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01:59 pm: “A healthier, less puritanical culture”

Just read an article in the TV Guide on sex on TV. (It included the amusing line about a teen show having a sex scene “your grandmother is too young to see” ) One of the people interviewed praised the growing amount of smut on TV with the comment “The more comfortable we are talking about sex and portraying sex, the healthier we are as a society. We’ve been far too puritanical as a culture.”
 
…?…

When did the idea get started that puritanical cultures were unhealthy? Didn’t that come from Freud and his repression theory? Hasn’t Freud been discredited psychologically for some time now (among psychiatrists)?
 
What evidence do we have that more puritanical cultures were unhealthy? Are we assuming that all cultures in the past were unhealthy? What about the fact that the only cultures in the past that have been very open about sex – the word decedent comes to mind – were gigantic empires spiraling their way down into destruction – such as Babylon and Rome.
 
What constitutes a healthy culture? What does a healthy culture entail? Would it be one where children have sex, abortions are high, many marriages end in divorce, many families are being raised by single mothers, family itself is not valued, and suggesting that people should write decent books for kids – or even that there is such a thing as decency at all – gets people all hot and bothered?

Granted, I would also agree that a culture that keeps its women bound up and out of sight is also not my idea of a healthy culture. Nor a culture that relies on fear to maintain its control.
 
And yet culturally – not individually – ancient Athens, where the women were kept out of sight, was a much healthier culture than Sparta, where the women had great power and freedom – if your standard for healthy culture is: it continues and does not fail due to lack of population. In Sparta, the sexes lived apart and seldom bothered interacting with each other.  Sparta fell because their population dwindled to the point that they could not maintain their style of life.
 
And yet, isn’t it possible to have a society that stresses the rights of the individual and yet does not encourage decadence? 
 
Makes me wonder:  what was so wrong with the Victorians again?


Comments

From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 26th, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)
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How about one where the rights of the individual are balanced against the responsibilities of the individual to the whole?

So children who aren't prepared to raise babies are raised to be responsible enough to not have sex till they're ready. Marriages are more stable, less divorce on whim/lack of 'romance'. Family is valued and so are the mores that make civilized life civilized.

I think we've swung too far to the rights side of things and have forgotten responsibilities.

Elaine T.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 26th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
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My husband often quotes someone (either C.S.Lewis or G.K. Chesterton) who says that there are two ways to fall off of a horse -- in other words, any idea can be abused to the extreme in too ways. Too much repression is not good. Too much freedom, to the point of licentiousness, is also not good. I guess Aristotle put it pretty well when he said: "Moderation in all things."*

Everytime I hear someone say "Well, they'd be doing it anyway." I think, "Well, maybe they wouldn't, if we bothered telling them not to."

*('Moderation in all things' -- my husband tells me this does not actually mean: "Roleplaying all the time!")
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 26th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
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I've certainly read something like that in Chesterton. Lewis may have borrowed it, as he borrowed other things.

What I would respond to those who say "they'd be doing it anyway" is "not necessarily." We have examples in Africa with the AIDS handling. The most successful countries at cutting back infections aren't the ones with the "they'll do it anyway, just tell them to use condoms" approach. They're the ones that work on changing the sexual behavior.


If anyone is interested I can probably dig up references, but don't have them at my fingertips.

And they did it less, when we did bother telling them not to.

We've gone from trying to be more than animals, to just following our animal instincts and calling it good. Well, it's not. We're better than that.


Elaine T.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 26th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
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I used to be a big supporter of many of the ideas I'm objecting to now. I remember the moment I began to change my mind: a story came on the radio that said that abstinance programs -- the kind where girls get all fired up to keep their virginity -- were producing less teen pregnancies than places where Planned Parenthood went in and taught about birth control.

"Can't be!" exclaimed I.

The announcer then explained why. He said: Birth control requires a person to be careful, and teens are not good at being careful. Abastinance requires them to be idealistic, and teens are good at being idealistic.

At this point, my jaw dropped and rolled down the road and I had to jump out of the car and roll after it, because, of course, he was right. Teens are good at being idealistic, and they are not good at being careful.
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From:mindstalk
Date:March 26th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
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See, I've heard the exact opposite: that abstinence programs don't work. Abstinence requires them to be idealistic *and* perfect. Sex-ed with birth control gives them something to fall back on. And the US has the highest teen pregnancy and teen STD rates in the developed world, with the UK after us; the Dutch, who have much more aggressive sex-ed, also have lower rates, and later age of sexual activity.

Evaluations:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/education/18abstain.html
http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/stateevaluations/index.htm
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 27th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
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I've heard both, and all sources are tainted.

That's why I default to pointing to the AIDS in Africa results - it is possible to change sexual behavior - without getting stuck in the American minefield of youth sex-ed.

umm... someone said they'd been looking at the Theology of the Body - you might try looking for the new translation, done by one person, instead of committee and from JPII's original Polish manuscript. The first was done from the Latin translation of his original Polish, and there were multiple translators who (apparently from what I've heard) didn't talk with each other much about consistency in terminology. Or Christopher West has made a career out of simplifying the whole thing for those who don't want to wade through the original.

What I've gathered of the whole point is that you are both body and soul, both need to be respected, and sex is a very potent thing. Treat carefully.

Like a loaded gun.

Elaine T. (Have the recent translation, haven't finished slogging through it.)
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 28th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I'm generally aware that there are simpler versions out there. So far I've been satisfied with the two-page synopsis in the U.S. Catechism for Adults. Maybe if I ever make progress with all the other spiritual reading I want to do, I'll add it to my list. :)
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:07 am (UTC)
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It depends upon how the program is done. There are a number of different approaches. Just urging kids not to do anything obviously doesn't do much. But kids are idealistic. When they do pick up ideals, they can really run with them! It gives them a great sense of accomplishment. A few of the abstinence programs have taken this approach. This was the kind that was being reported upon the time I was listening to the radio.

Personally, I think a spirited abstinence program with a good background in how birth control worked and where to get it would probably cover the ground pretty well.

But I agree with Elaine -- changing the attitudes toward sex is the issue. It is perfectly possible to be both open about what it is (ie, not hide it under doylies like Victorians) and still put across a respect for the sacredness of it, to emphasize that it is not merely another form of recreation, but something intended to take place within a marriage.

Will everyone go for this, of course not! But some people will. The more we hold to the message, the more people will listen. Even if the overall number is small compared to society in general, those who do listen will be better off -- certainly my girlfriends who chose to live the other lifestyle now wish they had not!

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From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:21 am (UTC)
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Just had a chance to glance at the top link. Boy, did that make me laugh. Government sponsored abstinance programs? I didn't even know they were doing that! What reason do they give the kids? Hey, abstain because...well we can't mention any greater power, so do it cause we think it would be nice...reminds me of the atheist skeptics who wanted a group of scientists studying the power of prayer to give them an experiment that the atheists could reproduce...but who would the atheists pray to?

No, I'm not surprised that government-sponsored abstinance programs don't work.

The abstinence program I heard about on the radio was church sponsored. To be an ideal, something has to have some substance behind it! I can't imagine that having teachers come in and tell us about abstaining would have had a big affect on my friends and I either!


From:necoras
Date:April 6th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
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No, government sponsored abstinence programs don't work... most government sponsored programs don't work very well. In my case it was the the teaching of my parents that ingrained that particular idea in my head. I knew of people having sex in the youth group, just as I did at school. As with most vices which hit teenagers in today's society the impact of the parents is grossly ignored to the detriment of the child.
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From:arhyalon
Date:April 6th, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
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I cannot imagine that an ideal based teaching that had no strong moral ideal, such as a church, behind it, could touch many people.

Parents, on the other hand, can make an impression! I listend to mine on many many topics, and the ones where I fell short were, interestingly enough, areas where my parents presented an ambiguous answer.
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 26th, 2008 05:57 am (UTC)
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>When did the idea get started that puritanical cultures were unhealthy?

I've heard stories of girls thinking they were dying or something when they began menstruating because the subject was too taboo for someone to explain it to them. I think that kind of thing would be an example of unhealthiness in a puritanical culture.

But yes, moderation in all things, and our culture is way too far on the anti-puritanical side of things. It's odd though. Sometimes I think that our society's obsessed-with-having-sex approach to life actually has more in common with the puritanical obsessed-with-suppressing-sex mindset than people realize. For starters, there's the obsession with sex. But also, both devalue the body. The puritanical mindset makes out the body and its pleasures to be evil. Our culture treats the body and its pleasures as trivial. Both deny the (proper, imo) Christian approach that sex is special, important, good, and the more we believe that, the more we want to protect it, the way we want to protect a rare and beautiful 5000-year-old vase.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 26th, 2008 12:16 pm (UTC)
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Yes, marriage is ideal. We women were designed for it. In very rare cases, a celibate life may be worth pursuing or necessary by circumstance, but on the whole denying sex/marriage is surely counter to God's wishes and can lead to corruption of the mind and the body.

Having said that so very puritanically, let me add that I think basic health classes that teach about things like "night emissions" and menstrual cycles (preferably in segregated groups)are a good thing.

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From:arhyalon
Date:March 26th, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
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I agree. A basic understanding of physical life is certainly good.

But that's quite different from being constantly bombarded by songs, books, movies, TV shows, etc that all preach 'live for today' and 'they are going to do it anyway.'

I'm not in favor of censoring this stuff. I am in favor of each of us trying to live up to a higher standard and encouraging others to do so, too.

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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 26th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
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I know of no way of stopping it given the current judicial system...unless we get so spooked by the desire to be kind and accepting to Muslims that we are forced to respect -their- way life and views by cutting back on the live for today philosophy.

Unfortunately the push for Christian standards has been equated with low intelligence, and if there's anything the ACLU, who influences much public policy including that of my own city council, respects, it's intelligence, as they define it of course.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 26th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
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These things change, though. It was not so long ago that the ACLU itself was an underdog fighting for recognition.

I think the image of Christianity is changing. Partially because more people are returning to it (like your husband and mind,) partially because of Christian Radio, and partially because the existance of Liberal Christians is something that people are becoming more aware of. (The Liberals think of themselves and intelligent and are more impressed by their Christians than by Conservative ones. They tend to think the Conservatives are ignorent regardless.)
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From:saintjoi
Date:March 26th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
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And even celibates must realize that the married life is a GOOD THING; that they are, in fact, exchanging one good for another. Even Augustine, in his book On Holy Virginity, spends quite a bit of time telling the celibates that they must NEVER look down on someone who is married.
And even then, the celibate is to be gruitful: the fruitfulness just takes a different form (which is one reason I'm trying to spend more time with my god-daughter this year).
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 26th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
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You are Anglican, yes?
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From:saintjoi
Date:March 26th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
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Yep! High Church Anglican, hoping and praying for eventual re-uniting with Rome.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 26th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
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Not keen on the celibate priesthood, are you? I think it puts the men (and women) in a terrible dilemma and frankly is responsible for some pretty reprehensible behavior.
Voluntary celibacy is one thing, but it is surely better to wed than burn.

The earliest history of the Church didn't follow that rule I understand, and I think it was better, much better.

It's one of my biggest gripes with the Catholic Church, which is why I asked your affiliation.
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From:saintjoi
Date:March 26th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I'm not totally sold on the insistence on celibate priests, though I agree with a lot of the ideas behind it.

I tend to like the Orthodox way a lot: you can be married, but only celibates can be bishops.

Though sadly, being married doesn't make a priest immune to reprehensible behavior.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 26th, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
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No, it isn't a cure-all, but the celibacy requirements keep a lot of good men out of the cloth. And the Church really needs good men now.

I can't help but think that requiring young priests in training to forego all pleasures of the flesh while their blood runs hot and they are surrounded by young men who are similarly tempted can not be advisable.

I'm not sure why bishops would benefit from celibacy. Recluses, surely, but bishops?
I am curious as to your reasons.
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From:mindstalk
Date:March 26th, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
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Doesn't Paul say that a bishop should have no more than one wife? How things changed...
Ah, 1 Tim 3.2, with a gloss saying he meant should have been married no more than once. I guess none of Jews/Greeks/Romans had polygyny -- well, at the time, vs. patriarchal Jewish history -- so that makes sense.
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 26th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
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>It's one of my biggest gripes with the Catholic Church

Fortunately (imo), the Catholic Church classifies mandatory celibacy as a discipline and not a doctrine. This means Catholics are free to disagree with the Church's choice, in a way they are not free to disagree with, say, the Church's teaching on the immorality of homosexual sex. Not that that stops people. :) (Still required to obey discipline, though.) Anyhow, although I wouldn't classify it as one of my biggest gripes, I'm with you on the Church should get rid of mandatory celibacy.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
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Any chance of that happening? she asked hopefully.

I can name a half a dozen good Catholic men in my not particularly Catholic small town who would make excellent, non-celibate priests. They are all happily married and raising large families.
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 28th, 2008 05:48 am (UTC)
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Yes, there is a chance of that happening. However, there is not a good chance of it happening anytime soon. Partly because the Catholic Church moves at glacial speed, and partly because there isn't enough popular support for it yet. There's a pretty healthy support for dropping mandatory celibacy among American Catholics, but we're quite outnumbered by the Catholics in the Southern Hemisphere, and most of them are too concerned about poverty issues to care about the things Americans talk about. But I don't give up hope altogether; I'm 27, I might live to see the requirement dropped.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 28th, 2008 09:26 am (UTC)
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I'll mention it to my husband. It will give him something to focus on during his "prayer for unity" at mass.

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From:annafirtree
Date:March 26th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
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>I think basic health classes that teach about things

I generally would prefer that kids learn these things from their parents. But health classes to catch those whose parents won't do it aren't a bad thing either.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 26th, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC)
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In my own family, in the 1800s, I had a relative from a very well educated branch who was convinced she was bleeding to death when she got her period. Such things were simply not spoken of! Highly immodest!

Better to know.
I am of two minds about sex education. Not knowing how one gets pregnant would be worse, and vivid pictures of STD's might frighten the kids off sex for quite a while.
That said, I am not keen about promoting a culture of permissiveness. (she added starchly)
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:09 am (UTC)
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I guess I have two minds about teaching kids about how contraception works (will it promote permissiveness or is it just knowledge), but I don't have any second thoughts about teaching them all about STDs, getting pregnant, etc.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
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I had a great aunt who thought she was pregnant (actually skipped her period) because a boy kissed her on the cheek. ;-)
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
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I don't know what health class is like now, but when I was in school, it covered these topics but did not really delve into them. That's about perfect. Let's you know what is out there, but doesn't go as far as, say Holland, where the health class goes over "which positions are comfortable" (at least according to my Dutch friend. ;-)

Also, in our area, at least, you can opt out of programs like that.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 26th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
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You make a really good point!

I don't think any of us want to see the repressive parts of the past come back, and yet there should be a way to reintroduce the value of love and marriage to the idea of sex.
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 26th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
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Pope John Paul II did some writings that are collectively called the "Theology of the Body". I tried to read some of it once, but it was very scholarly and difficult to wade through. When the U.S. bishops put out a catechism for Americans, it included a brief two-page summary of the ideas. The main idea that I got out of it was the idea of our bodies being ourselves. Most of the sexual sins are a result of our modern view of our bodies as something that we possess, as objects to be used for pleasure, rather than as part of who we are. I think emphasizing the need to never treat any part of a person as an object is a good start at showing the value and worth of love and marriage.
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 26th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
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Addendum: Plus we need to just keep emphasizing the dignity of all people. Sex problems get so much worse when people think of themselves as trash.
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From:saintjoi
Date:March 26th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
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Yes! This was driven home to me when I took my best friend to go see a movie the other night (we saw Horton Hears A Who, which we loved). There seemed to be only two types of clothing for the girls: the meat-market approach, the goal of which seemed to be to show as much skin as possibile; and the lassez-faire approach, which was usually joggingwear, grubby t-shirts, or shabby jeans. I thought, "None of these girls realizes that she is an image of Beauty. They may think they look hot, or attractive, or pretty...but none of them is showing that they are beautiful." Most of the guys around them didn't seem to look at them as images of Beauty, either. It was so sad!
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From:annafirtree
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
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Yes, that's just it. And it really is sad.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:13 am (UTC)
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That is sad...people hardly even dress up for church anymore (though at the Easter service, everyone looked very nice.) I always dress up and make the boys at least wear a nice button shirt.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
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A really good point!
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From:mindstalk
Date:March 26th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
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unhealthy: I have no links, but have seen reports of studies that cultures more open to physical contact and teen sexuality had lower crime rates.

decadent: the high decadence of Rome was around when the Republic turned into Empire. Things were a lot more puritanical by the time the Empire fell.

healthy culture: abortion tends higher in Northern/urban states, but syphilis, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, murder rates, and suicides tend higher in Southern states. Divorce rate too, though that may be because more people get married early to avoid extra-marital relationships, vs. living together and breaking up without marriage. I don't know if it's healthier to try marriage and fail vs. putting off marriage until the couple intends to have kids.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 26th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
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>unhealthy: I have no links, but have seen reports of studies that cultures more open to physical contact and teen sexuality had lower crime rates.

Then, how come the crime rate has risen so much in the last several decades? It used to be safe to let one's children roam free, for instance. Now it is not.

On the other hand, such a study may exist. I've also seen a study that showed that crime increased when ice cream sales increased. No cause and effect there, of coures, but you could not tell that from the study.
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From:mindstalk
Date:March 26th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
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1) Good question. Of course, there are other factors at play -- economic, migration, loose communities, poor social policies, the war on some drugs, demographics. And the US is a more crime-ridden society than others in the First World -- which also tend to be more sexually relaxed. Perhaps that was the basis of the study I dimly recall.

2) Eh, it often still *is* safe to let children roam free. You wouldn't know it from watching local news, of course. But a lot of parents strike me as paranoid without cause these days, especially ones in good neighborhoods.

3) I found a handy table of crime rates since 1960 (scroll down for the real per capita table). Rates definitely went up, but they also went down -- murder peaked in 1980, other crimes in 1991 or 1992. I don't know what it means for the argument -- but did you know that the chance of being murdered or robbed or burgled is almost half what it used to be, 16 years ago? Murder's almost down to where it was in 1960.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 26th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
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1) have nothing to add

2) I live in the same town in which I grew up. We walked everywhere. I can not let my kids do the same. The creeps feel very, very entitled to be creeps, and by checking the sex offender database, I can find 4 that live in a 2 block radius of our house.

3) I can think of 2 factors that would play into that. Population/age is one. Baby boomers hitting the violent years and then getting too old to be vicious. Second, I think a lot of potential violent offenders are being swallowed up by video games.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 27th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)
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>3) I found a handy table of crime rates since 1960 (scroll down for the real per capita table). Rates definitely went up, but they also went down -- murder peaked in 1980, other crimes in 1991 or 1992. I don't know what it means for the argument -- but did you know that the chance of being murdered or robbed or burgled is almost half what it used to be, 16 years ago? Murder's almost down to where it was in 1960.

Well, that's encouraging! Teen pregancies are also down in the last ten years or so, which is also nice.
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From:princesselwen
Date:April 27th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
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Well, from what I've heard about what the Puritans actually thought--sex was good as long as it was within marriage.
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