13 February 2012

Post 479: If Walls Could Talk

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley. ISBN: 9780802779953 (eGalley - publishes March 7, 2012).

In a rare bit of conincidence, I finished this book on the same day that I worked with the teens at church. They're watching Dances With Wolves as part of their curriculum, and since a lot of teens miss out on the good movies of yesteryear in favor of watching a lot of bad movies of this year, the Religious Education Director has decided that they will pretty much be "forced" to watch the whole movie. Also, their DVD player is broken so it is incapable of doing scene selection and whatnot. Special times.

In any case, in the early chapters of this book Worsley writes on the general lack of privacy and how people basically slept in the same room and if you wanted to have sex, you either hoped everyone was polite enough to look away or you waited until the weather was nice enough to roll around in the hay/on the hillside (and still hope no one walked in on you). While watching the movie with the teens, this very incident showed up on the screen. Basically Kicking Bird (Graham Greene) was getting it on with a lady friend in the teepee where a bunch of other people were sleeping and White Dude John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) goes creepster on them and watches, until he gets caught and the couple stares back until he finally has the decency to be all, "Uh, oh yeah, I should turn over and pretend like this isn't happening..."

I found it interesting that the teenagers' response was to the couple was pretty much, "Ew." We weren't at the discussion part of the curriculum yet, so I'm interested to talk to them more about the idea of privacy and morality in a communal living situation, but given that these were Unitarian kids I don't think that the idea of sex bothered them so much. For one thing, the couple was completely covered, all of the "action" taking place under a buffalo hide, and it wasn't particularly gratuitous. This was obviously a very different cultural phenomena that was common place in the Sioux culture, but that John Dunbar was experiencing for the first time. From Dunbar's perspective they were the ones being aberrant, but given that Dunbar was an intruder on their way of life, he was the one behaving against social mores by invading the couple's privacy.

While I don't necessarily think we should go back to sleeping in communal quarters or give up the privacy of our bedroom behaviors, it might be nice if we readopted some of the common courtesies that went along with those conditions. For instance, a person's sexual behavior is not something for you to observe, criticize, or otherwise be involved with unless you have expressly been invited to do so, regardless of whether that behavior occurs in public or private as long as it occurs between two consenting adults. It would be preferable that this behavior occur behind closed doors so as not to make others uncomfortable, but if you are uncomfortable with watching a couple make out, well... if possible walk away. Your discomfort and confusion is not an acceptable reason to invade their privacy or disrupt their activities because you find them "gross" or "immoral." Having said that, there is a time and a place for everything, and those kinds of public displays should be limited to be as non-disruptive as possible, but that's where the whole consenting adults thing comes in, and most reasonable adults have a good understanding of what is and is not appropriate behavior in the particular society they've been raised in.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: eGalley provided by Netgalley.
Edited after posting for minor grammatical/word choice errors.

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