Many thoughts on sexuality, cohabitation and the like

I posted this on my Intentional Investment blog as well, but the linked articles were definately interesting enough for multiple exposure.

There was an interesting post on YPulse the other day regarding new trends in the younger generations.  Some things I found fascinating:

  • It’s no longer a valid argument to say studies show cohabitation increases your risk for divorce.  Newest studies have found that women who cohabitate with ONLY their future spouse before marriage actually have a lower risk of divorce.  The risk increases, however, if they’ve cohabitated with someone else besides her eventual spouse.  Some new research even suggests that divorce rates IMPROVE with cohabitation across the board.
  • Morals and values are playing less of a role in a couple’s decision to cohabitate than economics are.
  • “Hooking up” with people young adults have meet online isn’t as prevalent of an issue as some would believe.
  • It doesn’t mention “hooking up” with people you do know.  And something that I’ve been learning in the years that I’ve been doing youth ministry is that the younger students (not necessarily the older high schoolers who are generally in the study censuses) are the ones who are doing the experimenting.
  • Using alternative birth-control to condoms is the “new engagement ring”?  While that seems a bit of a stretch, the trend of making a conscious, thought-out, and planned commitment to go sans-Trojan is something to note.  It seems to show a higher morality and value on one’s person and sexuality, and it’s probably going to be a more difficult trend to combat than random “hooking up” is on a moral front.

 

Teens and young adults seem to be making more intentional decisions about their choices in respect to sexuality, dating, etc.  Which, on the outside, seems like a good thing.  I think that someone telling me the chances of my marriage lasting would improve if I lived with my fiance and that our decision to have sex (outside of marriage) sans-condoms, as long as it was an active decision made out of trust and communication and we’ve been safe and taken necessary precautions, is actually a sign of love and commitment sounds appealing.  Not only do you still have the age-old argument (it FEELS good), you now have emotional, moral, economic, and statistical support as well?

Kind of makes it harder to convince someone that God’s way is best.  Especially for those who don’t already love Jesus.

I have not been able to follow The Secret Life of the American Teennearly as much as I would like since I’ve been working almost every Tuesday night recently.  However, I hope that it will come out on DVD so that I can watch it in its entirety.  The episodes I have gotten to seen have blown me away in their portrayal of High School, High School Christians, the role of God in people’s lives, etc.

Thirteen Reasons Why: Cassette 1, Side 1 & 2

*Spoiler Warning: Though I don’t get into TONS of plot details, I’m not trying to write a “read this book please” account, but an account of the elements that would help me decide whether this book is appropriate for middle-schoolers

Side 1

Likes:  We really start to know our suicide victim and our narrator

Dislikes:  Even with the type-style changes, it’s hard for my mind to switch back and forth between Clay’s mind/actions and Hannah’s monologue.  I’m unsure whether I might eventually like this.  I’m fairly certain we’re only going to get to know Clay through the filter of Hannah.  It won’t be a complete Clay, most likely, but will it be enough of Clay for us?

Social Issues: first kisses; rumors; suicide; guilt & blame; parties; friendship

Questionable material:  a tad bit sexually explicit in a couple of areas, but not gratuitously

Passage I loved:

Hannah’s voice: I know what you’re thinking.  As I was telling the story, I was thinking the same thing myself.  A kiss?  A rumor based on a kiss made you do this to yourself?

No a rumor based on a kiss ruined a memory that I hoped would be special.  A rumor based on a kiss started a reputation that other people believed in and reacted to.  And sometimes a rumor based on a kiss has a snowball effect.

A rumor based on a kiss, is just the beginning.

 

Side 2

Likes: Not much (though the writing is good)

Dislikes:  See “tirade”

Questionable material:  objectification of women

Social issues:  objectification of women; “Hot or Not” lists

Tirade: Okay, at this point I’m getting a tad frustrated.  Yes, our actions affect others.  But ultimately, the only one responsible for our actions are ourselves.  I’m hoping there’s going to be some resolution about that fact or I won’t be able to recommend this book to anyone.  Sometimes we can’t control our emotions, that’s human.  However, we areresponsible for controlling our actions.  Though anyone at an emotional point to want to commit suicide isn’t exactly mentally healthy or fully mentally capable and thus, maybe not entirely culpable, I’m not liking how much focus is being placed on projecting blame and, thus, Hanna’s decision seems beyond her control.

I don’t think teenagers need any more reasons to push off responsibility.  “Oh, she called me a bad name, so it’s really HER fault that I’m choosingto start a vicious rumor.”  “Well he told the guys in the locker room that he wanted to kiss my girlfriend, so it’s HIS fault, I chose to key his car.”  “They always make fun of me, so it’s THEY’RE fault I chose to bring a gun to class.”

We have a soft spot for the tormented and our natural tendency (as adults) to want to side with them has US blaming the tormentors as catalysts for the actions of the tormented.  But if we let the underdogs get away with blaming others and shirking responsibility for their actions, how can we expect the tormentors not to do the same thing?  Are they ACTUALLY better than the underdogs?  They’re superhuman and thus the poor little tormented ones had no choice but to torment back?

After all, aren’t the tormentors almost always tormentees to another group of tormentors anyway? 

That’s a hard truth to understand, even as an adult.  So I’m not expecting Archer to preach to his audience here.  But I think he walks a fine line, ready to tip over the edge of enabling and validating the negative actions of youth because “someone else made them.”

The healthiest thing for students to learn (and one of the hardest) is we are only and can only be responsible for our own actions.  We should treat others with respect and dignity.  We should not only think of ourselves, but others as well, and generally, thinking of them first will end up best in the long run.  We should always remember that what we do DOES affect other people and that we can either help or harm. 

We should also remember that not everyone is healthy, and I don’t mean physically.  There are going to be people who are not emotionally or mentally healthy enough to take responsibility for themselves.  But, while we should be sensitive to our actions with this type of person (as with all people), their actions are still their responsibility, not ours, whether they can handle it or not.

Guilt can be good.  It can lead to change and change can be healthy.  But feeling guilt over something completely out of your control, the chosen action of someone else, can simply become debilitating.  It’s pointless and unhealthy to dwell on.

 

Okay, sorry, tirade over.  I hope to be able to tell you this resolves itself.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: My Journey Begins

I have been trying to read through several of the young adult fiction that Mark O. has suggested on his blog this past year.

Recently I began reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  It’s basically a book told from the point-of-view of Clay.  In it, he receives 7 cassette tapes from a past-love, Hannah, who just committed suicide.  She claims in the first lines that these cassettes, all 13 sides, describe the 13 people who had a hand in her suicide and why.

A few nights ago at Barnes and Noble a mother of a 7th grader asked me if I would recommend this book for her daughter.  I told her, though I a only a few pages in to the story, I thought the thematic elements might be a bit much for a middle-schooler (much like I think the thematic elements of the Harry Potternovels are too old for elementary age children once you reach book 5). Thankfully she (the daughter) also wanted to get the Twilight series (I wonder if Mark O.’s done a review on them… hmmm), which I would whole-heartedly recommend, so she didn’t have to walk away empty-handed.

However, as I continued reading, I began to wonder if I was just being too naive.  Again.  This book discusses the suicide of a freshman, someone not much older than a 12 or 13-year-old middle-schooler.  I remember that when I was in 8th grade there was a freshman (in my small town where the ENTIRE high-school only had 100 kids) who committed suicide over Christmas break.  I had gone to school with her for the last four years, and in a school that small, everyone knows everyone.  It wasn’t because of her home life or some traumatic life event (rape, drugs, etc.) but simply because of the hardships people face socially in high-school (she left a note).  And this was a girl who was in the “popular” clique!!!  Imagine how nervous that made an 8th grade girl who was only on the fringe of the popular crowd in middle-school (and would fade quickly into the actual fringe society of our school in high school).  If life was too hard for a popular girl how could ANYONE survive?

Maybe we should be exposing our students to the impact our actions have on others, even when we’re in a life stage where we only see ourselves.

So, I’m going to try to keep and open mind as I read and record my thoughts.

Vantage Point

I’ve been feeling a little bit under the weather this week with a summer cold, so I’ve been spending most of my evenings at home, working on things for P-3 and watching movies.  On Wednesday night, I watched Vantage Point.  I wasn’t expecting too much hence intending to watch it while I was multitasking.  I did the same thing with last night with 21 and Step it Up: to the Streets.  But unlike the movies last night (that lent themselves well to multitasking) I had to stop Vantage Point until I was actually able to pay attention.

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie.  Usually I dislike movies like this because I think they go on too lonag and keep viewers in suspense for too long.  There is a tipping point where good suspense morphs into pure frustration.  I am happy to say, a least for me, that this was not the case on Wednesday night.

A quick bullet list of my “Likes” (spoiler warning):

  • Just when I’m wondering whatever happened to Matthew Fox’s character, he’s back in the picture.
  • Presidential switch threw me.  May have been naive, but…
  • I knew “Sam” was a key player when he first introduced himself.
  • I like that we only saw a “single vantage point” for a few key characters and then, like a normal movie, the vantage point of the characters who were key at the moment.
  • Interesting use of recognizable actors in non-key roles (Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Bruce McGill)

I’m not usually a huge fan of the “neat wrap-up” at the end of movies, either.  Something about forced coincidences asks too much of my ability to suspend my disbelief.

But again with this movie I was surprised at how satisfied I was at the end of this movie.  It seemed more like the end was a resulting kismet rather than unbelievable coincidence.  Kismet brought about because of one character.

I almost said by one character, but I can’t say where the circle of fate started.  By the person who shot him?  Was that part of this elaborate set up?  Or the bad Matthew Fox’s under-estimation of our hero?  Or was it simply the training and good eye that led to the fate at the end of the movie?

That’s what I like about the concept of fate.   You can’t really know where the initial catalyst lies.  However, the result isn’t forced, it’s unavoidable.

 

Author’s Note:  I don’t believe in fate, kharma, etc.  However I can see how it’s an attractive concept for humans.  It gives us more control over events and circumstances than we can actually have, which makes bad (and good) things seem easier to handle.

Wall-E and Prince Caspian

I saw Wall-E and Prince Caspian last night at the drive-in.  The were both pretty good.  I was amazed at a movie that used very little dialogue and mainly music, gestures, and sounds to convey the plot of the story.  I wonder how much younger children actually got the plot.  It was a tade bit slow towards the middle, but overall I enjoyed it.  I’m glad I recently saw “Hello Dolly” so that I knew where the main theme song came from 🙂

Prince Caspian, though, I loved.  I haven’t made it that far in the series reading yet, so it was a surprise for me in what happened.  I saw it with Dan which was interesting as well.  He didn’t realize that Lewis wrote the series as religious allegory.  He had seen The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but hadn’t seen the parallels to the story of Jesus and God’s love for His people.  It was fun to be able to talk about why Prince Caspian also showed the love of God for His people.  They’re still just stories in his mind, but I continue to appreciate that he’s willing to discuss it.  I can’t wait to read the actual story.

 

Speaking of books, I’ve recently finished a couple of books:  Sarah Dessen’s new novel “Lock and Key” and a book suggested on MarkO’s blog, “Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.”  I’ve really started to appreciate Sarah Dessen’s writing.  She has a good grasp on today’s teenagers and she writes interesting stories.

The concept behind “Memoirs” was a good one, though I think he execution could have been better.  I like the idea of being able to “redefine” yourself based on what seems “right” rather than how you’ve been brainwashed to believe you need to be by the desire to be popular and the need for love and acceptance.  But life doesn’t get to be that simple.  “Memoirs” didn’t define it as that simplistic, however it the entire story wasn’t as developed as it probably could have been.  I’d say “hey, it’s no big deal, it’s just a young adult novel.”  But there are great young adult novels that really can take stories where they need to go and do it well.  And I think “dumbing down” a plot or complicated ideas because the audience might be too young is a cop-out as well as a disservice to the intended audience.  I think Young Adult literature is one of the fastest growing genres because this age group is one that craves the type of stories that help them feel like their lives might not be as bad as dramatic as they think they are.  And they have a great capacity for learning from and relating too heros and heroines who deal with difficulties in real ways, not in the simplistic “happy ever after” that so many authors think they have to give young adults.

I’ve just started “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, another suggestion from MarkO.  It definately is attempting a difficult plot, so I’ll be interested in seeing how well it does.

 

(14 more days until Breaking Dawn!!!)