Is there a double standard as to how we treat girls' sexuality versus boys'?
I don't think there should be a "double" standard -- but there should darn well be a different one. Precisely because in many ways it (begin ital) does (end ital) take a village to raise a child.
In other words, I (gasp!) tell my girls to be thoughtful about how they dress and the messages they are communicating to others, very much including boys, in the process. Right now I'm waging that battle. Their tops I seem to have covered, literally and figuratively, but we are fighting over the length of their shorts. Colder weather can't come soon enough for me.
Meanwhile, I do tell my son that how he dresses communicates how he respects himself and others, too. But I will never worry that my son's, or any son's, attire will send a girl on the other side of the lunchroom into hormone-laden sexual overdrive.
I deal in reality.
The parenting blogosphere has gone wild after a mom of three teenage boys banned from their social-media life the girls who were sending sexy "selfies" to her sons. Selfies are photos that kids -- and others -- take of themselves and then post.
Kim Hall, the director of a women's ministry in Austin, wrote on her blog to some unnamed girl, an avatar for all the girls her sons know, "I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel." She went on to explain that once a boy visualizes a girl in a sexual way, it's hard to get that image out of his mind.
What's driving some people crazy is that this mom is supposedly holding girls responsible for sexualizing her sons. Can't boys just be taught to look beyond the towel, not underneath it, and respect a girl no matter what?
And what about that photo of her boys on the beach flexing their muscles while wearing swim trunks -- a photo she herself had posted for a while? Isn't this all a double standard?
No. In general, men are more sexually oriented, more likely to be promiscuous and more easily sexually aroused by visuals than are women. Countless studies have backed up this intuitive if politically incorrect understanding. In other words, there's a reason Playgirl magazine never really went anywhere, and why women prefer to see men in swim trunks as opposed to tiny Speedos.
Conversely, the erotic thriller novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" never gained traction with men -- no visuals! But it was wildly successful with women -- as soft-core bodice-rippers have been for decades -- in large part because the eroticism was wrapped up in an intense and ostensibly romantic relationship. And, it seems, the "safety" and distance of the printed word. No visuals.
Now here's the crux of things: I believe there is no moral difference to boys and girls, men and women, behaving sexually outside of marriage or, for that matter, indulging in pornography via words or image. But there's a popular Rodney Atkins song that says it well:
Come on in boy sit on down
And tell me about yourself
So you like my daughter do you now?
Yeah we think she's something else
She's her daddy's girl
Her momma's world
She deserves respect
That's what she'll get
Now ain't it son?
Y'all run along and have a little fun
I'll see you when you get back
Probably be up all night
Still cleanin' this gun
Now it's all for show
Ain't nobody gonna get hurt
It's just a daddy thing
And hey, believe me, man it works
No father is ever going to have that conversation with the girl his son is taking out.
So you bet I have different standards, based on how differently each gender is (wonderfully) wired. Of course, our culture today hates the fact that men and women are different. However, that obstinence only leaves our boys and girls vulnerable to a host of dangers.
But that understanding is why, out of consideration (begin ital) for others (end ital) and for my children themselves, I will continue to encourage my son to put on a clean shirt before going out. And I will continue to battle with my daughters over the length of their shorts.
(Betsy Hart's latest book, "From The Hart: A Collection of Favorite Columns on Love, Loss, Marriage (and Other Extreme Sports)," has been revised. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com)