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Jewish World Review August 11, 1999 /29 Av, 5759

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Language doesn't excuse bad behavior --
OH, WISTFUL ME, how one longs for simpler times when a virgin was a virgin and a slut was a slut.

Nostalgia consumed me as I perused Planned Parenthood's Teenwire Web site (, wherein the pubescent set can catch the latest wisdom on sex. My immediate thought: I'm old. I'm glad I'm old. I want my son to be old.

The Web site's page titled, "Whaddya Mean When You Say Sex?" caught my eye right away, owing to President Clinton's name in the lead paragraph.

"Before the President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, sex was a simple three-letter word. Or was it?" asks Teenwire.

Whereupon follows a breezy discussion of the possible definitions of sex, in terms we'll leave to anatomists. Suffice it to say, opinions vary on what constitutes "sex" -- as the president made so clear -- but most students seem to follow Clinton's lead.

Sex for young people today, says Teenwire, means only one thing -- the one thing the president and Lewinsky say they avoided. Everything else is permissible. And it's not even sex.

The beauty of this new definition is that everyone is still a "virgin." Technically true, I suppose, though purity no longer holds the virgin's hand.

According to the Web site, written in the with-it style of a teen magazine, more than 10 percent of high school "virgins" have gone Lewinsky. More than one-third have engaged in some form of sexual activity, including what's euphemistically known as "outercourse." You figure it out.

All this virginal activity proffers yet more good news, according to a page on the Teenwire site titled, "The Making of a Slut." Nobody is a slut, they say. That is to say, with so many people misbehaving, there is no misbehavior. A bad girl isn't a "slut" anymore; she's just "acting" like one.

Or course, if it looks like a duck and if it quacks like a duck . . . you know the rest. But Teenwire gives no thought to changing behavior, only to changing labeling. We mustn't, ever, be judgmental.

Meanwhile, reading these virtual pages about sex is like reading an operations manual for an electric turkey carver. Missing throughout is any sense that one behavior is better or worse than another. It's all just a matter of "social choices."

By redefining sex, virginity and the old "bad girl" names, we're trying to normalize behavior once socially condemnable. But out of the right context (a loving relationship), at the wrong times (childhood), these behaviors cause individual harm and undermine the social structures that sustain and distinguish us as a human society.

We talk about sex, meanwhile, as nothing more than a physical act -- like eating and drinking -- absent any spiritual dimension or human connection. But there's dining at The Four Seasons and there's eating at McDonald's. One is spiritually sublime as well as physically satiating; the other is merely filling.

Absent, too, is any adult presence in these musings. The pages may have been written by an adult, but the words reflect the depth and understanding of an adolescent. The message for good girls is that it's OK to have sex; the moral for bad girls is hire a lawyer.

As a matter of logic -- someone should tell the children -- you are what you do. You can't have sex and call yourself a virgin; you can't quack like a duck and insist you're a rabbit. Sorry, but that's the law of the jungle if not the jargon.

The jungle -- as we used to know in simpler times -- always prevails.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
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07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
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07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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