Fuelled by ales on this fine crisp fall evening, I bring to you my thoughts on the decline & fall of our never-great, always mediocre society.
Ever hear the term "these are the good old days?" It's not just a bad Carly Simon lyric. To kids in their teens, it's absolutely true. I particularly look back in wistful fondness to the mid-1980's as the "best time of my life". Mainly because life then entailed absolutely no reponsibilities other than waking up, (and occasionally going to school) so that I could borrow my dad's car, stay out doing various stupid things until 3 am, then sneak back into the house through my bedroom window. I believe I did, at least in my own mind, rock and roll most of the nite, and party every other day.
It's not unique to me, though; every generation since James Dean cracked up his Porsche (and himself) feels the same way. But I do believe us Gen X & Yers may be the last to make that claim. We humans are on the downside of the bell curve of our time on this planet. Read this excerpt from Maclean's magazine and see if you agree:
Increasingly, young women are treating themselves and each other like pieces of meat. Why?
She and her friends talk about it constantly. How to go out and have a great time. How to make their way through a sexual landscape that somehow has upped the ante in racy behaviour. The challenge, says Shauna (not her real name), a 20-year-old third-year psychology major at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., is how not to feel like a misfit just because she thinks that the sexual titillation factor has gone too far. "One thing I have noticed more and more," she says of the student scene, "is that girls spend as much time, if not more, dancing provocatively with each other as they do with men. Many girls have made out with each other in front of a group of boys, or for their benefit after having been dared, or even without provocation. I was recently at a bar with a group of friends from high school," she continues, "and a group of girls came wearing short skirts and low-cut tops -- they had each written words on their breasts or upper thighs and were willingly showing this to the guys when asked. The club scene where this behaviour often happens is one that I avoid most often, and look for other ways to have fun -- and I am in a minority in that respect."
So what's the majority up to? New York journalist and author Ariel Levy thinks she has the answer in her compelling new book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. And that answer isn't pretty. Witty and provocative, painfully funny and just plain painful to read as it documents the rise of trashy, raunchy, really really bad female behaviour, Levy's newly published book may well provide the next "aha!" moment in how North American women see themselves. At the very least, it will make you wonder how, in the past decade, the culture has become infused with what Levy describes as porn or red-light aesthetics and values, which used to be confined to the tawdry outer limits of girlie mags, adult films and strip clubs but have now become part of everyday life. She's not the only one to perceive the intersection of porn and ordinary life. In Pornified, another newly released book, American Pamela Paul declares "pornography has not only gone mainstream -- it's barely edgy."
Levy, at 30, is no prude (after all, she admits she got a Brazilian bikini wax at least once in her 20s, hoping to capitalize on her "feminine wiles"). Nor is she a hardline ideologue of any persuasion with an agenda to shut down sexual expression. "I'm for more sexual liberation, not less," she told Maclean's in an interview, "and I don't think the answer is more chastity. I'm not here to outlaw pornography or impose a minimum-fabric requirement for high school girls." When she started work on Female Chauvinist Pigs, which grew out of an article Levy wrote for online Slate magazine, she intended to dispassionately document the new raunch phenomenon. "But as I got deeper into it," she says, "I began to think, 'This is ridiculous.' So I had to weigh in." What she concluded is that "raunchiness and liberation are not synonymous."
Merely an excerpt, and cold chills are running across my arms - I've been thinking this way for at least a decade, and now there's a chronicle of this stupefying phenomenon that started sometime around when wearing baseball caps backwards became "cool". I shudder to think where we'll be as a society when my unborn child is approaching his or her teen years. I'm no prude either, as anyone who knows me will attest, but where in the hell is personal pride these days? Probably engaging in a mock menage-a-trois with decency and common sense.
Of course I'm going to come across as an old fart for even entertaining the idea that life was better and simpler 20 years ago, but guess what -- it was.
It's official: I am old.