Monday, January 14, 2008

Juno's Dad and my Dad both prove that being disappointed is worse than being angry


Op-Ed Contributer Caitlin Flanagan wrote an article in The New York Times today entitled "Sex and the Teenage Girl," in an attempt to continue to beat a dead horse by putting Juno in the context of sex ed and female sexual health! (Hey Flanagan-- I already fucking did that, thanks.)

Anyway, Flanagan basically contends that girls can't achieve the same amount of sexual freedom as men because we can get knocked up. She writes:

We, too, have a deep commitment to girls, and ours centers not on protecting their chastity, but on supporting their ability to compete with boys, to be free — perhaps for the first time in history — from the restraints that kept women from achieving on the same level. Now we have to ask ourselves this question: Does the full enfranchisement of girls depend on their being sexually liberated? And if it does, can we somehow change or diminish among the very young the trauma of pregnancy, the occasional result of even safe sex?

True, girls can get pregnant even if they're having safe sex. But Flanagan's problem is that she sees pregnancy as the be-all-end-all of sexuality for women. A woman has three choices when she gets pregnant: 1) Abort it, 2) Have it and keep it or 3) Have it and give it up for adoption. Though all might take their emotional toll-- a toll not necessarily felt by men-- the chance that you could get pregnant, even if you're on the pill AND using a condom, should not stop women from achieving their full sexual potential. Admittedly, for me, there is always that fear of pregnancy that subtly sweeps in during my post-coital cigarette, but it would never stop me from being sexually active. Girls just need to learn how to avoid getting pregnant (aka no abstinence-only bullshit), and then they ARE free to explore their sexuality. Flanagan is obviously a prude who hasn't put out in years.

She does, however, point out a poignant and almost awkward scene in Juno when Juno's father says to her: "I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when."

Yes, because of biology, because I have the ability to grow a parasite in my body and pop it out 9 months later-- because of that, us girls have to always be the ones to say when. And then we have to deal with our fathers' disappointment as a result. And everyone knows a father's disappointment is way worse than anger, even if that anger results in say, a beating.

This Christmas I got caught smoking a joint with my cousin outside of my Grandparents' house just before Christmas dinner was to be served. My Dad exacted his revenge carefully, making me put it out and then acting as if nothing was wrong. Not until 4 days later, when I had returned to New York and put the event behind me, did I get a passive-aggressive email detailing the amount of pain inflicted on him due to my actions, and how he wasn't angry, just disappointed.

What is it about disappointment -- whether it's brought on by sex or drugs or anything else -- that seems so much worse? Hopefully I will never have to have the conversation Juno had with her dad, because somehow I don't think my dad would be so forgiving. There's a fine line between disappointment and disownment: my own father would most likely toe that line with a ballerina's grace.

-Jess

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