Jewish World Review August 19, 1999 /7 Elul, 5759
A few readers scolded me for leaving boys out of a recent column on virgins 'n sluts as defined on Planned Parenthood's Teenwire Web site (www.teenwire.org).
The Web site offers judgment-free information on sex -- how to have it and still be a virgin -- and consequences -- "I'm Pregnant, Now What?" -- (yikes! Click on abortion).
Or, my personal favorite, how to be sexually active and avoid being labeled a "slut."
The gist of my column was that we're playing with semantics to make bad behavior seem nice. If you have random sex with a bunch of guys, you're not a slut -- a bad thing; you're "sexually open" -- a good thing.
Reader response, as always, has been instructive. I've heard from young women who regaled me with sad tales of their days as sluts (their word).
I've heard from teens querying my exact century of birth, heard from defensive fathers complaining that I left out boys and from mothers who cheered, "Hear, hear."
True enough, it takes two to tango, and it's not fair to put the onus only on girls.
It's also not fair to view sexually active girls as "sluts" and sexually active boys as "You ol' hound dogs." Society remains guilty as charged for applying a double standard to sexual behavior.
To wit: Everybody's a slut.
The solution, assuming you consider being a slut a problem, is difficult to explain to today's youth.
Having grown up during postsexual revolution times, when sex is ubiquitous and consequences easily remedied, they've never known another way.
The word "slut," after all, harkens to a time when girls saved themselves for early marriage, and out-of-wedlock pregnancy was an unconscionable risk rather than a symbol of liberation.
Society's erstwhile "bad girl" has become as passe as necking in the backseat of Daddy's car. All of which is so, if you believe sex is only a physical act.
Given that belief, the only acceptable arguments against early sex are physical: pregnancy can be inconvenient and often requires surgical remedy; sexually transmitted diseases can be a misery and sometimes kill you.
In other words, disease and unwanted pregnancy are what's wrong with sex.
What's right about sex is, of course, what's missing from the discussion -- the spiritual part of intimate union that everyone longs for, even if they don't know it. Teens often don't.
One child wrote me in a huff: "Why shouldn't I have sex? It's natural."
Well, honey, I wanted to say, death is natural too, but let's wait awhile. I didn't. The mother in me stifled the cynic and replied that I hoped she would aspire to a higher level of intimacy.
Even as I wrote, I realized I was speaking a foreign tongue, the vocabulary of which was alien to this girl. If you've grown up in a godless world of sexually graphic music, raunchy movies and pornography, how do you begin to discuss joy, wonder, love?
No, sex isn't "bad" in and of itself. Yes, it's natural.
But it can be so much more, I want to tell her. It is the ultimate physical expression of your spiritual self, I want to say.
At its best, sex is a gift -- the one everyone cherishes
above all else. But as with any gift, sex becomes less
special the more it's given. That goes for you hound
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior