There is a scene in “Shakespeare in Love” where Queen Elizabeth begins to take a step out of her carriage, but stops upon seeing a puddle of mud in front of her. Her doorman at first looks puzzled, then coming to his senses, throws down his cloak upon the ground, covering up the mud and providing a dry walkway. The act of the doorman is not done in a condescending or self-congratulatory way, but it is an act of supreme respect for the Queen.
Sadly, the events known to the world as the “sexual revolution” have made acts of this type difficult. Where there once was a tiered system of courting, romance, engagement and finally marital love, we now have a disjointed and limping beast with no sense of structure or etiquette. In a world where one-night stands are more common than successful marriages, it becomes common to think that every act of a man in relation to a woman must in some way be a statement of purely sexual interest.
This occurs even when nothing could be further from the truth. I hold the door for my sister because she deserves to enter a building in one swift motion. I hold the door for a female friend for the same reason. The downside of a portion of society changing its sexual practices is that everyone is affected. There has never been a purely private sexual act in all of human history. Acts of chivalry, particularly those done for the sake of a stranger do not come with crystalline explanations of intention. If there exists a portion of the population that would use the holding open of a door as a first step toward sexual intercourse, then every person who holds a door will be held guilty of this practice until proven innocent. For we always assume the worst.
An unerring mark of our societies’ discussion about the relations between the sexes has been a demand by a vocal segment of the population to demand that sex be discussed candidly with children.
Simple biology, the fact that sexual intercourse leads to children. Beyond that, any sexual education has to answer the question, what is the purpose of sex? This comes only after we have explained these things called humans. Critics of abstinence-only education see the teacher from Mean Girls standing up in front of a classroom spouting off about chlamydia and death. This is not the best way to instill sexual virtues.
Abstinence-only education is not working in public schools, but my doubts lie not with abstinence, but with the education. To have students constantly paranoid about falling into the two horrible pits of pregnancy or infection, is to deny them a goal to strive for.
When abstinence is powered by a decent helping of philosophy, a person can be strengthened by empirical evidence and practice abstinence until marriage. Then frosted with the truly joyful (if slightly mischievous) grins of the old married couple whose sex life has not faded over the years. We, then, have a position strong enough to build a system of education more. We have a means of countering the rising tides of mistrust between men and women.
Sadly, most of us will have to take those abstinent few at their word about the fulfillment of their lives. More than a few friends of mine actually waited until marriage, giving themselves both the joy of courtship and dating, while retaining the burning passion which is so often chilled by the drunken mumblings of a high school boy. They tell me that their lives as sexual beings were fulfilled both before and after marriage. They looked up for a standard of success rather than down for a standard of failure. The men of this group had the wisdom to question the prevailing attitudes of our day. Many walk around with the attitude that we are entitled to see as many women as possible naked. They had the good sense to realize that they didn’t have a right to see any woman naked. But by some grace they found someone who is at once a friend, a lover, but never a conquest. These men only looked up at the true standard of sexuality. Now, let the rest of us do the same.
BY JOHN GOERKE