I’m a big fan of cracked.com, particularly the writings of David Wong there. I recently read a post by him that strikes me as the beginning of a more effective path to teaching our young men and women about sex (Warning: in the article, there is graphic language and some discussion of arousal and sex). In the interest of sparing our more sensitive readers, I’m going to summarize the keys points of the article and then explain why I think they relate to us.
The title of the article is “5 Ways Modern Men are Trained to Hate Women“ The five ways are:
- We were told that society owed us a hot girl
- We are trained from birth to see you as decoration
- We think you’re conspiring with our [libido] to ruin us
- We feel like manhood was stolen from us at some point
- We feel powerless
Now, I like this post for several reasons. It is funny, which is a bonus, but it is also dead serious. It is honest, if a bit simplistic. It also pretends to be aimed at one audience (women) when it is really aimed at a different audience (men). It is reflective of most of Wong’s writing (including the tendency to frat-house crudeness and profanity), so if you like it, keep reading. If you don’t, that’s okay.
The first point is that all women in media are beautiful. The goal, at least in part, of all those narratives we watch, read, and listen to, is for the guy to get the girl and the girl is always pretty, very, very pretty. From this, we flow into the second point, which is a notion that women are obligated to be pretty. Ugly women are understood as a kind of affront to men, because they are failing to dress up or pretty themselves up for us. However, says the third point, if you do pretty yourself up, you are a distraction because we see you and think sex, even at times that we shouldn’t be doing that. So, according to point 4, we nostalgically cast our minds back to some mythical time when there was no penalty for thinking about sex (or for rampaging or pillaging or other manly endeavors). In fact, in that bygone era, those qualities were valued and appreciated, but civilization (read: women) have spent millennia eroding this male fantasy. As a result, in the most important point, men feel powerless before women. Since women control access to sex, men feel like everything that they do is related to the quest to suitably impress a woman and get her to have sex with them (ideally exclusively).
Now, I’m not going to argue that this reflects lived reality, because it doesn’t. Men do manage to think about something other than sex on occasion and they can be motivated by other desires as well. For that matter, this portrait of male sexuality pretty much aligns with the “HULK SMASH!” approach that I once discussed on this blog, which I find particularly unhelpful. But, here’s the thing, it also explains exactly what is wrong with that outlook. And it does it in a manner that is superior, so far as I can tell, to our current teachings on the subject to our Young Men and Young Women.
At present, we don’t have an LDS notion of what it means to be a man or a woman. We have borrowed our notions of both of these concepts from the prevailing culture, which means that we are training our youth in exactly the way described by David Wong. I know you’ve heard of missionaries being told that hot wives are the reward for hard work. I know you’ve heard umpteen discussions of how girls should dress modestly, but attractive, while at the same time not doing things that inflame the male libido to a hypothetical tipping point. I know that we’ve all heard grumblings regarding how the priesthood is the great power equalizer, because women actually run the world/church/household. As a people, we have entirely bought into what the world is selling us regarding how to be men and women and how the two relate.
If we really want to be a city on a hill, a light shining in darkness, it would behoove us to consider what we want our ideas of gender, complementarity, equality, proper sexual conduct, and meaningful love to be. It would be infinitely better than simply pointing to “the world” and saying, “Not like that!” because in so doing, we’ve uncritically accepted everything that the world has to say. There likely is some truth there, but we’ve swallowed the approach whole, all the while denying that we have anything to do with it.
For all its vulgarity, I think that Wong’s post should be part of the curriculum in youth classes, because, even though it doesn’t offer solutions, it adeptly describes the problems in ways that we have been unable to do. Giving young men the opportunity to see themselves as they are seen (and young women the opportunity to develop a vocabulary of male bad behavior beyond “unworthy”) can only help us all develop into what God would have us be. Elder Packer has said, “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” and I tend to agree. However, we all know that, in order to repent, we need to know that we are sinning. Wong’s post does a better job of describing how men and society sin than anything I’ve seen lately in the Ensign or heard in conference. Having had it pointed out, I think that we can turn to the doctrines of the gospel to find our solutions.