Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jessica Logan, Sexting, Suicide, What Guys Want, and Malignant Virtue

"There are times, Charles, when even the unimaginative decency of my brother and the malignant virtue of his wife appear to me admirable."
(Lord Peter Wimsey, in Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers (1933))

A young woman, Jessica, the only child of Cynthia and Albert Logan in Cincinnati, hanged herself last year.

I didn't think suicide was a good idea before I became a Catholic. That's just as well: If I'd 'trusted my feelings,' I probably wouldn't be alive today. I still don't think suicide is a smart move, and now know a few more of the reasons. (January 28, 2009)

Since I'm going to say some things that will sound "judgmental" by the standards of America' dominant culture, I'd better give a little background first.

I Don't have Authority to Judge Anybody

I take this pretty seriously:
" 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."
(Matthew 7:1-5)
Like the subheading says in another post, "Judging Someone Else? I Don't Need That Kind of Trouble". (August 27, 2009)

Saying that what another person does, on the other hand, I am allowed to point out. Look at it this way: if you saw your blindfolded friend walking toward the top of a cliff, would you be 'nice,' and not mention that he'd better stop?

Suicide isn't Right, and We Shouldn't Do It

I wrote about what the Catholic Church teaches about suicide, earlier this year. (January 28, 2009)

This is over-simplified, but:
  • Killing someone for personal motives is wrong
    • Even if the person is yourself
  • We don't "own" our life
    • God does
    • We're stewards
  • Killing ourselves affects everybody we know
    • And will know
  • After murdering someone else, the living murderer can repent
  • After killing yourself, you're not alive
    • Which could make repenting - or anything else - a bit difficult
So someone who's committed suicide is doomed? Depends on who you listen to. Me, I listen to the Catholic Church:

"Catholics Believe Suicides Go to Hell, Right?"

"This might be a surprise:
" 'We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
(January 28, 2009)

Modesty is a Good Idea, Even if the Grocery Magazines Don't Agree

You've seen them in the grocery checkout line: magazines with covers that display an improbably attractive woman and article titles like "How to Dress for Sex," "What To Do For Your Man - So He Won't Leave You" and "How to Have Sexy [hair, clothes, body parts, whatever]."

I've been over this idea a couple of times, at least.
"...this is a 'divisive' point. Men in western countries have learned to expect the titillation of watching nubile young women bouncing in their bikinis on the beach. Depriving them of this (right?) certainly could be a 'divisive' issue...."

"...Sure: right now, after decades of bikinis, hot pants and nipple rings, it's hard to imagine that anyone would be mean-spirited enough to deprive hot-blooded men of their jollies. Or women of the opportunity to be regarded as 3D living color moving centerfolds...."
(August 16, 2009)
Don't get me wrong: human sexuality is a wonderful part of our existence. But it isn't the only part: and there's a balance to be achieved, between celebrating what we are, and making ourselves seem to be objects - not people.

Jessica Logan and the Respectable People of Cincinnati

First, a bit about Jessica Logan.

Short version: Jessica Logan was born in 1990. By the end of July 2008, she had sent young man a photo of herself, from the neck down, wearing no clothes; graduated from high school, and killed herself.

The young man passed Jessica's photo on to four other young women. After that, Jessica was hounded by the "good," "respectable" people in her peer group, and rejected from parties because she had a "reputation."

Spare me from such respectability.

Sexting: 'Everybody' is Doing It

Sort of.

"Sexting" is a fairly new term, and doesn't seem to have worked its way into the more conventional online dictionaries. There is, however, an article in Wikipedia with some background and - more to the point - links to source material: "Sexting." Briefly, the article defines sexting as "...sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones...."
"...Jessie was not alone in sending nude cell-phone photos. Her friends point to the increasing pressure on teenage girls to send nude photos to their boyfriends.

"A national study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy revealed that 1 in 5 teen girls or 22 percent say they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude images online of themselves...."
(Cindy Kranz, via Cincinnati.com)
Nothing new here. When I was a teen, back in the sixties, it was "Polaroids," a brand name that covered any of the available quick-developing cameras. What's different about sexting is that a racy digital photo can be distributed much faster than a "Polaroid." And, the digital photo can be replicated over and over again.

I remember being a teenage boy - and don't ever want to be like that again. Adolescence doesn't seem to be any easier for teenage girls who are becoming young women.

Never Mind What He Wants

It's not quite true, that human males think only about sex from around the age of 13 to 125. For Americans, anyway, there's food, cars, and sports, too. Other cultures may have something other than cars - and American culture seems to be replacing cars and motorcycles with electronic gadgets. But that's another topic.

The fact is, men tend to be a bit obsessive about women. Good thing too, or it would take a whole lot more to get us thinking about settling down. Which is yet another topic.

The problem is: Guys are really, really interested in sex. The more ethically-challenged of us will lie, cheat, steal or - on occasion - kill for it. I'm not justifying that sort of behavior. At all. But, let's face it: some guys are loathsome jerks. Or act the part very well.

And all of us, if we're even close to being 'husband' material, aren't going to have a physically distant, purely Platonic, interest in our girlfriends. We're not supposed to ask for nude photos, premarital sex, or related favors: but we are not likely to regard a young woman as 'just another person, like me.'

There's a greeting card I ran into, decades ago. On the front is



Some mothers still have that sort of wisdom. Probably a combination of knowledge passed down over generations of women and their daughters, and a lifetime's experience of dealing with my half of humanity.

Back to that Cincinnati article:
"Jessica Logan's nude cell-phone photo - meant for her boyfriend's eyes only - was sent to hundreds of teenagers last year in at least seven Greater Cincinnati high schools.

"The 18-year-old Sycamore High School senior was then bombarded with taunts: slut, porn queen, whore.

"On July 3, Jessie hanged herself in her bedroom...."

"...She couldn't even escape when she went home, her close friends said.

" 'I'd be with her and she'd get numbers that weren't even in her contacts, random numbers that she didn't know, texting her, "You're a whore, you're a slut," ' Lauren said.

" 'Or, she'd get on MySpace and get messages from people calling her those names, or Facebook would be the same way. It was constant. She'd go home thinking, "Oh I'm going to get away from this," but she never could get away from it.'..."

Malignant Virtue and the Cincinnati Schools

I think there's plenty of blame to go around: but I'm not going to be sixties-fashionable and blame Jessica's parents. They were, it seems, trying to defend their daughter.

It didn't help that she was 18 by the time the photo was hitting the fan.

The Sycamore Community Schools Board of Education weren't exactly inactive in the matter of Jessica and the "upstanding," "respectable" people who were harassing her. The Logans were sent truancy notices often enough to show that the system really cared.

Hey, who really expects school officials to deal with something like this, anyway? Even if they thought about getting involved, someone might point out the danger they'd face, from infringing on rights to privacy or expression or whatever.

Bitter? Yeah. I am, a little. I was in the education racket for a while, got out, and can't say I'm sorry I did. There are decent people still inside, but as for the system as a whole - but that's yet another topic.

I have no idea what sort of person Jessica Logan was - is. She apparently didn't have the defenses many of us have, against opinions of others. Her decision to hang herself was not, I think, prudent. But I don't have all the facts, and - like I wrote before - I'm not allowed to judge persons.

What people do, on the other hand, again repeating myself, is within the scope of acceptable commentary.

There are five people in particular, who in my opinion acted with at best a callous disregard and reckless indifference to the welfare of others:
  • Ryan Salyers
    • Jessica's ex-boyfriend
    • Who showed Jessica's photo to four other girls
  • Sara Jane Ramsey
      Girl #1, presumably
  • Courtney Richardson
      Girl #2, presumably
  • Emily Stachler
      Girl #3, presumably
  • A minor identified only as A.R
      Girl #4, presumably
With friends like those, you don't need enemies.

The behavior of those persons, and others, is the subject of a lawsuit, so insert "allegedly" every second or third word.

With legal action to help focus their attention, these young people have an opportunity to reevaluate their motivations and decisions. I don't know that they are responsible for Jessica Logan's death: but the special attention that their community showered on Jessica probably wouldn't have happened, if young Mr. Ryan Salyers hadn't shown Jessica's photo to the four other girls - and if all of them hadn't seen to it that the photo was spread around, where it could do the most harm.

Cause and Effect? Yeah, I Think They Exist

Actions have consequences. That's not a popular idea in some circles, but I've seen things that are hard to explain in terms other than "cause and effect."

Sometimes it's pretty obvious: like holding a cement block over your foot and letting it drop. Unless you're wearing some really fancy footwear, your foot will 'just happen to' start hurting a fraction of a second later.

Other times, the cause-effect links aren't quite so obvious.

Like Jessica Logan's case.

Malignant Virtue and "Hypocrisy," Real and Imagined

"Harper Valley PTA" (Tom T. Hall (1968)) was a very popular song in the late sixties. A decade later it was made into a movie (1978) and a television series (1981-1982). I like the song (haven't seen the screen adaptations), and think the Tom T. Hall lyrics say something about the disconnect between what some 'proper' people say they believe - and expect others to do - and how they live, themselves.

As described in the song, the Harper Valley PTA members are hypocrisy personified. (Video micro-reviewed at "Harper Valley PTA - Yeah, There Are People Like That," Apathetic Lemming of the North (December 8, 2009))

Problem is, the idea seems to have taken root that people who say that something that's popular and feels good at the moment - like cheating on your wife or doing drugs - are hypocrites. Because they support unpopular or inconvenient standards.

But What About the Pedophile Priests?!

It's true. A tiny minority of American priests raped boys.

That wasn't right.

It was wrong.

If they were also preaching adherence to Catholic teaching, yes: they were exhibiting hypocritical behavior.

Which wasn't right.

And was wrong.

Moving along.

Having Standards, Hypocrisy, and Being Human

I'm a hypocrite, in the sense that I am not a perfect example of a Catholic citizen, husband, and father: and still think that these standards are right.

God willing, I'll keep shoveling trash out of my mind until it's all gone, or I die. I often feel that I'll still have backlog at the end. Some days, I feel like it's one step forward and two steps back: but that's emotions. They're valuable indicators that something is happening - but I don't rely on them. Which is (good grief) another topic. Several, actually.

By the way, along with murder and suicide, the Catholic Church doesn't approve of hypocrisy. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2468, Mark 12:15, and Matthew 23:13, for starters)

Harper Valley PTA: or, How Not to Run a Community

"Harper Valley PTA" - which is a song I still like - getting back to the late sixties and seventies (aayiii!) was part of a set of cultural changes: in which
  • Some Americans began re-evaluating their relentless pursuit of wealth and social standing
  • Others dug psychological trenches in defense of what they called "the American dream"
  • Quite a few people around my age decided that the whole materialistic culture - and anything else their parents had told them - should be jettisoned

Options, Choices, Results

I never bought into the "tune in, turn on, drop out" ethic: but I did take a long, hard look at my options.

Then I chose to live in a way that was optimized for learning and didn't take having "a successful career" into account. I still think I made the right decision.

As I said, I think folks had reason for rejecting the ethic expressed in 'I'll lie for the company, I'll cheat for the company, I'll steal for the company - but I'll never give up my principles!' (From one of the final scenes in Brigadoon" (1954), I think). Rejecting every part of 'conventional middle-class morality:' not so much.

I can see why folks rejected 'middle-class values.' But I don't think that rejection was such a good idea. Not as implemented.

Ever since, quite a few people have been hesitant to recommend old-fashioned ideas like not shacking up, getting married, being loyal to your wife or husband, and not giving someone a nude photo of yourself.

Stripped of weird cultural accretions like the infamous double standard of the fifties, and the idea that God commands women to wear skirts - during Minnesota winters - I think these rules are intended to keep us from killing each other and ourselves. And, more positively, guiding us into a better life.

In Conclusion (FINALLY!)

I started writing this post about nine and a half hours ago. I've had two meals and attended to several other tasks, too: so don't be too impressed with the amount of time I put in.

The points I was trying to get across were:
  • Ladies, if he says he'll leave unless you send him a naughty photo
    • Take him up on his offer
    • Or leave him first
    • Odds are, this won't be the last dicey demand he makes
  • Guys, don't ask for a naughty photo
  • If you do get a naughty photo, don't send copies to everybody you know
  • If you're so embarrassed and humiliated and rejected that you think you'd be better off dead
    • Odds are really good that you won't
    • Change happens: and this, too will pass
      • Maybe like that triple-cheese anchovy and Tabasco pizza you had
      • But it will pass
  • If you feel that you're morally or spiritually superior to someone you know
    • Look out: and
      • Take a long, hard, look at yourself
      • See what happens when you apply the standards you have for others on yourself
    • Even if you (seriously) think you're better than someone else
      • Use that hyper-spiritual nature of yours and
        • Don't call the person a whore, slut, or whatever
And, if that sounds hard to do: I don't claim that doing the right thing is easy.

More-or-less-related posts:
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1 comment:

Brain Butler said...

Its not that we as guys want images and all those but in today's fast life people are so connected via internet that long distance relationships happen and you can see where all the images and sexting comes from...

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.