KILL THE PURITANS
Nor were we children allowed to undress in front of each other. Boys and girls were separated when it came to dressing or bathing. The male sex organ was a mystery to me, and I wasn't even too sure of the female sex organ. We lived in a wonderful world of play and childhood fun, but sex was not a part of it, although we did whisper about it and wonder what it was all about.
In all of the years I lived at the Farm, I never realized that Mom and Pop must have had a sex life. Even now, such a thought gives me pause. Because they had twelve children, one realizes they must have had a vigorous, healthy sexual relationship, but you couldn't prove it by me.
No matter what your age, no matter how much you realize that all people are sexual, it is almost impossible to imagine your parents having sex. Nor does one expect the president to have sex, or the king and queen of England. These people are above such things, in our minds. They are asexual icons, and they help matters by being so dignified publicly that a nonsexual life is even easier to imagine. One can conjure up a sex life for Princess Diana, goddess that she was, but hardly anyone can connect the word "sex" to Queen Elizabeth. It's impossible.
Only in America could a group of people try to impeach a president because he had an extra-marital affair. In other countries, kings and other leaders have always had mistresses. It was widely known and widely excused. But, in America, it leads to public shame, with each detail used as a political club, leaving us with snickering cigar jokes and sniggering Bill and Hillary jibes.
Why are Americans like this, when it comes to sex? We treat it like a mysterious secret, keeping knowledge of it away from children, causing them to grow up in a void, with this great, yawning information kept as an adult conspiracy. No wonder young people go on a search for knowledge. They are amazingly ignorant, because we live in a land where a brief glimpse of a female breast sends us into a tizzy of national indignation. We fine television stations great sums for showing the glimpse of this breast, and heap shame on the artist that displayed it.
I blame it on the Puritans. They came over here on their lumbering wooden boats and brought their sexual mores with them, and the miasma from their beliefs still hangs over American heads like a black cloud of ignorance. While older people...mature people...cling to these ancient beliefs, the young people of our country are flailing about in their ignorance, practicing sex in schoolhouse closets, making sex no more important than a handshake, completely tossing aside the teachings of their elders.
We continually yammer about it, warning and postulating. "God will get you, if you are sexual!" Yet look at the Republican women on television. Look at Ann Coulter. There is noone more sexually packaged, the long, blonde hair tossed around, the long, slim legs crossed, the carefully applied makeup.
Young people explore because their bodies are changing and making impossible demands, and because their elders still insist that sex is this huge, mysterious secret. They preach abstinence, when abstinence is a goal few young people can attain. This is because it is normal for youth to expand their world and explore. It is normal for them to defy their parents. They have to discover the meaning of this great, shocking secret, hoarded so jealously by the adult world.
Our national reticence about sex has given birth to the Paris Hiltons, the Brittney Spears, the Lindsay Lohans of current fame. Since young people traditionally toss aside the tenets of their elders, they have embraced these wonderfully rich, famous and sexy celebrities. They do not reach for intellectual pursuits, because what young person wants to be a scholar, nerdy and bookish? Nor do they want to be celestial virgins. That great mystery looms and the world of the sexy celebrities appears to be romantic and fascinating, all of the things that abstinence can never provide.
Somehow, we have to stifle and ignore our Puritanical principles. We have to provide education for our children on all matters, including sex. We have to open it up for discussion, in our schools and in our families. We have to stop being so repressed and expose this mystery as the normal condition that it is.
As a child, I should have learned that my parents had bodies and a sex life. I should have learned that ALL people are sexual creatures and the impulses I was feeling as I grew into adulthood were normal and controllable. We have to teach our young about sex, about its pleasures and its dangers. We have to.....please excuse my violent expression...kill the Puritans that lurk in our subconscious like forbidding nannies shaking their heads and pointing their fingers.
No preacher howling about the sins of sex will change the urges in the bodies of the young. Only by explaining them can we ever reach through the years to change things. Only with knowledge of sexual education and sexual behavior can we end the fact that teenage pregnancy is a national problem and teenage promiscuity can lead to the spread of disease.
One time, my mother tried to talk to me about the dangers of promiscuous sex. She sat me on a stool in the kitchen and proceeded to talk about my Birthright.
"Protect your birthright!" she said. "The boys will be after it and you have to guard it. It is your prized possession. You can't let them have it!"
I agreed, nodding my head vehemently. I would protect my birthright with my life, if necessary. I would fight off the demons trying to steal it from me. However, I had no idea what my mother was talking about. I had no idea what she meant by my "birthright." I left that kitchen stool as ignorant as I was when I perched upon it.
Even when approaching this subject head-on, my mother could not bear to use terms that a child could understand. This embarrassment and inhibition is passed from generation to generation, to where parents stumble, stutter and fail when it comes to discussing sex with their children. Because my mother could not discuss sexual matters openly, I had the same trouble.
An Australian once said, after viewing the events in American culture, "Thank God we got the prisoners and you blokes got the Puritans!"
Thinking things over, our lives might have been easier if the Mayflower and other ships had contained the convicts. While the Puritans gave us so much, the value of hard work, the hope for a land of freedom, they also left us a brutal legacy, the merciless chains of puritanical sex.