Tuesday, February 12, 2002

All taste abandon, ye who enter here

I won't claim that this post was in response to me, and in fact I hope that it wasn't. Because it doesn't address the impact of porn on kids. Or, more broadly, that familiarity with sex is bad for them. Now please escort the children from the room.

It's time for a thought experiment. I suppose this is boring to the more sophisticated among us, but then I hear I'm a conservative. Anyway, picture two libertarians having sex.

Let's say it's a heterosexual couple, and she is fellating him (if you're a Bill Clinton defender you'll claim that she is having sex and he is not, but let's pretend you're honest). Are you ready? Action!

Now let's have a FULLY DRESSED child walk into the room. What do you do? Note to the feds - surely this doesn't qualify as you-know-what (I get enough strange Google hits already).

OK, you're busted. Do you stop? Cover up? Chase them out? Solicit criticism? Offer tips? Invite them to join? Turn off the Webcam? Turn on the Webcam? Turn on? Anything else? Why?

What do you say to the kids after this scene? Most of us would rather avoid this scenario than have to answer under pressure, diminished capacity, and if nothing else, having to talk with your mouth full. But for our more open brethren, they might present this as little more than a wetter kind of handshake. Heavens, what could be worse than raising a kid with HANGUPS!

I suppose that's playing dirty. Regardless of their own beliefs, there aren't many people who are prepared to challenge the idea that inappropriate exposure to sex is bad for kids. OK, I'll make it easy on you. I'll say why I believe it's a bad idea and you can pick on me.

The problem is familiarity, which we know breeds contempt. It will be that much harder to convince them that it has consequences, just as it is with booze, drugs, driving and others. Especially if you trivialize abortion - they may find that for them it's a big deal after all. Never mind condom failure rates, AIDS and other hazards.

And kids don't have a good idea about what social norms are. Go ahead, let one cussword slip in front of the little varmints and that's all you'll hear until you, uh, discipline it out of them. Why these can be learned with one trial while 'please' and 'thank you' take sustained effort is a mystery. And speaking for myself at least, although I'm getting older, I still prefer sex to profanity, dammit.

Now suppose the kid takes the newfound knowledge over to the kid next door. With no literal or figurative fear of God to discourage them, well, you explain it to the judge. Or more likely, the mob. Some of us may be troglodytes, but we still outnumber you.

Now consider porn. Nobody would confuse that with reality, whether it's the lack of protection, the bodies, the positions, or some practices even the "Sex and the City" girls revile. Never mind off-set fluffing, stretching, lubing, douching, enemas, AIDS tests, disease and abortions. Surely the kids will need a major expectation calibration after that. Gosh, even the libertines will want them to learn to do it right, won't you?

So ends a feeble attempt to make a point that once upon a time would have been considered self-evident, without recourse to religion. Just remember, you got what you paid for.

It's amazing that such a long post can leave out something important. The scene with the kid was partly gratuitous raunchiness, I'll confess. But there was a part with redeeming social value. The idea was that in a case like that when you would be reacting without time to rationalize, you would be more likely to behave according to what you really believe rather than what you read last in some psychobabble. And I believe that most of us despite years of programming would in fact take immediate measures to minimize the kid's exposure, out of near-instinctive knowledge that it's just the right thing to do.

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