Parental Rights For Same-Sex Couples

English: Gender symbols, sexual orientation: h...

There is no question that gay and lesbian couples can be, and are, just as good at parenting, and should have the same rights in parenting, as any other sets of parents. As a matter of fact, the definition of parenting says nothing of sexual orientation, nor does it include specific genders for specific roles in parenting. The definition for parenting is “the rearing (to take care of and support up to maturity)  of children; the methods, techniques, etc., used or required in the rearing of children; the state of being a parent; parenthood.” And think about the many households with single parents. Single mothers are raising children without fathers, and yes, there are single fathers who are raising children without mothers. What is so different about that than two fathers raising children without a mother or two mothers raising children without a father? The difference is that there are two parents in the home, which is more beneficial to the children than having one parent struggling to do the work of two. What difference does it make if the genders of those two parent households are the same?

But there is more to it than that, I bet is what you are thinking now. Gay men and lesbian women are mentally ill, right? Wrong! After years of varying types of research to try to prove that was the case from every conceivable angle, no such findings could be reported, and in the early 1970s, homosexuality was no longer classified as a mental illness or disorder. Won’t the children become confused about their own sexual orientation and be influenced to turn gay? Well, that is a very good question and the answer to that is, no. I have two sons, both of whom were raised in a lesbian couple household, one since age 5 and the other since infancy and they are both, very much so and without confusion, heterosexual.

While the majority of legal decisions regarding gay parent custody have sided with and embraced the aforementioned beliefs, the bulk of psychological research completed almost uniformly reports finding no notable differences between children reared in same-sex family households and heterosexual family households, and states that homosexual parents are just as competent and effective as heterosexual parents (Stacy & Biblarz, 2001). If children in a gay household were to grow up and become gay because of the sexual orientation of their parents, then why is it that most gay and lesbian individuals were raised in heterosexual households? Shouldn’t they have been influenced to be heterosexual instead? Consider what two individuals have to say, one a woman who grew up with two fathers and the other a man who grew up with two mothers in this YouTube interview. Notice how both individuals are now heterosexual adults.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks-C0xfAxII&feature=fvsr

No matter the argument, children are smart, loving, and accepting and are not the ones finding issue with the sexual orientation of their parents. Children need to be loved, nurtured, and supported. Parents need to provide their basic and emotional needs, encourage them to learn and grow, and keep them safe and healthy. That is what parenting is about and that is what children need. One twelve-year-old girl felt so strongly about the stability of her two mother household that she spoke up in front of Vermont Legislators and was instrumental in the changes made giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Listen to what she says she receives from her mothers as parents, how confident she is that she is getting just as much from them as others get from their heterosexual parents, and how proud she is to be a part of her family.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxnjQdMpnCM&feature=related

Though many children in gay/lesbian households come from one or the other partner’s previous heterosexual relationship, not all do. Adoption is another avenue for gay and lesbian couples to have and raise children. To begin with, they must go through the same screening for adoption as heterosexual couples do and must be declared fit for parenting before adoption can occur. The alternative for many of these children is to be passed around from one foster home to the next or to remain in an orphanage, and in either case, wait for a family of their own. How often do you hear someone share having warm memories and happy times in an orphanage? Generally speaking, most children raised in foster homes or orphanages do not like to talk about their childhood, during or long after. If there are homes with parents who are open and willing and eager for a child to love and provide for, why is society so against it? Take a look at two fathers and their 12 adopted children and see for yourself how happy and healthy they are. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nahifhpm9-8&feature=related

There is one other avenue in which same-sex couples can have children of their own. Gay men can opt for a surrogate mother, in which one or both of their sperm can be inseminated and lesbian couples can also be inseminated either by someone of their choosing or by an anonymous sperm donor. The result is a child born to the couple from the beginning and the child knowing no other parents than the ones they grow up with. There is a movie that is based on a real case where this is what a lesbian couple in the state of Florida chose to do. The movie was made for television, but can be found, in its entirety over eight videos, on YouTube. “Brooke Shields believes she has finally found happiness, now that she and her lesbian partner (Cherry Jones) have a child. But when Jones passes away five years later and her scheming parents apply for custody behind Shields’ back, an affecting struggle ensues.” Here is the first of the eight videos that shows how family, society, and even to some degree, the law, can cause more damage to a child by their prejudices than being raised by a lesbian woman.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMJ4c9SGEco

Aside from the legal and societal point of view, this controversial issue comes across as being a bit selfish. Gay and lesbian couples want the same rights in parenting as is an unspoken given for heterosexual couples. But history tells us that this should not be shocking. In Germany, Hitler persecuted all Jewish people and did not and could not see them as being equally human. In America, we participated in slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation, and then many years later, the signing of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. If true historical events are not enough, let us go even further back in time and look at this from an ethical point of view. As far back as 350 BC, one of the earliest recorded ethical philosophers, Aristotle contended that our main goal in life and our main purpose as human beings is to strive to be good and to achieve the best results that can be achieved. Centuries later, Jeremy Bentham, representing a Utilitarian stance, claimed a surprisingly similar view with the premise that it is human nature to do that which results in pleasure and to circumvent that which results in pain.

I believe that Aristotle has lain out, in a most simple and complete way, the purpose of human existence and that humans are humans, no matter their biological gender or sexual orientation.

“Ethics, as viewed by Aristotle, is an attempt to find out our chief end or highest good: an end which he maintains is really final. Though many ends of life are only means to further ends, our aspirations and desires must have some final object or pursuit. Such a chief end is universally called happiness. But people mean such different things by the expression that he finds it necessary to discuss the nature of it for himself. For starters, happiness must be based on human nature, and must begin from the facts of personal experience… It must be something practical and human” (7).

I agree with Aristotle on the point that “many ends are only means to further ends,” which in this case would be parenting being an end, a fulfillment, that is a means to their children having children of their own to raise and also providing them with grandchildren; these also being the pursuits of every parent’s aspirations and desires.

Furthermore, Aristotle believed that “It must then be found in the work and life which is unique to humans” (7). Though reproduction is not alone unique to humans, raising children is. In the animal kingdom, offspring are fed, protected, and taught how to hunt and/or protect themselves. Raising children is uniquely human in that there is so much more a child needs to learn such as language, social skills, and of course, education. Though we enjoy parenting, it is a full-time job of responsibility. Human nature desires and demands the individual personal experience of being a parent and any person’s right or ability to fulfill this natural, innate desire has nothing to do with their sexual orientation.

Finally, Aristotle writes, “It follows therefore that true happiness lies in the active life of a rational being or in a perfect realization and outworking of the true soul and self, continued throughout a lifetime” (7). Being in a same-sex relationship does not make those involved irrational. Being a parent to a child is not only being true to your soul’s drive and you self’s wholeness, but it is being true to the child and providing their foundation for happiness and success.

Again, the parental rights of gay and lesbian couples should not be based on gender, but on the basis of human rights and desires. Aristotle’s philosophical ideas on being human, and the moral intentions of the average human being, strongly supports the rights of parents, no matter their gender, or more specifically, their sexual orientation. Granted, Aristotle does not specify gender, but he does emphasize that the ethics of life relate to humans rather than to men and women separately.  Bentham, too, focuses on the individual rather than the sex of said individual.

Bentham began the extensive writing of his book, the first sentence on the first page, with, “Nature has placed [human]kind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think…” (1).  Bentham believed that no matter the situation, our main aim as a human race is to either seek and obtain pleasure or to avoid pain. Parenting is one such situation. Parents, all parents, seek happiness and pleasure in providing the same for our children. We avoid pain by protecting our children from being hurt, whether physically or emotionally, and in some cases financially.

Bentham goes on to explain, “By utility is meant…it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness, (all this in the present case comes to the same thing) or (what comes again to the same thing) to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered…” (2) How fascinating, in spite of the many years spent studying, testing, adjusting, and researching the concept of parenthood and what it should or should not entail, that a brilliant English philosopher and political radical, had already summed it up in one sentence and called it utility? The party’s interest being considered is that of the child. The goal of the parent is to be and to do what will benefit, give advantage, produce pleasure, show kindness and caring to themselves and others, and ultimately create a life of happiness. All the while doing whatever is necessary to protect the child and to teach and show by example that bad behavior, pain, and evil will create a void between them and happiness.

To further clarify his point, Bentham writes, “A thing is said to promote the interest, or to be for the interest, of an individual, when it tends to add to the sum total of his pleasures: or, what comes to the same thing, to diminish the sum total of his pains” (2). When we provide a hot meal for our child, it is in the interest of adding to and maintaining the health of the child and ebbing their hunger pangs. When we teach them how to treat others and how to behave, we add to their social skills and provide for them a more enjoyable interactive experience with others and reducing the potential for embarrassment or consequences for being rude or offensive. When we put our child in time out, it is in the interest of giving them time to think about the mistake they made and to learn not to make it again. Everything a parent does for their child is for the benefit and the well-being of the child. Parenthood is about being a parent, not about whether or not the parent is gay.

“Mama…Mama…Mama…MAAAMAAA!!!” my son, just over a year old, cries out from his playpen. I am in the other room sorting through the laundry.

“What Zachary…?” I begin to say.

“No! Not you, Mommy! I want Mama!” he yells before I barely get the words out of my mouth. My partner and I look at each other and smile. She and I have only been in a committed relationship for about six months and without any prompting or discussion from either of us on the subject, he has already figured out, and clearly accepted, that he has two mothers.

I believe that if children ever do have issues with having same-sex parents it is because they are taught or influenced by others to view it negatively. But I also believe, from my own experience as a lesbian mother, that if you love and provide for your children and teach them what “family” is, that they will also defend their family against the bullies they come up against in school. My oldest son, who was five when I began my same-sex relationship, years later would come home and tell me about some of his classmates saying ugly things about his mothers and he would very clearly, and without hesitation, set them straight on the matter. And I could see how proud he was as he told me.

My youngest son, Zachary, was just nine months old when I left his father and began a new relationship with a woman. We were together for 13 years and it often came up that if something were to happen to me, what would become of Zachary? How do we establish, for my then partner, some kind of legal guardianship for Zachary? His father did not want him, but he did not want her to have him either. She was key in helping me raise Zachary for the first 13 years of his life and he considers her as much his mother, if not more so, than myself. But getting legal guardianship was difficult, in that it entailed “permission” from his father.

Eventually, we gave up trying, but I still believe that she should have some rights as his parent, even now that we are not together. I am not dead, as was the case with the biological mother in the aforementioned movie, “What Makes A Family,” but I have left to attend college on the other side of the country. Zachary is currently living with his half-sister because if he were to go and live with my ex-partner, his other mother, it would put her in potential danger of facing the wrath of his father. The result is that Zachary is the one suffering, and at almost 15 years old, yearns for his Mama. What choice do we have? We could go through a messy legal battle that would further jeopardize Zachary’s well-being, but instead we are looking into getting him emancipated once he turns 15 in May, and then his father will no longer have a say in where or with whom he lives.

Homosexuality is not a mental illness, but homophobia is. Homophobia is a learned fear and is caused by a lack of education and in-depth knowledge of what it is they fear. Being homosexual is no different from being Jewish or being black, and even throughout their struggles, they were never robbed of their right to be parents. What society tells us is that if I were married to a man, I could be a great mother, but if I choose to be “married” to another woman, then my right and ability to be a mother is questioned and thought to be troublesome. That is just ridiculous! But I am not worried. When I look at history, I see that it takes time for ignorant people to become educated or to finally give up fighting a battle they cannot and will not win. Twenty years from now, if not sooner, we will have all the same rights as all other humans and this will become the history my grandkids will write about.

Works Cited

“Aristotle [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy].” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 11 Apr. 2001. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/aristotl/#H7&gt;.

“Gay Dads Raise 12 Adopted Kids – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Triny200890, 2 May 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011..

“My Mini Documentary on Children of Lesbian/gay Parents – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. ToxicProductions786, 19 Dec. 2009. Web. 04 Dec. 2011..

“Testimony of 12-Year-Old with Two Moms Moves Some Vermont Legislators to Support Gay Marriage Bill – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Mediagrrl9, 8 Apr. 2009. Web. 04 Dec. 2011..

“What Makes A Family (2001 Lesbian Film Based On a True Story) Part 1 of 8 – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. AllSortsOfStuff101, 04 Aug. 2010. Web. 07 Dec. 2011..

Bentham, Jeremy, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. 1907. Library of Economics and Liberty. 7 December 2011. <http://www.econlib.org/library/Bentham/bnthPML1.html&gt;.

Stacey, Judith., and Timothy J. Biblarz. “Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?” American Sociological Review 66,2 (2001): 159-183. Print.

Beautiful View

My bedroom has a door that opens onto a deck. These two pictures were taken from that deck, and as you can see, the view is just beautiful! I truly love it here in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I wish I would have captured a few pictures when the leaves were changing colors this past fall, but I will be on the look out for some great winter pictures and will take some as soon as we get some really good snow–then post them for all to see.

One Tough Decision

Do you remember that time when no matter what you did or how hard you tried, nothing was working and you felt that your life was a mess? If that wasn’t bad enough, your messy life was affecting your spouse, your children, your friends, and/or your co-workers? A continued cycle of insanity was keeping you down and keeping you stuck. For those of you who do not know the definition of insanity, it is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sound familiar? “Stop the insanity!” you scream either verbally or mentally, or in this case, hypothetically. That is a good decision and if it can be done, will benefit all who are involved.

The question now is, how? How do we stop doing the same thing that is obviously not giving us a different result and figure a way to do something different? And what is the result we are after? Will reaching this new goal also free those who are directly affected by our insanity? Carol Gilligan, a University Professor in the School of Law, at New York University, has placed a lot of focus on moral dilemmas that are similar to this one. One of the things she is most known for is her theory on the moral perspective focused on care. “From a care perspective, the relationship becomes the figure, defining self and others. Within the context of relationship, the self as a moral agent perceives and responds to the perception of need. The shift in moral perspective is manifest by a change in the moral question from ‘What is just?’ to ‘How to respond?’” I have personally experienced a very difficult decision in my life in which the first of these questions was important, and considered, but the second question is where I found myself most often throughout the process.

Just this year, I made a decision to move from Oregon to Pennsylvania. Included in this decision to leave the place where I had lived for over 20 years and to go somewhere I had never been before, was leaving my two sons behind; one is 18 and has been going it on his own; the other is 14 and moved in with his half-sister and her family. The reasons for these decisions were many; a fresh start for myself, a fresh start for each of them, a much needed support system (the women I am living with) as I continue in therapy concerning years of abuse from the father of my boys, an opportunity for them to see if life would indeed be better without my constant interference and attempts to “fix” things, and because of all that the three of us have been through together throughout their young lives.

My divorce from the boys’ father was particularly hard on my oldest son, Jeremy, then age 5, as he was torn between anger at his father for the things he had seen him do to me and anger at me for taking him away from his father. He didn’t understand why his father would not stop drinking and why I would not give his father a chance. Feeling so angry at either of his parents made him feel guilty and caused him further anguish. He began turning his anger at others in an attempt to place the blame on anyone else without feeling like he was betraying anyone he loved. I tried to be there for him, but his emotions would change so drastically and without warning that I was never sure if I was helping him or causing him further harm. What came next in our lives only made everything worse.

After breaking up our family, at age 27, I started using drugs, and for the next seven years, we experienced having no food, going sometimes months without doing laundry, moving from place to place and changing schools and friends often, and ultimately ending up homeless for over nine months. With no place to stay, no food, no job, no money, and a big deal at the time, no drugs, I started to take the stress of it all out on my children, and subsequently ended up getting the state courts involved. The boys were placed in separate foster homes, and eventually placed with their father, whom they hadn’t seen or heard from in years. This court journey took over four years to complete and it took more than two of those years before I finally got clean, established a stable residence, and a stable job. When I had finally accomplished all that was required in order for the boys to be returned my care, Jeremy was still trying to come to grips with having learned that I was a drug addict and that I had caused so much turmoil in their already chaotic lives, so at first, he chose to remain with his father. However, when Zachary returned home, I quickly learned that I had caused a lot more damage to my young son and our relationship than I had originally thought.

Zachary had just turned six when this all began and he was told, face to face by a social worker, that his removal from me would only be for a few days and he would be returned to my care very quickly. She was an authority figure and whether her intentions were good or she unprofessionally misspoke, it was the first of many “lies” from several other people in authority that Zachary was told he could trust. As you can imagine, this led to his distrust and disrespect for any and all adults. He rebelled against case workers, his father and step-mother, his teachers and his counselors. He would not cooperate in any way and put in a lot of effort into making life for anyone around him as miserable as he felt. Once I got clean and he was returned to me, his anger continued to grow and he was regularly in trouble with neighborhood mothers, school teachers, counselors, and the principle in whichever school he was in at the time. His behavior resulted in being expelled from three schools and placed in several alternative schools for children with emotional and behavioral needs. Though I had enrolled him in numerous counseling services both for individual care and family therapy, he refused to go. A constant battle ensued and we were both on the losing end.

Jeremy, the oldest, kind of fell into the cracks with all the time and energy I spent on trying to help Zachary. He went back and forth between his father and I, and in the process of trying to find a place where he felt he belonged, he began drinking and drugging and found himself in juvenile hall on several occasions. His father, an alcoholic himself, and a bad influence, had finally given up on him and made it clear he was no longer welcome. Once back home with me, he would regularly fight with Zachary either in his own defense or in my defense, which just made very difficult situations almost impossible. He again felt out of place and not where he belonged. If I wasn’t arguing with one of the boys or the other, I was trying to break up a fist fight and would more often than not get hurt in the process as they were both much too strong for me.

So, there I was at that point where I recognized that my life was a mess and it was greatly affecting my children. Zachary, bless his heart, really wanted for all of us to try and get along better, but was quite often the one who refused to cooperate or compromise in order to make that happen. Jeremy was fighting to be treated and accepted as an adult and insisted he should have the authority to discipline his younger brother. While trying to deal with each of the boys I was also doing what I had to to maintain my sobriety while also going to school. Our house was filled with screaming and fighting and tears of rage, sorrow, and pure misery at all hours of the day and night. There was no harmony and no relief in sight. I was watching my boys continue to crumble before my eyes and finally accepted that I, too, was just too broken to save them. “Stop the insanity!” Something had to change.

First and foremost, we had to be separated. We could not live together and find healing and growth. Jeremy was in the process of applying for financial aid and getting into college and was determined to take care of himself, but was struggling with leaving me alone with Zachary, as his behavior was becoming more and more violent. A few months before, my step-daughter, Anna, and her husband, Mike, offered to take Zachary in and with tough love and enforced boundaries, help him to balance life with his emotions. Also during this time, I had established a very good relationship with my friends Cherie and Mary here in Pennsylvania, who are also in recovery (going on 35 years!) and have both been through in depth therapy around different types of abuse in their lives, and Mary with her four boys, who are all now grown with children of their own. They could both relate to a lot of what I was going through and offered to help me find strength and hope and give me support while I continued in therapy and in school. They had an extra bedroom in their house and said I was welcome to stay for as long as I needed or wanted.

A solution was in the works; we all had somewhere to go. But then reality set in. Was moving to the other side of the country just a way for me to escape? Was it such a good idea? Was it fair, to them or to me? I love my kids and spent years fighting to get them back, and now? Was I just abandoning them because it was easier? Or was I going to take myself out of the unhealthy relationships I had with my sons so that they could also find help? This was going to be a huge change for all of us and I couldn’t make a flip decision. I had to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. I reached out to many to discuss where we were and what my potential plan was. I spoke to my personal therapist, to a group at Zachary’s school which included his teacher, his counselor (whom he refused to see) his principal and his case worker. I discussed it with family members and with friends and spoke about it often in NA meetings. I even called the county women’s crisis line and spoke to a faceless woman at length, someone who could be completely objective since she did not know me or my boys from Adam.

Carol Gilligan was familiar with how such a decision could be looked at from two different angles, but she also recognized that we will either lean toward one or the other in the considerations and their implications. What is just? Or, how to respond, which I have come to look at as what really matters? Gilligan touches on this, saying, “Since moral judgments organize thinking about choice in difficult situations, the adoption of a single perspective may facilitate clarity of decision. But the wish for clarity may also imply a compelling human need for resolution or closure, especially in the face of decisions that give rise to discomfort or unease.” We can make a clear decision with one set of ethics to base it on, but not all things can be accepted as the right choice with using justice alone. We are human and it is not at all unnatural to follow our hearts, and in some cases our guts, in order to address all that is entailed. Gilligan’s explanation is thus,

“The distinction between justice and care as alternative perspectives or moral orientations is based empirically on the observation that a shift in the focus of attention from concerns about justice to concerns about care changes the definition of what constitutes a moral problem, and leads the same situation to be seen in different ways. Theoretically, the distinction between justice and care cuts across the familiar divisions between thinking and feeling, egoism and altruism, theoretical and practical reasoning.”

I was unable, in spite of my efforts, to reestablish a healthy relationship with either of my children. In all that had to be considered, the main question I felt I had to satisfy was, am I causing them more harm than good by keeping us all together? My conclusion was that, yes, I was, and giving each one of us some freedom from the others was what felt like the right thing to do.  Did everyone agree that I should follow through with my plan? No, of course not; however, I did gain a lot of different perspectives and considered them all carefully. In the end, I decided that it was the best course of action for all three of us.

Did I base my decision on the ethics of care or of justice? I miss my boys terribly and wish that I was stronger and wiser and more patient, but I recognized that I was not. Was justice done? Am I suffering with pain and regret and guilt justly because I failed to begin with or because I chose what most would see as a cold solution in just walking away? Or did I base my decision on care in that I did what I felt was best for them, and yes, for myself? According to Gilligan’s view, it is clearly the latter;

“As a moral perspective, care is less well elaborated, and there is no ready vocabulary in moral theory to describe its terms. As a framework for moral decision, care is grounded in the assumption that self and other are interdependent, an assumption reflected in a view of action as responsive and, therefore, as arising in relationship rather than the view of action as emanating from within the self and, therefore, ‘self-governed.’ Seen as responsive, the self is by definition connected to others, responding to perceptions, interpreting events, and governed by the organizing tendencies of human interaction and human language. Within the framework, detachment, whether from self or from others, is morally problematic, since it breeds moral blindness or indifference—a failure to discern or respond to need. The question of [which] responses constitute care and [which] responses lead to hurt draws attention to the fact that one’s own terms may differ from those of others.”

The things I feel are par for the course when making such a monumental change in life and rather than justice, I think of them as growing pains. It is also the beginning of my healing process. And guess what? The boys are doing fine. Yes, they have their own growing pains, but the insanity we were in before is long behind us.

Do We “Do Unto Others?”

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill

“Right this way, please,” says the waitress after inquiring how many in your party and grabbing an equal number of menus. You follow her through the crowded dining room and as you do, you think you hear a familiar voice and turn your head just for a second to see where it is coming from. This causes you to step slightly more to the right and as a result, your hip bumps into a chair in which another patron is sitting. Stop. What do you do? Do you find yourself thinking of the options? Are you wondering what you could say to make yourself feel better? Or are you more concerned about what to say that will make the woman in the chair feel better? Maybe you are aware that everyone is looking at you and you owe it to the entire restaurant full of people to say something that will be acceptable and regain favor in their eyes. Hardly. “Oh, excuse me, I am so sorry,” is what comes tumbling out of your mouth before a single thought enters your mind. I make moral decisions like this one every day and I bet you do too. What? You don’t think that is a moral decision? Well, let us think this through for a moment.

For over 20 years I lived in Portland, OR where they have one of the largest transit systems in the country. Some of the buses start running as early as four AM and would run as late as two AM. No matter what time of day it was or where you were going, on every bus there were people in need. Whether it was an elderly woman who couldn’t figure out how to open the door to get off, a homeless man trying to get his cart of cans and bottles onto the bus, a wheelchair coming on, or a woman with small children, a stroller, and nearly a dozen bags of groceries, someone or two or three would jump up and immediately offer their assistance. If a pregnant woman got onto a crowded bus, she was offered a seat by several people. Very often there were Korean or Russian women who were unable to speak English, frantically trying to convey to the driver where they wanted to get off. Knowing the driver was busy watching the road and keeping us safe, someone would take a moment and calmly communicate in one way or another and then relay the message to the driver. And if you got on the bus and didn’t have quite enough change to ride, it was not uncommon for other riders to ask, “How much do you need?” and make up the difference.

British philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was a Utilitarian Moralist and wrote much on the subject of morality. In one of his books, Utilitarianism (1863), he recognized that moral decisions are not always, and in fact, very seldom, made in the interest of society or out of duty to our fellow man. He writes that some may object to his ideas and argue that for one to act justly for the sake of society when they really don’t want to, and to do this on a regular basis is just asking too much. Mill responds to such potential objections by pointing out that more likely than not, we act and react for many different reasons, or “motives,” and so rarely do we do so for the sole reason of the betterment of society.

“…those among them who entertain anything like a just idea of its disinterested character, sometimes find fault with its standard as being too high for humanity. They say it is exacting too much to require that people shall always act from the inducement of promoting the general interests of society. But this is to mistake the very meaning of a standard of morals, and confound the rule of action with the motive of it. It is the business of ethics to tell us what are our duties, or by what test we may know them; but no system of ethics requires that the sole motive of all we do shall be a feeling of duty; on the contrary, ninety-nine hundredths of all our actions are done from other motives, and rightly so done, if the rule of duty does not condemn them. It is the more unjust to utilitarianism that this particular misapprehension should be made a ground of objection to it, inasmuch as utilitarian moralists have gone beyond almost all others in affirming that the motive has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much with the worth of the agent.”

In other words, the majority will act morally as it is characteristic to do so, even if they have one or more of a multitude of motives, such as compassion or empathy, or in some cases, no motive at all, and should not be thought less of if duty was not their intention. Mill concludes this portion by asserting the efforts of utilitarian moralists that have come before him and stand with him in his time, that they believe that actions are not about their motivations as much as they are about the worth of the one acting.

Mill further contends, “The great majority of good actions are intended not for the benefit of the world, but for that of individuals, of which the good of the world is made up; and the thoughts of the most virtuous man need not on these occasions travel beyond the particular persons concerned, except so far as is necessary to assure himself that in benefiting them he is not violating the rights, that is, the legitimate and authorized expectations, of anyone else,” meaning that when we behave in such a way that is moral and virtuous, we generally do not first debate how our actions may help the world or society as a whole, but instead are content in helping a single individual or a few and know that in doing so, we are contributing to the whole of society. Mill also writes, “…the occasions on which any person (except one in a thousand) has it in his power to do this on an extended scale, in other words to be a public benefactor, are but exceptional; and on these occasions alone is he called on to consider public utility; in every other case, private utility, the interest or happiness of some few persons, is all he has to attend to.” Yes, there are times in which we may be faced with a monumental moral dilemma and have to make a decision in which we must consider all who will be affected by our decision, as Mill points out, and this should be given grand acknowledgment, but the reality is, focusing on the here and now and those who are in front of us are all we have to concern ourselves with, as this is what occurs on a day-to-day basis.

I have used my hands to indicate numbers and to point to the door to indicate getting off the bus to help a foreign language speaking individual communicate what street they wanted to get off at and told the driver of their desired destination. I have pulled the lever on the seat to lift it and make it ready for a wheelchair that was ready to board. I have carried off many a stroller, opened it for a young mother who had her hands full and then while she kept her children close, brought her groceries off the bus to her. I have not only done these things, but have seen many others do them as well. I, at one time, was the young mother with the stroller and too many bags to carry off alone and have been helped by many. Personally, if I had to specify my motives in such actions, I would say either that I was physically and emotionally capable of being kind, so why not act accordingly; or I would say that I have a deep sense of empathy and as Mill tied so neatly into one profound statement, “In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbor as yourself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.”

Even a simple heartfelt apology when bumping into someone can do wonders for just the two of us involved. This is how we behave towards others in our world, in our immediate present, which generates smiles, gratitude, appreciation, relief. Most of the time, we don’t think about why we are doing it, but rather what needs to be done. When we treat others as we would hope to be treated, or in some cases, as we have been treated in our own time of need, we are acting morally and the end result is a good feeling for both the giver and the receiver. When a kindness has been extended to us, we are more apt to repeat the gesture when the occasion arises. Very much like the one tiny pebble that touched a single droplet of water in the middle of the lake, the ripples of our actions will affect society as a whole; not in that exact moment, but that one quick decision to jump up and offer the pregnant woman your seat has a much bigger impact on our world than we give it credit for.

Mastering Human Existence

Aristotle(384-322 BC) Bust White

Aristotle

Happiness—what is it, how do we achieve it, and why? Some would say it is a feeling, an emotion that is achieved by gaining something that we desire and that it makes us “feel good.” Others may say that it is a state of mind, a choice that we make, as it makes what we do and who we interact with, easier to “deal” with. And there are the few that would lay claim that happiness is a way of life. It is in everything we do, everything we strive for, everything we accomplish, and all that we reflect upon. I have been in places where each of these has been true for me. Aristotle (384-322 BC), an ancient Greek Philosopher, believed that there is an end to all things, and that end is the mastering of that thing, such as “…the end of medical art is health, that of shipbuilding is a vessel, that of strategy victory, and that of economics, wealth.” (Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, sec. 1) Aristotle also believed that the end of human existence was happiness.  As I sit and write this, reflecting on how all this relates to me, I realize that the last of these, happiness being life itself, is something I have, myself, reached. Interestingly enough, I had to live a life of the complete opposite in order to discover how to achieve this new way of life.

I am a recovering addict. The daily use of drugs, which I did for seven years, is one of the most miserable ways to go through life. Drugs, no matter what they are, when abused, can take complete control of you, your thoughts, your feelings, your intentions, and your actions. Through this lifestyle, a person is dishonest and feels nothing. You do not experience remorse, sympathy or empathy, compassion or joy, and you have little or no self-esteem or self-worth. Your friends, if you are foolish enough, as a drug addict, to call anyone your friend, are, as Aristotle says, “…in so far as the one has need of the other, they are in the friendship which is based on utility.” (Magna Moralia, Book 2, sec. 2) In other words, the people you associate with, you only do so if you stand to gain something. Or, in all likelihood, they stand to gain something from you.

This has been my experience. I didn’t take care of myself at all, bathing only occasionally, and if I ate, it was usually junk food that only made me sick. I also could not keep a job, keep a residence for very long, and even lost my children for four years to the courts. My only goal was to get more drugs and as far as I was concerned, there was no tomorrow to plan for or consider. Survival became a chore and one that, as each day passed, was less worth the effort. A life of drugs has no meaning or purpose and the only end that can be expected is death, if not literally, then figuratively.

Aristotle’s philosophy was, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” (http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Aristotle) When one has a skill or an art, the goal is to master that skill. We seek to become adept in the work that we do, as it is our life’s goal, our passion. If a doctor could not return health to the sick, why become a doctor? But, as Aristotle pointed out, what about man? What about being human? What is the end, or the mastering of a person’s existence? Aristotle speaks of this often in the few of his writings that were salvaged over time. “Now we come to happiness, which we all declare to be, and which seems in fact to be, the final good and the most complete thing, and this we maintain to be identical with doing well and living well.” (Magna Moralia, Book 1, sec. 3) He elaborates on this further, “But to live well and do well we say is nothing else than being happy. Being happy, then, and happiness, consists in living well, and living well is living in accordance with the virtues. This, then, is the end and happiness and the best thing.” (Magna Moralia, Book 1, sec. 4)

Aristotle believed that if we strive for the best in all that we do, in the actions and in the results of our actions, that we would be achieving happiness, the goal of our existence.  “…but when we have happiness we need nothing more. This then is the best thing of which we are in search, which is the complete end.” (Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, sec. 1) He believed, and argued, that happiness was the goal for to be happy.

The life I was living as a drug addict was not a happy one and when I dared to look at my life, I saw no purpose and could see that I had become worthless as I was. I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed to learn how to “live” or just decide to die. There was nothing in the middle. I had already experienced a kind of death in its own right for many years and wondered if there was any chance of choosing life and being successful. So, on August 10, 2005, I put down the drugs and began to seek worthiness in the world I lived in. I found a group of people who were just like me and with their help and learning to follow some instructions in which they lived by, I too, began to live. I dug deep to find what virtues I had within myself, and in all that I did and with those I associated with, I worked on behaving according to those virtues. It took some time to break old bad habits and to establish new, good, and acceptable ones, but in time, I started waking up and smiling. I can now look in the mirror at night and feel good about the woman I see there. I can reflect back on my day and know that I did my best, that I was friendly and honest and trustworthy. I now have a direction, a goal, a purpose. Today I am worth the effort.

“Since then the best good is happiness, and this is the end, and the final end is an activity, it follows that it is by living in accordance with the virtues that we shall be happy and shall have the best good.” (Magna Moralia, Book 1, sec. 4) Living well is in the action of doing well, in all the roles of our life, whether it is that of a parent, a student, a colleague, a friend, a neighbor, or even as a teammate in a sports league. If we act in accordance with our virtues, no matter the time or the place, the company we hold or the circumstances before us, we will be doing well and therefore living well, creating the inevitable end result—happiness.

Virtues are defined as conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; a good or admirable quality, such as courage, temperance, patience, and truthfulness. It is always good to practice justice, fortitude, and friendliness, no matter what the situation. Who, among us, would find disgust and regret in remaining calm and listening with patience to an angry employee? And would we find disappointment within ourselves if we behave in a friendly manner to our neighbor? Would we consider it a failure to teach honesty to our children? Happiness is not about what we have or who we know, but about how we act in our daily lives. We may never reach perfection, but do strive for excellence. In other words, as we continue to do our best and live by our virtues, we will continue to excel toward perfection. Sure, I still have difficulties and obstacles in my life, and I may not always feel happy, however, being and feeling are nary the same. I still have bills, but I pay them. I still have responsibilities, but I attend to them. I still make mistakes, but I learn from them. It is what I do with what comes my way, the good, the bad, and the ugly, that are the result of what makes my life a happy one. It is my actions that are the purpose of my life. How I behave and the results of my behaviors are the measure by which my life and my existence as a human being, is happiness.

Introduction to Philosophy

From left to right: Plato, Aristotle, Thomas A...

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Welcome, one and all, to the many philosophical detours of my mind.  Had you told me five years ago that I would have any kind of interest in philosophy whatsoever, I would have said, you really don’t know me at all. But, as it turns out, it was I who did not know me, and with great fortune, I began a journey into education and have learned quite a lot about myself and much of which I didn’t know I had in me. Through this journey, I have really come to love myself, who I am, what I am becoming, and what I have yet to accomplish through this ongoing process of learning and the growth that comes with it every step of the way.

I took my first college course in the summer of 2007 and my goal was to earn a degree in Library Science. I am the most curious of souls and I love to read, so I figured what better career for me than to become a Librarian where I would have access to a mass of information, in books, magazines, encyclopedias, art, music, and the world-wide web, just to name a few? But then I took a class the following term called Life Tracks. This class was designed to help individuals who were coming back to the college classroom after years of being gone from it. It taught time and stress management skills and spent a lot of time not only giving us the tools to believe in ourselves, but to do the research necessary for our dream career, so that we would be prepared and have a plan.

In doing this research, I learned that in order to become a Librarian, you must earn a Master’s degree. At first, I had not planned on getting more than an Associate’s degree, because I did not believe I had what it took or could even hope to get into a University, so I switched my major to accounting. I decided that since I have always been really good at math and there were so many jobs on so many levels in the accounting field since the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, it would be ideal for me. So, that is what I set out to do. I took the required prerequisite classes in math and writing, a slew of computer classes, and every accounting class that was offered. I also took classes in music, art, and  management and supervisory development. I was having a blast!

As I approached 90 credits, I was sure I was getting close to graduating with my degree and went to see an academic advisor to get last minute instructions. What she said made my heart sink into my toes. Yes, I had almost 90 credits, which is the required number of credits for a degree, but I was missing a lot of the credits that were required specifically for an accounting degree. The classes I was missing included business classes, economics classes, some other type of classes, which I later found that philosophy and psychology classes would satisfy. So, I took a deep breath, reminded myself how much I enjoyed being in school, and made a commitment to myself to tackle and accomplish what was before me.

The business classes were, well, business classes. Yes, I learned from them, but they were nothing exciting; at least not at the time. As I have continued through this educational journey, I have found that things learned in one class are often essential to things further learned in other classes, so when people and concepts learned in the business classes started to tie into both my philosophy and psychology classes, I was thrilled. The economic classes were my least favorite. As a matter of fact, I detested them! For the first, microeconomics, I received a B for my grade. I felt insulted, not so much by the instructor, but by my own less-than-my-best achievement. The following term, I took macroeconomics from the same instructor and with a “grit my teeth” determination, I received an A for the class.

In choosing a psychology class, something I would have never chosen to take of my own accord, I decided that Human Sexuality would be the one that would most hold my interest and attention. The material was very interesting, to say the least, but little did I know, I also found the psychological concepts behind the things we studied to be far beyond fascinating! This particular course was a two part/two term class. In the first, a major term paper was required, and I received an A++ on the one I turned in, along with some very inspiring words from my instructor. The second class also required a major term paper, which I again received a grade of A++, mind-blowing comments from the instructor, and a request to use my paper as an example in future classes. She had me sign a release and everything. I will write more about this particular instructor at another time and include it in my Psychological Detours. She has been a very important part of how I got to where I am today in my education, and why I am a psychology major.

Now, to finally get to the point of this story, philosophy, I will tell of how my interest in the subject began and how it has grown. I took a philosophy class called Introduction to Elementary Ethics. I must say that a good instructor who knows the material well and can teach in a way that makes it fun and has the ability to make even the most complex material understandable, is key. Fortunately, I chose the class with just such an instructor. Her method of teaching included open discussions in class, lectures, and web assignments. I was surprised by how intense my thoughts and opinions were when it came to discussing different ethical views. My critical thinking skills really began to develop in this class, and I did so well that I received an A without having to take the final exam.

I did not consider taking another philosophy class again until I started at Penn State. As I was looking through the courses and trying to decide which would be my first classes at my new school, I saw a philosophy class that was marked as writing intensive, which means there is a lot of writing required throughout the course. I love to write, so I registered for the class. In the following four posts to this category, I will be sharing my four essays and hope to get some discussions started in regards to what I have written and beyond. I have since been looking into current day philosophers as well women philosophers over the centuries. There are some fascinating women out there who have had theories and beliefs that are still very strongly followed and are being further studied. As I read more, I will also post my thoughts of all that I learn.

On a final note, after completing all the missing classes at Portland Community College that I needed for my degree, I learned that I had not only earned an Associates of Applied Science in Accounting, but also an Associates in General Studies. That was very rewarding news indeed and I am now working on my third, but not final, degree…a BA in Psychology. I do want to also go on and earn a Master’s and ultimately a Doctorate. I have been thinking about possible dissertation topics and in doing some research, I learned something I didn’t know. I have always thought, that the Ph in PhD stood for either “physical” or “physician” and could never understand how someone could be a “doctor” without having gone to medical school. Silly me, and I know that now. The Ph actually stands for Philosophy! Now, that makes perfect sense. Philosophy is, in part, deep thinking and learned knowledge. I, myself, am a psychology major, working toward becoming a doctor of the mind. Being able to think, interpret, and analyze philosophically will be crucial to achieving success in studying, understanding, and potentially helping people heal, so to speak, their minds. Could anything be more exciting?

The Phallus Fallacy

Alfred Adler
Sigmund Freud

This will be the first post under my newest category, “Psychological Detours,” and I couldn’t be more excited about the many posts you will find here over time, as Psychology is my passion, or, in all fairness, one of. I took an Introduction to Personality Psychology course in the summer of last year and after a particular assignment, my Professor asked my opinion of one of the theories we had studied that week. I am going to post my response exactly as I sent it to him; however, I do intend to do a lot more research and put some honest work into further developing my views sometime in the near future. Any suggestions regarding research to further support what I have so far is very welcome and any personal comments or opinions that are made in addition, will, if used in a future writing on the matter, be fully credited to the individual whose mind it came from. In the meantime, here is the response I sent and remember, this was in addition to regular assignments in all classes during a summer session, so it was done quickly and not given the time it deserves.

May 11, 2011

Greetings Professor French,

Thank you for asking my opinion of the questions you have presented me. Please forgive the informality in which I have written my answer, but since this is not an actual assignment and is strictly my opinion, I chose to write freely, giving you more of a first draft than a final. I would be very interested in hearing what you think of what I have written, but I know you have papers to grade, so please do take your time.

You have asked, “Would it make more sense if ‘masculine’ means ‘power’ which is what I believe Freud meant by ‘penis envy’?  If that is the case, have we as the human race overemphasize the need for power? Consider every skyscraper you see and its physical for, the phallus. Skyscrapers do represent power and wealth. The overemphasis helps create the neurotic drive we see in people, racing to be #1. These are my opinions. What do you think?” The original question that this is based on is, I believe, “How would you explain Adler’s notion of ‘masculine protest’ to someone who argues that the concept is sexist? How might this aspect of Adler’s theory have been different if he had developed it during contemporary times?” My response was, “I believe it would be hard for me to explain Adler’s notion without supporting the argument that the concept is, indeed, sexist. I disagree with his theory entirely. Had he developed it in contemporary times, I don’t think it would have been accepted. In today’s world, gender is becoming more and more believed to be more than just biological and certainly ‘masculinity’ is not associated with males only, as ‘femininity’ is no longer associated with strictly females.”  I continue to stand by my original answer, however, where I may not explain to the contrary to one who believes it is sexist, I believe I could better explain where I see many holes in this concept and why.

I believe that a skyscraper being phallic is a fallacy. A phallus is, by one definition, an image of a penis. If you think of the actual structure of a skyscraper, what is really there? It is a structure that is hollow on the inside with an opening at the bottom, more similar to a vagina. As I have referenced below, I have broken down the definition of vagina to the term ‘box,’ a term I will use for the sake of my argument. In summary, a vagina is a…tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female; any sheath or sheath-like structure; a surrounding frame or framework; anything that contains or can contain something, as a…box; slang for the vulva or vagina. Also important to note another definition for box is  any enclosing, protective case or housing; a compartment or section in a public place, shut or railed off for the accommodation of a number of people, especially in a theater, opera house, sports stadium, etc. That all being said, a skyscraper is shaped more like a box, or vagina, in that, it has an opening into a space. Generally speaking, spaces such as you would find in a skyscraper, you would find people entering into in order to produce, gain, succeed, etc. Think of many other things that have a box shape and represent the female reproductive organ, the vagina. Houses, cars, hospitals, schools, even the many forms of media, such as the television, radio, cameras, and the like. They are all boxes is which people seek warmth, comfort, healing, education, and information. You have to enter these boxes to find the things in life that people strive for, including, but not limited to, “racing to be #1.” If you want to go evolution, cave men and women found shelter and safety in caves, a hollow cavity into the side of a mountain with an opening for its entrance. What about airplanes and trains? They too could be misconstrued as being phallic-like, but they are also hollow with openings in which people enter and are carried, such as in pregnancy. Maybe in the days of Freud and Adler, men seemed powerful, but even then, they contradicted their power. They must have known that true power came from females. Why else would they have, and continue to do to this day, oppress women in all that they do? If the male is powerful and the female weak, then why do men feel the need to beat down women, demand obedience and respect, and are higher paid in the work place? In earlier times, women were not allowed to speak unless spoken to. Women were forbidden to vote. They were expected to stay home and not have jobs or careers. If men had to exert their power over women, then they never had true power to begin with. If so many restrictions had to be put on women for the sake of forcing power over them, then I believe they were afraid to allow the women to learn of their own power and potentially be overcome by it. Why else would they feel a need to prove what they claim already existed?

In Jacques Lacan’s Ecrits: A Selection includes an essay titled The Significance of the Phallus, he articulates “the difference between ‘being’ and ‘having’ the phallus. Men are positioned as men insofar as they are seen to have the phallus. Women, not having the phallus, are seen to ‘be’ the phallus.” Judith Butler further explores the possibilities for the phallus in her discussion of The Lesbian Phallus. “If, as she notes, Freud enumerates a set of analogies and substitutions that rhetorically affirm the fundamental transferability of the phallus from the penis elsewhere, then any number of other things might come to stand in for the phallus” (62). So, you see, even if one is stuck on the term phallus, it does not necessary need to refer to the penis, the male, or masculinity. When structures, such as the skyscraper, are seen in their truest from, they more closely resemble and represent the vagina, the female reproductive organ, and therefore, femininity is where you will find true power.

These are my opinions and views. They can either be seen as a sort of feminine psychology or they can be considered ridiculous, rendering the common view of skyscrapers and the like representing power and wealth because they are phalluses, just as equally ridiculous.

As for Freud’s concept of “penis envy” and the context of his psychosexual stages of development in which it is found, I find it all to be vulgar and disgusting and wonder how Freud, or anyone else for that matter, could know the things he claims to be true. “In the first part of the anal stage (age 2) pleasure derives from feces expulsion. In the later anal stage, pleasure comes from feces possession.” (pg. 40) In the phallic stage (age 3-5), regarding the Oedipus complex, “…because of breast-feeding and sexual contact from bathing and grooming, both male and female children develop erotic feelings toward their mother. The boy begins to fear the father as a dominant rival for his mother’s affection…and develops a fear of losing his sex organs because they are assumed to be responsible for the conflict between him and his father. Female children also have a strong attraction to their mothers. This attraction is reduced when the girl discovers she does not possess a penis. The female child holds the mother responsible for purposely depriving her of this valued organ. The rejection of the mother is coupled with an attraction to the father whom she knows possesses the valued organ she wants to share.” (pp 41-42) Seriously, how could this man know that at age two, children find pleasure from feces expulsion or possession? Or that a three-year old girl finds her mother at fault because she doesn’t have a penis? Or that she wants to share her father’s penis with him? How could he know what such young children are thinking and feeling? Did he ask them? Take surveys? Does he remember these things specifically from his own childhood? And even that would only be the male perspective. I don’t understand why he believes and claims that very young children are obsessed with things of a sexual nature or where he came up with these ideas, but I completely disagree and find his whole theory to be completely false and unfounded.

As with any theory, hypothesis, idea, or view, I could go on, however, Carl Rogers is awaiting my attention.  Again, you will find my references below. I am eager to hear your thoughts on my interpretations.

-Cindy L Riemersma

Phallus: an image of the penis, esp. as a religious symbol of reproductive power

World English Dictionary

The symbolic version of the phallus, a phallic symbol is meant to represent male generative powers. According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, while males possess a penis, no one can possess the symbolic phallus. Jacques Lacan’s Ecrits: A Selection includes an essay titled The Significance of the Phallus which articulates the difference between “being” and “having” the phallus. Men are positioned as men insofar as they are seen to have the phallus. Women, not having the phallus, are seen to “be” the phallus. The symbolic phallus is the concept of being the ultimate man, and having this is compared to having the divine gift of God.

In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler explores Freud’s and Lacan’s discussions of the symbolic phallus by pointing out the connection between the phallus and the penis. She writes, “The law requires conformity to its own notion of ‘nature’. It gains its legitimacy through the binary and asymmetrical naturalization of bodies in which the phallus, though clearly not identical to the penis, deploys the penis as its naturalized instrument and sign” (135). In Bodies that Matter, she further explores the possibilities for the phallus in her discussion of The Lesbian Phallus. If, as she notes, Freud enumerates a set of analogies and substitutions that rhetorically affirm the fundamental transferability of the phallus from the penis elsewhere, then any number of other things might come to stand in for the phallus (62).

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Last updated on Saturday October 11, 2008 at 04:25:08 PDT (GMT -0700)

The vagina (from Latin, literally “sheath” or “scabbard”) is a fibro-muscular tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Last updated on Thursday October 02, 2008 at 22:06:19 PDT (GMT -0700)

Vagina: the passage leading from the uterus to the vulva that extends from the cervix of the uterus to an external opening between the labia minora; anatomy, biology any sheath or sheath-like structure

World English Dictionary

Sheath: a closely enveloping part or structure; any similar close-fitting covering or case.

Case: a sheath or outer covering; an often…portable container for enclosing something; a surrounding frame or framework

Container: anything that contains or can contain something, as a carton, box, crate, or can.

Box: a container, case, or receptacle; any enclosing, protective case or housing; a compartment or section in a public place, shut or railed off for the accommodation of a number of people, especially in a theater, opera house, sports stadium, etc.; slang for the vulva or vagina.

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