Sunday, December 7, 2008

Purity is Back...Alright

Purity is perhaps less welcome back today than even the Backstreet Boys. It is possibly as welcome as the return of New Kids on the Block. That said, NKOTB actually does have a new album out, inventively called The Block, and apparently thirtysomething women have been turning up to their concerts in screaming droves, reliving their teenage idolisation of the first superstar "boy band". But I digress.

Those au fait with contemporary children's literature will have heard of a little series called Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I currently have the three or four Bible's worth of paper stacked at home awaiting some holiday reading, thanks to my lovely colleague Kris. Now the religious comparison there is not without reason. Today's Age is running a story about virginity being "back" in vogue, combining a few real-world examples of young people who will "save themselves" for marriage (sourced from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and invoking Meyer's vampire quartet of novels for girls as indicative of a turn back to purity after decades of sex obsession because of vampire Edward's refusal to have sex before marriage.

The article takes an intriguing turn when we hear from a "counsellor" who did not even kiss her husband prior to marriage: "Julieanne Laird, a counsellor with the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students at Melbourne University, waited until marriage before having sex. To avoid temptation, she and her husband didn't even kiss until they were engaged; pledging not to kiss or even to dance with a man other than one's father or brother is not uncommon among the more devout pledgers." Wait a minute. We hear from an eighteen-year-old man who pledges to save himself for marriage in this article, but is there any obligation on males not to even dance with another woman other than his mother or sister?

While I'm certain that Twilight and a small number of religious groups exhibiting conservative tendencies with regard to girls' sexuality are not indicative of a radical societal shift toward abstinence, both of these examples seem to allocate males with a responsibility for controlling girls' developing sexuality, even through relatively benign milestones such as school dances.

Now I gave this post a silly title because I was thinking of a Backstreet Boys' song, but I now realise I can relate these things, as boy bands show the need for girls to gradually channel their emerging sexual feelings somewhere. Even if it is by putting it into plastering their walls with posters of men pretending to be boys. To place "promise rings" on the fingers of young girls before they've even had a chance to work through the confusing trauma of teenage desire seems a recipe for certain divorce when "the one" just doesn't live up to the marketing.

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