reflect, or deflect for my kids. How do I arm them for trenches I never battled in, or enlighten them about something I don't really understand myself? It scares the crap out of me. Are there any deserted islands left or are they all spoken for?

E said...

I concur with you for the most part and have been thinking alot about the next generations myself! As of today, I have been a full-fledged middle school teacher for a month (yea!). Lesson planning is tough, but, in all honesty, the hardest part has been dealing with student attitudes. To overgeneralize.. They are rude to each other, rude to their teachers, and haven't an inkling of respect for themselves. Okay, so they're middle schoolers.- I get it. But I also understand the demographic of the school... in fact, thirteen years ago, I attended this same school and my own parents still live nearby. And I know for a fact, that "we" were not as bad. Having talked with veteran teachers, there has been a decline in respectable behavior through the years - I'm not "just getting old," as my friends have suggested.

Now, I won't say that schools are not to blame at all, but too often this is the first place that people like to criticize. As someone with an inside perspective, the schools and many of the teachers are striving to do better, trying to involve our students in the decision making, in their own conferences, in being more accountable for their work and their learning.... Kids are expected to be more involved than I ever was at that age. Unfortunately, there seems to be an increasing number of students who don't have the support at home, who feel entitled to get our respect, but are not willing to give it. I can't imagine flipping so much attitude to my teachers or anyone else... because there is no way my parents would have EVER tolerated it. But then again, I had involved parents....

To wrap this up: The decline in self-respect... socially/sexually, academically... is widespread. But why? Well, we have crap on TV. We have parents who haven't instilled, or haven't been able to instill, values into our kids, we have parents who can barely make ends meet, we have 30+ kids per teacher in a classroom. The reasons are as widespread as the problem. It's a societal issue, and unless we can change society, we will have an extremely hard time of expecting the next generation to turn themselves around.... not that I'm giving up. It's just frustrating!

Tal said...

Good comments, yeah. I think I'll write a follow-up.

Anonymous said...

Nostalgia is blinding.

smile said...

Vote for Tal!

Just curious...
Are you speaking mostly as a father of girls (and boys), a rock star flocked by groupies, a (frustrated) man in a kaput marriage, an aspiring politician, or just a concerned citizen?

Jewelz said...

I already told you how I feel about this amazing post. Please write a follow-up. After that, write a book on parenting. Seriously. And if you ever open your own school, let me know. I agree with you on your perfect world scenario. E- Best of luck with teaching middle-schoolers. You have my utmost respect- very difficult job.:)

Tal said...

Smile

I honestly am totally perplexed by your question. I'm not writing as "mostly" *anything*. I never say or do anything as "mostly" *something*. I don't even know what that means. I'm just myself, always.

If you're asking me whether the environmental features unique to my life have caused my opinions, my honest answer is, I don't think so at all. I believe I would have the opinions I do regardless of whether I had no kids, 100 kids, no wife, or 100 wives, or whether I was an obscure accountant or a world famous rock star or anything else.

smile said...

I was basically just wondering (before you commented) which role you were in when you had the idea for this post...
What triggered it?
Was it something specific, or do you feel this way all of the time, in all of your roles?

A blanket condemnation of young female sexuality followed by a recomendation of repression kind of bugs me...maybe I'll think differently if you write a follow-up.

And, sorry, but I have to disagree. I think anyone's experiences and roles have to impact their opinions. Quite a bit, in fact.


Well, have a good weekend! Go play...guitar... rugby...ping pong...whatever! :)

Later.

Tal said...

Smile

I find your post irritating enough to use it as a spark for a follow-up. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

well written. Going to share this with my teenage niece. Thank you.
Raechel

Diane said...

Hi Tal,

I just found your blog from RfM. I used to read your posts there!

Anyway, this is a fantastic post. (I'm a 26-year-old female)

In mainstream society, there is a glorification of bringing as much attention to oneself as possible. Having celebrity for the sake of celebrity, not because you have anything of substance that causes you to have that celebrity.

I like dressing up and looking good, but I hope I know where the line is between classy and . . . .Jenna Jameson?

As a fellow ex-Mormon, I've spent much of my formative years internalizing LDS' sexist ideals before realizing they are just as toxic as mainstream society's views of women.

I agree that mandated school uniforms in public schools would be a FANTASTIC idea.

Last summer I went to a Mormon wedding reception where I didn't know anyone except for the bride and her brother. Because I had the self respect to show up without a date, and the respect for my friend to wear something better than a cotton church sundress, all of the women gave me very dirty looks and I spent most of the reception sitting at a table alone. I didn't fit in precisely because I took care of myself.

I'm sure their view was that I was just another hussy from Los Angeles. :P