Monday, April 22, 2013

Prudery and Prurience in Modern America

Apparently, America is of two minds about sex. You might say that it is a house divided against itself.

Victor Davis Hanson notes the seemingly incoherent mix of prudery and prurience:

Graphic language, nudity, and sex are now commonplace in movies and on cable television. At the same time, there is now almost no tolerance for casual and slangy banter in the media or the workplace. A boss who calls an employee “honey” might face accusations of fostering a hostile work environment, yet a television producer whose program shows an 18-year-old having sex does not. Many colleges offer courses on lurid themes from masturbation to prostitution, even as campus sexual-harassment suits over hurtful language are at an all-time high.

One might say that we are a nation of self-righteous hypocrites. But you knew that already.

The truth is, we are still living through our very own sexual revolution. We have been told that it is good to speak freely and openly about sex. More information absorbed earlier is better than blind ignorance. In the name of knowledge colleges sponsor symposia on the proper use of a dildo or on the best ways to find pleasure.

Prepubescent schoolchildren receive lessons in gross anatomy. People speak openly about anal sex at cocktail parties. In the name of knowledge people have learned far more than they want to know about female genitalia. And, let’s not forget, young men consume prodigious quantities of porn. To the point that young women feel that they have to compete against Jenna Jameson. 

It has gotten so bad that modesty has become a joke.

How many young women still imagine that they have some power over whether a man can access the mystery of feminine sexuality? You cannot feel like a gatekeeper when what you are offering is available all the time for free.

It might not have been what the proponents of “free love” had in mind, but that is what it has come to.

So, women are now free to explore their sexuality as they wish. They are free to advertise their sexuality to whomever. They have a constitutional right to do as they please, when they please, with whom they please.

What’s the point of holding back? What’s the point of being coy and modest about sex?

Was modesty just a social construct that vanished with all those other anti-feminist injustices? Was it merely a form of patriarchal repression, designed to enslave women and prevent them from having more, better orgasms?

But, what happens when young women get involved in the hookup culture or the friends-with-benefits culture and feels ashamed?

Are women even allowed to feel shame or must they believe that if they feel badly about what they have done, the fault is with those who are saying bad things about them?

Obviously, the culture is militating against feminine modesty. Yet, most women are not very successful at numbing themselves to the anguish. When they follow the current culture’s dictates they do not feel very good about it.

Of course, this presents a choice. Surely, young women need to retake possession of their modesty and their self-respect. Considering the amount of sex talk  and sexual images out there, it is not self-evident. Still, they do have the option changing the way they are conducting their romantic lives or shifting the focus to those who are failing to respect them. 

They shift the blame to men. It is true that many young men today do not respect young women. In part, this derives from the fact that too many women act as though they do not respect themselves. In part, it comes from the fact that men have gotten their sex education from pornography. In part, it is a function of a culture that talks about sex all the time.

So, women do not like the way men look at them. They do not like the way men treat them. Yet,they fear that if they become more prudish they will never have another date. So, they find a fallback position:  they overreact to the least workplace slight or the least sexual peccadillo performed by a public figure.

Let’s say that a modern woman who lives as the culture seems to think she should live will have to develop a thick skin. That means, she will desensitize herself. The culture dictates that she wears thong underwear and string bikinis and have lots of sex... what’s a girl to do?

Obviously, she is not going to feel very good about this. So, she will try to find emotional balance by becoming thin skinned, that is, hypersensitive about a man who makes an offhand remark at an office meeting or about a general who has cheated on his wife.

Do the extremes of thick and thin skin balance each other out? No, they do not. They produce a level of mental conflict that often requires psychiatric help.


n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Women should make themselves available for sex and taxation.

As for individual dignity, they are defined by their body parts, both individually, and together.

You've come a long way from "barefoot and pregnant", baby!

Sacrifice an innocent, unwanted, inconvenient human life for sex and taxation!

Were women ever perpetually "barefoot and pregnant", or was that a simple narrative constructed to grossly distort reality?

Well, dreams of material, physical, and ego instant (or immediate) gratification have consequences, despite the promises made by political, economic, and social opportunists.

Forward... to dysfunctional convergence. It's time for another civilization to take the lead.

Sam L. said...

They came to Casablanca for the love.

They were misinformed.

Kristi said...

I can't tell you how many times when someone is sexually transgressive I hear other people start their criticism with "I'm not a prude, but..." Its as if to reassure others that there will never be any judging, at any time of anyone, for anything they may do in the sexual realm. Everyone has given up on expecting even a modicum of dignity and modesty.

True story from this weekend: DH and I went to a baseball game and then to a sports bar that you can walk to from the stadium. A girl and a guy were engaged in some pretty involved kissing when he stuck his hand down her shorts to her crotch. When she pulled away he shoved her, hard. 5 minutes later she was back with him, doing the same thing.

n.n said...


If men and women are truly incapable of self-moderating behavior, and, in particular, incapable of controlling their baser urges, then that does not bode well for their, and our, continued liberty. The prerequisite to enjoy liberty is individuals capable of self-moderating, responsible behavior.

Dennis said...

Well stated Kristi.

We are responsible for our actions. Only in a world of moral equivalency could it be otherwise. I can understand why the Left would like a world in which it is always somebody else, something else, et al that is responsible because all things become possible.
If one lacks the intellectual capacity to present a well thought out argumentation for their positions and loses the debate then of course it is the fault of the opposition for not just agreeing. This has got to be a case of intellectual "bullying" so it would be perfectly acceptable to take action against them.
Anywhere there might be a difference of opinion, without personal responsibility, it is possible to believe that violence is perfectly acceptable to, as the Left likes to try and enforce a S.T.F.U, destroy the opposition by whatever means.
Because feminism has become an integral part of the Left it is perfectly aligned with not taking responsibility and that every things is always somebody or something else that is at fault. What a nice utopian ideal?
We are slowly devolving into a country that will find a justification, no matter how heinous the action taken, to shift the blame from the perpetrators of that action. Without responsibility there is NO freedom. Personal responsibility is the key to freedom.

Anonymous said...

"From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history; a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder -- most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure -- that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved."
-- Daniel Patrick Moynihan, from "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" (1965)

Prescient, no? Forget about the racial component of this quote and the timeframe of the original work. By now, you can see all this in the wider culture. It is a consequence of the breakdown of the nuclear family as the base unit of society and the wider social structure that grows from it.

As Hansen indicates in his piece, people are responding quite predictably. And the State is the only remaining actor that has sufficient authority to defend, which it wields as a reaction to what has gone before. Women want the benefits of femininity on parade, but simultaneously demand protections from the (predictable and insatiable) animal instincts they unleash.

Then we ratchet the stakes higher with pornography in fashion, media, education, etc. The resulting chaos is not very surprising, is it? And the feminist Marxist critique is always the same: more, more, more... of everything, including the full range of pornography and its attendant behaviors, which become a "right," believing it to be a manifestation of the feminine mystique and its unique, overt power. Then they want protection from the brutish male beast that cohabitates the planet with them, a de facto reversal of he Adam and Eve narrative, which is the source (or Genesis) of their social complaint.

All this leaves us all equally miserable, dependent and at war with one another, just as the Marxists (of all varieties) would have it. Indeed, it is again the... predictable outcome of the philosophy and its promoted remedies. We ask for, and get, the chaos we deserve.


Anonymous said...

From my comment above, where I describe the Adam and Eve narrative as the source of the Western feminist social critique, I am referring to the idea (seen on bumper stickers) that says "EVE WAS FRAMED."

In this analysis, it was all a setup, because of "this man you put here with me." (Genesis 3:12, revised) And that is the core feminist critique: we must reframe the Biblical explanation of the root f human condition, because we feel it blames us in some way. What is the result of such a belief? The woman as victim... no shared responsibility for the fall of man (as in "humankind"). The status quo ante: a merry life in the Garden of Eden.

It's just as it occurs in the film "As Good As It Gets" (1997), when a woman asks Melvin Udall how he writes women so well: "I think of a man, and then take away reason and accountability."

Life without consequences. The Leftist dream. Coming soon to a Hell on Earth near you. But I don't want to be ethnocentric, as this is limited to the Western, Judeo-Christian feminist critique. But isn't that the philosophical and economic construct that the Left says is ruining the world?


Dennis said...

Obama may not be a Marxist, but he is almost as dirigiste as one can get without being a Marxist. Like the Marxists, Obama needs us to be at war with each other in order to control us. Feminist and feminism is just a useful tool to accomplish his goals. He will throw them "under the bus" as soon as it becomes political expedient.
Women, especially feminists, have yet to figure that they are the reward for men who will be willing to give up freedom, et al to accept dirigisme.

Dennis said...

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Re: Tip at 6:31-- thanks for reminding us of the Moynihan quote. If he had said it today he would have been run out of town on a rail.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, we agree about the feminist cause being the most convenient victim group in the Democratic bloc. And yes, they will be used. There is no "War on Women." I remain disgusted with the media for even covering such silliness.

However, I must take you to task on your portrayal of Obama. He is a socialist, and his motivating philosophy is clearly Marxist.

The man is a socialist, but he's not a communist. That said, his worldview is about as hook, line and sinker Marxist as it gets. As I've said many times in these comments, the man has not learned anything since college.

Here are some Wikipedia entries on Marxism and socialism:

I choose Wikipedia because it is the easiest to reference, and the first intro section for each piece covers the definitions as well as anything else I've seen as a summary. Plus, with Wikipedia, you know that these topics are getting a fair shake, given the leanings of their content updaters. All kidding aside, I like Wikipedia, for the most part.

People are wise to define and use their terms properly. Obama is a socialist, and is informed by Marxist ideology. His father was a Marxist. His mother was a Marxist. His mentors were Marxists. I don't care if they were avowed communists. I care about their operating philosophy: how they look at the world. It's uniformly Marxist. If it walks like a duck...

But what Obama won't acknowledge is that Marx actually got it wrong, at least in terms of what's going on in the modern "knowledge economy" that funnels Democrats money all day long. Marx claimed that the proletariat (labor class) was as powerful, if not more powerful, and a fundamental necessity to production. This is increasingly becoming less and less of the case. I suspect that most people today, even Lefties, would acknowledge that the "creatives" in our midst are the indispensable men/women. Our contemporary economy could never function at the levels it does now if the creative class wasn't as productive as it is. So modern Marxist interpretations effectively overvalue mass labor. It is important demographically and politically, but not as important economically as it once was. It was in Marx's day, but not near as much so today.

So Obama is informed by this Marxist interpretation of the universe, and it doesn't work effectively anymore. Things are too fluid. Land, labor and capital aren't fixed. Well, the land is, but modern transportation makes distances much smaller. This is what so-called "leaders" in decaying urban centers (like Detroit) don't understand. If people don't like the way one city is functioning, they have options... they just move to another. That's why Obama's Marxist outlook is stymied: he cannot control the movement of labor (talent) and capital (money) like his predecessors did. So he corrals all the victims together and attempts to bludgeon economic producers with democratic trump card: he wins a majority and thinks he's got it made. Not so.

Look, I don't want this to come across as a condescending economics lesson where we argue over terms. But it is important to note that socialist policies alienate the creative class because said policies restrict a creator's freedom to act. If they don't have the desired level of freedom, they can move and find it somewhere else. It's like "Atlas Shrugged," where all the productive people go live somewhere their values are honored and create a barter economy. Why else would you give your hard-earned money to a bunch of looters and hopelessly dependent people (the ones who choose to check out)? Obama doesn't understand that. He thinks he's doing everyone a favor. And that's why this economy is in the toilet. He doesn't get it.


Anonymous said...

One other thing to add to the 1:57 PM post above...

I actually do not think this a lot of this economic change is such a great thing. As clueless as I sense Obama is about the shift in the economy, I want to be clear that I don't think this economic shift is a good idea on both economic and moral terms.

The destruction of manufacturing and industrial capacity in this country is devastating. What people are failing to understand is we have to be able to make things. This is true for our standard of living, as manufacturing creates wealth. But it is also prudent because a service economy cannot flourish if it doesn't have robust industries that produce something. I am disgusted by how much industrial capacity we have allowed to leave our shores and go to the communist Chinese, among other pillars of human rights in the "global economic community." It is unwise to subject your nation's labor to an uneven world market of wage and working conditions. That creates a race to the bottom. So that's my brief treatment of the economic argument.

The reason I believe this is morally indefensible is because we are subjecting our national labor against low-wage countries, while we continue to allow our education system to go down the tubes. We are effectively damning a large number of our fellow citizens to lives of destitution when we declare a "knowledge economy" and do not support it with effective education and maintain high education standards. When we do not provide robust support, we write off a substantial portion of our population to poverty. There is a significant number of people who are incapable of doing knowledge-type work. This cannot be corrected... we have to concentrate resources on the new generations. But to put up our hands and let them go on the welfare rolls is amoral. Manufacturing is a possible alternative for them, but not when our industrial capacity is being off-shored wholesale. It is a travesty. Forget about the whole social justice crowd, just consider that it's not just by any standard.

So while I lament and excoriate Obama for his silly philosophical perspective, I do not besmirch him for wanting something better for those not as well off. It's a nice thought. But it is rank hypocrisy to subject a huge proportion of the population to the world labor market when you are aligned with teachers unions who are opposed to the kinds of reforms we desperately need to compete effectively. I could go on, but I'll stop here.

In summary, I am very concerned with where this country is going on a number of different levels. We are not investing in and supporting the practical, can-do culture that made America great. We are pursuing all the wrong things at our peril. What's going on in Europe should be a wake-up call. What happened in Boston should lead us to some real soul-searching on a number of levels. The out-of-wedlock birth rate is a national catastrophe. We are entertaining ourselves to death.

At the same time, all is not lost. We can reverse this trend if we focus in on what's real. That's why I love this blog... I find Stuart's contributions and the thoughtful comments from readers are uplifting, reminding me that I'm not alone, that we really can focus in on what's real and come away with getting this nation back on track. It's never too late to embrace truth.


Dennis said...


I think we are in agreement. I stated "maybe" for a purpose of causing people to think about the term Marxist and then used a term whose definition is quite close to Marxism. The minute one uses the term Marxist one can here a significant number of minds close.
To further my use of the "Pink Police State," even though I did not identify the link, I will add:
Women are slowly being degrade and "nudged" to a position that does not bode well for them. One of the prime drivers of this is feminism, "slut walking," et al.

Anonymous said...

We're in congruence, Dennis. Thanks for allowing me the space to ramble on and explore this topic.