Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Our increasingly confused sexual boundaries

In the latest issue of National Review, Theodore Dalrymple uses the Michael Jackson trial as a springboard to discuss the societal disconnect between protecting children both from sexuality and, in our crazy PC way, from an absence of sexuality:

Those future historians (assuming that an interest in the past survives) will be struck, I suspect, by the confusion in our society concerning sexual boundaries. On one hand, almost no sexual display is forbidden, and the most casual of liaisons is perfectly normal; on the other, university professors dare not be alone in a closed room with a female student for fear of accusations of sexual misdemeanor, and in some offices the most mildly flirtatious of remarks is taken as little short of rape. Extreme licentiousness thus coexists with a Puritanism that out-Calvins Calvin. One minute we are told that anything goes, and the next that we must carefully censor ourselves for fear of permanently traumatizing anyone who might overhear supposedly salacious remarks. At last, Herbert Marcuse's concept of repressive tolerance seems to make some sense: We can do what we like so long as we live in fear. This is not our only confusion about sexual boundaries, of course. Our society is extremely condemnatory of the crimes of which Jackson is accused -- he faces a prison sentence of 20 years, far more than he'd get for many other offenses -- and yet it sexualizes children earlier and earlier in their lives, with sex education starting almost before they know anything else. Part of this education entails the ethical proposition that no sexual activity between consenting people is wrong or to be condemned, and we bombard children with materials that suggest that a lack of sexual experience by the age of twelve is a failure and a failing; and yet we affect to believe also that premature sexual activity has a permanently adverse effect, being ultimately responsible for all sorts of maladaptations and miseries later in life.
I've noted before the fact that, if you go to a mall, the girls are dressed like street corner hookers, with heavy make-up, come-get-me shoes, bared midriffs, and visible bras (if the latter are even worn). The boys, conversely, are dressed like three year olds: backwards hats, shirts too big, pants falling down, collapsing socks, and untied shoes. And I can't help wondering what messages these mis-matched children are sending and receiving, both to each other, and to society at large.