In tensious sexual space: between Victorianism and Hollywood

August 3, 2010

This intro might be tough for some parents to read. Especially if you’re the church-going type (of whom I am a part), who find joy in the fact that your university-aged-children attend the local student congregation faithfully.

I remember a specific church “outreach” tour back in my undergraduate years (actually, this story was true of more than one such event). After being fed-up with the fact that for days without end the one group with whom a friend of mine was spending time with seemed to be talking about sex non-stop, he attempted to rather hang out with some of the other groups of friends in the (quite large) group. He returner a day or two later with the conclusion that it wasn’t only his own group of (mostly theological students) friend that was talking about sex non-stop, it was all students.

I guess I was reminded about that time again last night when I spent an evening with a group of students. Slightly younger than most of my friends, slightly more religious, and slightly more conservative, I was struck by the fact that they couldn’t get out of conversations with some form of sexual undertone (or simply blatant sexual references). Probably weirdest would be that the whole conversation was dotted by someone (random participants, not just one sour grape) reminding the group that they are “going too far”, or that “this should stop”, after which this same person would continue with the conversation.

In a way I have a lot of sympathy with groups like these. This are a generation that was raised with some of the most hypocritical approaches to sex. They find themselves in some tensious space between Victorianism and Hollywood. Not on the way from the one to the other, but in both at the same time. Victorianism has been full of hypocrisy since its inception, with an outward pretence of puritan moralism often covering an underlying hedonism. But these groups of young people experienced being raised on Victorian ideas, where sex was never discussed or even mentioned (and even pronouncing the word is often difficult of near-impossible for some), but at the same time raised on Hollywood, where blatant and extremely visual references to sexuality was part of the upbringing of even the most religious among them.

Neither these strong influences on their developing sexuality provided a healthy approach to talking about those things sexual. Maybe that is why there search for balance include lots of laughter about sexual practices considered “dirty” by Victorian standards and jokes about the sexuality of others within their groups of friends.

Update: After reading the post Tiaan said that I can mention that he was the friend from paragraph 2.

2 Responses to “In tensious sexual space: between Victorianism and Hollywood”

  1. tiaan Says:

    Was I on this outreach? Why does this all sound oh so very familiar?

  2. Cori Says:

    This is an important topic that should be talked about more, in church circles in particular. You’re right that there are two extremes in our exposure to sex and sexuality – Hollywood and the ‘Victorian’ attitude within the church. We need to find healthy, balanced ways of dealing with this that bridge the two. Thanks for bringing this up!


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