Is Innocence Sexy?

Christopher Kane's summer 2010 collection debuts in London

I happened to be reading a fashion review in the New York Times. (No I don’t watch America’s Top Model or Project Runway. I promise.) The star of the show was designer Christopher Kane, whose collection, he says, was inspired by Jonestown. Pretty dark, huh? The Times writes that Kane managed to infuse his dresses “with the sense of innocence on the cusp of broken dreams.”

That got me to thinking. Is innocence sexy?

It is, isn’t it? But there is a thin line between innocence and naïveté – and a thin line between selling an image of innocence versus selling the image of innocence soon to be spoiled.

Looking at these photos, it strikes me that the image of beauty that is untouched, virginal, almost unreachable CAN be incredibly captivating – if it is a sophisticated, confident and wise kind of innocence, a willful innocence. That’s what chastity at its best is really about.

Spears on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1999

Spears on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1999

But I think there is another, more naïve, image of innocence that our culture frequently presents us. It’s the kind of innocence Britney Spears embodied when she first hit the big time – Telletubby in arm, pouty lips, dripping with a hyper-sexual undertone that makes the “innocence” nothing more than pretense. It’s a turn-on, to be sure, but a cheaper, more temporary one.

The first kind of allure is shrewd and hard-to-get, the other cheap and naïve. I can see shades of both in Kane’s collection.

The shrewd kind of innocence is truly captivating. It is willful, powerful, and worth giving everything one has in order to win it over.

Do Kids Make Women Less Happy in Life?

Facinating read from Maureen Dowd:

Marueen Dowd

Marueen Dowd

In the early ’70s, breaking out of the domestic cocoon, leaving their mothers’ circumscribed lives behind, young women felt exhilarated and bold.

But the more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?

According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier.

Before the ’70s, there was a gender gap in America in which women felt greater well-being. Now there’s a gender gap in which men feel better about their lives.

Dowd goes on to mention studies that show that women with children are less happy, on average, than those without.

When women stepped into male- dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.

“Choice is inherently stressful,” Buckingham said in an interview. “And women are being driven to distraction.”

One area of extreme distraction is kids. “Across the happiness data, the one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children,” said Betsey Stevenson, an assistant professor at Wharton who co-wrote a paper called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.” “It’s true whether you’re wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids early. Yet I know very few people who would tell me they wish they hadn’t had kids or who would tell me they feel their kids were the destroyer of their happiness.”

The more important things that are crowded into their lives, the less attention women are able to give to each thing.

Is the maternal instinct self-defeating? What do you say, ladies?

Average person is sexually linked to 2.8 million people

Here’s a tongue twister and a mind bender.

How many people has the person you sleep with slept with?

Probably far more than you think.

This story from across the pond:

The average British man or woman has slept with 2.8 million people — albeit indirectly, according to figures released on Wednesday to promote awareness of sexual health.A British pharmacy chain has launched an online calculator which helps you work out how many partners you have had, in the sense of exposure to risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

The “Sex Degrees of Separation” ready reckoner tots up the numbers based on your number of partners, then their previous partners, and their former lovers, and so on for six “generations” of partners.

The average British man claims to have actually slept with nine people, while women put the figure at 6.3, giving an average of 7.65.

“When we sleep with someone, we are, in effect, not only sleeping with them, but also their previous partners and their partners’ previous partners, and so on,” said Clare Kerr, head of sexual health at Lloydspharmacy.

“It’s important that people understand how exposed they are to STIs and take appropriate precautions including using condoms and getting themselves checked out where appropriate.”

What about cutting back on your number of sexual partners to – say – ONE? Wouldn’t that fix the problem? Sheeeeesh. And we wonder why STDs are taking over the world. There are some STDs – herpes, gential warts, etc – that condoms cannot prevent.

Six degrees of sexual separation makes for a mighty big orgy. People say we need health care reform in America. I think a big shot of chastity would be a good start.

Beauty Queen Dies after Buttock Surgery

A former Miss Argentina dies after cosmetic surgery goes tragically wrong. I really don’t know what to say about this one. Partly because I don’t understand the derriere obsession that rages in certain cultural circles. But more to the point, here we have a case of a beauty queen who, while still young and in her thirties, was looking for surgery to enhance whatever she felt was lacking in her own physique.

Former Miss Argentina, Solange Magnano

I’m not opposed to cosmetic surgery in some cases. But this tragedy seems be heightened by the fact that the woman was already a great beauty and probably had less of a valid reason to seek surgical enhancement than 99% of women who might entertain the thought. I mean, at the end of the day it’s your butt we’re talking about.

This woman was already extremely beautiful. Too bad she didn’t know it. Do you know anyone who is beautiful but still doesn’t see herself as good enough?


Cell Phones, Texts and Lovers

This, folks, is an example of why David Brooks is one of the best and most insightful writers out there today.

Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.

David Brooks

Over the past few decades, these social scripts became obsolete. They didn’t fit the post-feminist era. So the search was on for more enlightened courtship rules. You would expect a dynamic society to come up with appropriate scripts. But technology has made this extremely difficult. Etiquette is all about obstacles and restraint. But technology, especially cellphone and texting technology, dissolves obstacles. Suitors now contact each other in an instantaneous, frictionless sphere separated from larger social institutions and commitments…

This does not mean that young people today are worse or shallower than young people in the past. It does mean they get less help. People once lived within a pattern of being, which educated the emotions, guided the temporary toward the permanent and linked everyday urges to higher things. The accumulated wisdom of the community steered couples as they tried to earn each other’s commitment.

Today there are fewer norms that guide in that way. Today’s technology seems to threaten the sort of recurring and stable reciprocity that is the building block of trust.

Take my advice and read the full article. It is well worth your time. Get it here.

How to Change a Girl’s Life

Nick Kristof has a great piece in the NY Times about a little known, but at the same time HUGE problem in the developing world. I’m speaking of obstetric fistulas.

An Ethiopian woman, helped by the Fistula Foundation

Pregnancy often comes early for girls living in Africa or Asia’s impoverished communities. Sometimes as early as 12, 13 or 14 – occasionally even younger. If their bodies are not yet mature enough to handle vaginal delivery. They have no access to C-section. Due to the small size of the pelvis, an obstetric fistula sometimes occurs. Medically, it’s a minor problem, but it can destroy a young girls life.

It is estimated that about two million women around the world suffer from the affliction.

From Kristof:

This is a childbirth injury, often suffered by a teenager in Africa or Asia whose pelvis is not fully grown. She suffers obstructed labor, has no access to a C-section, and endures internal injuries that leave her incontinent — steadily trickling urine and sometimes feces through her vagina.

I’ve met many of these women — or, often, girls of 13, 14, 15 — in half a dozen countries, for there are three million or four million of them around the world. They are the lepers of the 21st century.

Just about the happiest thing that can happen to such a woman is an encounter with Dr. Lewis Wall, an ob-gyn at Washington University in St. Louis. A quiet, self-effacing but relentless man of 59, Dr. Wall has devoted his life to helping these most voiceless of the voiceless, promoting the $300 surgeries that repair fistulas and typically return the patients to full health.

“There’s no more rewarding experience for a surgeon than a successful fistula repair,” Dr. Wall reflected. “There are a lot of operations you do that solve a problem — I can take out a uterus that has a tumor in it. But this is life-transforming for everybody who gets it done. It’s astonishing. You take a human being who has been in the abyss of despair and — boom! — you have a transformed woman. She has her life back.”

“In Liberia, I saw a woman who had developed a fistula 35 years earlier. It turned out to be a tiny injury; it took 20 minutes to repair it. For want of a 20-minute operation, this woman had lived in a pool of urine for 35 years.”

… The West African country of Niger recently approved Dr. Wall’s plan for a fistula hospital, affiliated with an existing leprosy hospital run by SIM, a Christian missionary organization. Eventually, when $850,000 in fund-raising is complete, a new 40-bed fistula hospital, modeled on the extremely successful Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital of Ethiopia, will rise on vacant ground next to the leprosy hospital. (For information on how to help, please visit my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground.)

I spent six months volunteering with an organization, Mercy Ships International, that runs a fistula surgical repair program. I know what a dramatic, life-changing experience these surguries are for the fortunate women who are able to find help. The surgury is relatively inexpensive, but for the poor of Africa or Asia, who lack medical care, it is out of reach without our help.

Consider a gift in the upcoming holiday season for this worthy cause. If you want to help, you can make a tax-deductable donation to the Worldwide Fistula Fund or the Fistula Foundation.

100,000 child prostitutes in the U.S.

The FBI just conducted a high-profile sting and rescue operation, which is being touted here and there in the news media. Of the estimated 100,000 victims of child prostitution in the U.S., the number that were rescued in this sweep was a mere — 52. We need to be reminded that this is a problem right here in the U.S., not merely in the third world.

Click here to watch a news report on the FBI operation.