Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Wow -- New Puritanism

I am blessed, or cursed, depending upon the day, to have to respond to complaints from customers who have an image of the company I work for whenever they feel that image has been tarnished. Most of the time, it is, at minimum, amusing. Sometimes, we've genuinely screwed up. And at other times, I'm blown away by the amount of time they've taken to complain about what they're complaining about.

I can't go into details about the issue lest you, dear reader, figure out where I work. I will say that lots of Christians buy the stuff we make, and have assumed we're a "family-friendly" (read Christian-friendly) company. They call, email, and send letters (even written on a typewriter!) if one of our commercials is shown during a program they find objectionable, which is their right as Americans. They threaten to boycott. They clip pictures of the things they find offensive and send them in. Of course, being the bleeding heart I am, I don't see what the fuss is about, but then again, I'm not a home-schooling, stay-at-home mom in a small town run essentially by the pastor of the church with the largest congregation.

Sex is the great uniter and the great divider. Sex is a necessity and a luxury. Sex has a desired end result and more unplanned results. Sex needs nothing and can be enhanced by something. Commitments are made involving sex; inclusive or exclusive. Sex brings joy and pain. Sex can include pain to bring about joy. Sex brings pride and shame. We think we know everything there is to know about sex, and often find we know very little.

In my limited observation, I've concluded that the average American has an emotional age range between 12 and 17. At 12, lots of things appear to be fixed and in place; hair that wasn't there now is, the plumbing works, even if it doesn't work great. Sexual encounters happen, even to our chagrin, at 12, but the 12-year-old doesn't have the emotional maturity to deal with the moment after. Moving on through to 17, the plumbing improves, the experience is a little better, but a 17-year-old is not much more prepared than a 12-year-old for the moment after. Adolescents act on their impulses. They test their reasoning skills and their boundaries. They are completely selfish. While they are malleable enough to believe what they're told, they also challenge authority. Every testament to previous experience is pooh-poohed in favor of self-discovery. And, the psychosexual adolescent believes and sticks to what they learned about sex between the ages of 12 and 17 until someone comes along with an absolutely compelling argument to the contrary.

I think back to my own adolescence. In addition to trying to find my own way despite the iron fist of my mother, my overly developed body (courtesy of growth hormone-laden dairy, eggs, and meat) was almost constantly flooded with desire. I made quite a few sexual mistakes, and by sexual mistakes, I'm not limiting myself to things related to the sex act alone, but also to sexual relationships. I'm thankful that more than a few people came along with aforementioned compelling arguments and I began to listen to my internal voices. I started piecing things together, and I'm confident that at the current age of 38, I'm probably about 30 psychosexually.

If you're stuck in adolesence, sex, body image, nudity, relationships are scary as hell. If you have a lousy body image, seeing what you think is an ideal body sets your electricity out of whack. If you're comfortable with someone else telling you what your sexuality should be, anything contrary makes you nervous. The craziest bumper sticker I've ever seen says "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it." According to who? American nationalists are quick to preach the glories of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, yet want to limit how you live your life. America is rapidly spiraling toward theocracy, shaped by extremes in puritanism. Victoria's Secret, explicit lyrics in music, the hinting of or outright depiction of sexual chemistry between 2 adults that don't appear to be a heterosexual married couple are all demonized.

I agree that I don't need a sexy redhead to sell me cereal with dried strawberries, but a healthy diet makes everything better, including sex. I agree that sex for me is the best it's ever been because of the person I'm married to, but not everyone should be or can be married (and no one should be married to my wife except me). I agree that random, joyless encounters; hetero-or homosexual, eventually lead to loneliness, but you can't keep people from discovering what is their true path despite the pitfalls they may encounter. There is always a better way, but it depends on who's driving and in what direction. Can't we all just share the road?


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