Two seemingly unrelated stories caught my eye recently. One story, by a lifestyle editor for Salon, focused on what she considered to be the sad state of sexual education in our country. The other was a UPI story about a former marine who was given a life sentence for sexually abusing his two toddler children . . . with the full cooperation and participation of his wife, the mother of the young boy and girl.
The common thread in these two stories is the underlying attitude about sex. The main characters in both articles—the so-called sex experts in the Salon article, and the former marine and his wife in the UPI article—view sex solely and amorally as an opportunity for self-gratification, for physical pleasure.
Writing for Salon, Katie McDonough rips into the failure of schools to teach what she considers to be basic sex education to public school students. She points both to non-existent sex education in some jurisdictions and faulty sex education in others. In her mind, counselling abstinence is particularly contemptible.
Searching for a solution for these defects, McDonough sought tips from Salon’s “favorite sex writers and sex educators.” She sought the advice of Ruth Neustifter, sexuality educator and Assistant Professor of Couple & Family Therapy at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada; Joshua Rosenberger, assistant professor of global and community health at George Mason University; Rich Juzwiak, staff writer at Gawker; and Feminista Jones, sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger (I’m not making this up).
Instead of leaving sex education to parents, or teaching abstinence in school, this body of experts came up with some better suggestions of what should be taught, presumably suggestions they have been promoting in other venues. Here’s a few:
· Virginity can’t be lost because it doesn’t really exist
· We can define gender for ourselves and respect how others define their gender
· Seek out partners who want to support you in feeling good
· It’s a lot easier to accept yourself and all the weirdness inside of you when you realize that everyone else is dealing with that, too
· Sex is about learning what you like
· Don’t let expectations box you in or limit your pleasure
· Know who you are when it comes to your sexuality, but don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and be open-minded about sexual experiences
· The sooner you become open-minded the more fun you are going to have
· You don’t have to love someone to have sex, but you should respect your partners and yourself enough to make what goes on between you pleasurable and safe
· There’s nothing more empowering than being able to safely explore one’s desires and fantasies without fear of shame or feelings of remorse
· Sex is not just intercourse or penetration. It can include an endless combination of different things
· Orientation is an identity preference and you can choose who you want and change your mind as many times as you like
· Embrace the diversity of sexual behavior and identities
· Embrace words like fluidity and diversity
· People need to understand that sex is fun—fun and funny
Now imagine a national uniform public school sex education program built around these concepts. Imagine yourself being given this kind of advice starting in grade school and continuing through high school. Could you have resisted the pressure toward sexual experimentation? What kind of person would you be today?
Ideas matter. A lot of these same ideas were advanced by Alfred Kinsey and his acolytes starting in the 40’s and 50’s. Over the past 15 to 20 years these ideas have become firmly entrenched in the TV shows broadcast during prime time even on broadcast channels. They are promoted in the movies, even the G and PG rated movies; in school books; library books; in magazines geared toward youth; in the music targeting tweens and teens; and, starting a little over a decade ago, on the internet. Today these ideas are metastasizing throughout our community, corrupting our culture and spawning disciples like Katie and Salon’s favorite experts who promote nothing but pure hedonism packaged as education.
These ideas also spawned the likes of Johnathon Adleta, his wife Sarah, and his girlfriend Samantha Bryant. Eleven days ago, Johnathon was sentenced to life, and his wife Sarah to 54 years in prison by a federal judge in Florida. The two had children for the specific purpose of using them for sex and to produce child pornography. Not only did they have sex with their children, they shared the little boy and girl with others.
When Johnathon tired of Sarah, they divorced and Johnathon moved on to Samantha Bryant who already had a child of her own. Samantha allowed Adleta to sexually abuse her daughter and photographed Adleta in the process. Adleta continued to abuse his own children, who were in the custody of Sarah. Samantha was sentenced to 15 to 30 years for her involvement.
All three were in it for the pleasure, for their personal gratification. What they wanted, it seems, was all that was important. Maybe their inhibitions were diminished by the growing chorus of voices from a variety of experts (again starting with Kinsey) that adult/child sex is not bad for children. To the contrary, these experts say, introducing children into a sexually uninhibited lifestyle can give them an advantage. I don’t really know what the Adleta’s and Bryant were thinking.
But I know from other cases I’ve personally investigated that it is common for those who sexually abuse children to see things differently than the rest of us. What society sees as abuse, the predators often see as loving. Twisted.
It would be easy to write these people off as aberrations. If they are, we seem to be producing an increasing number of them. Imagine how many Johnathon’s, Sarah’s and Samantha’s are still out there, who will never be caught. We know that most of them aren’t. Imagine the victims. Imagine the damage.
Don’t you think that the ideas we, as a society, are increasingly embracing and accepting have something to do with this? Doesn’t that make all of us accomplices?