Will McBride – Rocky & Julia (1972)
One of the most amazing teachers of my life taught Sociology 101 in community college. (She was breathtakingly brilliant and could’ve taught anywhere but as a committed Marxist, she viewed it as her duty to provide the same degree of academic rigor to students who might not necessarily have the resources to attend an Ivy League institution.)
I still refer back to notes from her class a handful of times every year. This time it was to remember the term cultural lag.
The gist of the concept is technological innovation moves at a much faster speed than cultural evolution. As a result it can take a really fucking long time for society to come to terms with advances in technology.
If you are unfamiliar with McBride, he’s notable for his collaboration with Helga Fleischhauer-Hardt, a psychiatrist, on a picture book designed as a resource to help parents educate their children about sex.
The book was called Zeig Mal! (or, Show Me!) and it included frank discussions about sex accompanying age appropriate images of nude children and graphic depictions of teens and adults engaging in sexual activity.
It was well received in Germany–and received a second printing. But it’s publication in the U.S. was more troubled. It was quickly libeled as ‘child pornography’–and despite the fact that it exonerate in court on four different occasions as not obscene.
However, there was a convoluted back and forth about whether or not distributing non-obscene depictions of nude children was protected by the first amendment. To be on the safe side, the publisher opted not to continue to publish the title in the U.S.
The notion of cultural lag doesn’t strictly apply to McBride–if anything the culture was fine until puritanical prudery arrived on the scene.
There is something potentially valuable to consider here; namely: that as long as we remain unclear on what constitutes pornography and what does not, we’re going to continue to have problems like this.
If you disagree think about teens who are getting added to sex offender registries for consensually sexting nudes to other teens.
The pervasive attitude of puritanical prudes is that education/preparation is implicit acceptance of the activity. (The reason so many idiots are against contraception is truly less out of any well-meaning desire to keep kids and teens safe and more born of the fact that “if we provide free condoms, then they’re certainly going to use them.” It’s entirely about control–no more, no less. Fear and coercion only work so long as they keep you from eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; once you’ve eaten, you want to continue to eat–you just have the associated guilt over eating in the first place to work through before you can truly enjoy the feast. (Sadly some people never make it.)
Consider another analogy: of the kids I went to a parochial high school with, only one never struggled with the sudden freedom of self-determination upon going off to college. All of them struggled with binge drinking and addiction except the class salutatorian–whose parents wisely allowed her to have a glass of wine with dinner and an occasional beer here and there from the age of twelve onward.
Similarly, the people I know with the healthiest attitudes towards sex are those whose parents refused to teach their children that some sort of shame surrounded their bodies/nudity and who modeled sexual attraction/behaviors in an open but appropriate fashion.
Or, to put it another way: in my experience if a child can formulate a question on a particular topic they are generally more than ready for an honest answer.
We–as a culture–really need to do better about this kind of thing.
Anyway, I have no idea from what body of work the above image emerged. It would’ve preceded Show Me! by half a decade. But you do have to appreciate the seemingly post-coital intimacy that manages somehow to avoid both sentimentality and salaciousness.