Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Purity of Essence

In Stanley Kubrick's 1964 masterpiece of absurdist war humor, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper launches a nuclear holocaust in part because of his obsession with purity of one's essence. Granted, the good general feared the effects of communist floridation plots on Americans' bodily fluids, the fear apparently resonates with many today.

At this year's MTV Video Music Awards, host Russell Brand belittled some nominees' choice to wear "promise rings" as a symbol of their pledge to abstain from sex prior to marriage. With the country caught up in the throes of Bristol Palin, Jaime-Lynn Spears and countless other not-cute and not-white pregnant teens, naturally any aspersions cast on virginity have raised eyebrows. Brand took aim primarily at some band I've never heard of called The Jonas Brothers (or maybe I knew these guys when they were called Hanson?), but other tween musicans including Jordin Sparks rose immediately to their defense, stating "It's not bad to wear a promise ring, because not everybody — guy or girl — wants to be a slut.”

Oh, so we're back to the virgin-slut argument, are we? Seems like the only thing that's shifted since the time of Eve in the Garden of Eden is that now boys can be sluts too. Far be it for me to judge people whether their sexual activity rating falls into the often, sometimes or never categories. What does bother me is this perpetual association between virginity and purity.

Luckily, I'm not the only one who thinks this whole issue just thrusts teen sex into the spotlight like an Eastern European exchange student at the senior prom. Check out this article from MSN in defense of being like a virgin... then come back and finish reading my post.

OK, you're back? Anyway, aside from the makers of Dove soap, who gets to make up the rules between what is pure and what isn't? Can a mass murderer who has never had sexual intercourse be considered "pure?" Can he/she still wear a promise ring all the way to the electric chair?

Further, what is it about the act of sex that somehow robs one of a pure mind, an unblemished body, a chaste spirit? Where and when did our culture decide that the very act of perpetuating the species was synonymous with defilement? Personally, I cannot accept that an expression of love (or even a mutual satisfaction of desire) has the power to corrupt me. Isn't my mind stronger than all that?

Unlike beauty, purity lies in the soul of the owner, not the eyes of the beholder. I find it incredibly hard to believe that the upshot of this debate over whether one wears a promise ring (and actually holds to the promise) or whether one engages in sexual acts prior to marriage does anything for us except create more rancor and debate. I don't mean to sound Calvinistic, but aren't we rendered somehow impure from the first crush? Further, how can anyone's true purity be ascertained? Is there a Facebook application?

I know I've asked far more questions in this post than I normally do, and I know they're mostly rhetorical. Hopefully, we'll someday evolve to think of purity in the same way.

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