Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Does going to Prom promote the contraceptive mentality?

I have not done much research on the history of (high school) proms and formals, but if I had to guess I would assume they originally began or were done in a era/culture where couples married early (i.e. around 18 years old) and the prom facilitated the dating/courting process. Like the hedonistic and antiChristian craze over sports, the tradition of going to the prom has likewise devolved into something very unnatural and even sinful. Proms encapsulate everything false about what love and responsibility is supposed to entail.

No doubt, the leading fuel behind prom is the hype, a totally hollow experience packaged in dazzling colors. The source of this hype is two-fold: First, it is the parents (and "teachers"), many whom never grew up and want to vicariously live their life through their children; otherwise, the parents (and "teachers") are stuck in a fantasy of what they "experienced at that age," often in a time when high school was the apex of their education and college was limited. But everyone can readily admit that it's wrong to try and live out your childhood dreams in such a selfish way as to vicariously do it through your children. And since going to college is now the norm, high school is no longer the "academic" high point, but a drop in the bucket which college students look back at and laugh at the immaturity of it all. Second, since prom generates a lot of money, various businesses like to promote it, just like other fake holidays (e.g. mother's day), which mark the materialization and secularization of true Christian holidays. These two factors directly feed into the hype that causes the guilt-tripping of all students into rushing to find a "date" for prom, while stigmatizing those students who are too dumb, fat, or unpopular, and cannot find a date to go. This hype turns everything into a popularity contest and totally eclipses the academic nature of school. Now, instead of aiming for good grades, what matters is how popular one is. And those who are in the top tier of popularity fight bitterly over who will be 'crowned', quite often setting the 'royalty' up for great disappointment later in life when the celebrity status fades. In the course of this battle, students fight to outspend and out do one another, all to avoid looking bad that night.

Next, it is no secret that proms are obscenely expensive, averaging a few hundreds of dollars minimum, but can easily get up to $1,000 for the more affluent. This kind of spending is very irresponsible and teaches children all the wrong things about the value of work and real life. Such money should go towards paying for legitimate needs, since such amounts can cover the monthly allotment for food or rent for the whole family. No sane person can deny this. And in terms of materialism, often the dress is worn but once and shelved indefinitely, while the transportation, venue, and other needs are grossly over priced. Some might object that it is possible to not 'over spend' on one's prom, keeping the costs at a minimum. While that is true, it goes against the 'splurge' mentality that makes modern day proms and formals what they are. In other words, is a split-personality disorder that desires to to engage the world while remaining free from it.

Finally, and this is the most serious of all reasons, is the issue of sexual purity. This is the most indefensible of all the problems. Though premarital sex is already rampant in both public and "Catholic" schools, modern culture and movies have made having sex the defining mark of an "ideal" prom night. Of course, not all teens go that far, but a significant percentage have, and that's a cause for concern. But even if not all teens go that far, there is still an expectation to get close and even kiss, which is still out of place for teens not ready for marriage (since it sends the body the wrong signals). And this is where the root of the entire problem of prom rests: dating is now totally stripped of any connection to marriage, the same way contraception strips sex of any connection to children. Dating is now just as recreational as sex is, neither of them have a future fulfillment in something greater. This is why any Catholic parent worth anything should forbid dating in high school, because it sends their own child the wrong message: you are encouraged to get close to someone of the opposite gender, go through all the motions of dating, but have no intention to marry them. The great majority of teen students who date have no intention of marriage, and most see the relationship as discontinuing as one leaves for college. This means the child is encouraged to invest their time, emotions, even physicality, all into a moment that has no future in sight. Instead, parents should teach their kids that dating is for the purpose of finding a spouse, otherwise you're wasting each other's time (and possibly the near occasion of sin). And the best chance of finding a potential (Catholic) spouse - if they have not first discerned a religious vocation - is to find or help form a parish young adult group (i.e. 18 years and older), or if at college to find a Newman Center on campus.

Of course, the list could go on and on, from the provocative dancing, immodest dressing, lewd "music", homosexual student couples, binge drinking, etc, etc, but you get the point. The whole mentality behind prom is that of following the crowd, which is the most foolish and unChristian approach to life a parent or child can have. Any mature individual should know that teens are very immature intellectually and emotionally, in short, they're stupid, and that's precisely why being a firm parent (rather than "a buddy") to them is essential.


Steven Reyes said...

Hey Nick,
I think this article's a bit extreme to say that all proms are bad given the extremity of behavior. I would attribute that more to the culture and less to the act itself. I only spent about 140 dollars on a tux and limo, though I suspect it is very exorbitant for others. I wouldn't look at it any differently than say a quinceƱera though, albeit a significantly different nature, in which students celebrate their academic success and graduation from high school. There is nothing wrong with taking out a girl you have affections for and dancing with them, having fun, and what not. This is how I met the woman that I intend to marry.

I did not per se take out the young lady with the intention of marrying her, but with the affection of perhaps seeing a companion and love in her. I tried to carry myself with respect of her, but dating without the direct knowledge that you desire to marry the person isn't bad per se, but dating without having the possibility of marrying I would say is sinful, or disordered in some manner.

Obviously many persons do not go to prom with the best of intentions, but this is more the fault of the child and parenting, that is they were not raised correctly. I don't think that makes prom bad per se, but rather it becomes an accessory to sinful behavior if the persons participating are not properly raised.

Just my thoughts I suppose.
God bless,
Steven Reyes

Nick said...

I did worry that I might have been too extreme/harsh, but I did note at the very beginning that later devolved into something else. Similar to how Christmas has devolved into something purely materialistic. So yes, I do attribute that to culture more than the Prom itself.

Overall I agree with your assessment, but would also say your story is more of an exception to the rule.

Steven Reyes said...

Hey Nick,
Yes, I am willing to concede that my experience was more the exception than the rule. There was a lot of lewd dancing in some parts, and less than great music, though at my high school we had a 7th and 8th grade academic center tied to the high school, which I took part in. Typically those of us in this program who made it to senior year were a bit better tempered (but not all!) than our counterparts. Those awkward ones I think made a better use of prom than others.

-Steven Reyes

CD-Host said...

Well in answer to where proms came from...

In the 19th century college seniors had "promenades" which were black tie formals designed to teach them the manners and customs for a black tie event. It also announced their availability for marriage, and entrance to adult society. Obviously the men had to find dates and these dates were women from the upper class though for them, even though they were younger this was generally not their first black tie event. These proms were so successful in teaching manners that they became a key means of upper class parents instilling social graces in their children.

In the 1930s, when the USA was trying to diminish class distinctions public High Schools started pushing this down to the middle class, creating a similar event though without the expectation that this would be the first of many black tie formals but at least the students would have attended one and would have so idea of what to expect when they happened in real life.

At least in the 19th century there was no expectation that the boy would have been a virgin, though he would almost always be unmarried at a prom. The High School one however comes closer to the age when many people lose their virginity and thus the "special night" sexual component played a bigger role than probably the original architects of high school proms intended.

I will say I learned some valuable things about formal clothing and made some stupid mistakes that have served me well as I got older. So at least in my case the prom as an introduction to black tie events was worthwhile. That being said, yeah I would guess about 10% of my HS class lost their virginity prom weekend.

Which gets to the big problem with the post. The problem isn't people having sexual opportunities at 18, that is unavoidable these are mostly legal adults there is no meaningful way parents can be firm at that age. What is the parent going to do if the child even tells them directly they intend to have sex prom night? The problem is a late marriage culture combined with an expectation of virginity until marriage, as we've discussed before.

Dan Lower said...

I'm actually fairly certain that most of my high school class was an exception, at least at Jr./Sr. Prom time. When it was just Jr. Prom (we were the first class) I went with someone else who had no date and no mutual interest with, and I just had fun. I did, however, go to Prom with someone I was interested in (this turned out to be a bad idea, as I was less than honest with myself and, I think, her as to my exact intentions). I still had fun. I will, however, note that while I don't think most of my friends were there to get "laid" (we had a nice dinner at the house of one of our group, which her parents served), I will note the four or five people I'd never known to do such a thing freakdancing at Prom.

I think things could do with some restructuring, though I wonder if the situation is different at a school like De La Salle which places a high premium on academic performance and building community, and is a smaller school to begin with.

I don't particularly think there would be anything wrong with restructuring and treating prom as a night to "get down," as it were, in good fun and without any expectation of trying to reach an inspiration point with a significant other.

Also, I dunno if you saw this, but check it out: Slate is giving a couple of Catholic religious credit where credit is certainly due.

vwtaylorii said...

I can see how prom promote contraception. Last year, I went to St. Louis for a high school graduation, and Planned Parenthood had a radio commercial promoting abortive pills for high school girls that conceived on prom night.

To me, I felt it was directed towards minorities because it was on a radio station where most of their audience are African-Americans.

CD-Host said...

Dan --

Prom is an "inspiration point" because it is happening around the age when large numbers of people lose their virginity. If prom wasn't playing this role other special events would be. For example 18th birthday, summer before college, graduation and first few weeks of college are all common times happening within months of prom.

2/3rds of the population lose their virginity 15-19. To expand a bit... only 8% of people are virgins after age 19, while 96% are virgins till 14. High school and freshman year of college / first year in the job market are when it is going to happen, I don't think it is bad that kids try to pick a special event. I'd rather they make something that should be special a bit less routine.


vwtaylorii the campaign probably was directed towards the socio-economically disadvantaged, an African American station was likely just a specific subgroup. The economically disadvantaged are less consistent in their use of contraception and thus much more likely to need chemical abortion. Further African American parents are more socially conservative and thus less likely to have made sure their daughters have contraception.

JB_blogger said...

Wow, I have to say, I am starting to like your way of thinking more and more. You are putting advise my parents (born in a different culture)used to say about these things in to a finely thought point.

Needless to say, I agree with all you have said here. My experience of the high-school prom was that it was an event where nearly everyone was trying to have sex for the first time. So I cannot but agree with you even from my own experience.