If you don't behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.” Fulton J. Sheen

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A Porn-tastic Christmas

So I took the kids out to the mall to shop for Mom two days before Christmas. I want them to know that Christmas is not just about receiving but giving as well.

Now let me ask a weird hypothetical. If I showed up at the Mall wearing only briefs and say my wife showed up in a minuscule bra and panties we'd likely be dragged from the premises and arrested. And rightly so, especially if you've seen me in briefs. But no matter what, it's bad, right? So why is it OK for some of these stores to have huge window displays of essentially naked people. I mean, are these store owners out of their minds. Walking by Abercrombie or Victoria's Secret is essentially a walking tour of porn for children. Hey kids step on up and peer inside the sick twisted mind of adulthood where we view others as vessels of flesh waiting to be boarded and devoured.

It's lunacy.

So as we're passing a bunch of sex-soaked stories, I do my best to distract the kids from the window display. I start singing a loud Christmas carol and they all become embarrassed by me and try to stop me from singing anymore. So for anybody who saw the fat bearded dad singing in front of a ten foot porn window display with children laughing and climbing all over him, it was me.

But here's the thing. I know my kids saw it. They didn't mention it. But I know they see it. They see it. They internalize it. They think that window display represents the realm of adulthood. They intuit that adults desire 8-pack abs and 38 D breasts. And kids want to be adults.

Here's the truth. If a man was caught showing pictures of topless women in pink underwear holding their breasts or men in wet briefs, they'd be arrested. But when a store does it, it's capitalism.

So a few hours later I'm making the call I never thought I'd make in my life. I call the mall two days before Christmas to complain about the lewd window displays. The funny thing is that while I'm on hold I'm feeling like I'm the crazy one. I'm feeling like "I can't believe I've become the guy who complains about lewd window displays." I didn't think I'd ever use the word 'lewd' never mind call to complain about aforementioned lewdness. I'm feeling like I have to convince this guy on the phone that I'm not one of these crazy religious Jerry Falwell types. But then it hits me. I'm the sane one. Those displays are crazy to have in front of children. So instead of getting into a morality type conversation with the guy I just decide to speak his language. "I'm just calling to let you know that my family which comes to the mall often will not come back unless you guys stop allowing pornographic window displays."

So I make the call and I'm feeling proud of myself. And I walk back into the room where the children are watching The Polar Express on ABC Family. And then comes a commercial about some show about a fifteen year old girl who is pregnant. "Fifteen!?" says my nine year old.

"How can you have a baby if you're not married," asks my six year old.

They all look at me. "Hey guys Polar Express is back on!" And thanks to my amazing powers of distraction I muddled through yet another awkward moment. But I know my kids. Nothing escapes them. Questions build. They never fade away.

And we wonder why are children are ending up sexualized. It's simple. Somewhere between the Merry-go-Round and the pretzels they're seeing and interpreting the adult world. They're unprotected out there. The adults want too much to be like children and the children want to be adults. It's time for adults to start acting like adults.

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26 comments:

NancyP said...

Amen.

This is why I proudly call myself a counter-cultural homeschooling mom.

I am glad you telephoned the mall. I think I should do the same thing.

I had to have a talk with my TEN year old today about why it's okay that she has nowhere except church and homeschool co-op to meet boys when she's ready to date. I reminded her that 1) too much teen dating is silly, as no one is ready for courtship, and that 2) dating is off her personal radar for at least six more years, although group activities will be okay, with adult supervision.

Where on Earth did this all come from? We don't read books about modern dating teens; we watch almost no network TV; we see few non-animated films. The information trickles in nonetheless.

You are right. The adults have to step up and be adults. All of us do. Our precious children are at stake...not to mention our immortal souls.

Christopher Michael said...

"How can you have a baby if you're not married," asks my six year old.

That quotation from a child today is the sure sign of very successful Christian parenting.

~cmpt

Lee Gilbert said...

Matthew,

I am sympathetic to a point...

But television was doing the same thing in the fifties. I was there and lived through it. There was a constant walkdown of our morals, a walkdown that continues.

Therefore, as a young parent I also was very concerned about television and the "culture."

Providentially, we lived across the hall from a young Korean couple who also had a baby boy. From their apartment came very strong cooking odors and a lot of Korean chatter.

It occurred to me one day that their child might as well be growing up in Seoul. And with that came the realization that I could create in my own home whatever culture I wished. I did that.

We threw out the TV, and eventually spent our evenings as a family reading 30 minutes of good secular literature such as the Chronicles of Narnia, 30 minutes of the life of a saint, and 15 to 20 minutes of catechism.

We never experienced any teen-age rebellion. They never asked, "Why do we have to go to Mass?" At 28 and 30 yrs old now they are daily communicants, and my daughter a contemplative nun.

Ironically, the one decision to throw out the TV kept me from coming across as the censorious parent: "Don't watch this, don't watch that," etc.

It was the best financial decision I ever made, because it opened up aeons of time and a quiet atmosphere in which to study. My son became a fantastic guitarist, my daughter an artist. All this paid off handsomely in scholarships. My daughter was a National Merit Scholar Finalist..

There is a very popular counsel of despair that goes like this, "What is the point of our getting rid of our television, since they will see it at their friends' homes anyway?"

The self-interest underlying this question is obvious.

Of course, they saw television at their friends' homes nor were they forbidden from doing so. But their own home was a quiet, prayerful, peaceful refuge from the "world."

Beyond that, I emphatically wanted and needed the Lord to protect my kids from "the world, the flesh and the devil" (otherwise known as "the culture") but could not reasonably expect Him to do that if I did not do all in my power.

If I was not going to do my part, and be the gatekeeper of my own home, how could I expect Him to be the gatekeeper of their hearts?
If I did my part, He would do His. And so it proved.

In other words, the alarming reality is that the entire responsibility and opportunity for the formation of children rests on parents. The "culture" has little to do with it.

Deusdonat said...

Strong messages? Yes. Porn? Hardly.

As a parent and someone who has lived among many cultures around the world, there is a very fine line that we must tow with our children on these matters. Personally, my wife and I have always brought up what is socially appropriate as well was what is modest and respectful for the occasion or crowd.

I don't know how old your children are (if they are old enough to be embarassed by you, then I'm assuming they are at least tweens). But I'd suggest this approach to you: next time you pass the store in question, rather than whistle dixie, knowing that your children are going to see it anyway as you stated, just take a look at it, then look at your children and say, "that is not appropriate. you guys understand why they shouldn't have that in the window there, right?" At which time they will either nodd quickly to avoid the topic and keep walking, OR they might sincerely ask you why. At which case you can go into what type of dress conveys what type of morality etc.

Avoiding topics to children often makes them that much more curious and it makes parents look like they are unequiped to answer or handle situations. So, be the Alpha Dad and approach the topic on YOUR terms.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Heh....my folks did alright.

We only hit the "mall" about twice a year-- our home town was small, and we were far from anyplace like Costco, so we did a twice yearly run for staples.

End result:
I never was comfortable during gym class, changing-- not because I "wasn't comfortable" with my body, but because I wasn't comfortable showing my body to other folks.

I'm still not. Shoot, I still look away when folks kiss-- it's a rather private moment.

Hope your kids get that, too.

pundette said...

Good for you to make that call.

Our solution for the past couple of decades is: never go to the mall; don't watch tv without being very quick to switch to a non-channel when it's time for a commercial. This only comes up during the World Series and maybe the Olympics, because there's almost nothing on tv for children.

My husband and I saw a Levi's ad a while back while watching tv (without kids), and it's upsetting to think of children watching this. I emailed the powers that be about it. You can do the same if you like. Here's a link: http://punditandpundette.blogspot.com/2008/11/levis-501-ad-crosses-line.html

kat said...

Lee, I needed your comment as inspiration and afirmation that we are doing the right thing!

We homeschool, have no TV, promote education and the arts, and emphasize appropriate movies/books/clothes for our family. We are starting to have to deal with a situation- the next door neighbor's little girl is 7 and has a huge crush on Will. "It is NOT appropriate for a big 10 year old boy to play with little girls," is slowly sinking in his brain.

I hope we are doing 1/2 as good a job as you have done and our kids turn out to be good Catholics who show love and respect for others.

crankycon said...

This is why my wife and I joke that we're just going to raise the kids Amish.

recreational scholar said...

We got a DVR to avoid the TV commercials. We NEVER watch TV live anymore. We record whatever we feel is good for the kids and they watch it later. We then can skip through the commercials with no sound.

Deryn Mentock said...

I saw the same ads on the "Family" channel and thought I was hallucinating. It's not family entertainment when a 15 year old is pregnant...it's family and cultural failure. Even a child (your children in this case) can see that it's wrong. Good for you for making that call to the mall!

Anonymous said...

Wah, wah. God created our beautiful bodies in his own image, but don't look at them! Sex is shameful! Because.... um... there was this story about a guy and girl and a talking snake and an apple, and... so therefore it's bad!

Get over it and grow up. Girls don't have cooties.

Saul Menowitz III said...

Advice from a Catholic dad of 6: Unhook the tv and subscribe to Netflixs and allow the kids to only watch DVDs. We started this a year ago because the commercials were too racy, basically soft core porn. We control what the kids see - Netflix has a great family selection. And the result is that the kids watch less tv.

DO NOT GIVE YOUR KIDS OVER TO THIS SICK CULTURE.

Catholic Audio said...

You're not the first to be offended, but unfortunately you're also not going to be the last. Here's a story from earlier this year about A&F ads being seized by the cops as soft-porn:
http://hamptonroads.com/node/452689

Here's the story from three days later about charges being dropped:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1577707/Abercrombie-andamp-Fitch-obscenity-charge-dropped.html

Freedom of speech and whatnot, you know. Never mind that freedom of speech as constitutionally guaranteed properly applies to political speech and not sex-sells media blitz campaigns...

God Bless,
Ryan

Lee Gilbert said...

In my early teens I began to regard TV as something like a ouija board, because it was often talking to me over my parents' heads. And it was making them look like chumps in the process.

Every now and then some expert or team of experts declare that the watching TV with your child is the way to go. To me that is laughable. TV is "with it" and the kids are "with it," but parents are too busy with adult life to be up to speed with the slang and innuendo being used to communicate with their children.

So when these experts show up in the local press, as they do about every five years or so, I dust off the following letter and send it off:

"Recently Sr. Lucy wrote that parents should watch TV with their kids and explain to them what is going on. At our house the conversation would go something like this:

"Son, before we turn on the TV, isn't this a beautiful evening? You and I could go for a walk and get to know one another better. You could read to me from the McGuffey Reader or we could toss the ball around in the park.

"Instead, let's do the least demanding, the least human thing of all. Let's turn on the TV. It will do our talking and our story telling for us, our thinking and even our exercise.

"For example, here is a televised football game. These guys have worked very hard so that you can sit here eating potato chips. See that guy running down the field? Get one thing straight in your head- that is not you. He is running, you are sitting. Look son, if you like sports, then play sports. The rest is nonsense.

"Here is the news. It is astounding how few new facts you will learn from the news. Think of it as institutionalized worry. Forget it. If anything important happens, your playmates will tell you about it. Using this technique I once went through an entire recession without knowing it. Didn't hurt me a bit and I probably saved some money at the drugstore besides.

"Here is a commercial. The whole point of television is deliver as much audience to the advertiser as possible. That is why they not only aim at the lowest common denominator, but actually try to dumb down the smarter people. A few years of watching TV and you'll have the attention span of a fruit fly. This will hurt your studies and your life.

"Besides being an incredible time waster, TV is an entry level drug and entry level pornography.

"So give me a hand hauling it out to the curb, grab your mit and let's head over to the park."

"Sounds good to me, Dad."

Anonymous said...

Well, it's a First Amendment issue. While we may not like it, the moment you get people in power that don't like you, you will have your speech taken away in areas you don't like (the current no religious displays issues are evident of that). If my kids ask, and even if they don't, I explain it and we move on. Once you take away fundamental rights from people you don't like (and SCOTUS has ruled that businesses have a first amendment right to this extent) then yours are next. The thing to do is to protest via all the various avenues available. That works much better than you would think.

Catholic Audio said...

Anon,

Just to be clear, what are you saying is a "fundamental" right? Is it (1) the freedom of commercial speech for business (including the peddling of debatably soft-core porn), (2) freedom of speech for religious folks, or (3) something else? I ask because I'm not sure what your point was and I don't want to impute a position to you that you don't hold.

However...if you meant (1), I'd say that there is no such right (on a natural law level) and only a misreading of the constitution could grant one (on a positive law level). Again, properly understood the first amendment applies to political speech...or so thought the folks who wrote it. (Stare Decisis is fo' suckas.)

It's not "taking away rights" if the rights were never properly there in the first place...

God Bless,
Ryan

Douglas said...

Anonymous --

I agree with your First Amendment point. I don't lament that the displays Mathew mentions are legal. I lament that we have reached a point where they are an accepted part of our culture.

It was mentioned by another commenter that this sort of thing is not exactly new. Actually I disagree. While it's true that sex has always been a part of public life to one degree or another, the character of its public personae is somehow different now. It's progressively become bolder and more openly pervasive.

crankycon said...

Porn is in no way protected by the first amendment, and anyone who believes that it is has a far broader understanding of the amendment that what the Framers intended. That said, I do not necessarily advocate censorship. Just because something is not protected by the Constitution does not mean that we can feel free to hack away at it.

Dymphna said...

Nice looking lingere isn't porn.

Anonymous said...

There's a shop out here called Forever 21 - basically the same stuff that used to be sold to those needing "Marital Aids" in the past. Now it's right out in the malls with large windows.

What really upsets me as a parent is that leases are given to such shops across from Disney,Legos or Build-a-Bear stores.

It's just creepy.

Jeff Miller said...

Here in Jacksonville thankfully the Frederick of Hollywood and such display windows are rather tame or blocked. At least in the Malls I have been to. The magazines in store display aisle are pornographic for the most part. I practice my military drill "eyes front"

Though when I went to Midnight Mass at the Cathedral one of the ushers was a young women with a tight strapless dress that was very short. I was tempted to address her as Eve and hand her a fig leaf.

Patrick Archbold said...

Like who is Eve? And OMG! Like what is this leaf for? Weirdo.

Jen Raiche said...

Great post, Matthew. I really like your view on family life -- the Catholic Dad side.

We do most of our shopping online. That way, I can monitor what we're all seeing and the kids still can be "in" on the gifts...

One commenter said to "get over" the fact that "girls don't have cooties". Agreed. The Church believes that sex is a beautiful, healthy part of marriage. However, tempting the unmarried, the young and even the married to lust after an image is leading others to sin and, therefore, a sin. Isn't that why we promote modesty in dress? Women are beautiful. But, like fire in a fireplace, there is a time and a place for everything. And lingerie at the mall isn't the right time/place.

God Bless!

Scott said...

Though the comments of " Anonymous" above lack maturity and any measure of sincere reflection:

"Wah, wah. God created our beautiful bodies in his own image, but don't look at them! Sex is shameful! Because.... um... there was this story about a guy and girl and a talking snake and an apple, and... so therefore it's bad! Get over it and grow up. Girls don't have cooties."

-they do bring up a couple common arguments made through a vast ignorance of the Catholic understanding of human sexuality. Anonymous is right to point out that our bodies are beautiful. Hello!! McFly!! No duh!! -Who said they weren't? Anon, did MTV tell you that Catholics think sex is bad? Buddy, you've got to start thinking for yourself. Actually, the Church goes a quantum leap further in her appreciation of human sexuality than does Victoria's Secret or the culture at large. No one has a higher regard and appreciation of human sexuality than the Catholic church. Period. The culture says that sex is "great". What it doesn't tell you is that this is a huge understatement. Sex is not simply great. It's far, far more than great. Sex is sacred. It's holy. Far beyond merely great. And when you treat something that is sacred as if it's only ordinary you profane it. This is known as "sacrilidge". For example, if you took a crucifix and used it as a doorstop, that would be a sacrilidge. You took a holy object--the crucifix--and used it in a way that is not worthy of the dignity intended for it. If you took holy water and used it to scrub the bathroom floor, same deal. Through brainwashing and pop-culture conformity our culture have gotten what is really going on in this world entirely backwards. Hence Anon's culturally brainwashed mantras that correspond to precisely nothing in Catholic theology. Anon, let me put it to you in a way that maybe you will understand: WAKE UP NEO!!! THE MATRIX HAS YOU!! It's the culture and not the Church which says sex is bad. The matrix--I mean---pop culture- profanes the sacred by representing human sexuality to us as nothing more than a form of recreation. It takes a most profound, beautiful and sacred expression of human love and treats it as merely entertainment....something to enjoy like watching a game of football or watching a movie. Nothing special. Just a lot of fun. Effectively declaring it profane. Get it? Profane = dirty. That you think sex has anything to do with original sin and the garden of eden narrative I suppose must have to do with some TV commercial or something you probably watched on MTV? Because....you definitely didn't get that from the Catechism. And actually, you are even mistaken about cooties. Because of our culture's outlook on sex as merely a form of recreation 1 out of every 5 people now have contracted a permanent venerial disease or, as you prefer, "cooties". Yes, Anon, these days many girls actually do have cooties and it's all largely due to the ignorant would view that you champion with obviously no reflection whatsoever. I challenge you to take the red pill, or you can just continue to take the easy road and keep giving in to the matrix like a good little slave to pop culture conformity. Just keep believing that if you saw it on TV or read it in Maxim it must be true. The culture would never lie. It could never be possible that a 2000 year old institution could have any wisdom. Fifty Cent and Ludicris are the true seat of wisdom as we all can plainly see.

Also.....sorry Dymphna. Advertisements featuring nice looking lingere are 100% porn. Just because it no longer shocks people doesn't change what it is. Let's see.....lingere is designed for what? To make undergarments more functional and comfortable for women....or.....to excite lust in men? So, what is the purpose of lingere advertisements? Let's see, if my wife was wearing lingere, what would she be trying to stir up in me? Would the purpose be to excite me sexually in any way? I see your point. Lingere advertising has nothing to do with looking on a woman as an object. It's a celebration of her intelligence. I can assure you that it would never occur to any guys I know to think of the women depicted in these ads as objects to fulfill thier sexual fantasies. Personally, when I see one of these ads what immediately pops into my mind is how comfortable the woman must feel in her see-through negligee. Who would believe me if I said that for even a split second I actually thought about the nearly naked model in the ad in a way that valued her for nothing more than her physical appearance? That's crazy talk. It would obviously be an accidental occurance which the designers of these ads had never forseen. Hello! McFly!! It's porn!! The matrix has you too! What do you think porn is? How would you define it? If porn is not designed to inspire lust, then just what is it's function? Any time a human being is deliberately reduced to a mere sexual object it's a form of pornography. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is porn. Victoria's Secret ads are porn. The failure of our culture to understand this says volumes about the level of brainwashing we've succumbed to.

Christine said...

Wow. Amen to calling the mall. I hate the mall. I hate the mannequins dressed in clothing that objectifies the wearer. I hate the soft porn pictures staring out of A&F and GUESS. Truth be told, Frederick's is probably less pornographic in it's displays than many of the stores that cater to our teens. The ads on TV these days are embarrassing. And like you, I am sometimes at a loss for what to say to my children when they are subjected to these things. Thanks for once again provoking thought.

Josh said...

personally i do not see this as porn in any sense. I also think trying to distract your kids from them makes them notice them even more. don't you remember being a kid? when you were not supposed to do or see something the automatic reaction is that it must be important if im not supposed to. oh and one more thing in most instances they are wearing more clothes than people on the beach, do you deny your children this wonderful part of life, and one of gods amazing creations? teach your kids well and prey they will make the right decisions, but to not let them experience the real world is... well giving them false expectations

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