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“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?
|Date:||March 26th, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)|| |
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.
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!")
|Date:||March 26th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
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.
>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.
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.
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.
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).
>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.
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.
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.
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.
>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.
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.
Well, from what I've heard about what the Puritans actually thought--sex was good as long as it was within marriage.