Re: DSM: cigarettes and sex

rhonda goebel (
Mon, 01 May 2000 10:59:22 +0000


        Regarding the 'discomfort principle". I think we live in a society
where people in general view conflict as a negative, resulting in most
people developing some defense mechanisms when they feel conflict, or
discomfort, or fear. But I believe conflict is not just a positive, but
a strength. For example, I used to feel uncomfortable hearing people
talk about political ideas that were in conflict with mine, and I would
get into either attack or avoidance mode. However one of the lessons
I've learned over the years is that hearing people's ideas that are
different than mine is an opportunity for me to consider another point
of view, challenge and rearrange my own thinking, and perhaps
reflectively challenge the other person's thinking. I still feel a
sense of discomfort, but like your point about free speech, this
discomfort is overridden by a higher principle.
        What if some young people wanted to have a 'sex room' based on their
right for freedom of expression? When someone was using the room, they
could put a 'do not disturb' sign up, or even lock the door, so no
unsuspecting discomfortable-with-sex people would have to see it.
Surely some students naturally want and choose to have sex. On what
justifiable grounds should the school restrict them?
        I do think that the person's comment about A.S. Neill could be
justifiable, that it would harm the school because society is so not
ready for a school that allows sex that the school would inevitably
close down. But I think SVS may be unjustifiably restricting individual
freedoms and perhaps minority rights in banning sex or other activities
based merely on the 'discomfort principle'.
        This is not to say that discomfort may not be used as a reason to make
rules setting guidelines for behavior. For example, if someone brings
in leaves and scatters them throughout the school, others may say we
don't feel comfortable with leaves all over the school so please stop.
And if the person explains that for her it's an art, a form of
expression, the others may negotiate a space and time for her to
practice her art. But to ban the leaf art altogether would seem to me
too much control over the individual.
        For me, when individual freedoms clash with others' discomfort, I
believe the first response is to listen, to try to understand, to
question your own discomfort, to negotiate, to compromise, if at all
possible. (Which probably happens all the time at SVS). Jumping to the
'discomfort principle' to totally ban an activity seems fear-based.
Being aware of your fears is part of being a reflective person. The
fear may be legitimate, and valid for banning the activity, but then
call it that. Say We have to ban this activity because we are afraid


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