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What’s Love Got to Do With It? We Couldn’t Possibly Say…

As I mentioned in the previous post, I spent a lot of time on the road this past weekend. Twenty-six hours in a car on one’s own affords plenty of time for listening to things, and when I wasn’t preparing for the concert by going through U2’s entire catalogue, I listened to a number of podcasts. One of these podcasts, in particular, stood out to me. It was an episode of q—a Canadian culture/current affairs radio program—and the topic under discussion was whether or not love should be part of the sex education curriculum in public schools.

The general consensus offered by the two guests—a philosopher and a sex educator—was that the best approach to sex education for the young was to leave love out of things entirely.  Why confuse the children?  Instead, we should present all the different “options” out there and simply focus on three criteria: consent, safety, and pleasure. This, evidently, is the extent of what our teenagers need to know about the purpose, meaning, and context of sex. Do you have permission from your partner, will you avoid disease/pregnancy, and will you have fun?

There are many things that might be said about this approach to sex “education.” But the one that occurred to me almost immediately was how this seems to represent an almost total abnegation of responsibility on the part of those tasked with educating our young.

There was a time, in distant, dusty bygone eras, when older people would have had the brazen temerity to inform the young—to educate them, to offer wisdom—about human life and how it should be lived. They weren’t always right, of course, but there was this assumption that older people had seen more, experienced more, and knew more. And that they had a duty to pass this on to the young. Those days are, evidently, long gone. Now we older, “wiser” people couldn’t possibly say if there is a connection between love and sex. Or if there ought to be. That would probably be oppressive.  And if there’s anything we don’t want to be, it’s that!

In The World Beyond Your Head, philosopher Matthew Crawford devotes a chapter to the concept of being “led out.” In it, he discusses the importance of belonging to a community of wisdom and learning and maturity and growth, about how learning a craft (i.e., building an organ or repairing a motorcycle) requires patiently learning from those who have gone before, immersing oneself in their methods, paying attention to habits and practices which existed long before we arrived on the scene, and will endure when we are long gone.

As I read this chapter, and as I thought about this conversation about “sex education,” I wondered if we have, as a culture, pretty much given up on the idea that the “craft” of living requires paying careful attention to those who have gone before us. In most cultures throughout history, the wisdom of elders was a starting point or something to be respected, honoured, listened to, even obeyed, to use an archaic term. Virtually every sane culture throughout human history—indigenous cultures, most obviously— has had some idea that there was wisdom to be passed down from the old to the young about the best way to live.

And yet we in the post-everything West seem to be perpetually bowing down to the new, the novel, the young, the tantalizing and entertaining, the untried and the exciting. Now, our elders are institutionalized and ignored. We don’t look to them for anything resembling wisdom. They represent a primitive past to be unshackled from—a past full of archaic and arbitrary moral prohibitions that we are glad to be rid of.  We wouldn’t dream of looking to them for advice about sex!  We’ll take our sexual cues from Miley Cyrus and Adam Levine or the delights served up by the pornified Internet, thank you very much.

Given our cultural context, the sex “education” discussed above of course makes perfect sense. But it shouldn’t. We should instead ponder just how shockingly irresponsible this is. As if there is nothing we could possibly say as a culture, as if there is no wisdom we could give about things we’ve learned over long generations about the deep and profound connection between love and sex, as if there was nothing we could do for our children beyond turning them loose in the playground of preference and desire and impulse and saying, “well, just pick for yourself.”

(This is, come to think of it, roughly our approach when it comes to religion, too… But that’s another post for another time.)

Yes, this is where we live. And so, the public sex “education” our young will be presented with will continue to look something like, “You know, there’s just this bewildering array of options out there when it comes to sex, and they’re all equally valid and wonderful and ways in which you can demonstrate allegiance to the highest value of all human life (personal preference and individuality, of course), so, you know, just choose for yourselves.”

Is casual sex with multiple partners in your early teens a good approach to sexuality? Well, some people seem to think so. So, sure. Maybe. If you think so.

Is sex mostly about exploration, self-discovery, and personal pleasure, with no inherent connection to things like procreation or the producing and sustaining of families? Well, some people seem to think so. So, sure. Maybe. If you think so.

Is sex mostly about the chasing after instinct like a herd of unreflective animals?  Well, some people seem to think so. So, sure. Maybe. If you think so.

Should love and commitment factor into how and with whom we choose to bare ourselves (body and soul) in a deep expression of vulnerability and trust? Well, some people seem to think so (or to have thought so). So, sure. Maybe. If you think so.

But only if you think so.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. howard wideman #

    Timely post for ontarios educati

    May 19, 2015
  2. Paul Johnston #

    Thanks so much for this, Ryan. Timely indeed, Howard.

    The new orthodoxy is upon us. It is the new tyranny. To offer rational dissent is to be described as discriminatory. To challenge any of the tenants of this orthodoxy is considered at best, dangerously naïve or, more likely, purposefully hateful. This new gender/racial/sexual orientation politic is at it’s core, totalitarian.

    Totalitarians begin by distorting truth while exploiting the emotions of the young and unlearned. Unchecked the next tactic becomes shouting down the learned peoples and institutions that can easily refute their threadbare claims. They shift conversations away from the content of their claims. Instead they prefer to incite passion and enflame discord. Particularly between young and old, parent and child. Forget the substance of our claims is the unspoken foundation of their anti gospel. Rather they paint the mature and knowing as unloving, discriminatory and abusive. They describe the young and unlearned as, loving, tolerant and affirming. We are the future, we are progress. Forget the substance of claims, for or against a value. Those are just manipulative tricks that the old and unloving use to manipulate the young and loving….

    This tyranny is still in it’s incubation but make NO mistake. It has the heart of a Stalinist. The heart of a Nazi. Many weakly rooted people like those described here are turning their heads….”If you think so”….many more young, as is likely true of all new generations, are being intoxicated by the false easiness of blaming others rather then taking personal responsibility and working to overcome the adversities of the human condition for themselves and others.

    When good people do nothing….

    May 21, 2015
    • mike #

      Disturbing comment, Paul. Disturbing because I find myself hesitantly being drawn to much of this “New Orthodoxy” under the guise of my becoming more spiritually ‘Enlightened’. Yet a small part of me remains suspicious of where this is leading us to. There is such an attraction to the philosophy in this new wave of Secular Humanism(Peace-Love-Caring for the disadvantaged/Enviornment,etc etc), the “Co-Exist” bumper stickers abound. Relativism is it’s lifeblood. Formal Institutional religion is out. The “Sunday Assembly” is in. …. I don’t know.

      Of all things, I recently heard Wayne Dyer say that the place where he felt the most powerful Presence of God.. was in an A.A. meeting.

      May 23, 2015
      • Paul Johnston #

        Anywhere people gather to humbly acknowledge their need for His grace and mercy, Christ is present. I can’t imagine an honestly expressed AA meeting where Christ wouldn’t be powerfully present. 🙂

        Satan is a masterful seducer, Mike. Easy, effortless attractions are his specialty.

        As best as I am able to discern, we are at the beginning of the end. That being said, Jesus is clear about the great disparity between how people measure time and how God does. We could still be talking millennia or any point in between.

        But there is definitely a tipping point happening in our history. Goodness is now being reshaped as Godless. From the humanistic perspective, Jesus is seen as an impediment to goodness. Christ as Anti-Christ so to speak. We are not broken vessels in need guidance, mercy and forgiveness. Rather we are oneness with some ill defined cosmic presence that only requires we unshackle ourselves from the dehumanizing superstitions of the past in order to assume goodness. In order to assume greatness.

        The first sip of this new cup of the covenant is intoxicating. Philosophy, enlightenment, peace, love, caring….. all as you describe it. At the bottom of the cup is the understanding of man/ego as God. Idolatry in it’s most pernicious and wicked form. Idolatry of the self. The first commandment of the true Anti-Christ.

        Satan is back in the garden, offering apples, Mike. The beginning of the end.

        May 23, 2015
  3. mike #

    Outstanding job with this, Ryan. Frankly, this isn’t something I’ve been able to SERIOUSLY contemplate until just now were it not for your astute articulation.
    It’s as if our inner hard-drive is sequentially being overwritten by the (re)programming influence of rapidly deteriorating Popular Culture. Without established grounding most young people are especially susceptible to this powerful magnetic force imbedded and cloaked within the lure of belonging in the “Cool” and “Hip” crowd. It seems from my observation that the Driver for this internal reprogramming is the powerfully suggestive ‘Music’ we hear today. Being curious as I am, I want to know what (who?) is calling the shots behind all this transformation. Natural evolution?.
    Interestingly, I’ve recently read from more than one source that Civilization is entering it’s natural end.

    May 21, 2015
    • Thank you, Mike.

      Re: deteriorating popular culture, my sense is that human beings have always faced the question posed by Moses to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30. Will we choose life or death? I doubt that our cultural moment is terribly unique in the grand scheme of things—the things that lead to death have always been at least superficially attractive.

      May 24, 2015
  4. Paul Johnston #

    Satan, Mike. Always has been and until the Lord comes again, always will be.

    May 22, 2015

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