girls on the edge by Leonard Sax M.D., Ph.D.
Wow! I really am out of it. Not only do I not have a clue, I wonder if I am of the same species. I found the book to be quite good although perhaps geared for parents of girls more so than old geezers trying to figure out what the hell is important to young people. The book as the title suggests is about girls. The author also wrote about boys in another title:
I should read this one as well, although my parenting days are long over.
In Girls on The Edge (all lower case on the cover, but old habits prevail) the author discusses four factors that are creating a crisis for girls: sexual identity, the cyberbubble, obsessions, and environmental toxins.
• In sexual identity, the author claims that young girls and young women are being sexualized by dress, culture, entertainment, and social pressures well before they are naturally ready. Their natural sexuality is never allowed to develop at it own pace because girls are transformed into sexual objects by the culture well before puberty.
• The cyberbubble is an explanation of the negative effects of the constant contact with their social group through Facebook, texting, and cell phones. This incessant connection never allows a girl to have very much needed private alone time. The ubiquity of electronic media in their lives and camera technology in cell phones result in girls constantly being on display and may result in a girl developing a public celebrity personae without developing a strong, true, interior personality.
• Obsessions describe the particular penchant for girls to become obsessed with an activity or idea such as academic performance, weight, beauty, exercise or sports and pursue it with frightening enthusiasm and discipline.
• Environmental toxins explains how girls are at risk for going through puberty at an earlier age due to estrogen in commercial beef, hormone mimicking chemicals leeching out of plastics, and phthalates used in skin products. There is also a rather fascinating discussion on how pheromones from a loving biological father may delay puberty in girls.
The remainder of the book gives specific suggestions on how to reduce the effect of these negative factors. Many of the suggestions were common sense such as move computers into common living areas so that Internet usage and time and content on Facebook can be monitored. One suggestion that especially struck me was providing a period of time every day where the girl is alone, without interruptions from cell phones, texting, instant messaging, TV, or the Internet. This is time for much needed self reflection which will tend to help build a rich interior life free of the social requirements of friends, the need for the constant celebrity personae, and the pressures to conform to the latest craze, fashion, or fad. Although the book was written for girls, I think much applies to boys as well and I imagine much of the same advice is offered up in Boys Adrift.
Another area Sax covers is budding spirituality of girls, which again I believe applies to boys as well. He states that parents should encourage some sort spiritual development in their children even if it goes against their own (or lack of) religious beliefs. There was once a time in my life, between my disaster with the Lutheran church and an odd miracle on the highway, in which if one suggested that I encourage a child to engage in religious belief that I would have replied to go straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200. So from my own experience, I know that it would not be an easy thing for non-religious parents to try to encourage a child’s spirituality. Yet I think it is extremely important to do so. But I would also suggest that the child be given the freedom to find her own path of spiritual awareness that does not necessarily coincide with that of the parents. No forcing a child to go to religious classes or services that the child may despise. On the other hand the parents must take interest and have an awareness of the child’s spiritual development to ensure that the child is not being lured into a potentially dangerous cult or sect. Its tricky business at best, but I think extremely important. Parents do not own their children, especially their child’s Soul, but a parent must be vigilant to matters of their child’s spiritual development—especially in this dangerous age of the Internet.
Sax brings up another issue that parents must be cautious that their daughters do not confuse spirituality with sexuality. He warns that failing to awaken the spirituality of one’s daughter may result in her substituting sexuality in its place. He gives a bit of a haiku to that effect:
“The sexual is good. The spiritual is good. But they are not the same thing.”
At first blush, this seems like really excellent advice for an adolescent girl or boy. You are not going to find God in sex. The only trouble is that it is based on what I believe to be a mistaken untruth—not a lie per se, but an untruth based on a misunderstanding of what sex really is. The sad part is that in today’s culture, it is in a very practical sense absolutely true. But it shouldn’t be.
I have been contemplating this modern view of sex since I read the two rather upsetting articles in The Atlantic. Our popular culture has secularized sex. It is a mistake to think of it as a Sacrament or Holy. If there is a God, which there probably isn’t, He doesn’t really care about sex. Sex is something you do to relieve natural urges, or improve your standing in the social pecking order. Its good to pursue hookups with popular people as they have more celebrity appeal for your Facebook page. It is best to use alcohol to loosen up the inhibitions.
In opposition to the above some people feel that sex is an unfortunate biological necessity for the creation of children that for the most part has been hijacked by Satan and the forces of evil. Sex for anything other than procreation is sinful and it is a damned shame that we must do such a lowly and animalistic act to have children.
So we have some people in the culture believing sex to be a sin and many others who know that it is not. It’s just a natural urge, a vestigial need from our pre-civilized days running about the savanna. We are smart enough now to know when to procreate, and we are smart enough to know when to hookup to relieve an urge. No need for being horny. With equality of sexes and improved contraceptives, both men and women can hook up for sport with no moral qualms. It is only a natural urge that can be dealt with intelligently and with no needless emotion.
If this is our attitude, can it be any surprise that Sax speaks of a 16 year old girl that has given oral sex to about dozen guys? When asked if she enjoyed the experience, she replied “I don’t know, it’s OK, I guess. It’s really no big deal.” Is this an isolated case? According to Sax “I have talked with many girls and young women whose main sexual experience, from age 14 onward, has been providing oral sex, with the girl on her knees servicing the boy….Many of these girls seem to believe that sex is a commodity that girls provide boys.”
“It’s really no big deal.” May the saints preserve me and I am not even religious! No big deal! Since when did oral sex become no big deal? When do you do oral sex to improve your “status in the eyes of the boys?” Good Lord, have I gone insane? Did I pass into some parallel universe? What the hell are we coming to? Back in my day, oral sex was a really big deal. I am not talking about hippies or the attendees of Woodstock. I am talking about us, we the commoners, the usual people, the dung encrusted masses. Yeah that’s right, oral sex was a very big deal. It was and is something that you do to someone with whom you are deeply in love, not to someone at a party because you want to be cool or you can get a star beside your name on some boy’s Facebook page. I honestly can not fathom this sentiment.
I have read that girls and young women like the Twilight series because of the classic romanticism that goes on between the protagonists. Despite all the brave claims of sexual equality and the freedom to pursue screwing for sport, it seems that some women still have a need to be loved, cuddled, held tightly, and gently kissed. Men have not always been so responsive to this need, but they can be trained. Yet this oral sex thing that I read about every so often seems to be based on cold industrial efficiency. It is one way, the girls servicing the boys with no demand or apparent desire for reciprocation. It is purely sexual with no sense of romance, affection, or Holiness. It seems to be a cold, calculated catering to the male need for emission. Get it over with in the most efficient method available and let’s move on and not get dragged down with a lot of silly emotions. I am sorry, oh modern denizens of the new sexual truth, but this simply breaks my heart. This is not what I would want for my daughter, nor my son. Is there any dignity in this? Is there any tenderness? Forget the concepts of love or Holiness.
Do these girls lack self respect? I don’t believe that to be the case. I believe that they feel they are just responding to a perceived reality. Boys and men have an uncontrollable need to ejaculate and they are just getting through that in the most efficient manner possible. It has nothing to do with dignity or self respect, it is just a physical reality. “Its no big deal.” Sort of like taking a crap, you know.
Well probably all I have managed to convey is that I am a Victorian religious prude interested in maintaining the “gulags” of the patriarchy. I would like to think that is not true. I believe in something, and I call it God for convenience sake, but that concept goes so far beyond the definitions provided by organized religions that the adherents of such would not recognize it as being the same concept. So I hope I don't come off as churchy or preachy. I believe that we have a Soul, and it is Divine—made of the same stuff that God is (oh how so terribly New Age, yeah well tough shit, that’s what I believe). Because we have a Soul, because we are Divine creatures and not simply some sort of vast electro-chemical processes that evolved out of the primordial ooze, I believe in human love and human dignity and I believe that both concepts are indeed Sacred. I believe that women and men really need love, tenderness, stability, and recognition of the Divinity that dwells within them. I believe that we all must have one person who is our rock, our anchor, the love of our life.
So is it sinful to perform oral sex or participate in drunken hookups? Not really, I don’t think anyone is going to go to hell over it. The fact that I don’t believe in hell has a lot to do with the above statement. But no, I don’t believe that consensual casual sex is sinful. Do I believe that oral sex for the purpose of efficiently removing semen from a boy’s reproductive tract is a good thing for a girl to do? Absolutely not! Not for the girl or the boy. You can do sex like taking a crap or you can do sex with a sense of love, honor, dignity, and Holiness. The first method is very efficient time wise. The latter is extremely inefficient. It involves laying about in bed for entire afternoon, hugging, kissing, caressing, holding each other, orgasms or multiple orgasms for both, and drifting off to sleep while plugged in together. It is done in private with only one partner. Stupid things like “I love and adore you for eternity” are whispered to each other and at times “Oh God!” is screamed. It is messy, a little smelly (in very good way in my estimation), requires the removal of clothes, and the routine washing of bed sheets. During the process the damned computers, cell phones, iPod, iPads, Twitters, tweaters, and every other distracting frigging contraption are turned OFF. It is extremely inefficient and your friends will wonder why they can’t get a hold of you. In the process you will feel some very odd emotions and sensations and you will feel an extreme attachment to your partner. You may feel a sense of touching something that is Sacred and Divine, which I believe to be your partner’s Soul, and you may get a sense of the veil parting and a glimpse of the Infinite. All this is an incredible waste of time, so stick with the efficient, oral sex and drunken hooks ups and move on to the next partner. You can add them as friends to your Facebook page.
If you believe that you have a Soul, and if you try the long and inefficient method, you may also find out that women and men really do need each other, that happiness is laying naked in the arms of your one and only lover, and that when the plumbing is together the Souls can speak to each other in a language that is so steeped in mystery, love, and wonder that you may be tempted to shriek “Oh God” at the top of your lungs. But then again, it could all be nothing more than brain chemistry…perhaps, but try it, it is the best high you will ever have.
If you have some time on your hands and want to read how ridiculously inefficient and Holy sex can be, may I suggest
The Soul of Sex by Thomas Moore (of The Care of The Soul fame)
Although he gets a bit deeper into Greek mythology than I would prefer in the beginning of the book, stick with it, the last chapters of the book are quite superb. This is not a how to book. It is a beautifully written book explaining why sex is a Sacrament.
Another book, perhaps more secular, but still in awe of the beauty of loving sexual expression is
A Natural History of Love by Diane Ackerman
In searching for the book cover image I ran into a very unique blog, which I have found rather fascinating. I could not resist stealing this quote:
"To love someone is to find beauty in another’s tragedy, to find hope in their scars, to find tenderness in their vulnerability as well as finding joy in their utter grace and brilliance."
From http://www.semper-augustus.com/ On Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of Love
I wished I could write that well!
If for some unusual reason you would like to read some more about how terribly naive I am on modern sexuality, may I suggest the following posts:
Sacrament or Hookup
Sacrament or Pornography