Innocence redefined.

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This picture is dedicated to my sister, who will love it.

 

Innocence is a term used to indicate a lack of guilt, with respect to any kind of crime, sin, or wrongdoing.” – Wikipedia

As a general rule, I like to refer to Wikipedia as my ultimate source for information. This glorious website has settled many a dispute over the course of its existence. I go to it now because I’ve encountered sort of an internal conflict with regard to how I define innocence.

 

This post is inspired by none other than our own Rick Santorum (whose misadventures I find absolutely hilarious), and to a lesser extent, many of the most recent GOP presidential candidates. The idea of innocence is intuitive to a lot of people, and is intrinsic to a good deal of religious ideology  – hence the Santorum inspiration. I have, however, recently come to find the concept of innocence extremely contradictory and unintuitive.

 

There are two completely opposite sides of a continuum that innocence seems to occupy at once. There is, on the one hand, Lord-of-the-Flies-esque innocence, which implies that when separated from society, mankind will tend to lose innocence as it becomes more wild, and commit increasingly heinous acts as rules and reason collapse. This is the same type of innocence that corresponds to sex representing a loss of innocence. The idea is that one is inevitably overcome by emotion / instinct to mate, and through sexual interaction loses innocence. This could tie in to all sorts of religious undertones as well, especially when referring to the Wikipedia definition, wherein innocence is seen as a lack of sin.

 

This all seems like a pretty standard definition of innocence. You grow up with some set of morals and ideals defined by your environment, but if left to your own devices you abandon them in some way and thereby lose innocence. You make the transition from ideal to real, and thereby also transition from pure to impure. You lie, or you hit someone, or you have sex, or you do drugs, or you skip class, or something along those lines. Unfortunately the other definition of innocence is exactly the opposite.

 

The other definition of innocence involves a complete lack of constraint, morally or societally. This is the type of innocence that usually gets associated with animals or babies. They don’t really understand what’s going on in the world, and therefore they are innocent – no matter what they do, or what harm they cause, they couldn’t have intended it because they don’t understand its significance, and they can therefore never harbor guilt. This innocence is related to ignorance or lack of awareness, and is also tied to nature. That which is more natural is more innocent – that which is more socially constructed is guilty. Here, you lose innocence through gaining awareness; in the above alternate definition, you have some level of awareness and lose innocence through disregarding it.

 

To give an extreme example, I would say the two sides are like organized religion and hippies. Organized religion seeks to preserve innocence by imposing rules and morals, the breaking of which would result in a loss of innocence, whereas hippies feel that removing society and remaining true to nature will preserve innocence. I personally know many people who strongly represent this dichotomy.

 

So, why does this matter to us, that we should be so torn regarding what defines innocence? Well, it matters a whole lot in my opinion, and an especially relevant concrete example of this involves the expression of sexuality. Youth sexuality is extremely repressed in America, and you can see this based on our age of consent, our prototypical moral values, our public education system and the way it handles sex education, our general opinions regarding nudity, etc. Of course this results in pretty significant sexualization in other areas, especially in media such as music, film, the internet, clothing/fashion, etc. 

 

If you know me, you could probably guess that I favor the more hippy-aligned camp, that is to say that I would be in favor of a lower age of consent, more thorough sex education (I would prefer if it were mandatory, too), and less restrictive legal and societal opinions on nudity, while I generally oppose demonization and associated stigmatization of sex and sexual imagery. I believe that you are born innocent and that losing innocence is a 2-step process: the first step is being aware of a difference between right and wrong, and the second step is choosing a course of action that you have determined from step 1 to be wrong. If sex is not seen as wrong, and I don’t think it should be, then having sex should not necessarily represent a loss of innocence. There are several things that go along with that which might represent such a thing, for instance breaking someone’s heart or being disrespectful or ruining a friendship. Those might correlate virginity with innocence, but I don’t believe that the two are intrinsically linked, and in fact I believe quite the opposite.

 

As with most topics, I could go on like this for a while, but you understand what I am trying to say. This whole subject is a bit tough to wrap your mind around, or at least it is for me.

 

Here’s a song that I like a lot that happens to have the word naked in the title.

 

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