Sunday, May 15, 2016

Proud to be a Prude


I am a prude.

Yes, I'm aware of the negative connotations of the word. As the good folks at Miriam-Webster put it, a prude is "a person who is easily shocked or offended by things that do not shock or offend other people," with the sense of being a goody-goody or a fuddy-duddy or a prig. Generally it's applied to people who object to what they perceive as excessive or inappropriate sexuality, skimpy or revealing clothing, foul language, or violence.

There are indeed people who are prudish to an unhealthy level, who reject, for example, nudity even in acceptable situations, such as with one's spouse or during a physical exam, or even when changing clothes, or any normal sexual activity even in marriage.

But there's more to the word than that.

The word comes from a French word "prudefemme" - a good woman or an honorable woman. That doesn't sound bad.

And the person's objections are described as exceeding prevailing community standards.

But what are community standards? How are they defined? Are they always valid? And what about eternal, moral, or objective standards?

What I find is that the person who is called a prude is often called so by those who want to ignore or reject traditional morality.

Take the issue of sex outside of marriage. It's standard fare in movies and on television these days - even on shows that are deemed "family entertainment." Dating is portrayed as synonymous with having sex (just as being engaged has become synonymous with living together without being married.) In dramas, implied or simulated sex seems to be a requirement. Characters even in comedy shows are often obsessed with having sex, or are frequently shown in sexual situations.

But if you dare to say a particular scene, or the almost mandatory titillating topless or nude shot in movies is inappropriate or unnecessary, someone will yell "prude" at you.

Yet traditional teaching is that sex outside of marriage is a grave sin. That's in the Bible. It's a sin that's listed with other grave sins that can get you damned.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares, "2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young."

And when you portray it in movies or on television, you stray into pornography: "2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense."

Now, community standards have been so watered down that these grave actions are deemed "acceptable," but that does not abrogate eternal moral standards. Those declining community standards are symptomatic of a coarsening of the culture. Christians have often pointed out that this is one of the major ways Satan - or if you prefer, evil - is slowly seeking to damage us and separate us from God.

Moreover, if the rule of thumb is community standards, what about in other communities that have other standards? What passes for "normal" and "acceptable" in parts of the West would get you arrested and even physically punished (if not executed) in other lands. This is not to justify such harsh punishments, but if the producers (and supporters) of movies and television shows want to use community standards as an argument, then they should consequently not market their products in places where the standards are different.

Or is the only real standard maximizing profits?

The same kinds of arguments used in terms of sex can be raised when it comes to foul language, dress, and excessive violence.

And are we not called to model appropriate behavior? That would mean those who claim to be people of faith need to be careful about what they watch and say and promote in any way. Are we not also called to speak out to defend the eternal values and the innocent who are being led astray by "community standards?"

As for those who still want to call defenders of morality and appropriate behavior "prudes," remember, antonyms of "prude" include "immoralist," "libertine," and "misbehaver."

Are those things you really want to be called?

As for me, I'm proud to be a prude.

Pax et bonum.

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