This past week, the biggest story on my Facebook news feed was not chemical weapons use in Syria, but Miley Cyrus and her shocking, sexual performance at the VMAs. Not the fact that the NSA keeps listening to our conversations about Miley Cyrus, but what to do about this sexual being burst forth into our living rooms like Madonna, circa 1984, writhing around on the ground in her wedding dress, Like a Virgin? Was Miley Cyrus worse because she was bumping and grinding with Robin Thicke? Is simulated masturbation to us as a society more palatable than simulated sex? Seriously?
As a mother with two daughters (8 and 10) and a young son (5), what makes this entire debate worthy of attention, is that it seems as a society, we’ve placed such a huge emphasis on self-esteem for both boys and girls. Yet we seem to be pedaling backwards, for both.
Does it make young boys feel powerful to watch naked girls on a video, while a thug parades around asking, “What rhymes with hug me?” (Do you not know?) How are girls supposed to feel when they see that? “The only way I am valuable to another person is if I have a great rack? If I walk around naked?”
How does consuming these junk images help their self-esteem—say like Girls on the Run is supposed to? What is happening in our society that we are pulling and pushing our children in such strange, opposing and dangerous ways? And, don’t blame the media. You invite them into your homes—and not just through your TVs anymore. You’ve got multiple screens—at least 34% of you do.
Two very powerful blogs have addressed two important points about talking to boys about Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, but I’d actually like to talk to anyone over 12 about this incident: the problem isn’t sex. The problem is how we define sex.
I am not a Bible thumper. My feelings about God change much more often than my parents, who paid upwards of $100,000 for my private religious education, would like to think (sorry). However, I did learn how to read the Bible, and as of yet, I have a hard time finding a better definition than God’s: sex is to know another person.
Seeing as I have three children, and therefore my father already knows I have sex, I’m going to be very brave and put this out there: Sex is not bumping and grinding on a stage with another person. Sex is real. It’s funny. It’s unpredictable. Sex is messy and fun and scary and intimate. To know and be known by another person is so amazing, so powerful, so forceful, that it can actually create life. When two souls mingle together and produce another—well, find me something more miraculous. I dare you.
Instead, we’ve capitalized it. Sold it. Flaunted it. We don’t protect it or nurture it, or talk to our children about the power sex has. Instead, we teach them about STDs and bananas and how to properly put on a condom as a proxy for talking about sex. Because it is so powerful, many of us do not even have the words to honestly look our children (our precious children!) in the eyes and explain to them the power and beauty and majesty of sex. To explain how mystical it is to be with someone who loves you and wants to truly know and connect with you—with you! I’m not talking about making sex religious or that sex only belongs in the sanctity of marriage or about God. I’m talking about honoring who we are at our cores.
Seems to me, we’ve lost sight of that—and I think this is why: It’s more than desire, and “getting off” that makes sex so attractive to us. Sex’s power lies in her power to deceive us: we labor under the illusion that if we are considered sexual—and therefore sexy—that someone else wants us.
To be desired—such an intoxicating, heady feeling. But that feeling of being desired is a thief. Because sex is a physical expression of feeling. Sometimes that feeling is love. Sometimes, it’s about power, or longing, or need—or in some cases, something far more perverse. So, if the other person has different intentions than their desire for us, it will probably only last the time of the encounter. And probably not much beyond that.
But to choose to be with another person—a person who is good to you and loves you and brings out the best in you—that’s the very best expression of self-esteem. Picking a partner that demonstrates to the world your love and honor of yourself. How different would relationships be if we stressed that as a part of sex, instead of good chemistry in bed or hot or not ratios?
We tell our daughters and our sons that they should respect their own bodies and others’ bodies and feelings. Maybe we need to spell out what that really means. It means bumping and grinding on TV is a way that rock stars have found to get attention—to pretend that attention translates into love (or in their case, record sales). But in real life (and that’s a whole other blog), sex is about knowing and sharing yourself with another person in a way that makes you feel good and smart about your own choices. About your own sense of self.