I know that this is way too easy. But all the same, when I ran across this “opinion piece” in the RH Reality Check news aggregator, I laughed so hard that I nearly sprayed orange juice across the computer screen. It just screams satire, and yet is absolutely, frighteningly serious. From Robert H. Knight, Sex Education Veers the Wrong Way:
What is it with “advice” experts? Are they all drinking the decades-old Kool-Aid from sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey?
A case in point: In her “Family Almanac” column in the Feb. 15 Washington Post, Marguerite Kelly advises a mother to steer her curious 11-year-old boy away from the Internet and toward the kiddie sex book, “It’s Perfectly Normal.”
An illustrated, over-sized hardback by Robie H. Harris, “It’s Perfectly Normal” has sold more than 1 million copies. It’s full of colorful drawings of nude people, sexual activities including masturbation by both sexes, and even a girl leaning over and holding a mirror between her legs, so she and the reader can examine her nether regions.
If you felt violated just reading this description, imagine how kids feel when looking at the pictures. The book title sums up the author’s agenda, which is to promote all varieties of sex as “perfectly normal.”
That’s right: “even a girl leaning over and holding a mirror between her legs.” I can’t get over the hilarious and telling nature of the fact that among those who think the worst possible human action anyone could commit is to experience any form of pleasure without asking God pretty please first and promising to think of Him the whole time, a girl having a peek at her vulva is the most outlandish offense in a book all about sex. Not the dirty, sinful nudity. Or the shockingly anti-Biblical depictions of sexual activities by presumably unmarried people, including spilling one’s seed. The worst part is a girl foolishly thinking that she has a right to know what her genitals look like. Crazy liberals, don’t they know that God put a girl’s “down there” down there for a reason??? It wasn’t to sell hand mirrors, that’s for sure!
Of course, telling girls and young women to use a mirror to become familiar with their vulvas is some of the oldest, sanest, simplest and most valuable advice around. It’s something that we should all be encouraged to do, no matter what our age. Despite the moralist wailing — and really, who the hell opposes this anymore? — it’s a lot less likely to encourage girls to flash their genitals indiscriminately than to simply result in a lack of fear over one’s own body. But to the wingnuts, this is indeed precisely the problem. Not fearing your body almost by definition causes you to realize that there’s nothing wrong with your body. This leads one to question the idea that what you do with it by yourself or consensually with other people for your own personal pleasure is anyone else’s business. And when you become familiar with looking at and touching your body, it’s also possible to realize that what you’re told is supposed to please you doesn’t, and that any church, conservative columnist or sexual partner who wants to chastise and shame you for that ought to go fuck themselves. Once that happens, a whole lot of hard-won patriarchal control goes flying right out the window.
Knight’s moralist huffing and puffing at totally sensible advice is just beginning, though:
Dear Abby, the most well-read adviser, regularly offers Kinseyesque libertine sexual advice, as documented in the new Special Report from the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute, “Down a Dark Abby,” by Colleen Raezler.
Abby is hardly alone. Other advice experts have promoted libertinism for years, and many have applauded It’s Perfectly Normal. I don’t recall seeing any prominent experts criticize the book, including Abby’s late sister Ann Landers, who even gave it a cover blurb. Penelope Leach, author of “Your Baby & Child,” says “It’s Perfectly Normal” is “reassuring and responsible; warm and charming.” Best-selling author and columnist T. Berry Brazelton says kids coming into adolescence “will love it.”
In addition to premarital sex, Normal promotes homosexuality, even going so far as to claim that the Greeks were better soldiers because of gay relationships.
Kelly says the book, “written for 10-to14-year-olds, will explain sex to your son beautifully. You can be sure that he’ll read it again and again. And again.”
Well, he’ll probably look at the pictures again. And again. Before moving on to Penthouse, and then back to the Internet. The advice experts pushing this stuff on kids are either hopelessly naïve about how males think about sex or they are flat-out malicious.
Marriage is irrelevant to Harris, as it is in Kelly’s column, which is entitled “Open Lines of Communication for a Sexually Curious 11-Year-Old.” The son had gotten into sex on the Internet, so the mom asks Kelly what to do. Kelly starts by recommending that the mother teach her son that “sex — not pornography — is the ultimate intimacy.” So far, so good. But then: “but only if it’s based on friendship and respect and on a relationship that is private, honest, consensual and a pleasure to both.” That’s it?
A lot of 11-year -olds (and 35-year-olds) would go along with that. Who needs marriage?
Indeed: who does need marriage? At least, in the context of it being a requirement to obtain the right to touch and be touched. While Knight is working himself into a frenzy to show how “It’s Perfectly Normal” promotes anything but normal behavior, he completely misses the fact that he’s, um, wrong. I’m pretty positive that just about anyone’s definition of the word “normal” — a word that I hate, by the way, but I digress — would indeed include an activity that 95% of the population enjoys. So premarital sex? Yeah, it’s perfectly normal. Other than his desire to completely obscure and ignore that fact, Knight is using the word “normal” in a way that is common if improper. To Knight, “normal” doesn’t mean common, standard or average; it means “right.”
One other point before I finish wasting my time on this moron. You have to love this line: “The advice experts pushing this stuff on kids are either hopelessly naïve about how males think about sex or they are flat-out malicious.”
It just so happens that yesterday, Jill covered this one brilliantly. It’s perpetually amazing how the myth persists that feminists are the ones who think that all men are over-sexed, intellectually deficient potential rapists. We’re not. That role would belong to the guy up above. In his world view, boys must be kept away from sex, or they will otherwise become immoral zombies who spend all of their time in brothels. We don’t have to worry so much about girls, because they hate sex — unless you give them one of those miniature, family-wrecking mirrors. But the boys, they can’t be trusted. One might argue that keeping boys who are so very sex-obsessed away from any kind of healthy sexual discussion or expression isn’t exactly going to prepare them very well for later on in life when it comes to both setting and respecting sexual boundaries. Arguments like that, though, would make the fatal mistake of presuming that health, pleasure and consent are absolutely anywhere on the fear-mongers’ list of values.
Here’s the disconnect. People like me, we think that knowing one’s own body and experiencing it as a source of healthy pleasure is a fundamental human right. People like them, they think that the only right you have to your own body is doing exactly what they say is allowed (and it’s not very much). It’s bizarre, it’s dangerous, and it’s downright sad.
But here’s a silver lining: I now know all about Ronald Reagan’s favorite newspaper, and that for only a little over a dollar an issue, I too can read all about how people who support immigrant rights hate America, drilling for oil is good, environmental protection is bad, and bombing the shit out of any nation where the majority of the population isn’t Caucasian is good for women. Where has this treasure trove been all my life?
Incidentally, has anyone here read “It’s Perfectly Normal”? As someone who doesn’t have kids, spends very little time around kids and knows few people with kids in the right age group, I haven’t. But it does sound like something that would have been very useful to me when I was growing up, and has the potential to save girls and boys alike a hell of a lot of pain, fear, guilt and confusion.