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December 06, 2005

sex and teens, whassup with that?

By Sarah

**NOTE** The following about sex and teenagers contains language most normal adults might find offensive, though for teenagers is part of the daily dialectic. If you are easily put off by crude depictions of sexual acts or if you don't have a teenager in the house you may wish to avoid this one.

Over the weekend my sister in law, who is a veteran English teacher at the high school where our daughter is a freshman, recreated a conversation she'd overheard in the hallway. In short, it was between two girls and went something like this: "How come when a guy sleeps with two girls in one night it's okay but if I sleep with two guys suddenly I'm a skank?"

Pause.

It's true. Even in Vermont - to which parents move, leaving behind decent paying jobs elsewhere just so their children can live move "innocent" lives - teenage girls and boys (and yes, I'm using girls and boys -they have not earned the right to be called women and men) are acting out sexually in ways that would make their aging hippy, free-love neighbors blush blood red scarlet. This not simply premarital sex - this is ""I-don't-know-his-last-name-but-he's-really-cute" sex. This is the kind of activity that makes "friends with benefits" a church sanctified sacrament in comparison.

In fact this mindless fornication, including that of the oral variety provided by girls to boys in the back hallways and staircases of our high school, is so rampant it's considered commonplace akin to a roach problem or fleas. Consider this:

When getting my hair highlighted yesterday, I asked my stylist (a friend who has helped me out with many a Bubbles book) if she had actually ever performed a Brazilian wax, as her price sheet listed. She said she'd done one and that was enough to swear off them forever. The "client" was a high schooler, so young that my stylist said she looked "like a little girl on the table." Not only did she want a Brazilian, she wanted the works. In other words, if it was part of the female anatomy, if it had a hair follicle, she wanted it waxed. Oh, wait. It gets better. Who was paying for it?

Her mother.

No surprise. More than half of the women coming in and requesting Brazilians (at $65 a pop) are high school girls. And they are not doing it to fit in with their girlfriends, either. They are getting Brazilians because they are doing things that even after 16 years of marriage I wouldn't consider. Okay, I might consider, but at my age and my weight no one would really ask of me seriously.

These revelations have served as fertile fodder for conversation with our 14-year-old daughter, a level headed kid with a straight A average who is as confused and troubled by what she sees as we are. What upsets her is what upsets my sister in law  and me, namely the utter unfeminism of it all. Did women fight throughout the 20th century to establish themselves as equals to men, only to have their daughters, grand daughters and great grand daughters demean themselves on their knees on the linoleum-floored janitor closets? Why the focus on boys? I know what the boys get out of it, but what do the girls get? No matter what the answer, it's not worth it.

The most disturbing aspect is that I've known these girls since they were little giggling snots with Polly Pockets. They were in my Girl Scout Troop. I took them swimming or berry picking, to county fairs and out for ice cream. I watched them play with dolls. And here's the shocker - it wasn't that long ago. These are still very immature people in their formative years creating a history that they will never be able to erase. Not only that, but from a biological perspective they are exposing themselves to nasty, even fatal, diseases.

I'd like to report that these girls are the daughters of neglectful, slothful parents because at least then I'd be able to find a blame. But I can't. These are the kind of parents who went out of their way to insure that their daughters fortified their self esteem. They read Reviving Ophelia and fretted about the suppression of the adolescent female voice. They encouraged their daughters to be athletic and happy and open to any possibility.

And in the end, all their daughters could do was to concentrate on hooking Jake, Josh, Justin and etc. For ten minutes in a broom closet or in the back row of a movie theater.

So what are we to do about this epidemic of rampant, mindless teenage sex? Do we turn off their computers? Stop them from watching Friends reruns? (And, as much as I love Seinfeld, Jerry and Elaine were no role models - though they were adults.) Do we have a school-wide pow wow about awareness?

Or do we turn our attention to the boys and urge them to reject their hormonal urges in lieu of a Greater Decency?

Listen, at this moment I'm open to any ideas because I believe this is a crisis that could have devastating repercussions down the road. At the very least, it will spawn a generation of self-loathing, very unhappy women. And that means very unhappy families. And a very unhappy world.

Sarah

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Comments

I have no real advice, but one thing that really disturbs me is that there is a whole generation of young men/boys who think women aren't supposed to have pubic hair.

My opinion, which you know, is that single-sex high schools are good--especially for girls, where all the leaders are girls and there isn't the primal competition for becoming the "head" cheerleader or otherwise impressing the boys. As I said, at a girls high school, you don't have, well, [the name of the person I mentioned]. You nodded, point well-made. And I don't think he was getting blown in the hallway.

My son, who is a freshman at a boys' high school, does not seem to have the obsession that I had, since he doesn't have the girls prancing the halls. Then again, he does have the Internet, and I only had Penthouse.

And I agree about the pubic hair thing. If I want to have sex with someone without it, I'll hit on my daughter's 5th grade classmates.

You skipped another part of the issue that your friend may not have mentioned, and that's that anal sex, with its increased chances of disease transmission, is rampant, as well, as girls try to stay "technical virgins," a hypocrisy I always objected to but wanted to be a part of.

Last, you aren't fat; you're basically normal. Live with it.

I understand your concerns and I don't discount them but to be honest this isn't new to this generation. When I was growing up, I knew girls in Junior High who were sexually active. That's just how it was. Same with drugs, same with most other "vices". Admittedly, I grew up in the most dangerous city in the United States, so maybe that means that we were outliers compared to the rest of the country.

What worked with girls from my generation? (I'm a good ol' Gen X'er)

Honesty.

Parents just sitting down with their children and telling them how it is. No dramatics, no scare tactics but what promiscuity really means - psychologically and physically.

Believe it or not, I had the same conversation with friends of mine when I was a teen because their parents didn't have that talk.

I know this comment doesn't provide comfort but it's truthful.
Lisa

Oh - and the single sex high school thing - some of the horniest guys I have ever known came from all boys schools. I guess they saved up all of that nervous energy for when they graduated. :)

I can sum it up for you in three words. Well, actually, one word. Um, okay - it's not really a word, but - MTV. It's hard for girls today to maintain a ladylike demeanor, when Shakira is soft-porning it all over the screen. Did you ever think you'd see the day when Britney Spears is considered prim ?
Think about when we were in high school(I graduated in '78) Music was so important , it defined us, it 'cliqued' us. The heads listened to Pink Floyd, the geeks (me) had John Denver, the rowdies did Aerosmith... Remember how all the 'cool' girls tried to look like Cher ? I mean, she was all daring and sparkly and stuff, but at least she wasn't miming live sex acts on stage. Not that being paired with Sonny Bono was very condusive to writhing.
I think that until we can ressurect a following for Debbie Boone's stirring rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic, us old folks are screwed (and not in a good way).
Sarah, on a totally different note - I just started reading my first Bubbles novel. Chapter one of Bubbles Betrothed hooked me. I ordered everything Amazon had. Forget Sue Grafton, Bubbles could kick Kinsey Milhone's butt. Thanks for giving the world a good read.

I know it's scary to think about what kids are doing these days; I wonder, though, how much of the "scare" is because we're more aware of it? According to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r041210.htm for the press release; http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_024.pdf for the document), the trends are actually positive: fewer kids (especially fewer younger kids) are having sex, and they're using contraception more often and more effectively.

Nonetheless, the number of kids having sex at such young ages is problematic, especially given the disease risks. I don't know what the answers are, or even if there really are any. I can't help but think that more real education, starting as early as possible, about the physiological, medical, and psychological aspects of sexuality would help.

I also think that the conversation Sarah reported illustrates just how entrenched the dynamic of sex-for-status really is. With all we've done to raise girls' awareness of their own worth, we still can't get rid of that, at least not to the extent we'd like.

I'm just glad that my own daughter never fell into that one . . .

Lisa- What you said is so interesting, particularly because what separates my high school experience and yours is the event of AIDS. I mean, I would have expected girls to be more careful. (Perhaps the rates of sexual activity among teens are down statistically, but, in the words of Bill Clinton, that depends on how you define sex.)
And Josh will back me up here when I say that we had over 600 kids in our class and sex in the hallways was not unheard of back in the late 70's, either. (BTW, Josh, your comment about anal sex might explain the waxing preferences.)
I guess what I am is saddened. Also I want to slap some of these girls upside the head and since I'm on Weight Watchers (no matter what you say Josh) I can't drown my discontent in cookies and hot chocolate. Hmmm. Hot chocolate.
Thanks j. renee for the kind words. But let me just say that The Cinderella Pact (which I turned into my editor last week) blows away everything I've written so far. Maturity, you know. But I'll save that for another blog.

Sarah -
I live by Weight Watchers. I lost 80 lbs following the program. Of course I gained 10 of it back and I am desperately trying to lose it again. Great words of wisdom for the holidays - don't try to lose during the holidays, just try to maintain. Otherwise you will feel very frustrated and unfulfilled by January.

What my generation learned was to have safe sex. So, although many were sexually active at a young age, they were using condoms and other forms of prophylactics. Those who weren't sexually active found themselves in the midst of an intervention with friends who were more careful.

Even more interesting to me is the increase in non-penetration sex. I've met quite a few persons from the generation after mine (or the tail end of Gen X'ers) who abstained from penetration but felt that oral sex and foreplay were the ways to go (sexual fulfillment but no chance of babies).

I don't understand that waxing comment, but maybe you can just email me on that. And I don't recall people having sex in the halls, but I wasn't in the band. I just explained to my daughter this past weekend when you are supposed to yell "get a room!" to someone and what that means. Of course, last weekend, I had to explain what a condom was when we heard a news report about some band not playing the Vatican. And St. Ann's has sex ed., probably better than what Mr. Ruth was teaching us in Health at Liberty.

Call me crazy, but has anything really changed other than the willingness to talk about this stuff so openly?

When I was a teenager (and that's a long time ago), it may not have happened in school hallways (although I can't swear by that), but it certainly happened in cars.

Guys were horny, girls were boy crazy, and nature, I'm afraid, took its course.

Whether this is a specific societal phenomenon or simple human behavior at work is something for greater minds than mine to figure out.

whats the chance that a lot of this is nothing but rumor?

I have found that honesty works with my freshman son as well. I'm a single mom and his "father" has never been a part of his life. Since I don't want him to follow in my footsteps I let him see the good and bad. Not that I bad mouth his father, we seriously never speak of him, but I let my son see the day to day struggles that I go through to make ends meet.

I went to a high-school classified as "inner city" with a reputation for being a bad and dangerous place. My husband went to a rural school with 30 kids per grade and more cows than people. The stories he tells me about what they got up to are way beyond anything common at my school. As adults, everyone I've talked to whose parents moved them to the country to "keep them out of trouble," wound up getting into far more trouble than they would have back in the cities/burbs.

Mary, I think the answer to that one is pretty easy. Kids in more rural areas just have less to do than city kids.

I live in a rural area and, believe me, these kids are bored, bored, bored. So, of course, drinking, dope, sex and mayhem are great ways to cure that boredom.

There's a lot more stimulation in the city. Keeps them occupied.

I could be wrong.

My son wants to know if anyone can introduce him to the Brazilian wax girl or any of her friends.

Drinking, dope, sex, and mayhem doesn't sound too bad to this 43-year-old, but I have other things to do, unfortunately.

Seriously, though, I do believe that it is more of an issue now than when I was growing up. The only people lying in those surveys are the ones who claim that boys give girls oral sex as much as girls give it to the boys. Did you ever try to do that in a stairwell? 'Nuff said.

Ahem.

Josh.

Uh.

Yeah.

Well.

All I can say is, I disagree about the lying on surveys thing.

Cough.
Wow, I have a TON of work to do. See ya.

Robert - I'm not a prude,honestly. (Hey, by saying that does that make me a prude?) And the first time I heard these stories, I thought, yeah, yeah. Been there, done that. It was the Brazilian (okay, anal wax thing, of 14-16 year olds) that really bummed me out. It seems sooo extreme. It was on the Internet porn level.
The minister of our church (boy, I am sounding like a prude) had a son who when he was in 10th grade opened his email to find several naked pictures of teenage girls. Not from the internet - from his class! They'd sent them to him.
This sister in law who, granted, is a bit old fashioned in the technical department (she prefers 19th century literature) blames the Internet. She says that in her 20 years of teaching, she's never witnessed such a dramatic decline in moral thought or intellectual activity as in the past 10 when the Internet rose supreme.
So that's what's new under the sun. Not just boys and girls having sex. It's boys and girls engaging in porn. (No, no, Josh. You may not comment on this.) And there's difference.

Sarah, I was talking with someone about this just the other day. After doing all those "top singles" parties in November, I have to say that the younger women (barely out of their teens, it seems) are awfully aggressive sexually...in how they dress and behave...and in ways that maybe just a few girls were when I was growing up. I went to a high school of 2,000 (so my class was 500), and I don't recall such outwardly sexual behavior. Flirting, sure; teasing, yeah. But today, it seems to go way beyond that. Makes me wonder what kind of respect these girls have for themselves--or anyone else for them--beneath their skimpy outfits and their finesse at giving BJs. Too bad for them that brothels aren't legalized in all states, as there'd be plenty of employment for these chippies with their Brazilian bikini waxes and all the practice they've had in the janitor's closets at school. (Note: I'm not lumping every teen girl or twenty-something in here, just the ones who...well, you know who.)

Thank you Susan. Whew!

I was reminded over the summer that blaming outward forces doesn't get to the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is that we want to do things and do them. We are responsible for our own actions.

Having said that, I do think society makes it easier for people to do things. When you have characters sleeping around on TV shows, it makes it more acceptible for teens to do those things. When their musicians dress in less and less, should we really be surprised when they dress in less and less?

And when parents spend less and less time talking to their kids, should we be surprised when they look more and more to their peers?

There is plenty of blame to go around. And it really does concern me. We are going to have a generation of adults deeply hurt by what they are doing in high school. Both male and female. While I know this is TLC, don't think that the guys in these stories are getting the better end of the deal. They're emotional issues will be just as bad when they grow up as the girls.

Mark

Haven't commented here in awhile but this subject struck a chord. I think we've created a lot of these monsters. When we run out and buy the newest geegaws for the kids at the drop of the hat..doesn't matter if they already have a great geegaw or not...but damn..gotta get the kids the next step up, we create a generation of kids who want the immediate gratification. When you have everything you could desire by the time you're 15 you start looking elsewhere for your kicks. My Mom used to say everyone needs something to dream for. It gives you goals and hopes. Just my 02.

I was in high school in the early 90s, and really not much has changed. Some teenagers are having sex, a great majority of them are not, and absolutely every single one of them wants to project the image that they are having sex all the time, and will discuss it at every given opportunity. Doesn't mean they all are. And given the way some teen girls tend to slap the slut label on any girl they don't like, regardless of her actions, I wouldn't believe everything you hear--and neither should your daughter. I mean, I knew several girls in my high school who did absolutely nothing, but were considered sluts because they had developed early.

It's naiive to say that it's MTVs fault, or Sex and the City's fault that kids are sexually active. It all begins with the parents--the kids who are desperate for their parents attention, and desperate for love, are the ones who will be going around doing anything and everything for any kind of positive attention from the opposite sex.

I understand your concern for your daughter, but the only thing that worked in my high school was complete honesty and knowlegdge, as someone stated above. Don't leave it up to the school, talk openly about sexual behavior, sex, and the consequences, both physical and social. I was lucky enough to have both a fabulous sex ed program at my school, and also parents who cared enough to discuss these things with both me and my brother.

One thing that really really bothers me is that you're equating getting a brazillian wax with being sexually active. More than likely, the girls getting waxes are doing it to project an image of "adulthood" to their friends, not their boyfriends. Also, if you're wearing a small bathing suit, as teens are wont to do, waxing is a standard. Isn't it enough that teenagers are quick to judge girls as sluts and whores label just by appearances, do adults have to do it too?

well put Jen.

Uh - Pardon MY ignorance, but... are you telling me that a Brazilian wax is ...?!?
Oh, no WAY ! Isn't that one of the torture tactics that congress says we're not allowed to use anymore ?
Seriously,is it ? 'inquiring minds want to know'

Hey, it seems as if we have a half generational misunderstanding here. Thanks for enlightening me. I love it when that happens!

I have a girls night out Saturday and at least two of the women are mothers who paid for their daughters to get Brazilianized. So I'll ask them what's up in their opinion.

I'll buy the swimsuit argument. Of course I thought about that. But an anal wax? No one's explained that one to me.

Jen gets it.

I don't think it's a "misunderstanding" at all, but a difference in perception. And I'm relieved to hear Jen's opinion, but it doesn't change how disconcerting this whole thing can be, particularly to those of us well out of our 20s.

Having 2 teen boys this issue has come up several times in my living room. My older son seems unshockable while my younger son thinks many of these girls are 'sluts' yet he tells me he wants to marry Tara Reid. OY VEY! I do think TV and internet and movies play into the new 'freedom'. The fact remains that any kind of sex has repercussions. They might now show up now but eventually they will. It's scary.

I am booked at a party in Manhattan Saturday night, so I couldn't crash your girls' night out, even if I knew where it was. Do you think you could take some photos on your phone and send them to me?

Susan and Sarah, I think we just have to face the fact that we are judgmental fogies. On the other hand, there is something to be said for maturity (someone told me that, I don't know it from my own experience), and eventually, these girls/women will understand that they got a raw deal.

To get back to your initial issue, I say you should send her to a girls' high. My daughter is expecting it.

I'm not too concerned about being labeled an old fogie. But I'd hate to be called a hypocrite. So here's my question -- would the young lasses who service the young lads in the back halls of high school think it appropriate if the female principal of our high school dropped to her knees and played Mr. Chip's flute in the teachers lounge? I'm guessing the young 'uns would find that inappropriate in a public setting and may come to appreciate the law against lewd and lascivious behavior in a public place. What’s right for adults is no less right for children.

I think that poor self-esteem coupled with casual sex and sexual innuendos everywhere (music, movies, video games, television) play a part in what's going on in junior high and high schools.

It's not enough to say that it starts with the parents. I had many friends who had wonderfully attentive parents, but still had low self-esteem and had sex with boys to make themselves feel more important, more worthy. Problem was that going down on a guy at a party may make a girl feel wanted at the time, but that feeling quickly goes away and her self-esteem suffers some more.

I remember reading about one study that found that girls actively involved with sports were less likely to have casual sex as teenagers. According to the research, it was the combination of higher self-esteem (from being part of a team and/or doing well at a sport) and less free time that were key factors. I wonder if that study done today would find similar results.

Good sex education is important (and when I say good, I mean that it should include discussion of issues associated with having or not having sex, and not just info. about how anatomy works). Open communication with parents or trusted adult is also important. Even all that isn't any kind of guarantee.

I am still trying to figure out what kind of swimsuit requires one to shave one's . . . and whether I, as a mother, will shortly be expected to buy one. I am frankly depressed about all of this.

No, Charles gets it. Thank You.

Is that "the" Charles? The one who was on the school board?

I have anecdotal evidence only, but I swear that good martial arts training (which is harder to find than you might think) really helps. It certainly allowed my daughter and the other young girls who train at our school to build positive body images, improve self-esteem and learn appropriate assertiveness based on independent self-worth. And the fact that they can kick ass and take names doesn't hurt . . .

This is a great conversation, and although the topic does sadden me, I've benefited from hearing everyone's point of view. Jen, especially has given me a lot of food for thought.

Have I mentioned that I'm very, very, VERY glad that my daughter is now in her early 20's? Plenty of heartache to go around there, but nothing like high school!

I think one of the things missing here is that being promiscious these days is cool. Stigmas are no longer a concern - their idols revel in their sexuality. Listen to the music, look at TV and the movies-jumping in and out of bed is 'normal'. One night stands are a part of the night's fun. I mean, everybody is doing it, right? So why shouldn't they? Oh, did I mention the clothes? This from an old bag who just shakes her head and thanks God I don't have to face what you younger mothers do.

Charles, Mr. Chips flute??????????? I swear I never saw it as many times as I have watched that movie! Oh well, Goodbye Mr. Chips

Hi-

Sorry I missed this yesterday. Here's some frank explaination on the Brazilian wax directly from both recipients and administrators of same (you know, the salon clients and the salon employees).

Brazilian waxes have been around for a long time but gained popularity in recent years from a subplot on Sex and the City and because bathing suits - and underwear - are skimpier than ever.

The introduction of thong underwear apparently caused the requests for full Brazilian waxes to increase dramatically.

Other than clothing and bathing suit concerns, the primary reason for the Brazilian wax is to make oral sex more attractive and pleasurable to/for the female's partner. Oral sex now includes a much broader area than you might imagine - hence the expansion of the hair removal area.

A secondary reason to include the bum is that - and someone pointed this out already - anal sex is not considered to be "real" sex by some people, hence the technical virgin myth. I don't know who came up with this con game, but geez - that's harsh.

Apparently, one current sexual ideal is a woman with no hair below the neck. Anywhere. Not that many of us dwell on it, but the female body is covered with hair of varying lengths and textures. Even the bum. There, I said it.

Full body hair removal has been a long-time ideal for certain (BDSM) segments of the adult population.

And yes - men get them - all kinds of waxing that is - as well as women. And not just gay men. And it's painful for them too.

Oh - and as someone who used to get bikini waxs (that's where they just remove the hair that would show around your bathing suit), many moons ago - there is significant pain involved. And if the waxor isn't good and what she does, there can be bruising. I spent one spring break wearing shorts. That was my last bikini wax.

All this talk about wax-on, wax-off makes me want to rent The Katate Kid. Rest in peace, Pat Morita.

Kathy should see "The Forty-Year Old Virgin." There's a scene where he gets his chest waxed. It looked as if the actor really was getting it done in the scene and that the other actors' reactions were real, and sure enough, I read that they did the scene for real, sort of as an improv. Very funny, even to someone like me who has never gotten closer to using wax on my body than lighting a candle on the dining room table.

i dont enjoy pubic hair myself.. I think if they want a guy to go down there then they should have it shaved.

Um . . . excuse me?

Okay - I think this is a good example of when it's perfectly fine to block addresses and contributors. Slutty sites (especially when the conversation is about teenagers) definitely apply.
Susan, do you want me to do the honors?

I think this kind of comment adds to the discussion--that women have become anonymous mannequins, even during the most intimate of acts. Which makes me think about the nature of intimacy and how so many people avoid it now. We play games with computers instead of each other. So of course we don't want a real person in bed with us either.

Nancy, back from NYC at last. More later.

Well, then, I vote that someone start putting pubic hair on mannequins. Change the social consciousness. Give Live Sex Review a new image upon which to, uh, fantasize. And maybe our daughters will go play soccer instead of getting waxed.

I'm hoping Barney's has already figured this out.

Bikini Wax Barbie, by Mattel.

Great suggestion Joe. All preschool aged children should know and understand the meaning of a Bikini Wax. Parents are surely looking for ways to encourage their preschoolers into the self-destructing actions described in Sarah’s Blog. I guess it is never too early to prepare the little ones for high school these days.

Mattel will probably jump all over this comment and get the new dolls into the retail stores just in time for Christmas, because watching stock plummet is every executives secret wish for their professional career.

Hooboy, are we going to get hits from people Googling for porn sites, or what? Just look at that list of key words!

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