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Judgments

Posted Dec 01 2009 10:00pm

This morning a fellow teacher who, according to his degrees and professional standing, appears competent to do research, perform statistical analysis of the output, and make balanced statements about populations made such an outrageous statement to me that I am still having a hard time comprehending it.  He said:

“Fat women all hate prostitutes.  The skinny ones are fine with it because they’re not threatened.”

The mind is simply boggled.  When I suggested that perhaps he was making a generalization, he staunchly held to his argument.  He said, in fact, that he could tell me which of my students were okay with prostitution and which ones weren’t with 98% accuracy just by looking at them.

When I suggested that he was simply stating a layman’s opinion rather than a research-based assumption, he went on and on about how all of the women he’s met have fallen into those two categories (i.e., fat = anti-sex-workers; skinny = pro-sex-workers).  This man was clearly talking out of rear end rather than his mouth.

But it’s not an uncommon thing to hear someone making obscene judgments about other people based on their physical appearance.  Gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, parental status, even beliefs about prostitution, are apparently openly obvious by simply looking at someone from across the room.

It is just not that easy.  If it were that easy, everything about our lives would be radically different.

Even people who we think we know to some degree - for example, the parents of our children’s friends - often will surprise us when we sit down and have an open and honest conversation about topics relating to sex and sexuality.  We cannot make the judgment that other essentially good, interesting, intelligent, engaging adults will come to the same conclusions as we do - particularly about our children’s (and more specifically, their children’s) sexuality education or sex lives.

Plenty of parents think that young people should wait until they’re in college - or married - before they have sex.  Plenty of parents think it’s appropriate for young people to experiment sexually as teenagers.  I know from talking to many, many parents that you just can’t tell which perspective any given person has until you ask them.  Religion, education, age, and gender are all relatively un-useful indicators.  Maybe on a population-wide basis you can make an educated guess, but without an honest conversation all you’re doing is guessing.

The man I spoke with this morning said to me, “I’m going to look this up in the literature, and if you’re wrong, I’m going to know that you are angry and unhappy.”  Don’t be that guy.  Rather than making assumptions about other people, ask them.  Especially when other people’s children and sex are concerned.

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