The world is becoming more polarized every day. A rational middle ground between extremes appears to be crumbling under our feet until one is left to stand on one cliff or another. If one does not choose to take an extreme stance, there is little middle ground left to stand on. These extremes exist in many areas: political, social, and religious.
In America, overt and bizarre sexuality is becoming the norm, not just in a live-and-let-live way where we try not to be judgmental about an individual’s “life style” choices, but in an active way where we sexualize children starting as toddlers. Young teens are encouraged to wear sexy clothing, exposing as much of their budding bodies as possible. Toddlers are dressed up as little whores and trained to dance provocatively on stage. Twelve year old models are painted to look twenty and posed in erotic positions that grace billboards. Young men walk the streets with their pants around their thighs, their boxers proudly displayed.
Sex scenes regularly viewed on cable and network television would have been considered X-rated just a few decades ago. It is hard to watch a show without suddenly viewing a close up of someone bouncing on top of someone, covered or uncovered. Bare breasts are a norm; bare buttocks of men and women bound across the screen; sexual sighs and bouncing bed springs fill the speakers. These scenes are completely unjustified by the plot. In Monster Ball, Billy Bob Thorton and Halle Barry crawl on the floor in animalistic graphic sex acts. Removing this scene would not change the story one iota, but it would have made it less seedy.
Music videos show a parade of scantily clad women spreading their legs and climbing on the laps of rappers, the camera zooming in on thonged and gyrating backsides. Lyrics include graphic brutal sex and misogynistic imagery. Free porn is easily accessed on the internet.
The nation should not have been shocked when former child star Miley Cyrus, barely clothed, pantomimed explicit sexual acts on stage. This is what she was raised watching. This is what she has learned makes her an adult in our society. We have become an openly promiscuous nation where sex, love, and marriage have been dismembered. Is it any wonder that sex games at young teen parties have become all too commonplace and teen STDs are on the rise?
Madison Ave does not carry all the blame; the mothers of vulnerable little girls and young teens regularly sexualize their own children. One mother, when informed that her daughter wore a tee shirt to school that read “Future Porn Star,” a violation of the school dress code, stated, “I know. I bought it for her. I thought it was cute.” A quick online search found the same shirt still available in INFANT SIZES! Mothers who do try to fight this are fighting the whole combined force of culture and society, a difficult battle indeed.
Schools are just as guilty. One Quaker school in Cambridge, Massachusetts holds annual gay and lesbian pride days where students from kindergarten through 8th grade are taught about gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual “role models”. No matter what one’s personal stance on these issues, it is hard to argue that a discussion of topics such as bisexuality is developmentally appropriate for five year old children. These students should just learn about role models; their sexuality, or race, or religion should not be the issue; all that should matter is what that role model has accomplished.
Surprisingly, advocates for LGBT sexual education do not believe that homosexuality is about sex. Judy Chiasson, Coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity in the L.A. Unified School District, said “LGBT topics are controversial because people conflate them with sex — and, for religious conservatives, sin. ‘People sexualize homosexuality and romanticize heterosexuality,’” If homosexuality isn’t about sex, what is it about? Heterosexuality is sex too, but that sex does not belong in elementary school classrooms either.
Sex in schools doesn’t end there. California passed a law allowing transgendered students as young as five to self-select which gender bathrooms and locker rooms to use. High schools allow fashion shows where barely clad young ladies parade through the auditorium to the hoots and hollers of 18-25 year old males who spend ten dollars a ticket and frequently video tape the show for later use. The school bragged that it is the biggest fund raiser of the year. The fact that they sexually used female students to raise money did not seem to bother them.
Twenty-first century public schools frequently use texts which include blatant sexual content. This has been brought in gradually over the past decades, slowly anesthetizing parents to what would have been appalling, causing national outrage, only a few decades ago. Many texts include what has become almost obligatory rape, pedophile, incest, or homosexual scenes (See some excerpts below. Be forewarned of content).
Without question, popular American culture has lost a sense of propriety, modesty, and decency. Parents who try to fight this culture are treated as uptight prudes, religious extremists, or homophobes. Those who try to remain chaste are made fun of as in the movie The Forty Year Old Virgin. Others who speak out against this permissiveness are once again accused of ageism, racism, sexism. This is another pattern of behavior that has also become part of our culture—accuse anyone who tries to challenge this permissiveness of committing the sin of intolerance, thus making them anathema and silencing them.
On the other hand, there are places like Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates where a raped woman goes to jail or is stoned to death rather than the male rapist who must have been tempted by the evil woman. That is, unless there are five male witnesses to the rape. In these countries women are regularly forced to wear the walking jail cell called a burqa, because “the face of a woman is a source of corruption”. Less extreme requirements still demand the hijab and clothing covering a woman from neck to ankles. There are no such modesty requirements for the men who generally wear Western style clothing.
These cultures are so afraid of female sexuality that they regularly mutilate their little girls’ genitals, often without anesthesia. One hundred and forty million little girls have been given a lifetime of pain and health problems along with the denial of a full sexual relationship with their future husband, a basic part of their humanity. These societies are also so afraid of uncontrolled male sexuality that they use this as the reason women must be imprisoned in their own clothes. Ironically, as much as America has become promiscuous, we are currently allowing such puritanical and misogynistic sexual oppression into America and American courtrooms, denying rights, freedoms, and protection to these poor women living on American soil.
To get back to the original point of extremes, society appears to accept that we can only have one or the other, Sodom/Gomorrah or Saudi Arabia. Any attempt to push back against the overt sexuality and promiscuity in American society and American schools raises cries of outrage from those who threaten us with women left barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen or the public shunning of un-wed mothers. They see homosexuals being burned in the public square and cops in the private bedrooms of married couples ensuring missionary position only. It is either Brave New World or Sharia Law.
But there is somewhere between these two and we need to find that place again.
This cannot be legislated; it cannot be enforced, but it should be a choice made by America to return to propriety and decency, to tell the young men to pull their pants up and young ladies that twerking will not earn respect. We need to refuse to buy CDs full of violent and sexual imagery. We need to turn off the television shows that raise ratings by raising the intensity on sex and violence. We need to get explicit sex out of schools. We need to talk to our children about why permissive images and actions are destructive to their lives. We do NOT need to buy tee shirts for our babies that read “Future Porn Star” and call it cute. And we should be ashamed if we do, because shame is a powerful teaching tool, one which we have forgotten how to use.
Dana R. Casey
Be forewarned that the excerpts below contain graphic language and imagery
Eleventh Grade Exemplar Text from Common Core assigned to a tenth grade class in Sierra Vista, Arizona: Excerpt from Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García
“Hugo and Felicia stripped in their room, dissolving into one another, and made love against the whitewashed walls. Hugo bit Felicia’s breast and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs. He knelt before her in the tub and massaged black Spanish soap between her legs. He entered her repeatedly from behind.”
“Felicia learned what pleased him. She tied his arms above his head with their underclothing and slapped him sharply when he asked.
“‘You’re my bitch,’” Hugo said, groaning.
“In the morning he left, promising to return in the summer.”
Twelve Grade English Text in Baltimore, Maryland: Excerpt from A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:
Above me, towards the head of the bed, Serena Joy is arranged, outspread. Her legs are apart, I lie between them, my head on her stomach, her pubic bone under the base of my skull, her thigh on either side of me. She too is fully clothed,
My arms are raised; she holds my hands, each of mine in each of hers. This is supposed to signify that we are one flesh, one being. What it really means is that she is in control, of the process and thus of the product. If any. The rings of her left hand cut into my fingers. It may or may not be revenge.
My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not say making love, because this is not what he’s doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for. There wasn’t a lot of choice but there was some, and this is what I chose.
Therefore I lie still and picture the unseen canopy over my head. I remember Queen Victoria’s advice to her daughter: Close your eyes and think of England. But this is not England. I wish he would hurry up.
Maybe I’m crazy and this is some new kind of therapy.
I wish it were true; then I could get better and this would go away.
Serena Joy grips my hands as if it is she, not I, who’s being fucked, as if she finds it either pleasurable or painful, and the Commander fucks, with a regular two-four marching stroke, on and on like a tap dripping. He is preoccupied, like a man humming to himself in the shower without knowing he’s humming; like a man who has other things on his mind. It’s as if he’s somewhere else, waiting for himself to come, drumming his fingers on the table while he waits. There’s an impatience in his rhythm now. But isn’t this everyone’s wet dream, two women at once? They used to say that. Exciting, they used to say.
What’s going on in this room, under Serena Joy’s silvery canopy, is not exciting. It has nothing to do with passion or love or romance or any of those other notions we used to titillate ourselves with. It has nothing to do with sexual desire, at least for me, and certainly not for Serena. Arousal and orgasm are no longer thought necessary; they would be a symptom of frivolity merely, like jazz garters or beauty spots: superfluous distractions for the light-minded. Outdated. It seems odd that women once spent such time and energy reading about such things, thinking about them, worrying about them, writing about them. They are so obviously recreational.
This is not recreation, even for the Commander. This is serious business. The Commander, too, is doing his duty.
If I were going to open my eyes a slit, I would be able to see him, his not-unpleasant face hanging over my torso, with a few strands of his silver hair falling perhaps over his forehead, intent on his inner journey, that place he is hurrying towards, which recedes as in a dream at the same speed with which he approaches it. I would see his open eyes.
If he were better looking would I enjoy this more?
At least he’s an improvement on the previous one, who smelled like a church cloakroom in the rain; like your mouth when the dentist starts picking at your teeth; like a nostril. The Commander, instead, smells of mothballs, or is this odor some punitive form of aftershave? Why does he have to wear that stupid uniform? But would I like his white, tufted raw body any better?
Kissing is forbidden between us. This makes it bearable.
One detaches oneself. One describes.
He comes at last, with a stifled groan as of relief. Serena Joy, who has been holding her breath, expels it. The Commander, who has been propping himself on his elbows, away from our combined bodies, doesn’t permit himself to sink down into us. He rests a moment, withdraws, recedes, rezippers. He nods, then turns and leaves the room, closing the door with exaggerated care behind him, as if both of us are his ailing mother. There’s something hilarious about this, but I don’t dare laugh.
Dana R. Casey is a veteran High School English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system. She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.