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Should Christian virgins be vying for sex-object status?

Since I have no TV channels (just a box that works with the VCR) and have never seen "American Idol," I may have little right to comment on this story, but I thought it a kind of interesting one.

It seems that a young man named Bruce Dickson, age 19, a home-schooled Christian who has promised not to kiss a girl until his wedding night, wants to be a singer. So he competed (or whatever it is you do) on "American Idol," and got himself mocked by the folks in charge there for "not being a man." There's no comment in the story on how good his singing was.

There's no question that the guys at "American Idol" behaved badly. My reaction to their treatment of Bruce Dickson (not to mention their worldview) is, "Boy, are you immature!" But I was much struck by the rationale for making fun of him, given by an expert, an editress with Playboy:

"I'm not belittling Bruce's Christian beliefs, but I do think being in tune with one's own sexuality goes a long way in being confident with yourself," Preston said. "Confidence is key, especially for 'American Idol.'

"These kids become sex objects, thrust into the spotlight," she continued. "And while I know they're all trying to stand out, especially during the audition period, using your Christian beliefs and the fact that you've never kissed a girl is not going to bode well for you while trying out to be America's next big sex object.

"It's a national popularity contest based on talent and sex appeal," Preston said. "There's nothing sexy about a 19-year-old guy who's never kissed a girl and wears a heart necklace whose father is holding the key to."

Set aside the implication that "being in tune with your sexuality" is necessary for "being confident," which is balderdash. And let's even waive the fact that Ms. Preston is undoubtedly wrong to imply that women would not find it attractive in a man that he is planning not to kiss a girl until his wedding night. If nothing else, some girls might find this a challenge. I would imagine Bruce will get swarmed at college if he lets the word get out on this one.

But is Preston right about what going on "American Idol" is all about? Are these people trying to become sex objects? If so, it's no place for Bruce Dickson. He should take recent events as a sign and move in a different direction.

Comments (51)

No--Preston is wrong. Becoming a celebrity is not necessarily the same thing as a sex object, and perhaps there are some contestants who really just love to sing and perform to entertain others, though one could question the means they are choosing.

That big fat black guy (marvelous voice) who won a couple years ago was no sex object.

But I wouldn't put it past the show's producers to allow someone like Bruce to audition so that they might have the opportunity to make fun of him.

But I wouldn't put it past the show's producers to allow someone like Bruce to audition so that they might have the opportunity to make fun of him.

I've never watched the show, but from the ads for it, that would seem to be a large part of the "fun."

re: sex appeal of "no kissing"

It can go both ways. If this guy has the look of a confident, High School Quarterback, All-American lad who could get kiss a lot of girls if he wanted, but choose not to. Then that could be very appealing.

However, if he is a panzie, dorky, marching band-type who chooses not to kiss girls, but we all know no one wants to kiss him, then that would be a huge turn-off.

What's Wrong with the World maintains an elevated tone, so I am trying to think of an elevated way to say, "American Idol is a doofus."

Only 19, the kid in question has reached the age of reason but not yet the age of wisdom. Surely he does not fully understand the purpose of abstention; how could he? This makes him easy to mock; but more than this, it also makes transparent the depravity of the mocker. The impressive thing about this kid is that, though only 19, he freely chooses to defer to the wisdom of his elders. He will go far.

One wonders if the swinging narcissists at American Idol have the wit to contemplate how this kid's posterity will compare against their own a hundred years hence.

I liked young Bruce's line when Cybercast News Service talked to him. "A real man would rather wait than just do whatever with whoever." I'll excuse the grammar--"whoever" rather than "whomever." There's a picture of him on the CNS story now. I can't speak to his being a "marching band" guy or a "quarterback guy" just from the picture, but he's good-looking enough.

There is a certain aspect of seeking martyrdom over American Idol that is bit sad. It ranks just above reading certain magazines for the articles.

If this man is like most young men of the chaste variety he is putting off seeking a mate until he is secure in his wordly self. While many in these commuities will praise the man who maintains his virginity until 35, I tend to be of the skeptical mode wondering what he had done for the last 20 years of his life. It is one thing to embrace the chaste life and quite another to remain chaste because you haven't found anything worth having. Yes, the man is 19, and all I have offered is speculation.

As a small aside, the audition process is something like 5 days. He would have had two prior auditions before going before Simon, Paula, and Randy. It was most certainly deliberate.

With no offense intended against anyone who might enjoy watching American Idol, I find the program to be one of the more loathsome of the entertainment products floating in the vast cloaca of American popular culture. From meretricious celebrity culture to the deliberate cultivation of mockery, unearned hauteur, and the exploitation of the talentless and credulous, the program has it all. About the only positive thing I can conceive of saying about it is that Reuben Studdard can sing.

Well, I mean, so it was deliberate. So? That is something interesting about him, is it not? I'm willing to admit that maybe it's a sufficiently private matter that it shouldn't be noised abroad, but that's a judgment call about which I'm not at all sure.

And what do you mean, what has a guy been doing with his life? To begin with, the issue is _marriage_, not a vow of perpetual celibacy. He's not promising to be a monk. (Not that there is anything wrong with being a monk, either.) It's entirely plausible that he could be married within four-five years and have a solid job and a child. In fact, families that advocate this type of thing are sometimes also advocates of younger marriage. It's usually the guys who believe in sleeping around who say, "Oh, I won't even think about getting married until I'm 35." Yeah, no urgency about it for them, right? Because sex has been divorced from marriage.

And if somebody for whatever reason does not find a mate until he is 35 and does maintain his virginity, is that not praiseworthy? Is fornication part of "doing something with your life"?

I sort of suspected that, Maximos, though I'm in no position to say (and have no interest in gaining more knowledge on the point--I'll take your word for it). My first reaction to this story was "What's a nice kid like that doing in a place like that?"

Maybe I can put this less offesively. There are many on the Evangelical Right who have greater concern over chastity than they do perpetual adolescence. It is seen as mark of holiness almost to go as long as possible being a virgin and not be married. There is nothing wrong with embracing a life of chastity. If you are looking to get married, you aren't seeking a life of chastity however. Someone seeking the married life even if he remains a virgin has still failed in his quest if he does not wed. Redemption is available to those who prematurely enjoy conjugal relations before marriage. One cannot be made younger however.

Of course, to be entirely fair, many young Christians, of whatever confession, who devoutly desire to marry comparatively early, find themselves unable to do so because a majority of young Christians are either scarcely different from the unchurched in their mores, or remain in a queer sort of evangelical arrested adolescence.

This, at least, was my experience, in some measure.

Sorry, MZ, I still don't get it. If there is a problem anywhere in the neighborhood of what you are saying (and I'm stretching to find one) it is that too many evangelicals accept the worldly expectation of late marriage, even very late marriage, while realizing that according to Christian morals sex outside of marriage is wrong, so they should remain chaste if they are not married. Now, this is hardly correctly described as its being a mark of holiness not to get married. Far from it. In fact, evangelicals don't (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing) even believe in vows of lifelong celibacy, and you have to get pretty far along in age before you do the nearest equivalent, saying sadly that "perhaps God has called me to the unmarried state." And even then you are willing to reconsider that if Mr. Right comes along.

No, if they wait until late to get married, it's because they haven't sufficiently reconsidered the larger culture's secular expectation of "career first, marriage later," or "you're not ready to get married until you're at least 30" which of course in the secular milieu is combined with "sleep around first, marriage later." So they may make it unnecessarily hard on themselves by not trying to get married sooner. Though, as Maximos says, this isn't entirely up to the individual, either.

The culture as a whole encourages arrested adolescence--older and older "kids" living at home, college students being thought of as "children," trying different jobs to "find your dream" or else remaining perpetually in school, and the like. This is hardly an evangelical phenomenon per se. Indeed, I'd guess you'd find the same (expectation of late marriage) among American Christian kids of many denominations. If the evangelicals put a special emphasis on chastity in the meanwhile, that is if anything to their credit.

There's nothing creditable about accepting it as a predetermined fact that one will be having sex before marriage, as if one had no will in the matter. Nor is fornication a legitimate rite of passage or a godly way of gaining maturity.

I'm not arguing for sex before marriage. While there are indeed some difficulties finding a spouse when one is young, many times it is just a case of making the perfect the enemy of the good. I certainly hadn't arrived when I got married, and I doubt I'm there yet. You are certainly correct that this has to do with the embrace of late marriage.

Well, it sounds like now I might have a valid reason to watch. If this guy makes it to the part of the show where America gets to vote, I could support him. I admit, I do watch the show; not so much the auditions, but the "America Votes" portion of the show. Since I don't really watch the auditions, I've not seen the guy under such scrutiny. I do know, however, that controversy and "bad" press on this show tends to help rather than hinder a contestants chance at succeeding. This observation hold true at least in the early stages. As far as stating that all American Idol winners are competing to become sex idols, I would be extremely shocked to learn that last year's American Idol, Jordin Sparks, would consider herself to be a sex idol. In fact, I would be doubtful if a general survey of America would produce results demonstrating that she would be considered a sex idol. While she is a beautiful girl, she has portrayed TO DATE a clean and wholesome image. Additionally, she has made it clear that she is pro-life and has lent her reputation to the quest. Pro-life and sex idols don't tend to go hand-in-hand due to America's use of abortion as a form of contraception. But all of that aside...back to my self-rationalizing defense of watching programs like American Idol. If we can help create seemingly good Christians celebrities like Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood, we can pray that they might positively influence the liberal-created, irresponsible adolescent arena. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a new Archbishop Sheen on prime time America again, but since I don't see that happening, maybe we can use the media tools to form some good.

I think there are advantages in both marrying early in life and waiting a few years.

Delaying marriage allows one to establish a career and finances (last I checked, marriage and children required that).

"Delayed adolescence" is as much by-product of the modern career possibilities as anything else. If the possible career paths were either (1) farm corn or (2) farm wheat, well, you can see how people might feel their career is established at 20 years old. However, with the modern career possibilities requiring a wide assortment of undergraduate and graduate degrees, let alone the travel, well people might want to use their 20s for something else than raising kids.

I don't think there is anything immature about this. I think it's a great system. We should consider ourselves blessed.

As for marriage and the family, other possibilities have opened up. I have mixed feelings on cohabitation. On the one hand, I think it's a great way for people to get to know each other and "try out" the marriage. If it does not work out, then they've prevented a divorce later in life. On the other, all too often, the guy does not want to get married.

Similarly, I have mixed feelings on early marriers. On the one hand, it avoids the problem of guy-commitment. On the other, those that marry at 18-22 tend to regret it, feeling that they missed out on something. This leads to resentment and lack of personal fulfillment. I've seen it time and time to be convinced that this is a very real problem.

Royale, not only I but most of those in my audience accept as a moral axiom that having sex outside of marriage is, y'know, wrong. So all of these consequentialist considerations are a little beside the point. (Though FWIW the prevalence of cohabitation has hardly driven down divorce rates. Far from it.) Given that fornication is wrong, deliberate late marriage is somewhat imprudent if it can be avoided. I doubt that late marriage would be accepted in the way that it is in our culture if sex outside of marriage were not itself so widely accepted.

As for marriage and the family, other possibilities have opened up. I have mixed feelings on cohabitation. On the one hand, I think it's a great way for people to get to know each other and "try out" the marriage. If it does not work out, then they've prevented a divorce later in life.

I've certainly no mixed feelings about it, though I will readily admit I can be called a hypocrite. You share a home, you entangle your finances, you share a bed, present yourself as a couple... when you split you've not prevented a divorce, you've divorced, you just don't become an official statistic. If allowed to do it over again, I'd not have taken the road I did as it lead to one such non-statistical 'divorce' (and a miserable one at that).

On the other, those that marry at 18-22 tend to regret it, feeling that they missed out on something. This leads to resentment and lack of personal fulfillment. I've seen it time and time to be convinced that this is a very real problem.

The proper way to resolve this would be to completely rid society of the pressures that cause those senses of regret, resentment and lack of fulfillment. If marriage was, as it should be, celebrated rather than looked at as something of a last resort or what you do when you're done "having fun", there wouldn't be such pressures. Of course the skeptical me sees a big 'fat chance' stamp over the top of that.

It would seem to be easier to just accept "experiencing life" (or whatever positive spin you may wrongly put on it) and thus declare marrying young (or at all) to be the problem. Marriage isn't a problem. The scorn and lack of respect and lack of support for the institution is.

Excellent, Todd.

This whole business about people thinking that they "missed out on something" makes me wonder _what_ it is they think they missed out on. Is this a guy thing I just don't get? I'm guessing, maybe, some guys think they missed out on having sexual intercourse with a greater variety of women or something? Or is it a matter of travel and jumping from job to job? "Hey, if I hadn't gotten married, maybe I would be flying all over the world and having more varied experiences without being tied down to this one place and job."

And are men and women equally likely to have such regrets?

"Far from it.) Given that fornication is wrong, deliberate late marriage is somewhat imprudent if it can be avoided."

Did I miss something in the logic, or is this a non-sequitor? There are plenty of valid reasons to delay marriage.

Marriage requires money.
Money requires a career.
A career requires time, perhaps an education. Perhaps graduate degrees.

Why is that so imprudent?

I would think that jumping into marriage without preparation would be, y'know, wrong.

Well, I said "somewhat imprudent." I meant from a moral point of view--that is, in that it subjects people to a longer period of temptation to sexual sin. St. Paul has a few words on that subject: "It is better to marry than to burn." Not very romantic, but perhaps common-sensical.

But of course lots of things come into play. I'm not going to advocate marrying at 18 and expecting your parents to support you or something. Yes, of course, you have to have a job. It would be better, however, if all or most jobs didn't require (of all things) graduate degrees. Better economically for the country, too, for that matter.

Marriage requires money.
Money requires a career.
A career requires time, perhaps an education. Perhaps graduate degrees.

But that seems to presume that marriage and obtaining a graduate degree are mutually exlcusive. I know plenty of folks (myself included) who obtained the degree while being married. In fact, it tends to focus the mind more sharply on the goal.

Wellll, so did we, but. There are a couple of "buts," especially for traditionalists. I was lucky in that we were able to live very thriftily on one stipend until I had a stipend coming in, too, my husband finished his graduate degree in the minimum possible time, and (thank God) got a job right out of grad school. But the graduate students I see usually expect their wives to work for years on end and put them through school. Then either they wait to have children for a very long time (especially if the husband obtains a seminary degree first or a terminal MA first and then goes on to a PhD, which lengthens the graduate time to something like eight years or even ten years beyond college, which is _very_ long) or else they have children--on purpose or otherwise--and have a problem as to how to support them and care for them. They may take student loans to live on for years on end, which isn't so good, or they may put the child in daycare while the wife works, which isn't so good, or they juggle the work schedules of the two parents, which might work and might not, and it's quite a chance to take if you consider the daycare option unacceptable.

So, yes, you _can_ do that. But I think it's important to ask yourself questions ahead of time, like, "How many years is this going to take, max?" "Are we not going to be having children during this time?" "Is it right to expect my wife to work at an unpleasant job for six years so I can get a degree in an area that fascinates me?" "What will we do if she gets pregnant?" "How can we finish this up as quickly as possible?" "What are the odds that I will be able to get a job to support my family when I'm done with this whole process?" And so forth. Often that could be a better option than simply not getting married at all and subjecting oneself to temptations (to tie this in with the post) or asking a young lady to wait for you for many years, but there need to be limitations, and it needs to be recognized that the situation in the meanwhile is stressful and perhaps less than ideal.

I'm almost 32 years old and I have been to 62 countries on 6 continents, studied abroad in 5 learned 4 languages, and yes, I have two graduate degrees.

Needless to say, the country is economically better with my six-figure income. I pay more in taxes in a single year than the total money I earned the first 4 years out of college.

All of this has been made possible because I am, and have always been, single.

I had a lot of friends who married at 22, feeling that "it was time". Hey, after all, they were done with college.

But when I was kickboxing in Thailand or climbing volcanoes in Nicaragua, I think they envied my decision to find personal fulfillment before getting married. For me, that was by far the more mature option.

But perhaps (forgive me if this is too personal a way of putting it) one would come to a different conclusion about the importance of kick-boxing in Thailand and volcano-climbing in Nicaragua if one's set of ethical absolutes included a ban on sex outside of marriage.

While going to graduate school involves careful planning and marriage may not always be the best idea, the vast majority of people don't go, and there are still many people without the ability to attend university and/or who are better suited to jobs in the trades (and yet are all too often ignored in those constant exhortations to get a degree so we can all be competitive in the information age, and further ignored in the immigration debate; perhaps the unspoken assumption is that they can always be herded into service jobs). For working-class people, marriage has served as an extra protection against poverty and provides an important sense of stability; the decline of marriage has been greatly to their detriment, especially when children are involved; it has, in part, made them poor and continues to keep them there. Even if a couple doesn't have a lot of money between them or post-secondary education, marrying young is still probably a good idea for them as long as the man has a stable, decent-paying job. Few things frustrate me more than the scorn of marriage (and chastity) among the educated and wealthy; they can afford (materially, that is) the consequences of a decline in marriage, but there are many people who can't.

In addition, despite all of our attempts to the contrary, there are still limits to fertility and stamina. Women who delay marrying and having children for too long might very well end up never being able to do these things at all, or only with great difficulty (and this also leads to the very serious moral issues surrounding IVF) and both men and women will most likely be at their most fit and energetic in their twenties; it is still the best time to have children, and, not coincidentally, it is a time when our tempations are quite strong, for some probably almost unbearably so. And I can tell you from experience that co-habiting doesn't even come close to the richness of marriage. It's also not a great arrangement for any children who might be born, and not good in many ways for the people who do it (after all, sins aren't sins because God arbitrarily designated them as such). It is better for us-and more realistic for us-to acknowledge these things and try to structure our lives around these facts than to ignore them, though I know in doing so one would be swimming against a massive tide.

Also, in a less physical, materialistic sense, marrying young provides a sense of stability and rootedness-finding a place to live and settling down, getting to know your neighbors, committing to a church, and perhaps, if you are lucky, living near your extended family-that is a vital part of coming into adulthood, or at least it used to be. Maybe the loss of these things can't be measured directly (few really important things can be measured), but I think it has affected us all more than we realize. We've forgotten the meaning of contentment and permanence, and instead of coming into adulthood and putting down roots and having children, we've enter into a sort of perpetual adolescence, just living for ourselves and for the moment and at the same time always wandering and searching for that perfect experience, perfect job, perfect man/woman, never really developing a solid identity (of course, it doesn't help that the only identity that is allowed to have any significance nowadays is our job title) or a connection with the past. Which is not to imply that getting and education and traveling before marriage can't be very conducive to growth and maturation, but in putting off marriage and children-in putting off living for others-we're putting off a very important aspect of what it means to be an adult, and in eschewing any sense of connection to a place and connection to the past, we're rapidly losing our cultural identity (at the same time that we are losing children to replace us) and leaving in its place a vaccuum. None of which bodes well for us.

A few observations on Bruce Dickson's appearance on "American Idol" and sex-symbol status, etc.

As I understand it, the "key and lock" virginity symbols are much more common with young girls, whose fathers will give the "key" to their husband some day. (One new-ish fad is "purity balls," which are like proms where you bring your father as your date.)

Because Idol processes such a vast number of auditioners, it's safe to say they probably had a lot of self-proclaimed virgins who tried out. Dickson probably made good TV because he was a male and because he's not bad-looking. He came across as a nice young man. His voice--which was decent but not good enough for a record contract--was probably unimportant. The fact that his father symbolically holds his "heart" added a level of strangeness; we're accustomed to the notion that a girl's "heart belongs to daddy," and that fathers are the guardians of their daughters' innocence, but we don't have a comparable social narrative for boys.

As far as an Idol like Jordin Sparks being a "sex object" or "sex symbol," I think it depends what you mean by that. Does Sparks go to work expecting her picture to be fodder for the masturbatory fantasies of young men or women? Probably not, although I would imagine that nearly every celebrity fills that role for at least one or two of the billions of people on the planet. But Sparks is lauded for her beauty, in spite (perhaps because) of her slightly unconventional looks. Young people are bombarded with images of rail-thin, sexed-up models and celebrities. Sparks is wholesome, fully-clothed, and a little more plus-sized than the average teenage pop star. I think part of the rhetorical framing of her celebrity is that you can be sexy as well as wholesome and plus-size. Given that a lot of boys, even Christian boys, want their future wife to be someone they find sexually appealing, then if Jordin Sparks' celebrity helps to create a "space" in our culture for finding a healthy, wholesome girl sexy, it's probably a good thing.

I know some who think that sexual attraction ought not be a consideration in partner-selection, because so many factors are more important. But realistically, it's probably here to stay. So anyone who can be perceived as sexy without being a bad role model is probably a good thing.

It's also interesting to consider that the sexuality of virgins is treated (on American Idol) in a way similar to the sexuality of young adults who appear to have gender-inappropriate mannerisms (particularly effeminate young men): with derision.

It's intriguing to read conservative criticism of Idol. In our household, we always found the show to be too socially conservative, to the point of pandering. Perhaps that's the secret to the show's phenomenal success: everyone can find something to dislike about it.

"So anyone who can be perceived as sexy without being a bad role model is probably a good thing."

I'd say, though (again, I'm ignorant of the show directly) that there might be a difference between "being perceived as sexy" and "being a sex object." At least, as you are framing it, a young man or woman could say, "I understand that my physical looks--beauty or handsomeness--may be relevant to my success in this milieu" without wanting to be, in the sense in which Preston uses the phrase in the quote I gave, "a sex object." I think of the latter phrase as denoting the idea that the opposite sex is swooning over you and possibly also doing at least some fantasizing, as opposed to enjoying seeing a lovely girl or handsome fellow on-stage who also has a good voice.

Idol is strange... the first few weeks of the show are a circus-freak-side-show of actual auditions interspersed with things that make 'good tv' -- the horribly bad -- plus filler to make it seem spontaneous and real (when it's anything but in many cases). After that it turns into a pretty decent vocal competition on the whole. Of the episodes I've watched (I'd say 30-40%), the appearance of the contestants and their mannerisms are more aimed toward 'being perceived as sexy' sometimes and never being a sex object. It really does become about the music and the performance if you ignore the 'hometown popularity contest' part of the equation. I've never heard judges criticize about needing to show more skin or have more lurid moves, and though I wouldn't always classify it as 'wholesome' the latter parts of the show are at least respectful of the contestants and the music.

With what I've witnessed, I wouldn't associate 'sex object' with the show directly. After the contestants move on from the show might be a different story, but the artists I've followed have had pretty good careers.

Despite its flaws, the winners and some of the other high-ranking contestants have turned out some really great songs and albums after the show ended. My CD collection is certainly no worse because of it.

The show has some flaws -- the first few weeks of side show antics, the fact that the judge most booed on the show is the one who is actually being honest and accurate and telling the truth (some things the friends of the performers in the first few weeks are simply not capable of, I don't think), part of the selling point in the judges' honesty is that it is sometimes extremely mean-spirited... probably a few others... there's a lot worse on TV, that's for certain.

As the show narrows to its finale, it really does become a rather tame talent show with, often, some incredible talent.

As to the contestant noted in the original article, after seven(?) seasons of the show, anyone walking into the initial auditions with something like that that will stand out like a sore thumb (which, as noted many times here is the truly sad part in this) should have known what he was getting into. Not that they're right, but it's like walking into a den of wolves -- best to be avoided. And the way in which he got press seems to me that it might further strengthen the attitudes against his devotion -- a rather opposite effect if he'd had any intention of the press he might receive encouraging other people to entertain his world view.

One can be a sex object without being all that. Simon Cowell, one of the big wigs, has ripped into contestants before about inappropriate dress. I remember him getting ribbed for saying something along the lines of girls should dress like girls. The does attempt to appeal to Top 40 radio, so it doesn't go out of its way to offend anyone.

They are trying to create Idols however in every sense of the word. If that involves prurient interest, more power. Like everything else in life, that means picking the beautiful people. Although it didn't affect Studdard, I wouldn't be surprised if it meant attempting to get the women to lose weight. Cowell has been explicit in telling some of the women they need to lose weight. A lot of them have dental work done, not that there is anything wrong with any losing weight and dental care. At the same time, they are not trying to instill Christian virtue or anything of the sort. They are selling a very secular image, which in the end is their business.

I don't think they're trying to instill Christian virtue, but they certainly try, on occasion, to sell Christian virtue. Carrie Underwood's odious single "Jesus Take the Wheel" came from her Idol-produced album. Her first single was "Inside Your Heaven;" coming from her, it did sound a bit like a song about love and sanctuary. Bo Bice's version of the same song had a little more hint of sexual metaphor.

"But perhaps (forgive me if this is too personal a way of putting it) one would come to a different conclusion about the importance of kick-boxing in Thailand and volcano-climbing in Nicaragua if one's set of ethical absolutes included a ban on sex outside of marriage."

Forgive me if I don't see the connection between the two. One can quite easily maintain sexual abstinence while doing the activities above. I found absolutely no sexual temptation while volcano climbing or even in Bangkok. Bangkok is a circus definitely, but there are 1000 reasons to keep one's pants on. My goodness, no. In fact, we made fun of the idiots who couldn't, most of whom had girlfriends back home.

But if those things aren't worth delaying marriage for, then it would always be something else - a mission's trip, a military service (to say nothing about the draft), the Peace Corp, etc...

I mentioned Thailand and Nicaragua because as I went there, I encountered places that few of my friends back home had ever even heard of, or even imagined going to. Perhaps, had they done so, they might have spent a year travelling the world before they got married.

But as they lacked dreams or could imagine a world beyond marriage, we took very different paths and I never looked back.

Royale, I believe you, but I do tend to think that if you asked most men, "Would you rather travel the world, not get married so as to be free to do so, if that meant that you remained a virgin until the age of thirty-five, or would you rather get married sooner than that, get too tied down to travel and see and do all those interesting other things, but not remain a virgin until you're 35?" they would choose the latter. Put that starkly.

I think, myself, that marriage is a very great adventure. Children, too. I sometimes feel a little sorry for people who can't imagine a world beyond having other adventures.

Why do you people waste so much time watching TV?
There are so many other worthwhile pursuits
awaiting your attention, books and the net
for example.

D. Kerr

Um, I made it very clear in the main post that I don't watch TV. It was the ideas involved in the situation that interested me.

D. Kerr,
Why is TV a waste of time, but not books?

You might check out the excellent book Everything Bad Is Good For You by Steven Johnson. He questions the notion that older, established media are automatically preferable to newer technologies.

Why do people think it is so terrible to have sex with just one person for the rest of your life? Most of my friends who are still single, hip NYC types with "interesting" sex lives seem to have most of their various sexual encounters while drunk or high; could this have something to do with the inherent awkwardness of performing the most intimate of human actions with a near stranger, one who might well cringe at the sight of cellulite, or laugh at one's inability to perform, or perhaps have strange *ahem* preferences? I've been married since 23 (I'm now 39) and really cannot see what the allure is of protracted singlehood.

Then again, I am a woman, so perhaps I am more interested in security and emotional connections than single men are...

As far as logistics of being married young, well, neither of us had any interest in graduate school, so that was not a consideration. We did put off having children for eight years, during which time we did enjoy active, outdoorsy lives, but now we have three children and still enjoy active, outdoorsy lives (it just takes more advance planning now).

I do rather wish I had gotten started earlier with the babies; really, the time to have toddlers is in your 20's when you have energy to endure sleepless nights, and you haven't wasted a large sum of money on nice furniture which then is subjected to an assault of spitup and other less pleasant bodily fluids, not to mention playdoh, markers, and other accountrements of childhood. People need to face the facts that there is never an *ideal* time to start a family (i.e., when you are financial "comfortable" and have your career where you want it to be and are in good physical shape and have no other crises going on in your life).

Just thought I'd add, since it seems relevant, that Wednesday's American Idol featured an auditioner who was a female who gives anti-drug, pro-abstinence speeches. She offered to give her speech to the judges, and she did make it through to Hollywood. The show didn't make fun of her quite as much as Bruce, but Simon did offer that he thought people would find her annoying.

Phil wrote:

D. Kerr,
Why is TV a waste of time, but not books?

Books require an exercise of the mind. Even the most banal of pulp novels requires the reader to fill in imaginatively around the text of the story, making the reader an active participant. TV provides a story complete with visual and aural context, rendering the viewer completely passive. Thus books inherently stimulate brain processes that TV does not.

That's an advantage completely independent of content; however, content is relevant, too. There are thoughtful TV shows and mindless novels, but if we're graphing the distributions with the X axis measuring "intelligence" somehow, the midpoints of the distributions would be pretty far apart, with the TV curve peaking 'way closer to the origin.

I understand your contrarian impulse, but them's the facts.

"I keep looking for the knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence. I tried 'brightness,' but it doesn't work." Gallagher

In case Ms. McGrew is still paying attention:

It is not the case that American Idol is about creating sex objects. It's about launching singing careers, and making the record producers money thereby. There are highly successful singers (and actors, and other public figures) that attain popularity without sacrificing their virtue; Mandy Moore and Reese Witherspoon come to mind, as well as -- brace yourself -- Britney Spears, who was famous long before she was sleazy, and had to go out of her way to shed her virginal reputation in an attempt to broaden her appeal.

It is the case, however, that those who run those programs wish they were about creating sex symbols. This is the sad, communal impulse of sinners. Having chosen depravity, even one person remaining pure reminds them that a better choice was possible, therefore they can't rest until the whole world has joined them in their degradation.

On the other hand, I can't help but agree with that reprobate, Simon Callow (ironically named, yes?), when he observes that most viewers might find a Professional Virgin irritating. Mr. Dickson would have been wise to keep his purity to himself until he'd achieved some status, and may have been exhibiting the more subtle and dangerous sin of pride.

Thanks for the info., Plumb Bob. My question in the main post was a genuine one, as I lack data.

As for books vs. TV, I second your opinions. I like your X-axis picture. I keep trying to imagine a TV show on many of the most interesting things people write books and papers about, *with the level of technical detail and depth one can use in a paper*...and failing. Genre matters.

Not that defending my position on watching TV is at all appropriate to the thread, but since it went down this road...

Why do you people waste so much time watching TV?
TV provides a story complete with visual and aural context, rendering the viewer completely passive.

Sometimes my being is best served by, for a time, being completely passive. Some shows relax me, educate me, and I don't have to put on my reading glasses. If that's a waste of time, then I'm happy on occasion wasting time.

Sure, we should all waste time sometimes. I agree, though I myself don't do it by watching TV. If my screen were more conveniently located, I might occasionally do it by watching a pre-selected movie without commercials, though. I think Plumb Bob was responding to the (to my mind, ridiculous) implication in Phil's comment that TV cannot be a waste of time if books are not a waste of time.

Silly quote paths in online forums -- I was merely using Phil's statements as part of my justification. The reason TV isn't intrinsically good (being passive, full story, visual aural content) like reading a book is precisely why I enjoy it.

Though I do confuse the term TV; I haven't watched commercial TV in over 2 months and even then, I haven't seen a commercial in over a year (do superbowl commercial higlights count?). Some combination of writers strike and my daughter have caused us to turn on the commercial-free radio instead.

Greetings, Lydia. I just wasn't sure anybody would notice a post on a topic 3 days old. Nice to meet you.

I viewed the question as "why would you assert that books are inherently a better use of time than TV?" Turns out there's a perfectly sound physiological reason, namely brain activity.

To Todd, I observe that I do switch off my brain for a TV show now and then, and yes, everybody needs downtime. But the original post from DKerr was denouncing the cultural obsession with TV, not the occasional and welcome retreat into catatonia. Relaxing in front of the Glowing Electrical Bong for an hour once a week is resting; doing it 5 hours a day is addiction, and stupidity-inducing.

By contrast, 5 hours of reading a day would produce a fairly able intellect, so long as you're not stuck solely on chintzy paperbacks whose male protagonists have names like Trevor, Blaine, or Dirk.

DKerr was denouncing the cultural obsession with TV

Given the context it seemed to me to be a specifically directed at the participants of the discussion. :)

I don't disagree with the potential for TV to be a bad influence (it most certainly is) or that reading is generally good overall, or that comparatively TV is in almost all cases worse than reading books given a broad spectrum of television and literature. I disagree with blanket claims to certain absolutes especially when I have direct experience with the opposite.

Now that I read back over the post, though, I'm almost certain is has an air of troll about it... If we talk strictly in a bell curve analysis, the amount of data on the web most certainly makes the television route look the brighter path on sheer volume alone; we'd not need spam or content filters otherwise.

TV provides a story complete with visual and aural context, rendering the viewer completely passive. Thus books inherently stimulate brain processes that TV does not.

PlumbBob, would you say the same about theater? It provides both visual and aural content.

I don't think I would have been able to really understand Royale's points (especially constant mention of grad school) had it not been for this blog:


Grad school (2 degrees!) and 4 foreign languages learned while living in 5 different countiries? Embracing the national sport of the foreign people with which one is going native?

Yes, all that is in fact, "stuff white people like"... I understand now!

I'm almost 32 years old and I have been to 62 countries on 6 continents, studied abroad in 5 learned 4 languages, and yes, I have two graduate degrees.

...I had a lot of friends who married at 22, feeling that "it was time". Hey, after all, they were done with college.

But when I was kickboxing in Thailand or climbing volcanoes in Nicaragua, I think they envied my decision to find personal fulfillment before getting married. For me, that was by far the more mature option.

Someone is remarkably and smugly self satisfied with his "personal fulfillment". Those of his peers that did get married are somehow maybe less personally fulfilled as they approach their tenth annivearies and have a few kids in tow?

I would like to see the inscription "to be continied":-D

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