Saturday, May 21, 2005

United States of Puritanica: differential treatment for sexual immorality

I've been thinking about Lindsay's post on Alysha Cosby and the reasons girls who get pregnant out of wedlock have to endure punishment while the guys who got them pregnant don't seem to face punitive action.

As much as we hate to admit it, no matter how depraved our mainstream entertainment industry is (and how sales/viewership increase in a directly proportional relationship to that depravity), America is still Puritan at heart. The Fundagelicals are the modern day task-makers whose primary goal is to put Puritanism back in action to control those of us who've gotten away with living outside the limited social norms of their small, closed society.

The Puritans and Fundagelicals have the same view of gender roles, G-d ordained man as King of his castle and women are to submit to the authority of men. For the Puritans, religion was central to life with members of both sexes expected to be devout practitioners of faith and people were kept in line by harsh punishment that included and relied on public humiliation.
Puritanism regarded men and women as spiritual equals. The men might be the church leaders but women were seen as the more disciplined and moral sex. They supported each other and excluded men from the risky moment of childbirth, supporting the mother-to-be with beer as well as prayer.

Even if they had no official standing, women exercised a lot of informal influence. Few male leaders, especially religious leaders, could survive the widespread disapproval of a community's women. Women frequently appeared in court charged with slander or as plaintiffs in a variety of cases. They also played a part in policing sexual morality in the community. [Pioneer House - Daily Life]
That controlling mechanism is alive and well today, it absolutely thrives in Junior Highs & High Schools as evidenced by Odd Girl Out/Odd Girl Speaks Out, Queen Bees & Wannabes, getting mono, etc. We, unfortunately, see a degree of it in the workplaces and, of course, it's back in the forefront of our country's politics in which much of the debate centers on matters of "sexual immorality".

There was a high road to take that could have served the purpose of the Catholic church and the community that Cosby's school didn't take. One would think, in the current political environment, that Alysha Cosby's school would praise her for making the choice to continue her pregnancy while facing the all too real consequences of engaging in sexual activity the church does not condone. She could, and should, have been used as an example of someone who made the wrong choice (committing the sin of pre-marital sex) but did not compound her sin by using proscribed contraception or having an abortion. Additionally, despite the difficulties and uncertainty of pregnancy and looming motherhood, she worked hard to finish high school so as not to put her or her child at even further disadvantage that frequently accompanies dropping out of high school. Instead they were focused on keeping Cosby out of the classroom and preventing her from partcipating in the graduation ceremony (keeping her out of sight) to maintain the illusion of student purity. Cosby wasn't just someone who set a bad example, she was the crack in the facade that they'd have to acknowledge if she had been allowed to graduate with her class (her boyfriend was allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony because he showed no obvious signs of his lack of chastity).

The orthodoxy of all 3 Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam & Judaism) view the women as the gatekeepers to sexual morality. They believe that the female form and voice are enticing to men and, as such, must be kept from view to prevent men from experiencing that temptation. When a female flaunts her femininity, she must be aware of the temptation she presents to men and so, if she will not prevent the man from experiencing that temptation, it is her responsibility to prevent him from succumbing to it.

It is based on this that the orthodox Christian denominations, while quietly acknowledging the men who impregnate women out of wedlock are guilty of the sin of fornication, hold the women more culpable and deserving of more severe punishment than the men (boys will be boys, girls should know better). A pregnant woman who is not married (or only recently married) is viewed as having thumbed her nose at propriety as if she's loudly proclaiming her willful engagement in the sin of fornication; she is an example to other females and, as such, those other females must know she has been suitably punished for her indiscretion.

The Fundagelicals and Catholics are fully cognizant of the fact the message they are sending to girls is not to get caught, this is why they want to ensure that the knowledge of and access to means of prevention of STIs and pregnancy (contraception & HPV vaccination), as well as abortion remain inaccessible to all women regardless of the circumstances. If the women are unable to prevent getting caught and live in dire fear of the potential repercussions they will, for the most part, remain the "good" girls that don't shame their fathers or cuckhold their husbands. Their fathers and husbands on the other hand will still be able to find the odd whore to dally with, but we'll know how to differentiate the two and which one will have to endure disease, raise bastard children without assistance all while facing the wrath of "decent" society.

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