Tonight mid-shift, I looked up to see a heavyset blonde with a fake tan literally straddling the doorway of our store to act as a soccer-mom blockade, if you will, for a group of 7 or 8 teen girls passing by. Judging by the girls’ highlighted hair and bellybutton rings peeking out beneath their tanktops, as well as the other two chaperones trailing behind in clothes similar to their daughters’ and heavy makeup, I might be correct in assuming they like to portray themselves as the “cool” parents. You know, those women who aren’t quite secure enough with themselves to tell their children “No”, for fear of being banished from their teen’s friend circle. And while my assumptions could be wrong, my reaction that followed is still valid.
So as I sit watching this woman wave her arms like a trained traffic conductor, only lacking an orange reflector vest and perhaps one of those light saber flashlights, I can’t help but be baffled. The girls, looking up from their text-conversations for a minute, giggle as they see why they are being guided past. The other women roll their eyes and laugh disgustedly, and continue on with their scenic tour of the utterly celibate Miami Beach.
In a culture surrounded by symbolism, where sex sells everything from cheeseburgers to houses to movies to cars, why are we still so shy about sex itself? Instead of Redbook & Cosmo showing a ‘suggestive’ photo of four tangled feet at the end of some crumpled bedsheets to portray their latest “Hottest Tips”, why can’t they simply compliment it with a sexual photograph? How can it be possible that 15 year old boys are subject to marketing from body wash and fast food companies implying that girls in bikinis will beg horny at the knees of any guy who buys their products — and yet sex education classes consist of nothing more than minimal anatomy lessons and instilling a fear of STDs and HIV? Under whose ideals does it make sense to create a mental and conversational block on the subject of sexuality in the minds of our youth, and yet expect them to flourish in our society dominated by the seduction of the consumer?
The answer does not lie in banishing bikini clad women from video games. It doesn’t lie in excluding provocative language from television, or even textbook literature. You won’t find a solution by teaching your daughters to criticize every beautiful body as photoshopped. You won’t “fix a problem” by ignoring that your son is in love with another boy. Refusing to supply birth control will not result in abstinence, and preaching that a child’s heart starts to beat at 22 days will not prevent the initial pregnancy. The answer is not to cleanup the internet either, or even to publicize the prosecution of online sexual predators who would have no one on which to prey if parents had intervened. Pretending that politicians are purists without sex drives only leads us to mistrust them more, and being immersed in a world of new drugs claiming to eliminate ‘sexual dysfunction’ actually does nothing but create more of it in a general sense.
What we need is balance. Embrace sexuality and all of the ways that it defines us. Teach our children modesty through openness and honesty about their bodies and actions. Encourage them to love and respect themselves, and remind them that you will support any choices they make based on that respect. Maybe once we accept sex as a part of our every day lives, companies won’t need to use it as an alluring ploy, and might actually sell us a car because it runs well regardless of its sex appeal. If we can agree that sex is a healthy, enjoyable, essential part of many things we do and see outside of the bedroom, maybe there will be a little less confusion in our self-esteem, relationships, and lifestyles.
As for the overprotective woman guiding those girls tonight, my question to her would be this: Do you think by shielding them entirely from this subject, therefore creating a forbidden conversation topic, that they will be less interested? It seems to me by labeling sex as taboo instead of natural, not only will they be more drawn to it, but ultimately confused by your unwillingness to address their curiosity. But who knows, I could be wrong — maybe, where you come from, belly button rings and cleavage serve no other purpose than to raise report card grades.