Remember as a little kid, when a hug from Mom made everything better? And the fear and sadness you felt when your mother was angry or disappointed with you? Mothers are a powerful influence in our lives and responsible for raising thriving, well-adjusted human beings. We have created a romanticized image that mothers are supposed to be sexless and epitomize the perfect homemaker. So when we hear about a porn star who is a mom, it shatters our expectations, and many draw conclusions that these moms can’t be good parents.
All this retro 70s style debate about access to birth control is like stepping back in time. Didn’t we already decide 40 years ago women should freely determine their reproductive fate? Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but it’s archaic for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to believe birth control is harmful for women. Even more insulting is his PAC donor, Foster Friess, eluding to that “back in the day” philosophy that an aspirin in between a woman’s knees is a cost effective form of contraception. Rush Limbaugh became the star creep when he called Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke, a slut for speaking out about birth control coverage provided by religious institutions at a Congressional hearing.
My book topic often leads my writing group to discuss sex and women’s issues. And in the context of today’s conversation about contraception, I wanted to share a comment made by a fellow member some time ago before all this recent news coverage. She said, “I’d rather have little girls looking like teens and learning about sex too early than teenagers looking like good little girls and being clueless about sex.” Although we don’t want to see our daughters and granddaughters grow-up too soon, we know from past history that an atmosphere of moral judgment and silence about sexuality leaves women easily ostracized for premarital sex or pregnancy. As you know these comments by Limbaugh and others are reflective of an attempt to ostracize women and marginalize an important women’s health issue.
Recent events illustrate that some attitudes haven’t changed much since the 1970s and that people still believe a widely held misconception that women who have sex outside of marriage are sluts or whores without morals. This attack is a common tactic used to degrade women and harm their credibility in an effort to demean their message. But today women hold more power, money and influence to fight back and will never be quiet on issues that affect our freedoms and rights. This upcoming election, watch as women vote overwhelming Democratic and Republicans spend the months leading up to November faltering under the weight of their bad press. While the aforementioned men seem to pine for the good old days, we will remind them (yet again) that the days of chastity belts are long gone.
I also want to acknowledge how porn has been influential in spurring conversations and debates about sex and women’s sexuality. When porn became widely available in neighborhood movie theaters and Deep Throat arrived on the scene in 1972, it created awareness about equal sexual pleasure and increased the demand for birth control which was becoming more widely used at the time. I don’t think women would have won as many hard fought battles for reproductive freedoms and taken such an active role in controlling when they have children, if it had not been for the influence of porn that shaped our opinions about sex at a critical time.
Today sex and porn are still popular and a part of our culture so we should talk about these issues without reverting back to some dangerous views that will limit choices for women. Let’s hope religious organizations will take a broader view about providing contraception coverage and realize a person can freely practice their religion but their religious convictions shouldn’t be forced on to anyone else.
Porn has a place in our society —at least that is what I think. I would like to hear from you on his topic so please answer this quick poll on my blog. It will only take a minute. Thanks!
My nine year old daughter asked me, “Do boys like that?” pointing to a picture in a magazine she was reading while waiting to get her hair cut. I glanced down and it was a photo of a young girl in a short skirt being ogled at by a guy. I immediately thought the picture was borderline too sexy and felt guilty for not being more careful about what she was reading.
I said, “You shouldn’t try to look or act like this to get attention.” I further explained my expectations about how girls should dress and what the appropriate age was to date. Watching her think about what I said, I hoped it would become a part of her conscience. She has a crush on a boy her age who lives on our street, so naturally she is figuring out what boys like. I see my daughter and this boy whispering and laughing together when all the children in our neighborhood are out playing. The mutual infatuation they share is sweet and pure and the boy’s parents and I muse about the prospects of a future budding romance. My husband hears about this crush and dreads my daughter’s dating future. It’s cruel revenge for a father to have daughters.
I’m encouraged that she got my message that day because she has many of my sensibilities. She’s cautious, observant, and not a thrill seeker. Given her personality and my husband’s and my involved parenting styles, I hope the values will protect her from the negative influences that lead some kids to experiment with drugs or premature sex, and that she’ll have good judgment about resisting peer pressure.
But I also won’t assume just because I see much of my personality in my daughter that she will think or act in the same way that I would. We are different people. She’s very outgoing and I’m not. She’ll smile at anyone and says “the best way get someone to smile is to smile first.” She also has a flare for the dramatic, which is a part of her temperament I really don’t understand. I’m puzzled as to her reactions when I tell her no. She sometimes will scream, “You’re ruining my life!” (yes, she’s only nine) And with that I leave the room and shake my head. I’m just not like that.
She’ll also have many outside influences that will play a role in shaping her ideas. We hear all the time how girls are growing up too fast and how pop culture is the culprit in shaping unhealthy attitudes about sex and relationships in young people. It’s undeniable that porn has indirectly (or directly) influenced our culture making it customary to see provocative imagery everywhere. I sometimes think about how my dad had a hand in making these types of sexy images more readily acceptable given his pioneering work in the porn industry. And yes, this makes parenting more challenging, but with all these challenges there are opportunities. After all, would my daughter have asked the question about boys if the picture wasn’t there?
My parents may have not had to worry about what I watched on TV or read when I was younger but I don’t think this made it easier to raise me. I didn’t have talks with my parents about sex or relationships even though my dad was in the porn industry. There was an unspoken expectation about behaviors but I didn’t have influences like Katy Perry, Rihanna or Ke$ha to inspire as many questions about sexuality.
So while many believe the existence of pornography is to blame for the problems of today’s youth, I don’t feel contempt or outrage for the way our culture has been influenced by porn. I feel grateful that today we talk more openly with our children about sensitive issues and that we are forced to be more vigilant and discuss what was once taboo topics.
Ultimately I don’t believe the images or advice dished out in fashion magazines or anywhere else will ultimately dictate my daughter’s ideas and perceptions. I will be the one to do that. That’s my job as a parent. My involvement in my daughter’s life will be more effective than censorship. I’ll never stop being involved in shaping her thoughts about boys, sex, dating or anything else.