This post was initially inspired by a discussion with a friend on Facebook related to the Five Star Wars Memes That Need to Be Retired Permanently. In the wake of the Anthony Weiner scandal, it seems somehow appropriate to come back and write it now.
Our culture is obsessed with three things:
I’ve pontificated repeatedly about our collective love of individual self; I totally get the irony of using a blog to do that. I avoid discussions about our obsession with death because there are certain third rails in that discussion where people lose rationality, and I try to keep things civil (mostly).
But the sexuality thing irks me.
It irks me not because I’m a prude. I don’t think that I am; I’m a fan of individual liberty to reasonable and unreasonable points both. Unlike a lot of people I know, I legitimately welcome differences. If you want my opinion about how we’ve handled our liberties, though, I’m not a fan of it.
Corrupting the Innocent
Protest though he might, Anthony Weiner’s dirty talk scandal has now involved a seventeen year old girl. (And besides, when you’ve demonstrated that you’re comfortable lying on a sociopathic level for more than a week after you’ve been caught, you’ll forgive me if I’m incredulous about your denials.)
While eighteen is rather arbitrary for the legal establishment of adulthood, it’s generally accepted as the starting line for real maturity to begin. There was an understood line of protection drawn there.
But we’ve entered an Age of Cynicism fueled by convenience. Basically, you don’t have to work at it anymore. There were guardians at the gates, who wouldn’t sell a kid a dirty mag under the age of eighteen (although newsstands in New York City are historically a little lax in carding). There were locks on doors and places you couldn’t go until you were 21.
Sure, you could sidestep the rules. But that took effort. If you think about it, it gave you a life skill. You had to think through an objective, form a plan and execute. Junior executives in the making.
And if you got caught, you became a salesman. One of the four from Glengarry Glen Ross.
“The Mainstreaming of Porn”
That phrase is taken from the discussion thread with my friend on Facebook. When he posted it, I agreed completely that it’s a factor.
The Internet has just made it too damned easy to access prurient material. Since it has, no one seems to see a point in leaving the wall intact. There are concepts that need to be introduced gradually, and instead there’s a shocking jolt into it.
You want evidence kids aren’t mature enough to handle it? Try this article. You could also read this one. And those are just the top two on a Google search using safe search words that won’t put me in an FBI database.
But we have little girls dressing in sweatpants and outfits with words like “Porn Star” and “Juicy” embalzoned on their butts. What a way to teach a little girl that her greatest worth is determined by how much someone wants to do things to them in a bedroom setting. How about letting them just be honest children and not grow them up quicker since it’s easier for us?
Am I a little more sensitive since I have daughters? It’s undoubtedly a factor. But I like to think I’m just more alert for the iceberg that’ll take us down. I’d rather sound the alarm early. And since no one did sound the alarm, it’s just snow-balled from “subtle sexual undertones” to “how much can we show and stay PG-13?”
Nothing is Sacred
The worst part is that nothing is off–limits anymore. Even jokes meant for children are seen in a sexual light. We’ve been trained to look at everything as if we’re pubescent boys who’ve lost control of our hormones.
Think back to 1983. Princess Leia in the slave girl costume. It was a statement about modern femininity beholden to old sexist attitudes. Protest all you want, but in a film series where the filmmaker viewed the Empire as an analogy for America and later inferred that a mass-murdering psychopath was an acceptable analogy for an unpopular president, that’s what it was. He operates on that level.
Besides, if Jim Cameron can toss that stuff around about Aliens and True Lies, it’s fair game here.
Anyway, we’re unable to look at that image without sexual connotation anymore. Thanks to that insipid show “Friends” (mercifully fading in time), we all remember that damned episode (or in my case, ads for that damned episode) where Jennifer Aniston put on a rough approximation of the costume for sexual fantasy.
At that moment, something tied to a good and pure memory from childhood was forever linked inextricably to sexuality. We couldn’t leave our childhood alone, we had to turn it into some Paul Verhoven-esque sex trip.
My question is, why can’t we leave it alone? Why have we fallen into the trap of recasting everything through a sexual lens? I reject the notion that it’s unavoidable and that it’s healthy. It’s corrosive.
Let kids be kids. They’ll have enough time to worry about the world. We’re the freaking adults; let’s stop abdicating our responsibilities because we want to be our kids’ friends. As parents, it’s part of our gosh-darn job to protect them. They don’t need to know about sex until we can tell that they’re ready. Same for a whole lot of other things; why would I tell my daughter about the Middle East, or anything political, unless my intent was to validate myself by creating someone who’ll repeat it back to me?
It’s not funny to have kids grow up too quickly, it’s damaging. It affects their ability to relate to others emotionally and without cynicism. And as the problem increases, our ability to function with each other in society decreases.
Sure, I sound like I’m ready for the nursing home. But I’m not giving ground on this one.