Monday, February 4, 2013

A Question of Intimacy

There are still people out there, you know, who think boys and girls ought to be separated during the educational process. I am not one of them, to be clear. But I do sometimes wonder if we are taking things too far in some cases. We need to be careful not to confuse equality with sameness.

Now, we are even integrating sports. Early on, in baseball, for instance -- or in soccer, even -- I see no problem with this. And, to be fair, we do separate them when the stakes get higher. You simply do not want a 200 pound boy flying toward a 110 pound girl on a kick-off return. It's just not safe.

Today, though, I sat and watched a Saturday karate class at my sons' school. Girls and boys are mixed into the classes. This all seems okay to me when it comes to practicing kicks and punches on the bags or when working on Tang Soo Do forms; but, during this particular class the kids were asked to partner-up and work on take-downs.

Should girls and boys be practicing jiu-jitsu (which is more of a wrestling form) together?

Is there something bad about girls and boys being allowed to develop such casual familiarity with each others' bodies?

I'm not saying there is something sinful about it, or anything. I'm just a little worried about the dynamics it sets up between the sexes. I have already lamented the death of chivalry -- the nearly total lack of gentleman-like behavior in my young students. This seems to be a result of there being no healthy distance between the young men and young women I see every day in my teaching adventures. The boys don't seem too concerned about being gentlemen and the girls don't seem too  concerned about this lack of concern.

As a boy, I tended to see girls as treasures to handle with care. I never saw them as weak, but I did see them as precious and maybe as even a little bit sacred. I was taught to respect and to "take care" of ladies. (I know a million feminists have said this is all a gilded, traditional form of male social domination, but all I can say is that, at least from my youthful perspective, it was done out of genuine respect.)

I was a bit of an extreme in terms of my shyness when it came to girls. I was sure that they would not be interested in me, so I was never one to "make the first move" even in conversation. But, I'll tell you, the first time I held hands with a girl, it was a profound experience. The memory still makes me smile.

Maybe it meant so much to me because I hadn't repeatedly straddled her (or any other girl) during previous a jiu-jitsu lesson.

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