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Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2003/ 13 Elul, 5763

Kathleen Parker

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The kiss that went 'yuck' in the night | I had one of those weird dreams that makes you wonder whether you might need a weekend of primal scream therapy: Cruella De Vil was freedom-kissing two little Mouseketeers dressed as virginal brides. Ick.

Oh, wait, that wasn't a dream? Well, thank goodness. I was beginning to think it was me .

I realize I'm late commenting on The Kiss that failed to rock the nation, but I've been out for a while. Moving, if you must know. Which, all things considered, was more interesting than watching Madonna kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera during MTV's Video Music Awards.

Has sex ever been more boring? But then it wasn't about sex, was it? It was about money, first and always. And probably about Madonna's need to put those competitive, star-struck little sex kittens in their place.

Madonna, aging dominatrix, power-tongues impudent strumpets and shows the world who's bossiest. What a woman. What a mom.

Speaking of which, Britney's mom "thought it was cool," reported Britney in an interview about the kiss. Even so, in deference to offended fans, Britney swears she'll never kiss another woman (except maybe Madonna). Christina, meanwhile, claims Britney didn't really wanna do it and that during rehearsals Madonna had to keep coaxing, "Kiss me, Britney, kiss me." As they say, WHAT- ever.

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What's more riveting than the kiss - which, admittedly, would include the rate of mold growth in my basement - has been reaction to this manufactured shock-o-rama. For the most part, there seemed to be an overriding ho-humness to the event. As one talking head put it: "What do you expect? It's Madonna."

As in, anything for shock value. It was just a kiss among consenting adult women, after all. And this has been, lest you forget, the gay summer. What little outrage registered seemed limited to "conservative" readers, as one story put it, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which ran a photo of the Madonna-Britney kiss on the newspaper's front page.

Surely some liberal readers found the photo inappropriate for placement on a front page. We have tabloids for that sort of thing. And the children, don't you know?

It is also true, as a poster noted on the Poynter Institute's Web page that the children have already witnessed the kiss online if not on TV. Newspapers are struggling to attract the next generation of readers and may be failing in part, he chided, for failing to report what interests today's young people. Oh, must we.

Indeed, a Google search of "Madonna and Britney kiss" turned up 271,000 Web entries. President Bush's Sunday night speech produced only 114,000.

As someone old enough to have been-there-seen-that, I'm not much shocked by anything, though I'm grateful to still feel something. To feel anything at all is a gift in this era of overstimulation and desensitization.

In order for the pierced 'n' tattooed generation to feel anything, it seems, we're forced to fabricate higher degrees of titillation: a 45-year-old sex goddess open-mouth kissing two sexualized Mouseketeer-babes, for instance.

Does it matter? Since everything's, like, totally relative - and in the absence of the data we crave to satisfy any curiosity - I offer an anecdote. Almost 30 years ago, I was not, alas, a tyke but a graduate student teaching undergraduate Spanish. My students were just slightly younger than I and, consequently, felt comfortable confiding in me.

Boys and girls in enough numbers to raise an alarm came to me in tears to report their discomfort in feeling pressured to "try" homosexuality. One boy sobbed as he described his confusion. A female student called at 3 a.m., begging me to pick her up from a girlfriend's apartment. She was with a sorority sister who, she hoarsely whispered through tears, turned out to be a lesbian.

For the record, I'm not suggesting that gays and lesbians are sexually aggressive toward non-homosexuals. I don't think they are. Nor am I casting judgment on what gays and lesbians do among themselves. All together now: What-ever.

But what seemed clear even in the early '70s was that the trending toward boundaryless-ness and the blurring of lines in sexual identity was causing trouble for kids still in search of themselves.

The kiss may not have meant much to most of us, but young girls immersed in a hypersexual culture - especially those who seek "family" and role models among rock stars - may find playing Madonna and Britney just the thing to do. I only hope they have someone to call in the middle of the night.

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