Monday, January 22, 2007

What, exactly, are horny teens supposed to do in our culture?

This very good article on nerve.com (via Feministing) got me thinking about the whole teen sex issue. In a purely socio-political way, of course.

Lately, there have been a lot of editorials about how over-sexed our culture is. Here's a prime example from the venerable New York Times' Editorial Observer, Dec 29th:
They writhe and strut, shake their bottoms, splay their legs, thrust their chests out and in and out again. Some straddle empty chairs, like lap dancers without laps. They don't smile much. Their faces are locked from grim exertion, from all that leaping up and lying down without poles to hold onto. ''Don't stop don't stop,'' sings Janet Jackson, all whispery. ''Jerk it like you're making it choke. Ohh. I'm so stimulated. Feel so X-rated.'' The girls spend a lot of time lying on the floor. They are in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
The author, one Lawrence Downes, is shocked, shocked, to discover that sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are sexual beings. Imagine that! A thirteen year old who has gone through puberty and is using her sexuality to get attention! I'm sure that's never been done ever before in the whole history of the human species! What a freak of nature! Call the New York Times Editorial Observer! Call the fuckin' Guiness Book of World Records!

Usually, these articles focus on the scandalous behavior of young teenage girls (out of concern for their well-being, I am sure). Somehow, no one seems to give a shit if a 15 year old boy is a sexual being. Boring. But those girls, oh my! These guardians of prudery lament thongs, decry "grinding", and claim that civilization is being destroyed by the blowjob (never mind the reduced risk of STDs and very reduced risk of pregnancy as compared to a certain other act).

Part of me sympathizes with these laments. I too, am scandalized by the bare midriffs, the provocative eye makeup, the cleavage, etc. Isn't that the frickin' point, though? To get attention from your peers and shock the old folks? (If the old folks are even on their mental radar screens, which is doubful. How much time did you spend thinking about 30-somethings when you were 13?) What amazes me is that all these writers talk about this as if it was a brand-new phenomenon, like text messaging or hybrid cars. It is as if they are the first generation of people to be scandalized by the mores of their offspring. For Chrissakes, this is the oldest lament of all time. People thought waltzing would be the downfall of Christendom. And yet somehow, civilization has survived waltzing, the novel, Elvis, and rap music.

Here's what bothers me the most: All of these scolds never seem to get around to saying what these teenage girls should be doing with their sexuality. They all just seem to hope it will go away until they are 26 and married or something. It's like fundamentalists and homosexuality: If you pray hard enough, God will remove this horrible affliction from your soul. Do any of these people remember what it was like to be 14? I think amnesia must be a prerequisite for this particular kind of hand-wringing. Maybe you didn't get to see girls gyrating in mini-skirts when you were 14, Mr. Downes (I didn't), but don't tell me it wouldn't have worked on you.

The nerve.com author I link to above, Ada Calhoun, subtitles her article "A resolution for 2007: no more punditry about our "oversexed" culture". I add a corallary to that: No more complaining about teen sexual behavior unless you put forward a serious, viable alternative that teens can engage in. I do not consider "abstinence" a sufficient substitute. Yes, you can abstain from sex, but you can't abstain from your sexuality.

There is a huge "sexuality gap" in our culture: biological puberty hits somewhere around 12, but "civil puberty", i.e. being in an emotional, social, and economic position where one can sensibly get married comes much later. It varies by subculture, but for me and my peers it would raise eyebrows if any of us got married before our mid-twenties. That leaves a gap of at least ten years where our society doesn't really have any institutionally condoned way of being sexual. People are sort of left to fumble about on their own, so is it any wonder that popular culture has rushed in to fill the vacuum? If you don't want girls to gyrate to Janet Jackson at talent shows, you gotta give 'em something better to do. Frankly, I think a lot of teenagers would welcome some guidance on this matter (I certainly would have), but all of the institutions that might be in a position to help teens figure this out (church, school, family, government, etc.) are either too chickenshit or puritanical to be of any real use.

Here's what would really impress me: A mainstream church, non-profit group, or other respectable institution coming up with recommendations for teenagers to constructively, lovingly, and safely satisfy their sexual needs. I'm not talking about education (though that is certainly necessary and in many cases sadly lacking). I'm talking about how to get it on and get off (in a way that minimizes negative consequences, of course): A Presbytarian Guide to Masturbation. UNICEF presents: How to get a lover and what to do when you get one. The New York Times Guide to Sex for Teens. Give the pornographers and pop stars and tawdry TV shows some competition, for once. Or just shut up, because by scolding and hand-wringing you're basically yielding the field to those who, whether for reasons of altruism, narcissism, or greed aren't scared of addressing the issue head-on.

The idea of these institutions jumping into the sex game of course strikes me as absurd. But this just shows how far we need to come as a society before we can even to address this issue in a serious way. But it is work that needs to be done, because I didn't particularly like having my sexuality nurtured by the dysfunctional dyad of puritanical repression and crass commercial exploitation (though given the choice, I think the crass commercialism is by far the healthier option). And I suspect there may be others who are feeling the same way right now.

Bottom line: until some else steps up to the plate, Janet Jackson is what we got. "Ohh. I'm so stimulated. Feel so X-rated." I challenge Lawrence Downes and others with his concerns to give us something better. Until you do, no complaining about gyrating 7th graders.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Mad Latinist said...

Yes, you can abstain from sex, but you can't abstain from your sexuality.

Good one. Both pithy and true.

9:36 PM, January 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is a great post. I know it was originally written close to a year ago. I am behind the times!

One comment that I have is this: I think it is very important to acknowledge the big differences between teenaged girls and teenaged boys. Teenaged girls aren't all that "horny". Much of their sexual behavior has to do with wanting approval from boys - wanting to be "liked" by the horny teenaged boys.

Girl's sexual feelings tend to kick in later, and we hit our sexual peak in our 30's, not in our teens (that's boys). In the teen years, we girls are more interested in pleasing boys. Which is, I think, what people these days are finding especially appalling - that young girls are not even all that (authentically) interested in sex, but are willing to bear more of the physical consequences of sexual activity (infections, pregnancy, STDs that jeopardize their lives and/or their future fertility) out of a desire to fit in and be liked/loved/"valued" by boys.

So the question of what horny teenagers are supposed to do... I think it's more of a question of what horny teenage boys are supposed to do. But this question is akin to asking what angry drivers are supposed to do. People might feel anger on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean that it's okay to whip out guns and start shooting.

Teenagers can be taught to control themeselves and take responsibility for their own feelings/desires and keep them under control. It could be argued that they *need* to learn this - in order to learn how to live healthy productive lives, and to make responsible choices that contribute to their own longterm happiness and success and that take into considerations the feelings of others.

7:10 AM, November 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Teenaged girls aren't all that "horny". "

Then what are we? if you're not a girl, then you shouldn't say stuff like that, because in fact most teenage girls do get horny, they just don't show it.

4:44 AM, November 24, 2008  
Anonymous 15yr old gurls opinion said...

i'm 15 and i'm a platinum blond, green eyed tan girl that guys call "hot." personally i don't fl sexually arroused, i juss wanna plz the boys to be liked. like every teenager. (I swear to God, juss b/c it's not on ur teens fone doesn't mean they didn't send and delete it) they all send nake d pics now adays and i'm homeschooled, yet i met boys at the deli and anyways i constantly have boys online asking me for nude pics, i'm always disappointing them, i want to be fashion designer/ stripper when older so yknow i can't risk pornography..... and believe me the boys are horny i've had millions who are mostly 17 (not 15) ask me for hjs, bjs, 69s, etc. and my neece knows what sex is and her 6 yr. old friend knows too about the hole and the penis goes in etc. and she was joking she had sex, yet she told her she showed him her underwear (at six years old!). i'm not a slut, i try to be hot, but i don;t wear middrifts, i never kissed a boy, i juss want to be boys sex fantasy, that's all. :/ plz respond on ur opinion b/c i fl depressed

11:43 AM, June 28, 2009  
Anonymous 15yr old gurls opinion said...

i live in california too, so everyone has to be tan, isn't that annoying...?

btw; even tho i don't wanna have sex, i'm vey horny and dream of sex w/ nick jonas

11:46 AM, June 28, 2009  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

It's interesting how this post keeps getting responses even though it's 2.5 years old.

Dear 15yr old gurls opinion:

I'm not sure what you want my opinion on. If you feel depressed, you might want to look at my other blog:
http://loveandsurvivalwithfragilex.blogspot.com/
where I talk a lot about depression, and what I'm doing to treat it. Depression can be very serious, and I recommend you talk to a doctor, councilor or religious person (priest, minister, etc.) that you like and trust about how you are feeling. Many religious people have a very negative view of sexuality, so you might want to be careful discussing these issues with them. But many have a lot of wisdom.

Of course, lots of teenagers feel sad, so maybe there's nothing wrong. Adolescence is a hard time for many of us. It certainly was for me.

I think it is wise not to send naked pictures of yourself to people online. You don't know what they will do with those pictures. They may use them to make fun of you, or embarrass you.

I understand wanting to be liked by people of the other sex. One of the hardest things about being a teenager was wanting to be liked by everybody all the time. Now that I'm older, I don't care as much whether people like me or not. It's a big relief. I still want to be liked, of course. But I also have other important things to worry about. It sounds like you want to be liked by boys a lot. That's normal and natural. But don't let that be the only thing you think about. You also want to think about your career, your family, your education, your female friends, and yourself! Sometimes we try so hard to please other people that we forget what makes us happy ourselves.

It's OK that you haven't kissed a boy. I didn't kiss a girl until I was 20 years old! I understand wanting to be a boy's sex fantasy. But you might try getting to know them as friends, too. If you have more male friends, boys won't be so mysterious and scary. And then when you find one you really like, it won't be as scary. And you'll have male friends you can talk to for advice. Your male friends may still be hot for you, though. When I was young, I had lots of female friends who I had secret crushes on.

As for your career as a fashion designer/stripper, I don't know much about being a fashion designer. I do know a bit about being a stripper, as I talked to a lot of strippers in my younger days and have a former stripper as a Facebook friend. You can make a lot of money, but it can be very hard work emotionally and physically. There are a lot of books written by strippers about what it's like. I recommend you read some and talk to some strippers about what it's like. Certainly, it fits in with your desire to be a boy's sex fantasy. But remember that a lot of people in our society think very negatively about strippers. It isn't fair, but you should be prepared for a lot of negative reactions if you become a stripper.

I hope this has been helpful to you.

10:45 PM, June 29, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 15-year-old horny FEMALE.
Yes there are horny females. I don't care too much about male approval... only the ones I like.

Yeah, if there were no consequences, I wouldn't be a virgin. But our society holds so much emotion and status over virginity. Plus there are the obvious consequences.

Maybe I'm just weird. But I am a super horny (attractive) teenage girl. Is this an oddity?

1:57 PM, August 31, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sexuality is positive, healthy and wholesome, but becomes abnormal when it gets repressed and prohibited, (worst cases: USA and UK), thus the revolt and over-sexed youth. The emerging balanced society, as in OSHO (osho.com) or the EARTHGARDENS,(riverprincess.tripod.com) give youth a chance to bring their sexuality back to the body and pleasures and away from mind, where it becomes an obsession causing all this fuss

12:30 AM, February 06, 2010  
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Anonymous Naughty Girl Guide said...

I think your opinions are true.But you know we all have our own opinion!And we ought to respect each one of us!!!Have a great day!!!

3:23 PM, July 14, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I entirely agree. Everyone says they feel pity for us but we don't need it so much as they say we do. If sex bothered us so much then we wouldnt be doing it. For boys it seems sex is away to show " they are men," but for girls if they have sex they are "slutty" or "whores." sex can be painful for girls and most don't want to have sex the first time because of the pain, but there are not very many ways a girl can "satisfy" herself without having to go through "first time sex."

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2:48 PM, November 20, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol some people on here think that girls don't get horny, we do! Just as much as boys! But we hide it better because it's considered 'scandalous'

3:51 PM, August 17, 2017  

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