I’d rather swim in a pool than in a lake or the ocean. The pool has what the ocean or lake doesn’t; cleaner water and what I consider easily understood safety rules or absolutes such as:
The pool has an edge that I can grab onto, where I can easily hold myself up, look around, catch my breath so I don’t have to tread water.
It has an ankle-deep area for toddlers to safely play with mothers watchfully hoovering.
It has the three- foot area for anyone to play and/or safely practice their swim strokes. Your feet can touch the bottom of the pool.
It has swimming lanes for people who want to swim laps and not bother others.
It has a noodle lined rope that divides the pool into a shallow non-diving area and a deep end where people can safely dive off the diving board.
The pool is all about safely enjoying the water. There are easily understood rules and penalties for those who don’t obey the rules. We don’t argue about the rules. Being at the pool is uncomplicated, it is safe, fun. There are clearly defined boundaries. I like clearly defined boundaries.
So, what does this have to do with health class? There once were clearly defined sexual boundaries that boys/men and girls/women didn’t argue over. There was a right and a wrong that was agreed upon and maybe ignored, but you felt bad later as opposed, to the pool rules. There was NO Sex-Ed class, NO Abstinence Education, NO how to say No lessons yada, yada, yada. Most people knew the boundaries and stayed within the boundaries.
With the memory of the Harry Weinstein scandal, sexual harassment allegations, METOO movement, gender identity, our student’s ability to access porn on their phone, boy/girl and now boy/boy, girl/girl relationships teaching Sex-Ed is harder. Yet, we have to prepare our students to assertively negotiate thru these situations. Years ago, a thrill was when a boy and girl liked each other and one day their hands accidently met and held. Now a thrill is when boy successfully persuades a girl to sex text. My friend related to me her granddaughter’s first boyfriend experience. He asked her to text him a picture; a naked picture of her. She smiled, waved him off and plotted her revenge. Smart Girl. She asked his mom, if she had bought her son his smart phone. Mom’s reply was No,” Why do you ask?” Her response was, “He asked me to text him a naked picture of myself. It’s a felony to produce and distribute pornography and since I’m 15 it would be a felony if he possessed this type of picture. I thought you might want to know.” This is an example of being assertive, that is code for speaking nicely with dignity while standing up for yourself. She didn’t give in to his request (passive) nor did she get ugly and tell him off (aggressive).
We have to train our students to recognize who is the real friend, protect their future and know how to effectively say NO. She learned these skills in health class. We learned how to be passive, aggressive or assertive on the playground while negotiating who was going to do what, when and how during recess. Kids don’t have recess anymore and if they did, they’d be texting to each other instead of talking face to face using eye contact. We (health teachers) have to up our game with this generation. Our police department is going to each high/middle school to educate about pornography laws to our kids. It’s on their phones. You do know, there is no stigma to watching porn. As in, I saw this while watching porn. Want to try it?
Years ago, parents, neighbors, society guided young people by modeling good behavior. There was a conduct code for movies and television shows. Role models were presented and celebrated. I don’t see too many role models anymore. This has bothered me; I’ve wondered, how did we, how did our culture get here. I’m a bit of a history nerd. When you read history, you see patterns of behavior and you draw conclusions. What I’m about to share, has helped me make sense of our deeply sexualized world. I haven’t figured out how it can be used in the classroom. If you can figure out how to bring it in the classroom without a complaint, let me know. Some history is not appreciated. So, I begin a cultural history of sex. You may see parallels between now and the past.
Throughout the ancient world, sexuality was infused into every part of society. Men had sex with women, with men and or with both; with little girls and young boys, with one partner and/or with several, with animals (bestiality). They achieved orgasm with inanimate objects (sex robots are now available), dressed in women’s clothing (now panties/bras), by watching people having sex; by fondling themselves, children of either sex; by listening to a woman’s voice (now phone sex), and by looking at pictures of bodies and parts of bodies (porn available on phones).
Did you know? I’m betting you don’t, I sure didn’t. “In the ancient world, sexuality was not divided between heterosexuality and homosexuality. That division was the Torah/Bible’s doing. Before the Bible, the world was divided between penetrator (dominate/active partner) and penetrated (passive partner).” Sex was about doing something to someone. It didn’t matter who or what. All you had to be was the object of a sexual desire. There was NO sexual right or wrong (morality). Gender or species wasn’t an issue. Socially, it was better to penetrate than to be penetrated.
Who was the penetrator? Someone who was physically strong, dominate, powerful, had status/position in society, and/or wealthy. Who was the penetrated? Someone who was not as strong, as powerful, or protected, who didn’t have enough status/position in society (slave, woman, child) or wealth to protect themselves.
This was the norm. Every civilization did this. It was their culture. As we all know if everybody is doing something, it must be OK. Until it’s not OK. There is an undeniable moment in history when one group of people stopped being like everybody else. As you know, when you are the only one, you are the focus of negative attention. A comparison is being made and that creates insecurity.
The historical Mount Sinai moment written (Torah) in history where God and a specific tribe of people mutually chose each other, changed their way of thinking and lifestyle. There was a conditional covenant, I will be your God and you will be my people. If you obey my laws you will prosper and I will bless you. If you disobey my laws you will not prosper. There was a list of absolutes, (we call them, The 10 Commandments which was a code of righteous conduct) and a long list of laws the Jews would live by. If they were obedient they would be blessed, if disobedient well…..you know. Of course, they disobeyed, just like we do. But these laws were not a changeable MAN based law, these laws came from a specific GOD named Yahweh to a specific people. These laws only applied to them. Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage. This changed the world. You might even say it was the 1st sexual revolution. This was the first building block of Western Civilization.
Throughout history, societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. (When Charles Darwin sailed on the HMS Beagle (1831) to explore land and water around South America, Galapagos Islands, Australia, and Africa, he saw primitive life. For 5 years, he saw primitive man. His nightmare was always the same, the face of the barbarian.) Yahweh’s law demanded that sex was placed in the home, in the bed, face to face with husband and a wife. Sex between husband and wife was to be a fundamental spiritual interaction where two people became one spiritually and they would be fruitful (children). The status of Jewish women was elevated compared to other civilizations. Compared to all the other societies in the neighborhood, the Jews were the weird ones. Below were God’s specific unarguable laws. (We used to refer to these as absolutes. The narrative today is, there are no absolutes. Everyone is different. What is right for me, may not be right for you).
Man shall not commit adultery – can’t have sex with another man’s wife. It was punished in Biblical times with death. Now days that is considered harsh and unreasonable. 3,000 years ago, the view was, adultery killed relationships between the wife/husband, the children. It was the ultimate betrayal that brought misery to everyone. (In every case but murder, the overwhelming evidence suggests the death penalty was there to teach the severity of the offense rather than the actual punishment to be enacted.)
A man shall not look at another woman with lust. This was in the adultery category. This would make the production, distribution and possession of pornography a capital crime. Now, it’s just a felony. You go to jail for a few years and get put on Sex Offender List.
Man should not commit incest. The law was clear and protected children from sexual abuse by a family member. Punishment was death. Stealing a child’s innocence is theft. Thou shall not steal.
Man shall not have sexual relations with an animal. Punishment was death There was a Talmudic law that Jews were forbidden to sell slaves or sheep to non-Jews, lest the non-Jews engage in homosexuality and bestiality.
Sex between two people not married to each other. Punishment was death.
Man shall not have sex with another man. It wasn’t just forbidden. The Torah used its strongest term of censure to describe homosexuality. It was an abomination. It was punished by death.
To understand how revolutionary this was, you have to understand how universally accepted, valued, and practiced homosexuality was and continues to be throughout the world. Over 3,000 years ago Judaism ALONE declared homosexuality wrong. It was regarded as the evil equivalent of child sacrifice which was practiced by the peoples living in the land the Jews were about to conquer. Child sacrifice and homosexuality characterized the morally primitive world.
Judaism regarded Homosexuality as an enemy of women. In societies (then and now) where men sought out men for love and sex, women were regarded as unimportant and in a secondary position. The improvement of women’s lives has only occurred in civilizations the least tolerant of homosexuality. Judeo/Christian sexually morality has historically (then and now) been different (higher) than cultural and social norms.
If you are in the over 50 crowd, you grew up knowing most of the above. Society still agreed with the basic tenets mentioned above even though the cultural influence of religion was weakening. The parents of this generation were even more supportive and were fearful for their children because the sexual revolution was in full swing, these new ideas (free sex, live together, marriage is just a piece of paper) were seductive and they might/would influence their kids. The birth control pill was approved for distribution in 1960’s. With the fear of pregnancy removed, sex could now be viewed not just as procreation but entertainment too. Though people do get pregnant in spite of being on the pill, the fear of unplanned pregnancy went away. So was a girl’s default NO to sex before marriage. If you “got pregnant,” there was personal shame, family embarrassment and a shotgun wedding. A shotgun wedding was the father of the bride’s way of encouraging a two-parent family. In the early 70’s doctors were becoming concerned about the rise of the STD rate. Abortion became legal in the U.S. in 1973. Abortion was a way to relieve a man from fulfilling his responsibility as a husband and father, provided the girl was cooperative. If she wasn’t, there was always Aid to Dependent Children, being a working single parent, and a girl’s opportunity to get married was lessoned significantly.
Once upon a time Sex was expensive—the rules of supply and demand are real. Because of the male sexual nature, there was always a demand for sex. Because of the boundary of social/behavior expectations and the fear of pregnancy the supply was limited. People married.
Our students live in an age where Sex is very cheap. The demand is still the high. The supply is wide open. There are lots of choices to pick from: online porn, friends who send pictures, friends with benefits, living together, alcohol fueled hookups, dating apps? Marriage rates are down, single parent families rates are up. Historically this is not good for society.
There are a lot of people who like to swim in the ocean, where there are no boundaries to stop their progress, they don’t want their feet to touch the bottom, they like the waves and the wind and they are willing to take their chances with the occasional shark.
I’ve always been more comfortable swimming in a pool.
The book, The German War by Nicholas Stargardt answers the question “Why was Poland the theater of the Holocaust?” The SS needed somewhere no turbulent priests would interfere, where their work could be kept really secret, where European (Western) civilization had already ceased to exist. By 1941 with Poland and parts of western Russia in the Nazi’s hands, they had just the place. Reinhard Heydrich, “no one was going to object.”
Western civilization was built upon: Jewish and Christian faith, Greece, (reason), Rome, and the Enlightenments of the sanctity of human life, common decency, tradition family values. By 1941 Poland was a wasteland, their army was defeated, what was left of the government was in England, the leadership of the church was killed or in hiding, millions were dead.