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Puritanism is Cancer – Why Do Some Libertarians Embrace It?

11505_102306 helena high from steps single103

Helena High School, Montana

I recently stumbled across a story about a high school girl named Kaitlyn Juvik who was intimidated and policed by her school administrators regarding how she chose to wear her clothes and manage her own body – a clear violation of bodily autonomy. Why? Because Kaitlyn found her bra uncomfortable one day and decided to go to school without wearing it – the rest of her clothes still on, no nudity present or even implied – and yet one of the men on staff who caught a glimpse of her apparently felt “uncomfortable.”

Now, by my reckoning, when an under-or-barely-of-age girl is giving a full grown man urges, it’s time to check out the mental state and professional competence of that gentleman. However, as far as the school was concerned, it apparently seemed more appropriate to just lecture the girl and tell her that it was her problem. After all, she was the one who chose not to wear a bra, right? She should have known that the males around her would be unable to control themselves. Silly girl. Silly, no-self-respecting, slutty girl.

Of course, such thinking is ridiculous – women are not objects with on and off switches. They should not be asked to comply with the male insecurity of strangers as they go about their day-to-day lives by suddenly hiding their bodily and/or sexual pride the moment they leave the bedroom. Unlike many men, it would appear, women seem perfectly capable of separating sex from the human body as their respective concepts – they aren’t trying to tempt men just because they publicly enjoy and celebrate their own bodies. Hard for some men to grasp, I know, but not everything is about them. And in this case, that couldn’t be more true.

Miss Juvik agrees with that perspective and holds it herself. And that’s why she protested her school’s treatment of her by inspiring her friends to all go braless themselves. This raised awareness of the shaming and prudishness going on at the school, which itself leads to larger conversations  about the way American culture over-sexualizes women and nudity in the first place.

A friend and colleague actually agreed with this school in this situation, and tried to make a point by suggesting that the girl was being absurd because, to him, a woman with no bra is the equivalent to a man with his nether regions out and swaying. But this girl’s bosom wasn’t hanging out, so it’s a false equivalency. Going commando would be a much fairer comparison to going braless. And like Juvik said, as long as everything is covered up, what she does with her body shouldn’t be policed. I’m equally sick of both liberal and conservative puritanism – it’s not the teenage girl’s problem if the grown man gets a chubby, or if he apparently is already looking at her body close enough in the first place to even notice she’s braless under there. It sounds like he’s the one with the problem.

Aside from the fact that American culture sexualizes the body regardless of context, which is already pretty ridiculous, this isn’t even a nude body being talked about, here. But even if it were that drastic, nudity itself is not always sexual in nature. It’s actually kind of insulting to me as a guy that the default assumption is that it’s wrong for a woman’s body shape to be too obvious in public, lest I not be able to control myself. Maybe I’m a rarity among my fellow males, or something, but an underage girl isn’t “tempting” or “uncomfortable” for me to be around – bra or no bra. I get laid by grown women, after all, and if it were my job to be something of an authority figure at a place of education, the last thing I would be doing is catching glimpses of my students’ bosom.

Good for this girl and her friends. And yet, the debate continued. This friend of mine just couldn’t stop defending the prudish position of the school. And he’s also a libertarian, albeit a conservative-leaning one. Which made me realize something – those among us who would call themselves “conservatarans” are still very socially right-wing; the only difference between them and the Republicans is that the former group would be less likely to use force to proselytize their ideal message. But when stories like that of Kaitlyn Juvik come about, their true colors show.

When liberal third wave feminists tell men to stop speaking, or women to cover up, or schools to shut down free speech, all libertarians of all political leanings strike back – and rightly so. But when the social prudes happen to agree with more typical conservative conventions, the paleoconservatives in our midst suddenly drop their consistency and side with the puritans. Regardless of one’s personal proclivities, being so publicly against the autonomy of your fellow human being is never a good look. Perhaps we could strive for a bit stronger sense of solidarity on this front, and together we can actually affect change in the right direction (which, in case anyone has somehow missed it, results in more freedom rather than less – at least for libertarians).

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