A Matter of Definition

By Cyberquill 08/08/20128 Comments

According to latest reports, Sarah Palin’s ex-son-in-law-to-be and serial procreator Levi Johnston “is planning to seek full custody of his son with Bristol Palin after a clip of the three-year-old using the word ‘fuck’ left him ‘disgusted.'”

Whatever. But this brings to mind Bristol Palin’s recent announcement that she and her current beau Gino (Levi’s successor) were going to “wait until marriage,” apparently meaning that, for the time being, the couple would abstain from the very activity for which the aforementioned three-year-old has already learned at least one pithy locution.

Of course, loosely defined, there exist myriad ways to engage in said activity short of its most conventional incarnation, i.e, the one most intuitively resorted to whenever inducing pregnancy resides among the primary objectives of the exercise. Indeed, there are plenty of ways to “hook up” while pussyfooting, pardon the pun, around standard-issue intercourse, none of which bear much meaningful resemblance to genuine abstention from anything.

When Bill Clinton looked into the camera and vowed that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” he appeared to have defined “sexual relations” a trifle more narrowly than the rest of us, presumably so that, if pressed on the issue any further, he would be able to escape prevarication charges by citing TDC (= transient definitional confusion).

So whether an individual has or has had “sex” or “sexual relations” really comes down to what types of behaviors he or she chooses to include under these terms. We cannot talk about virtue until we know what virtue itself is. This Socratian principle, of course, applies to everything, including to phenomena that reside at the opposite end of the spectrum from virtue. Therefore, when talking about sex, just as when discussing any other subject, it is important that all interlocutors involved agree on a definition of the main terms, lest the speaker say one thing, and the audience hear another.

For instance, how many “lovers” one has had in one’s life can vary widely, depending on the definition of “lover.” What does that mean? Second base? Third base? Penetration? And if the latter, penetration of what and with what exactly? If someone asks me how many lovers I’ve had, is this person interested in my “full-service” résumé, or does she want me to throw in my history of oral-sex-only romances? For if the interrogator’s notion of physical love is more restrictive or more expansive than mine, and unless all pertinent terms are clarified in advance, the lovers count I provide will not match the question that was asked.

Obviously, the quest to bring about definitional clarity on the sexual front tends to get extremely graphic very fast. But in the absence of such graphic clarification, any grand announcement by someone that he or she has decided, say, to remain a “virgin” or to abstain from “sex” until such-and-such time is vague bordering on meaningless, due to the subjective elasticity of those terms.

A young lady may divulge that she is still a “virgin” and articulate her intention to remain one until Mr Right comes along. The intent behind her revelation might be to set a positive example for her peers and to encourage them to follow suit. That’s wonderful, but unless she supplements her revelation with her personal definition of virginity, none of her listeners will have the foggiest idea what she means, except that her female organ of generation has never been, and for some time to come shall not be, accessed by a male organ of generation. Beyond this universally acknowledged and necessary ingredient of virginity, however, definitions of the concept diverge greatly, ranging anywhere from wholesale abstinence from all things carnal (at least when in the presence of another), to a blanket license to indulge in all manner of salacious exertions imaginable that would make a porn star blush with the exception of that one type of penetration that would terminate virginity in the most technical of all senses.

Likewise, Bristol Palin’s failure to follow up her “wait until marriage” announcement with an elaboration on the specific behavioral restrictions her “waiting” entails reduced the announcement to one of rather limited practical utility in terms of serving as a lodestar for other young women that may, for whatever reason, be open to emulating Bristol’s new and improved bedroom habits.

Given the amount of ink and pixels this Palin announcement has received, I’m a bit perplexed by the dearth of speculation as to what exactly she may have meant by it, and the reluctance by journalists to nail her—“nail her” in the sense of asking follow-up questions—regarding the technical aspects of her “waiting.”

Because if I were a young woman who wanted to be just like Bristol, her announcement would have left me more confused than enlightened. For example, does 69 constitute a permissible pastime while “waiting,” or would Bristol consider it a violation?

Frankly, even though I am not a young woman who wants to be like Bristol, her announcement has left me very confused as to the precise goings-on in the former Alaskan First Daughter’s private chambers these days.

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  • Testazyk

    Good questions.  To which I would add another--what point exactly is she trying to make?  I always thought that the objective of abstinence before marraige was to preserve an intact hymen.  Nugatory in Bristol’s case, I would suspect.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      I think her point is that she’s learned her lesson the hard way, has changed her ways accordingly, and now wants to lead by example in encouraging other women to “wait” until marriage lest they end up with fatherless children as well. 

      Personally, I’m not sure it’s a particularly bright strategy to risk finding out after the ceremony that you and your new spouse don’t hit it off in the sack, and that’s why I’m especially curious whether Bristol’s definition of “waiting” allows for a certain level of pre-marital experimentation designed to prevent unpleasant surprises come wedding night. And if so, what exactly her recommended parameters for such prophylactic experimentation might be, i.e., how far can—or should—young couples go while they “wait”? 

  • Richard

    Meet the Fokkers.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Boeing ’em! 

      • Richard

        You’ll be the Handley Page Victor, enjoy a Meteoric rise and spit fire.

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          Yeah, wright. 

          • Richard

            Whittle, Cayley.

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              Kress.

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