We are a nation obsessed with sex. Fascinated by it; driven, titillated and entertained by it. We idealize it for commerce, romanticize it for cable and fixate on it for…well, pretty much everything else. We’ve iconicized our porn stars, peeped gleefully in on our randy athletes, pumped and plumped and pummeled our bodies into Ken and Barbie ideals of sexual beauty, God knows how many of us are actually getting any but, damn, whatever we’re getting we can’t get enough!
Yet even with all this hypersexual oversaturation we still seem to have generated a culture of women with not a sexual boundary or moral compass in sight (men’s wives and children be damned), and a complementary tribe of men who seem hell-bent on destroying their lives, careers, families and reputations for the sake of that one body part that speaks the loudest and can’t ever seem to stay put (you know the one). There’s much to be said about the various women in these equations but for the moment, particularly given the Weiner roasting of late, let’s focus on the fellows.
What’s the problem, guys? Illuminate us.
Why do so many high profile men seem incapable of keeping it in their literal and metaphoric pants? Off their social media pages? Away from their cell cameras? Out of their nanny’s, videographer’s, intern’s, best friend’s wife’s, or local prostitute’s…bed? What is this unequivocally self-destructive proclivity and why is it so prevalent amongst today’s politicians?
(Though, mind you, it’s not just a problem of the high-profile; I’m sure there are plenty of low-profilers with the same self-destructive tendencies wreaking havoc on their own marriages, families and jobs. We just ain’t hearing about ’em because they’ve got less distance to fall and the resulting “thunk” doesn’t resonate as loudly. These higher-profile guys? Meteor blasts of destruction all over the damn place.)
There are tomes dissecting the phenomenon being written by psychologists, doctors, therapists and scholars who know much more about the mind and its machinations than I, and their analyses will surely cover the mental, emotional, psychological and cultural pathology of this dysfunction. Me? I want to talk about Mom, Dad and the Sex Talk.
Even in this more enlightened age, I well remember an exchange I had with a fellow mother when my son was in middle school. The conversation came around to sex and she asked how I approached that red-hot topic with my son (she literally leaned in and whispered the word “sex“). I very matter-of-factly said, “We talk about it. Always have. Ever since he started asking years ago and will until the day he stops asking. Always age-appropriate, always clear and candid, always on both the emotional and physical aspects of the question, and on any sex related topic he wondered about.” She literally gasped and shook her head in awe, “You’re so brave.”
What does brave have to do with it? Why does it take courage to talk to our kids about sex and its many wonders, complications, and responsibilities?
Because, despite our libidinous public appetites and ravenous over-consumptions, we remain a distinctly and counterproductively Puritanical society, deferring to our various religious, ethnic and cultural mandates – and personal timidity – to keep us from honestly and openly dealing with this very real, very important element of life in candid conversation with our children. We’ll allow them to watch sex in movies, music videos, TV shows and the pole-dance parties currently all the rage for young teens (seriously), but we get squeamish about face to face, eye contact inducing, heart to heart talking on the topic. In some homes it’s Topic Verboten (yes, capital letters). In others, it’s considered too private and personal to get beyond bromides. Still others glibly figure “the school’ll take care of it!” and, most damaging, the families for whom sex is too connected to sin and so off-limits that discussion is moot and repression is inevitable, leaving all future pendulum swings assured.
The result of this panoply of avoidance and ignorance is that too many children grow into their adulthood carrying the same sexual questions, confusions, fixations and repressions ignored or imposed in their childhoods, with no language developed to talk about the quirks and questions of their darker corners with anyone, inclusive of wives (particularly), friends, colleagues, even therapists. It’s all pushed down and put aside and out of conscious view and this cauldron of denial inevitably ferments into a great soup of sexual dysfunction and/or destructive acting out that results in the tawdry and embarrassing scenarios that seem to fill our 24/7 news cycle.
As for why so many politicians? Well, add to my thesis the traits endemic to the political personality – ambition, drive, arrogance, entitlement, perceived social immunity and the “sycophantasy” support system a celebrity or politician (the same?) so often accrues – and you’ve got the perfect storm of Bad Behavior Enlarged.
As more families are shattered, constituents disappointed and “good” wives are left to painfully stand by their errant, damaged men, I say, Parents, start now. Start talking to your kids about sex. REALLY talk to them. More than once, many times over the years, as often as they need or want to, even when they don’t want to. Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Discuss every detail offered, analyze every urge expressed, leave no thought ignored, let nothing be too private. Make no judgment, acknowledge their natural sexuality, and let shame nowhere near the conversation. Guide them through the gauntlet of its power and pull to get them safely to the other side of adolescence clear on what healthy sexuality, emotional fidelity, sexual integrity and personal discretion look and feel like.
I swear, if at every step of the way the questions and curiosities of developing children were openly met by wise, fearless parents and mentors who would honestly and compassionately answer those questions, we couldn’t help but develop a healthier society of sexually rational men who don’t play out their lifelong repressions behind sex and porn addictions, wolf-pack foraging, social media exhibitionism, clueless sexual acting out and, ultimately, personal and very public self-immolation.
And note I said “wise, fearless parents and mentors…” Huh.
Maybe it does take bravery.
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.
24 thoughts on “Sex and Sensibility”
Men are scum. I hate to say it but so many will say anything and do anything to get what they want. In our teen years we thought all our friends were having sex (at least they said they were)and we felt that to be cool and part of the group we had to have it too. I personally found it easier to lie about it as I had too much Catholic guilt to lead a girl on just for bragging rights. Luckily, most of the girls I liked in my youth were a virtuous lot. I’m not sure that that holds true as much today with all the influences on society. The thing I can not understand is why so many high visibility men risk their marriages and careers for a little bit of short term pleasure. I guess I’m old fashioned at times in thinking that it’s got to be the whole package to mean anything. I spent a lot of time waiting for the right person to spend my life with and I would never jeopardize that. As Jimmy Carter said, I have had lust in my heart but that’s as far as it ever went. The best we can do for our kids is, as you said, answer their questions in an age appropriate manner and keep the lines of communication open. The only thing I would add is to lead by example and let your children see their parents treat each other with care and respect. Great article
John: Your perspective is so delightfully virtuous and refreshing in this somewhat cynical, certainly ethically challenged time. I think there are probably many others who wisely know that good, healthy, meaningful relationships require a level of integrity akin to yours, but it seems we hear more about the dysfunctional set, don’t we? I’ve been tempted to write a blog about marriage and simply announce to these men: “JUST DON’T GET MARRIED.” It’s not mandatory and they don’t seem to understand the concept. I don’t know why anyone is confused about what marriage is supposed to be; perhaps the confusion lies in how to conduct that contract. It’s the old “I want it both ways”; I want the wife, kids and happy family BUT I also want the videographer, the nanny and those 300 girls on the internet. Gluttony that ultimately destroys the things most loved: the wife, kids and happy family.
My theory holds, I believe, but your comment about leading by example is also so true and so important. As is learning that sometimes the most important agreements we enter into demand self-control and wise choices, something this cattle-call of errant men can’t seem to fathom. I feel deeply for their wives and certainly for their embarrassed,
discomforted children who have one less good example to learn from.
Thanks for your very wise comments, John. Always appreciate it. LDW
Yes. Every kid has so many questions, and sex ed doesn’t come close to answering them. We all get bombarded with the “glamorous” effortless sex you see in movies, and then expected to use good judgment when no one has talked about physical realities, awkwardness of all kinds, STDs, or emotional repercussions. Or for that matter, the honest-to-goodness positives that movies don’t usually get to.
When the only message is all image and no substance, no wonder people underestimate the consequences and look for love in all the wrong places.
Sarah: Your line “no wonder people underestimate the consequences” is really at the crux of this. It seems to me consequences are always the thing most forgotten, most ignored or avoided. But they’re never too far away and they ALWAYS ultimately arrive. I can remember so many times of telling my son, “there are consequence to your actions.” I wonder if these men we’re discussing were ever taught that, if they forgot it, or if they refuse to accept that the maxim applied to them. Either way it’s a sad disconnection from truth that ultimately causes a bigger disconnection from their families and friends. Hard to think the trade-off was worth it. Thanks for your comment, Sarah. Always good to hear from you! LDW
Thank you a lot for sharing this. It’s the first “sensible” thing I’ve read on this story. If only people would take it to heart and be more aware of what kids need to grow into smart caring adults. Too late for some but hopefully people will pay more attention now.
Thanks, Grace. I’m sure there are many angles to explore on this…human behavior is a complex, mystifying thing sometimes. But I truly do believe this would be a step in the right direction. I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment. LDW
Wow, superb weblog and some thoughtful points made. My two sons grew up knowing what was what and my wife and I made sure they got all their questions answered. I don’t know if that played a part in the good men they are, but it couldn’t have hurt! I know their wives appreciate the honor they’ve brought to their marriages and that’s what matters. You made some solid points.
Stu – I’d hazard a guess that your caring attitude about how your kids learned about about life and sex and marriage DID play a role in the people they turned out to be. Certainly it doesn’t all fall on the parents, but we start the process and how it starts has a big part in how it evolves. Congratulations to you for obviously doing a good job in raising some good men. Can’t ever have enough of those. LDW
To: Website owner. Great job with this blog. This is a story that is getting a lot of attention but I think your take is very close to the bone and probably right in a lot of ways. Made me think. That seems to be the point.
Thanks, Marty. Anything any of us can do to provoke more thought on this is a good thing. Appreciate your stopping by to leave a comment. LDW
The women involved are not blameless. What about the nanny with Arnold? Or John Edward’s baby mama? Or Lewinsky or these girls trading pictures with Weiner? I’m not saying the guys aren’t wrong, they are, but it takes two to tango. I do feel sorry for the wives and kids but these women are as guilty. Guess acoording to you they should get the sex talk too.
Yep, Mauricio, they should get the sex talk too. I was focused on the men involved in this story for the obvious reason that in the gender politics of our time, the powerful men involved are the ones with, well, the power, the ones taking the greatest risks, doing the most damage to their families and careers, and garnering the most publicity. They’re the ones who had an understood commitment to a wife and a job that required their integrity. The ones calling the shots. Sexual politics in most cases involves a power paradigm such as that, it’s just the way it is in this world…which is why sexual harassment laws have come into place in the work environment. It’s usually powerful men preying on less powerful women.
The women you mention? Yes, certainly they are culpable and have their own moral housecleaning to do, I agree with you on that. There’s another article to be written that discusses why women allow themselves to be party to the ultimate and inevitable destruction of a family and a career. Why women think their “rescuing” of a deprived or misunderstood husband is justification for hurt, dishonor, betrayal and the absence of integrity.
But there are differences; certainly in the case of Weiner most of the women who received inappropriate photos from him did not solicit them and were not all that thrilled to get them. In some of these cases the women were manipulated and taken emotional advantage of. Nuances exist. But everyone involved needs to get clearer on the concept of fidelity, marriage, honor and simply doing the right thing.
Maybe I’m idealistic, but I maintain that Mom and Dad and Father and Rabbi and Teacher and Mentor imprinting those honorable themes and clarifying and defining healthy sexual behavior from a young age on lays the groundwork for what will ultimately be an honorable way of life. LDW
Seriously, you think the problem with these guys is the sex talk?? Come on. Really??? I doubt even if they had their mommies and daddies talking to them every day they’d be any less egotistical, arrogant, ignorant or self absorbed. Knowing how babies are made won’t stop you from thinking you’re too cool to get busted for posting pictures of your crotch on the web or dumping your wife for a bimbo. Power, sex, with not a c are about the people your hurting. These guys are just idiots and no sex talk would change that.
Y’know, Joan, I get your point. I don’t think the sex talk can keep a dysfunctional sociopath from hurting the people in his life, but I DO think caring, constant and candid intervention from parents from a child’s early childhood on would go a long way toward preempting a lot of self-destructive and inexplicable behaviors in adult life.
I would guess that someone like Anthony Weiner has all sorts of psuedo-sexual issues, confusions and fixations he’s carried with him from the get-go that have now led to his spectacular crash n’ burn. I can’t help but think that for a smart guy like him – one who clearly knows the reach of the internet, seems to sincerely love his wife, and is obviously passionate about his public service as a congressman – to bring it all down around him in such a stupid, creepy, sexually-compulsive way, there HAS to be a lifetime of confused, muddled sexual thinking that needed some early-on guidance from someone. A parent, a teacher, a mentor, a therapist…but it all starts with the parents, doesn’t it?
That’s all I’m saying. Will healthy sex talking keep crazy from being crazy? Probably not. But it might help a normal, questioning, curious youngster evolve into a sexually healthier adult than some of the examples we’ve seen in the press these last few years. If nothing else, it can’t hurt. LDW
fabulous , very articulate, with a smart view on a very stupid situation. I like it a lot, wish more people would write with thoughts and ideas instead of just the gossip. I come acoss this article by yahoo search engine. I shall visit your site weekly and recommend it to my friends. Please keep it fresh. Keep on the good work. – A techie
Thanks, m. Always appreciate new people finding my site and enjoying the articles. Hope you do make it back from time to time! LDW
I agree with your arguement. Too many people are afraid to talk to their kids and their kids end up being so messed up about sex that it isn’t funny. When I see the music videos my daughter is watching I have to talk to her about it or she’d end up dressing like a porn star! I don’t know what happens when she leaves home but while shes here we talk. thanks for making the point.
Exactly, Camila! Talk is exactly what parents need to do with their kids. I see those videos too and it’s amazing how “far” we’ve come since the early MTV days, when it was risque to dance around in torn fishnets. Ah…cultural evolution in all its many layers! 🙂 But since you can’t control what goes on out there, good that you’re taking the steps to control what goes on in your family. That’s where it all starts. I appreciate your comments and good luck! LDW
Oh yeah!!! The sex talk!! You better believe it. Didn’t get it myself, make me a crazy kid, drove me to behave like a crazy woman, and finally i met a guy who wasn’t crazy and figured it out. i got lucky. Not so true for many. These guys who are ruining their families and their marriages need to get real and stop letting their sexual compulsions rule their lives. I feel sorry for them. Like me they didn’t get the sex talk (you made me laugh when I read that but it’s SO TRUE!) and it looks like they’re paying the price now as adults. I talk to my kids all the time. Whatever else happens, they’re going to know what’s what!!
You go, Denise! 🙂 Sounds like you survived and figured it out along the way. Good for you. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was personal wisdom, but I’m happy for you. I realize there is a lot more that goes into the self-destructive behaviors of those who’ve made a name for themselves by playing out their sexual dysfunctions in public, but I truly do believe it starts here, with this topic. That you agree is appreciated; that you are talking to your own kids is even more the point. Smart lady! 🙂 LDW
Hi, thank you so much for such a wonderful blog on such an unfortunate story. I’m not sure I totally agree with you though. I know too many guys who did get the sex talk and are still neanderthals. But maybe the talk they got wasn’t quite as complete as your talking! Also, your writing style was very good. It helped me a lot to fix my own writing, which is not quite as sharp. Looking forward to see some more great posts from you. Again thank you so much.
Thanks, Valery. Look, I’m not saying the sex talk is the only thing needed, it’s just one of the first, most primal parts of the puzzle, one that parents have real control over while their kids are still young, still a part of the family, still in the role of being mentored. It’s a start, and one that’s too often ignored, dismissed or done half-heartedly. We can do better as parents and mentors to set our kids up for a better chance at functional sexuality, that’s my point. Neanderthalism may not be remedied by talk only! 🙂
And thanks for the comments on my writing. If anything I do inspires you to fine-tune your own work, wonderful. LDW
Are you blaming this problem on the lack of “the sex talk” and specifically, about whether or not a parent initiates the talk with his or her child? Did Anthony Wiener not receive “the sex talk” from his parents? Do you even know? I don’t know whether he did or not. So, what will it take to solve his little problem now?
The problem isn’t caused by whether or not he got “the talk” but by what values were inspired in whatever teaching he did (or did not) receive. If he received no talk of moral values or worse, if he received the idea that morals are not a part of sex applied correctly then his parents surely did him a disservice.
It is one thing to teach a person how to drive a car, how to steer, shift and use the pedals. It is quite another teaching that involves the concepts of moral responsibility which may include honoring other drivers’ rights, not abusing the privilege of driving and even the importance of driving on the right side of the road. There is a reason those double yellow lines are there and the reason can be taught but if there is no moral reason to respect those lines then the lines are of little value.
You say you’re not afraid to talk about sex and have talked about it with your own. I am wondering if you might, if you can, actually talk about it with these adult readers in this forum. Would you be willing to talk specifically about “the sex talk” and what should be included in it? Should it just include the specifics of the how-to or should it also include the specifics of the why?
If the specifics of the why are simply “it’s pleasurable” or “because people like sex” or because “everyone’s doing it” then I think it does nothing to help the child any more than the schools are doing with the sex education currently being provided. If, however, the why includes teaching the morality of and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, as it was designed to be, and to reinforce the concepts and value of waiting until marriage to have sex then maybe the culture can be changed. Until parents are ready to do that, they are just blowing hot air and possibly not even addressing the real problem they themselves have with understanding sex. Morality takes a bold decision and a firm stance to live up to.
We don’t have a “sex problem” in this culture. We have a deeper cultural problem of selfishness and immediate gratification that involves sex at the expense of morality. It will take a mature mind to grasp this. Someone reading will “get it” but not all will.
I think I do make the point that it’s not just the logistics of sex that need discussing, but the entire spectrum of issues related to it, which include responsibility, ethics, consideration, etc. I believe there are many reasons why people implode due to sexual acting out (ala Anthony Weiner) but my thesis is that it all begins somewhere and typically that “somewhere” is the family-of-origin and their squeamishness or religious aversion to all things sexual….neither of which leads to any good!
As for whether or not I might “actually talk about it with these adult readers in this forum,” it’s not my stance that this forum is here to explain sex to anyone, adult or otherwise. It’s my stance that families need to be open, honest, forthright and fearless when it comes to talking to their children from the first moment of their curiosity about sex and its many wonders and responsibilities (I think I might have even put it that way!:) It’s the NOT talking about it that contributes to children, then teenagers, then young adults, then fully grown adults repressing their urges, thoughts, proclivities, etc., to their own detriment, until they’re posting penis pictures on the Internet and destroying life as they knew it. I believe that trajectory can be preempted by smart, thoughtful parenting; yes, I do.
However, it’s clear from what you’ve written that your overriding concern on the topic is based more on a moral agenda than a debate about open discussion; a moral agenda I don’t necessarily share. When you describe your personal parameters of sexual morality with the line “as it was designed to be” I have to question, by whom? If one believes in God, one must also believe He/She created every human being with each of their individual and unique characteristics and, as such, intended them all to be a part of the human experience on this earth, regardless of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation. I presume your specific definition of sexual “morality” is based on a religious belief you espouse, one that limits sex to married heterosexuals and sees anyone enjoying it outside of those limitations as engaging in “selfishness and immediate gratification.” While I respect your right to believe this is true, in my opinion that belief is a very narrow human construct, not necessarily a Divine one, and certainly a limitation and definition not shared by many other people. Including me.
It is my belief that responsible, loving, considerate sex can be had between loving partners regardless of whether or not those partners are married or heterosexual. Sex IS a natural, human form of physical communication and an expression of love, created as part of the human experience, belonging to all human beings. I, frankly, find the religious mandates against same-sex relationships and the exclusive demand of marriage to sanctify sex to be judgmental and arrogant, sorry. It’s not my perspective that God put these limits into play; rather, human beings did. But all of that is another article…
My only point is this article is: sex ought to be discussed openly, compassionately and wisely throughout a child’s life, giving him those same characteristics of openness, compassion and wisdom with which to traverse the sometimes confusing arena of sex. Human morality (as opposed to the more limited religious morality) is about honor, responsibility and consideration. Morality that is within the purview of anyone of any proclivity, not just those who are married or heterosexual.
After all, Mr. Weiner is married and heterosexual; clearly that does not mandate moral behavior one way or the other.
Thanks for taking the time to leave your comments. While we don’t necessarily agree, I do appreciate the passion of your belief. LDW
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