Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let's talk about sex

Apparently I'm a good deal more grumpy about this than twitter has characters for. There is a book out promising to break the silence on teenage girls and promiscuity. Based on the product description, and it's promised interviews with "self-selected loose girls" there's not much silence left on this particular topic to break, as this is one more in the line of "WOE! The girls are all having the sex and acting like sluts and the nation will fall because of these sex-having girls!" books.


Look, I don't want anyone having sex before they are ready for it, and I get that for a lot of people "teenage sex" is a lazy short hand for "too early sex." And I might disagree with a book that tried to speak in absolute terms about when people were and were not ready to have sex, but so long as that book spoke about *people* having sex too early - you know, boy people as well as girl people - I could respect it. But I have absolutely no respect for the argument that a teenage girl who has sex is destroying her life (or undervalues herself or is desperate for love or is a slut) whereas a teenage boy who has sex is totally cool, and is engaging in a normal and age appropriate rite of passage, or is a stud.

Do I think there are some problems with the interactions between women and sex in our culture? Sure. Like, oh, I don't know, the idea that if you sleep with a guy on the first date you're a whore, but if you don't put out on the third - I mean at least a blow job, am I right? - you're frigid. The idea that if a woman ever wears anything that any man ever might be turned on by, or has a drink in a bar, or is alone with a man, that's she's giving up her right to say no to his sexual advances. The idea that if a woman has ever had sex voluntarily before, and she is raped, a jury will be told she's a slut. The idea that women don't actually like or want the sexual act in and of itself, but will use it and their bodies to manipulate men into doing things for them. That any woman, no matter what her age, who has casual sex is a slut with self esteem issues. These are the ideas about sex that are bad, and problematic, and that cause huge issues in society when it comes to sex.

These are the dirty secrets we should be talking about.

But Kat, you say, you are being disingenuous. These are issues about adult women and sex, not about teenage gir.. oh, fine, teenagers and sex. You're missing the point. They're just too young. 

Well, leaving aside the issue that attitudes towards women and sex do not emerge from the void when women turn 18 or 21 or whatever age society has decided it can safely say they are adult sexual beings, high school covers a wide age - and development - range. I started high school when I was 13, and there were 19 year olds in my graduating class. That's a range from people who can just barely get into movies with swearing and people who can die for their country in the armed services. So even if we were to be beyond reductive and say the only thing that mattered in whether or not someone was ready to be having sex was their age, that's a lot of years to consider. I'm willing to guess that while many if not most people would feel 13 is too young, that many if not most people would think 19 is okay. (And no, just for the record, I do not feel there is a magic age at which everyone is ready for sex.)

If we're going to break silences around sex, let's please speak loudly about things that matter, rather than trying - yet again - to shame women for their choices.


  1. I totally agree and also want to point out that speaking honestly about sex also means that we acknowledge that perhaps the view society has about teenage boys isn't all that good either. The shaming of guys that don't try to hump anything with boobies is as big a problem as shaming "sluts." As a dude who married at 19 (12 years ago) to the only woman he ever had sex with, I have some experience on the receiving end of this attitude. As long as we focus primarily on the female experience with these issues, I think we end up in an arms race of which gender can be more acceptably promiscuous.

  2. That's a great point, Dave - thanks for expressing it so articulately. I completely agree that the idea that young men should always be up for sex, and that they should always be the aggressor, and that there is something potentially weird about a guy who wants to wait for his first sexual experience for any reason is also really toxic.

  3. Yesssss Kat, yes. This echoes the conversation we had over tapas last Friday. And I had another exchange with friends because of the Ariel Winter at the Emmys thing. GoFugYourself summed up my feelings pretty nicely:

  4. Monica - I've been thinking about the comments about Winter and Christina Hendricks that have been going around, as well. Because I think it's a similar issue - no one would be complaining about Hendricks' cleavage if there were less of it. No one would be talking about Winters' dress if she were flatter chested. But since when do we need the breast police?

  5. I thought Christina Hendricks looked like Helen of Fucking Troy. What she "should" be "showing" doesn't occur to me. Ugh. That men never have to deal with burdens like this...