Newsletter – January 2013

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  THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2013

     1.  FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
     2.  THE END OF COURTSHIP?
     3.  I’M UNQUALIFIED TO WRITE ABOUT “GIRLS”…
     4.  THE “SHAMELESS SLUT VOTE”
     5.  AFTER THE AFFAIR
     6.  THESE WRETCHED VESSELS
     7.  THIS MONTH’S LINKS

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QUOTE OF THE MONTH – SORAYA CHEMALY & AMANDA MARCOTTE

“Like sex ed, a lot of what we call ‘social issues’ could simply be called ‘sex issues:’ gay marriage, abortion rights, birth control, and even issues like stem cell research. As Amanda Marcotte put it earlier this year, ‘More than most campaign seasons in the past couple of decades, this most recent election serves as a reminder that the gap between sexually progressive and reactionary pockets of America persists. If anything, it’s growing, with progressives forging ahead and reactionaries making increasingly stringent demands for laws and policies that punish and control sexuality, especially queer and female sexuality.’ There is the party of ‘sex is natural and good’ and the party of ‘sex is sinful and wrong.’ ‘Sex is natural and good’ won and that’s got to count for something.”

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1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS

 January Greetings, Dear Friends…

I’ve always known somewhere that sex was the driving story of my life, but 40’s and 50’s Midwest cultural conditioning deeply imprinted me to never admit that, especially to myself. When I grew from child to young man, there seemed to be only two ways to relate to women. The first was as creatures on a pedestal whom I couldn’t think of in a physical way before marriage without being a despicable cad (“eternal virgins” Doris Day and June Allyson, who had 8+ marriages between them, come to mind). The second way was to find women I could touch and love physically, and, because I did, I would think they must be “whores” or “sluts” and unfit for relationship. How sad this was for all of us!

It’s easier to look at the absurdity of those times now that my 70+ years have made acting on my rampant sexuality much less addictive. While I still dearly love to appreciate and flirt with feminine sensuality, I have little need to physically go further. So I am writing to you from a freer and cleaner place than I could have in earlier years.

My inability to recognize the power of the sexual drive may be just my issue, but I believe it’s cultural  – and a liability for most Americans. So many of the conflicts that have made our process of government dysfunctional for decades are now obviously about sex and not about all the other names we’ve used to hide our societal dysfunctioning.

My international friends have noticed this for years and wonder what is wrong with us. My French colleague and mentor, Clothaire Rapaille, whose expertise is the cultural unconscious, said about America: “You are barely 200 years old, an adolescent culture, and that is obvious in your fixations on violence and sex.”  After Gary Hart was disqualified for running for President in 1987 because of an apparent affair, Clothaire enjoyed saying, “You Americans – it’s as if you’re getting on plane and instead of asking whether the pilot knows how to fly it, you ask whether he’s had any affairs!”

Hopefully, more Americans will grow out of this adolescent black/white thinking about sex, and we’ll be able to begin governing ourselves again. But, Amanda Marcotte is not optimistic:

   “…The gap between sexually progressive and reactionary pockets of Americans persists…” and “…if anything, it’s growing…”

If she’s correct, and I think she is, we need to step back and take a hard look at ourselves and our stupidities that have led our country into – and keep it in – this dysfunctional impasse.

While I’m now seeing many progressive citizens accepting sex as a natural part of life, I also recognize many others are becoming more entrenched in the reactionary positions. Below are some of the forces I see at work currently in the USA…

EXHIBIT A:  THE PHENOMENON OF E. L. JAMES’ “50 SHADES” TRILOGY:  On January 20 The New York Times Paperback Trade Fiction still ranks James three novels #1, #2 and #3 after 44, 41 and 41 weeks on this list respectively.

EXHIBIT B:  THE REPUBLICANS “WAR ON WOMEN” IN AMERICA  that had the result of getting Obama elected to a second term in spite of a very difficult economy and the racial bigotry still rampant in the US.

EXHIBIT C:  THE SUCCESS OF HBO’S SERIES “GIRLS”  has brought the power of sex for all genders into the light, and the agonies of these four young ladies certainly counterbalance “Sex in the City’s” illusions of chic-ness.

EXHIBIT D:  A WORLD MAP OF PROSTITUTION’S LEGAL STATUS  which shows the US to be pretty much alone among western developed nations in its Puritan attitude toward this most ancient of all occupations.

EXHIBIT E:  PURITY BALLS  are formal dance events attended by fathers and daughters (4-18) where daughters make a virginity pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage, and fathers promise to protect their “purity of mind, body, and soul.”

EXHIBIT F:  US ALLOWS WOMEN IN COMBAT:  The US Defense Department announced this week that women in the military are finally going to get the opportunity to serve in combat. It’s another “equal right” that’s been a long time coming…

There are more examples of both these progressive and reactionary trends in THIS MONTH’S LINKS if you’re interested – and a web search will provide an almost endless supply.

But now I want to get personal again about how astounded I am to discover my own deeply imprinted anti-sexuality prejudices – even after getting to live fully the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. A major example is found in my 40+ year reverence for “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”

For all those decades I’ve failed to notice that Maslow assigns sex to only the most basic level of need – the physiological. The needs for security, belonging, status and the idea of “SELF-ACTUALIZATION” all rank as higher order territory than sex. That certainly isn’t my life experience, and how I could miss this huge disconnect between the reality I’ve lived and this pet concept is really blowing my mind! I’m not alone on this, either…

   “The position and value of sex on the pyramid has also been a source of criticism regarding Maslow’s hierarchy. Maslow’s hierarchy places sex in the physiological needs category along with food and breathing; it views sex solely from an individualistic perspective. For example, sex is placed with other physiological needs which must be satisfied before a person considers “higher” levels of motivation. This view of sex neglects the emotional, familial, and evolutionary implications of sex within the community.[20][21]”

So I’m personally struggling in that painfully ecstatic disturbance that accompanies entering a new portal of growth. As with so many other portals to growth, I imagine it will be a rocky ride.

What follows is a selection of some of the thinking that has opened this current portal to me…

2.  THE END OF COURTSHIP?  As a Third Ager, I find this perspective very different than anything I ever knew or imagined. I’m asking my youngest kids, Katie and Matt in their early 30’s, and my grandchildren, Vincent, Wilson and McKinley early 20’s to 17, for their take. Have things really changed so much since we were their age?

3.  “I’M UNQUALIFIED TO WRITE ABOUT ‘GIRLS’ – BUT IT FEELS RIGHT AND IT’S HILARIOUS”  is one the many reviews praising the show’s consistent honesty which regularly moves from agonizing to delightful. “GIRLS” shows visually what “THE END OF COURTSHIP? (#3) looks like in the life of four New York 20-somethings – and that is a very far cry from our memories of yesteryear or “Sex in the City”…

4.  THE “SHAMELESS SLUT VOTE”  seems to me to be one of the healthiest things to happen to the USA in my lifetime. How right it is for the lovely McKinley and all daughters of that generation to be at least somewhat released from the slander their mothers and grandmothers were abused with!

5.  AFTER THE AFFAIR brings us closer to earlier generations’ struggles. How many of us have dealt with, or not dealt with, this almost universal reality of “affairs”? I know my own parents did, but only because Dad couldn’t avoid telling me; I still don’t know if Mom ever acknowledged them consciously. But affairs have always happened, and my children and grandchildren are a lot better prepared to cope with them than we were.

6.  THESE WRETCHED VESSELS is a beautiful piece that gives a perspective on who we really are – and how only a part of that is our physical body however central to us as it has been. At 75 I’m recognizing the importance of this understanding and finding ways to relax into the reality of so much more. I hope you are, too.

Much love, FW

www.FatherWilliam.org 

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7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:  US POLARIZED ATTITUDES TOWARD SEX

EXHIBIT A:  THE PHENOMENON OF E. L. JAMES’ “50 SHADES” TRILOGY  has been mistakenly labeled “mommy-porn” when, in fact, it is really part of the feminine’s taking its rightful place as full partner with the masculine:

   – Maya, a regular blogger for “Feministing,” takes exception to “What Katie Roiphe gets wrong about “Fifty Shades of Grey” and fantasies of sexual submission…”

EXHIBIT B:  THE REPUBLICANS “WAR ON WOMEN” IN AMERICA  that had the result of getting Obama elected to a second term in spite of a very difficult economy and the racial bigotry still rampant in the US.

   – Doonesbury’s ridicule of the Texas sonogram law designed to shame women out of choosing an abortion

   – Kate Beckinsale, Judy Greer, and Angela Savage’s hysterical video about where Republican women want their government

   – “Margaret and Helen” in their 80’s are “all for a Million Vagina March as long as it doesn’t go too far and I am home in time for my programs”

   – The increasing number of “SlutWalks” protesting patriarchy’s attempts to make rape the fault of women

   – The silencing of Michigan State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum for using the word “vagina” during debate over “some of the most restrictive anti-choice legislation in the country.” What Representative Brown said was, “Finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

   – The Republicans attempt to blame Obama’s reelection on the “Slut Vote” rather than on their arrogantly and stupidly insisting on bringing back their “good ole boys” patriarchal domination and subordination of women;

EXHIBIT C:  THE SUCCESS OF HBO’S SERIES “GIRLS”  that has finally brought the power of sex for all genders – and it’s agonies during our 20s – fully into the light counterbalance “Sex in the City’s” illusions of chic-ness.

   – How much further Lena Dunham’s naked honesty takes us beyond the 40s and 50s this old man grew up in

EXHIBIT D:  WORLD MAP OF PROSTITUTION’S LEGAL STATUS  which shows the US to be pretty much alone among western developed nations in its Puritan attitude toward this most ancient of all occupations.

EXHIBIT E:  PURITY BALLS  are formal dance events attended by fathers and their daughters where daughters make a virginity pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage, and fathers promise to protect their young girls’ “purity of mind, body, and soul.”

TIME’s story gives a full and balanced perspective on “Purity Balls”:

[1] Proponents of these events contend that they encourage close and deeply affectionate relationships between fathers and daughters, thereby avoiding the premarital sexual activity that allegedly results when young women seek love through relationships with young men.[2] Critics assert that the balls promulgate messages encroaching upon women’s freedom,[2] promote anti-feminist ideals, and ignore homosexuality.[3]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purity_ball

EXHIBIT F:  US ALLOWS WOMEN IN COMBAT:  The US Defense Department announced this week that women in the military are finally going to get the opportunity to serve in combat. It’s another “equal right” that’s been a long time coming…

“Women in the military are going to get to serve in combat. They killed the Equal Rights Amendment to keep this from happening, but, yet, here we are. And about time…We’ve come a long, sometimes tragic, heroic way.”

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