Friday, October 2, 2009

A Response to Smile


In response to my last post, a reader named Smile writes:

"A blanket condemnation of young female sexuality followed by a recommendation of repression kind of bugs me".

I find this comment unfair and irritating. It exaggerates and distorts my comments, and includes what seems to be unthinking assent to the idea that any form of "repression" - whatever exactly is meant by that - is somehow wrong.

So, first things first. I did not offer a "blanket condemnation of young female sexuality". I expressed concern about something specific: the pornogrification, to coin a word, of young female sexuality. That's a big difference, and I do think it will be obvious to 99% of the people who read my post. To repeat, it is not human, or "young female" sexuality I object to, but to a social situation in which, at a formative time of life, a girl's primary sense of identity, purpose, and status derives from how outrageously she puts out. It's like living in a world created by Larry Flynt or a pimp, and it's bad - psychologically, emotionally, and physically - for boys and girls both.

Now, about your comments on "repression"...I am not sure how much I can say, because I am not exactly sure what you mean. This is a big, broad word which you have tossed out, which could refer to all sorts of things, some perfectly acceptable, others foolish, others dangerous.

For example, if one has the inclination to sexually molest children, then I see repression (either through willpower alone or with the aid of castration) as the only acceptable solution. Don't you? If so, then you agree with me that in some circumstances, sexual repression is a good thing, and could hardly condemn me for selectively supporting it. And certainly, there are all sorts of other cases where you would support repression of some kind. If a man is provoked by his girlfriend and wants to hit her, I assume you would encourage him to repress those violent urges. Likewise with dozens of different, destructive urges.

In fact, it is not too much to say that what we mean by the word civilization is no more than the taming, diversion or flat-out repression of certain instincts and desires which, if acted upon, would make society impossible, cruel, or dangerous. So I don't really know why this word should be thought to refer inherently to something bad.

You say my comments bug you. I say that what should bug you is a significant percentage of boys today growing up thinking of girls primarily as sperm receptacles. I think what should bug you is girls running around school dressed like prostitutes and competing with each other in what amounts to a "putting out" contest for the boys. I think what should bug you is citizens paying millions of dollars to support a public school system whose administrators lack the will and the legal or practical ability to enforce order, challenge students and hold them accountable, hire inspiring and purposeful teachers, fire lousy teachers, replace their boring curriculum, and build, deepen, and broaden students's character by inculcating ideals and habits like self-respect, self-discipline, and self-direction.

I mean, on this last point, I gave a guest speech to a high school in Oregon ten years ago, and the whole administration was absolutely petrified that I was going to talk about ethics and morals. Mentioning anything connected to a deity was obviously out of the question. The principal nervously made me promise ahead of time to steer clear of these topics. It was bizarre and chilling - literally like being in the Soviet Union in 1972 or something. I think that should bug you, too.

What should bug you is the equivalent of a million Jodie Fosters in "Taxi Driver", and all the confusion, sorrow, pregnancies, abortions, and everything else, that go with that...

To be continued, I'm sure.

21 comments:

smile said...

OK. OK. Calm down. This isn't the knock-down-drag-out that you think it is.

I know you didn't make a blanket condemnation. Those words sort of typed themselves when I was writing my comment last night, and this morning I can see why.

As long as I voiced my agreement with what you wrote, and what others said, I remained just another voice in the crowd. Easily overlooked.

The only way to get your attention was to say something totally outrageous. Guess what! It worked. I woke up this morning to a post dedicated all to me! Now THAT'S attention. Did I care that I could feel your disdain dripping from every sentence? No. Did I care that you probably wouldn't respect anything I wrote in the future? No. I knew that I had your total attention for the 5 minutes or so that it took you to write this post. That was pretty cool.

My point is:
Those girls that you described, Tal, are getting the attention they need in the only way they know how. They are outrageous in dress and behavior because being normal gets them nothing, and in their book *anything* is better than nothing. Cut them some slack.

Now go listen to John Mayer's song "Daughters".

...and Carole King's song "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" which was written in 1961 proving that this is really not a new situation at all.

And, seriously, have a good weekend! :)

Jewelz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Great scots..if I do a blog will I get 2 men fighting over me too?

Calm down ladies because you embarrass yourselves.. I read this blog and find it the absolute TRUTH!!! I have a straight A+ girl, adorable, popular and a top ranked athlete nationally in her sport. She attends a private coed school with a "dress-code." Frankly some mornings a litl before 7:20am as I wait for her to stroll out into the driveway I wonder who will show up? Britney or Madonna? Her skirt is rolled so short that it makes me gasp but of course she claims boy shorts make it wearable and her blouse rolled as well. There is a dress-code but she tells me she has to have some fashion sense. She is a GOOD girl so I applaud you Tal because you are right on. Promiscuity is rampant and some of today's children don't even know what the word means, so anything we do to prevent our own children running down those paths is great. I sat my daughter and her friend down and told them sleeping at a boy's house was wrong at this age and they looked at me like I was old fashioned.

I am blessed to have that girl that everyone says has it all and trust me it takes work 24/7 to make sure she doesn't get the "wrong attention." Don't get me wrong the boys on every sports team still turn their heads like they did when we were kids, but when my daughter asked me what a Laxitute was the name the lacrosse players call the sleezy girls I told her exactly what it meant and not someone she wanted to be. Get off your lazy butts and quit complaining and maybe take your kids on a "mandatory" bike ride. Put rules into place and follow them. Spend more time with your kids and take the time to talk to them.

Today's world is much more tainted than ours was and much more dangerous. Quit bickering and get the drift here.

GROW UP and pitch in.... your kids need you.

Jewelz said...

Anonymous-

I agreed with Tal too… I guess I don’t quite get what you are saying there. Please clarify.

Your daughter is blessed to have a caring and attentive mother. If there were more great women like you, there would be less of what is described in this blog by Bach :)

Tal said...

Smile

If your point is that acting like a twit can get the boy you like to think of you as a twit, I concede your point. Congratulations, I guess.

By the way, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" speaks directly to my point. It is a sensitive expression of a traditional, and totally justified, female concern. In it, the speaker earnestly wonders whether the boys's entreaties are motivated by lust or love. And she wonders because she doesn't want lust. She wants love, and more than that, she wants love she "can be sure of". If it isn't, her "heart will be broken". After all, she doesn't want to be used and tossed aside. She wants the sex to be connected to long-term commitment, respect, appreciation, and love.

Now, can anyone seriously imagine a member of the porn star demographic I'm mentioning here saying anything even remotely like this? That's the whole point. The hope that sexual passion will be connected to something like enduring love would be regarded as hopelessly naive by them. It's not even on the radar screen. "Will You Still Love Me?" could be out of a Jane Austen novel published 150 years earlier. But a generation or two later, those sorts of songs have in many cases been replaced by songs which sound like they were written by career prostitutes, sung by girls dressing and acting like career prostitutes. Why? Because there has been a huge change in sexual attitudes, and I am not at all sure they are for the better.

Thinking that nothing has changed culturally between 1961 and 2009 in terms of "young sexuality" sort of commits you to thinking that Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" treats sexuality in the same way as Britney Spears's "If You Seek Amy" or "I'm a Slave for You". But it doesn't. The first song is a moving meditation by a thoughtful girl struggling with questions about love, belief, self-respect, commitment, and care for her own finely tuned emotional apparatus. The others are cold, hard, and don't even try to contextualize sexual longing.

Anonymous said...

Oh you are so right....I like the twit analogy. That is still true.

I think if you are advocating change in your public school system here is a course outline in our region orchestrated by parent advocates.

Life Skills
This quarter-long course is a required course on a pass/fail basis. This course serves to establish a foundation for understanding the relationships between personal behavior and health. The course examines and discusses the myriad health and social issues that challenge adolescents such as episodic and chronic illnesses, sexuality and relationships, AIDS education, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse, nutrition and eating disorders, community health, and stress and time management. This information is presented through lecture-discussion, review of current and credible health publications, computer programs, and movies. These topics will be addressed in an environment where students will be afforded the opportunity to strengthen their communication and decision-making skills as well as their sense of self-esteem and self-advocacy. Successful completion of this course will depend upon class participation, written assessments, and individual and group projects.

Hope it is of some help.

E said...

This is all very interesting... but I want to address your emphasis on the school system. Yes, there are flaws, but as previously stated, I think society as a whole (as reflected in music, like you mentioned) has changed to the detriment of the school system.

It is difficult for the schools to enforce or reprimand when the threat of a lawsuit looms.

Here's an example of parents suing over detention: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/2608799.stm

Here's another against requiring a dress code: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/19/MNVL19MKMS.DTL

These might not be the best examples but in a quick google search, they illustrate an important question. How does the public school system enforce standards (of behavior and self respect) when parental support (and/or means) is on the decline.

Schools allow students to opt-out of certain activities if their parents wish. With the pledge of allegiance, we have immigrants that refuse to say the pledge of the country their family CHOSE to move to (I make them stand out of respect at least). More recently teachers had to allow students to opt out of hearing a speech by the President of the United States. Agree with his politics or not, it is pathetic that parents don't want their child to hear a little encouragement from one of the most recognizable and important world figures!

The school system is walking on eggshells. And with funds so tight, a senseless lawsuit would strip even more precious money.
By the way... YES! We should offer mandatory "life skills" classes, but who's to say parents won't opt their kids out of those too...

How does this relate to the pornogrification of teen sexuality? If our students don't learn respect in other areas of their lives, why should we expect them to respect themselves sexually?

Sorry if this is disjointed.. tried to be quick. As someone said: Tal's blog, not ours, I'll stop now ;)

Tal said...

With all due respect, I think we need more than a mandatory "life skills" class here.

We don't need "out of the box" thinking, after all. We need to destroy the box altogether.

Destroying the box means destroying the virtual government monopoly on education. That can be done at one stroke: by instituting bold tax-voucher systems (including for religious schools) and relaxing or even abolishing government education standards.

That may sound contradictory - trying to improve education by relaxing government education standards. But it wouldn't be the first time the counterintuitive thing worked wonders. In a nutshell, I think "the state curriculum" is boring, takes no account of learning differences, and overall holds kids back more than it enables them to excel. Let schools establish their own bold philosophies and standards, and let parents choose what they think is best for their children. I can hardly imagine that overall, the results will be worse than jamming every kid on to the same mind-numbing cookie-cutter conveyor belt we do now.

A school of preference might be Montessori, Christian high school, all-boys or all-girls school, or co-ed uniformed college prep, or something else. Overall, I think we would see far better results than we do now.

Do that, E, and you won't have to deal with kids refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance. All you'd have to do is alert the principal, and the kid would be kicked out of school for not conforming to that school's expectations. Let such kids go to the "non-patriotic" school, you know? Unless we've all just decamped to the Island Kingdom of Bachmania, where all could perhaps be started over again, one crucial part of the answer is radical educational pluralism.

Anonymous said...

Life Skills person here.

Mmmmm I live in the States and sounds like the system you are referring to is where? There are so many choices in our school that it is hard to decide what to take? Is this the BC system you are referring to? Is it that in a box?

Tal said...

Life Skills person

Lots of class options within a public school is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about tax credits to cover tuition for all different kinds of schools. That is not the norm anywhere in North America.

As it is, if you want to send your child to a private school, you're dinged for taxes to support public schools, plus you have to pay the extra tuition. This has the effect of severely restricting the number of families who can choose non-public schools.

smile said...

A one-night stand in 1961 was an outrageous act.

June said...

Good post Tal.I completely agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Life Skills person...

OK agreed on all points. However; even though you sound like a trailblazer in many of your posts you cannot just snap your fingers and poof Bachmania is discovered. But then again if Jonah and Noah had not gone forward on instinct and faith who knows, right?

But there is some progress in "your" country one who receives a bursarie or scholarship or grant to a "private" high school can apply for a school tax credit in some provinces.


Let me know when the Kingdom of Bachmania's inauguration is and where the family of bloggers can buy tickets?
Cheers!

Su-Lin said...

I have two daughters, one of middle school age and everything you've written is a major concern.

While I agree that we should teach our daughters to aspire to something more than a pointless and overly sexualized caricature, I also think we need to seriously raise the bar for our young men. If girls should strive to be respected then boys should regard women with respect, regardless of how the girls see themselves.

I also feel that a major part of the problem comes from our western society that has been largely puritanical regarding female sexuality. Now, it would seem, the pendulum has swung to the extreme. Somehow, we have to teach our daughters to be comfortable with every aspect of their biology, without making one aspect more important.

How is a girl supposed to know and be comfortable with who she is if her only choices are "the virgin" until she's 18 and then the "orgasmic creature" when she's an adult? Perhaps if girls were taught that sexuality is a natural progressive aspect of their lives, young women wouldn't be so confused.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I only visit this planet every so often, but boy have I been gone way too long this time! I return to find the poster man for the milk mustache is blushing me with some of his frank words.

Just a thought for rebuilding your boxes. I was a hard kid to reach in school. As soon as I sat at a desk I was wrapped in the best day dreams and sadly teachers thought the best way to reach me was to point this out in the class. The humiliation only added to my already low self esteem and I could only walk home crying in my shame.

Today I suppose I would have been put on those meds everyone is too quick to use on those young and still developing minds. Anything that affects a young thought makers ability to make a thought naturally, scares me to pieces. Science doesn't know what it's doing with its chemicals. Humble opinion only.

My best classes were the hands on ones. Sewing and cooking were great helps at putting my fractions together and a math class of cooking was my best shot at learning. I'm sure shop class works the same way. Recess was my breath of fresh air. A master reset for my attention.

But aren't these kinds of class getting cut first? I don't have kids, so I don't keep up on schools and how they operate these days. I just thought if you are tearing up boxes don't touch the one I'm playing in...I'm having a great time in it.

What fun things do you do with your girls Tal? I love the boy stories, don't get me wrong. Are your girls still of tea party age? A gift of flowers and cake to their parties would set the bar higher in their thinking that this is how men, Daddys and boy friends should treat them. Cake would bring even the older kids there too. Though I'm pretty sure you have it all covered, I just love hearing the ideas.

Remember in your new kingdom, some of the old school was the best schooling.

Audry of Arcturus.

smile said...

While we are on the subject, can you please explain the....T&A... in this video?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMe-LTAOyGM

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Life Skills person.

Anonymous person...don't fret even though Tal seems to believe in smashing all the boxes I am going apply as the curriculum director in Bachmania and if chosen I am going make sure besides Life Skills we will have cooking, and wood cutting, and sewing. Some in the box activities that are actually ridiculously fun.

I looked forward to burning the wood with the first torch although I don't think I ever made anything but passed?

rachael chatoor said...

hi smile!

it's not my place to answer your question but as a fellow reader who finds all of this fascinating, I would love to chirp in anyway. :)

I'm a woman, a mother of a daughter, and I like the video you are referring to. I appreciate the art and I don't find offence in it at all, well, besides the girls being very thin but I am just envious of their figures LOL.

The point here is that the 'women' (not teenagers) look natural and beautiful and they seem to be representing images of curiosity and playfulness. It does not appear (at least to me) as if the women in this video are being sexualized or degraded.

To look at it another way, they have not been stuffed into bustiers, slopped with make up, strapped into 6 inch heels and asked to smile and look sexy while they grind thier booty into some guys face or towards the camera lens.

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Everyone!

It's cold, wet and raining, a bird knocked itself out on my kitchen window, and it's all making me feel kind of crappy.

I thought I would do something that usually helps me lift my spirits, so I'm here determined to give you my prettiest smile:

:)

Well, use your imagination on that one, cause it's also a bad hair day!

Cheers,
Audrey of Arcturus.

Anonymous said...

oops logged on to see if Tal had updated his dialogue..

hope you have a better day Audrey.

Anonymous said...

No, it's just me here, Tal might still be asleep, who really knows?

I just wanted to point out that I did add to a dead topic lower down about ghosts and ancient pasts.

But here, before you go, take some of these boxes with you on your way out. Tal wants this whole corner cleared out. Search them for any ideas that can be recycled, and collapse the rest.

I've never seen a messier mind than this one.

Audrey