Sunday 12 January 2014

Sex, Parenting, Life: Do we know what we're doing?

Right off the bat, I want to categorically state that I do not know what the right answer is. I am not pretending I know something you don't, that I have a secret which will revolutionise your life. I'm just another guy fumbling around in the dark trying to figure things out as best he can. Any measure of success you or somebody else may be able to attribute to me has more to do with dumb luck as opposed to some personal strategy of successful life planning. Let me repeat that: dumb luck. You can work very hard and still fail.

I have been struck over the past while of how much of our lives is left up to chance. If I want to drive a car, I must take some instruction but more importantly, pass a test to prove I have the necessary skills before being issued a licence. If I want to be a brain surgeon, I must go to university, attend medical school, and then pass a rigorous examination process before being allowed to drill into somebody's head. When I step in an elevator, I can see a certificate issued by some government agency claiming that the machine has been checked and verified and that I, with a degree of confidence, don't have to worry about plummeting to the basement when the doors close.

But what about having children? Anybody has the fundamental right to become a parent. What about sex? If you can find a willing partner, you have the fundamental right to get it on. What about life in general? You have the fundamental right to roll the dice.

Do we, the collective we, know what's going on? Does a fish know it's living in a fishbowl?

In 2014, documentary film maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom is going to release the film "The Mask You Live In" which asks the question "As a society, how are we failing our boys?" She makes the following points.

Compared to a girl the same age, a boy in late adolescence is 7 times more likely to die by his own hand.

Boys under 17 drink more heavily than any other population group.

Boys in the U.S. are 30% more likely than girls to flunk or drop-out of school.

In my posting "Boys Will Be Boys (or However We Make Them)" I provide more information about the film.

In response to my posting, a woman tweeted:

"As a mother of boys and a lover of men, I wish I knew how to help."

Once again, if I bring up some points here, I am in no way claiming I'm better than you that I know something you don't. I'm just your average run of the mill guy trying to figure things out by asking some questions, sometimes some personal questions which may tick you off.

You love your children. Is that enough? Now before you flip out on me, I'm not talking about anybody specific; certainly not the couple sitting in the third row from the back. I'm talking big picture, the collective we.

CDC: Youth Suicide
Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide. Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 81% of the deaths were males and 19% were females.

CDC: Youth Violence (PDF)
Among homicide victims 10 to 24 years old in 2010, 86% (4,171) were male and 14% (657) were female.

These statistics are about boys because this discussion was sparked by the above film. But any of this could equally be applied to girls. I'm talking about children in general.

Forty years ago, I got myself into hot water for suggesting that being a parent shouldn't be a right, it should be a privilege. I'll repeat the issue. Anybody can become a parent. There are no tests to pass; there is no required training; it is a fundamental right of every human being. The collective we has a system in place for driving. The collective we has a system for becoming a brain surgeon. According to the CDC: Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, and results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year.

Yes, yes, you say you love you kids but standing back and looking at the big picture, somebody somewhere isn't doing such a good job. And yes, I know you're going to start looking at one or two specific cases and will detail the circumstances explaining the problem, but let me remind you that I'm looking at the big picture. Anybody can become a parent. There are no tests to pass. There is no required training. It is the fundamental right of every citizen.

Do you have the financial resources necessary to not just support your children, but provide the opportunities they need to get ahead in life? Have you and your spouse not just gotten married, but made a personal commitment to one another, to the relationship, and to the children, to see it through to the end? Have you and your spouse done what's necessary, continue to do what's necessary, and have committed to always do what's necessary to work on personal issues and couple related issues to ensure you do not arrive at a point where the only solution is to get a divorce?

Aside: Before anybody thinks I'm beating up on parents, I recognise that once a child goes out into the world, there are a myriad of influences outside of our control which come into play. School, peer groups, media, and society in general start shaping children and parents may have little or no control over what's going on. I was recently speaking with a mother who told me of how her 30-year-old son is back in jail a second time for drug related offenses. Needless to say, she was devastated. What could she have done differently she asked. Addiction is beyond the power of parenting.

I don't think of myself as a sex blogger per se, but someone who writes about it more from a social perspective. (Kinkly: Our Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2013:  I'm number 75. Good Dirty Woman: 14 Sex Blogs & Websites to Follow in 2014)

I think sex is the primordial glue which holds our relationships together. While sex may only be 1% of our relationships (my blog: Sex: 1% vs. 99%), I would put forward the theory that this 1% has an huge impact of the quality of the other 99% of our relationships. In other words, if the 1% is bad, the 99% is probably going to be bad.

Ms. Wolf of Daily Plate of Crazy has recently run a series by various contributors: Your First Sexual Experience: Personal Essays. If one thing is obvious, and I mean painfully obvious, most of these people were totally unprepared for sex. Why had these people not received any sex education? Why were they, both boys and girls, so ignorant of relationships? What happened to their parents? What happened to the school system? Why would the collective we contribute nothing to ensuring its citizens weren't having the most fulfilling life possible?

The divorce rate, according to various sources, is 40% to 50%. Two-thirds of divorces are filed by women. While many reasons like physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, or criminal behaviour are cited, the number one reason for a woman filing for divorce is neglect. Neglect? At one time, they guy thought his gal was the next best thing to sliced bread and ends up being bored with her? Why?

I asked: Are men lousy lovers? I discussed if men had the foggiest idea of how to satisfy a woman. Some people are having fabulous relationships, both sexual and romantic, but it seems from my research a lot aren't having as much fun as they would like.

I asked: Are women lousy lovers? Do women know how to please a man? If a guy is neglecting his gal, I wonder why?

According to a 2002 study from the Centers for Disease Control 90 percent of men and 88 percent of women have had oral sex with an opposite-sex partner. But that is in their lifetime. The Kinsey Institute qualifies that by quoting a 1994 study: 27% of men and 19% of women have had oral sex in the past year.

This comes back to something insidious in our culture.

Women are taught to suppress their sexuality. Men are taught to suppress their sensuality.

To be blunt: I don't think we know f**k all about f**king. But when I say f**king, I'm not talking about just sex, the 1%, I'm talking about relationships, passion, the whole shebang, the 100%.

And if we don't have good sex, if we don't have passion, if our 1% sucks (or doesn't suck as in lack of oral sex), the rest of our relationship isn't going to go very well. Guys get bored and neglect their wives? Wives file for divorce because they're sick of being neglected? Yes, yes, somebody goes to put forward their specific case and say, "I did him/her every day and they still hated me." That's one case. In the big picture, who among us comes to the table with a diploma in sex education and relationships? The vast majority of us are winging it.

If I knew at 20 what I know now. Who hasn't said that? I, for one, have said it many times and I'll probably go on saying it. This is where I break into my best Frank Sinatra imitation and start singing, "Regrets, I've had a few." (My Way)

Am I rich? No. Obviously I don't know much about life, work, and getting ahead. I'm divorced. What do I know about relationships? Parenting? I'm sure that could have been better.

All of us can discuss our failures and mention extenuating circumstances. That may be true, but a failure is still a failure. And unfortunately, life is something you can't go back and do over. You accidentally get your hand caught in the woodchipper and end up having your entire arm ripped off. You will be an amputee for the rest of your life. Your only choice is to accept it with Zen-like wisdom. Lost your job? Got a divorce? Life is tough? What are you going to do about it?

Final Word
I have joked that I am going to be on my death bed and I'm going to exclaim, "Eureka! I've figured life out!" Then I'm going to expire.

I've done the best I could but I recognise that my best wasn't always good enough. I've tried but now realise I didn't always have the necessary education and training and my attempts were the futile attempts of a rank amateur. If I could do it all over again would I do it differently? You bet. I'm a flawed individual and I will pay for my mistakes for the rest of my life.

Was I too pig-headed to listen to my elders, the voice of experience? Or did people just fail to tell me what to do? That may be an issue one would like to debate but considering what I see in society, in the political arena, and in life in general, I wonder if the collective we, supposedly mature adults no less, really know what the hell they're talking about. Does a fish know it's living in a fish bowl?

Documentary film maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom asks the question "As a society, how are we failing our boys?" I can't help thinking that it isn't just boys, but girls, men, and women who are being failed by the collective we. We are failing each other.


When I stated above "You can work very hard and still fail," what did I mean exactly?
* There's a economic turndown and you lose your job.
* You have a health issue and use up your life savings dealing with it. Or you die.
* You end up divorced.

my blog: Miss Representation: You can't be what you can't see
The film Miss Representation exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality. ... 2011 American documentary film written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Wikipedia: Chinese finger trap
The initial reaction of the victim is to pull the fingers outward, but this only tightens the trap. The way to escape the trap is to push the ends toward the middle, which enlarges the openings and frees the fingers.


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1 comment:

Walker Thornton said...

What a complicated topic(s). The statistics are shocking and who knows which one or two things could make the most impact? It seems to me that much of what happens to young men (I've raised two) is wrapped up in how discuss masculinity. My husband was of the 'suck it up and act like a man' mentality--he got it from an old-fashioned, older father. So I tried to be the softening agent in that marriage.
Do we start with mandatory parenting classes? The military does that! Do we change our educational structure, bringing in less educational subject matter in favor of emotional IQ programs?
We've got a culture that is obsessed with power and competition and violence. Football players are heroes and role models. It's a tough one.
For starters each of us can work to provide education and be mindful of our language when discussing men around issues of masculinity, emotions, gender roles.
Thank you for tackling this topic!