Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What is Good about Virginity?

I took a mental health day today and chose to drive in with Za to work. When we arrived in the big city, a huge billboard greeted us. Painted in frightening, blood red spray paint, dripping as if freshly written, read the word:


In smaller type under the provocative red writing was the imperative: Teach Your Kids that it is Not a Bad Word.

Is this where are tax dollars go these days? I cannot believe how ridiculous, insulting, and inefficacious this public campaign is.

Early in the semester, my colleague from Biology came into my Gender class to give a lecture on the female orgasm. Her aim was to look at the competing biological explanations of why women have orgasms in the first place and sort out the best explanation from the ideologically-laden theories from feminists and misogynists alike.

During the course of this lecture, my colleague--let's call her Madeleine--mentioned to my students that she was French. With good humor, she followed up: "probably the only thing that the French do well is food." She mentioned how unafraid and embracing the French are of luxurious, calorie-rich, and darn right sinful food. If you ever want to see an excellent film on French cooking and eating, rent Babette's Feast.

Madeleine next pointed out that fewer obese people are found in France. How can that be? You have a cultural lust for food, and a belief that every bite should be savored and shared with good friends and good wine. How on earth can such a pleasure-seeking culture keep from packing on the pounds like the good ole' Americans?

Perhaps, because the French respect, love, and worship food. They see good eating, careful preparation, and exquisite tasting food as a fundamental value. They respect rituals of eating, and savoring every bite. They doon't rush, they don't continue eating something that is not fresh, they don't shove food down their throats as they rush off to a meeting. Moreover, the French do not pour pounds of food on their plate. They know that what matters is the quality of the meal, not the quantity.

Why have I allowed myself this long digression on food and French savoir-faire? Because as dear Madeleine pointed out, food and sex are both essential to a rich and healthy life. Fear of food, or sex, is likely to train us to treat both with little respect, and to inspire little self-respect in relation to either.

Why on earth should we think that sex is a bad word, as this horrific billboard exhorts us to do?

Why shouldn't we, instead, learn how to slow down and savor sexual contact with others? Why should we treat sex as sinful as quadruple ice cream sundaes that we gulp down quickly and with great shame after eating a Big Mac super size meal? How about embracing pleasure and taking the time to make it meaningful part of our lives?

Is our next big public service message: STARVATION. Teach Your Kids That it is Not a Bad Word!