The last couple of days I've had sex on my mind. I might as well talk about it here. This all started a few days ago when I came across this tweet from the comic Paula Bel.
It's likely safe to assume that Bel's intention was comedy as she is, after all, a comic. However I read the tweet as yet another nod to the pervasive stereotype that teen boys are out-of-control sex crazed monsters and girls are tender vestal virgins who need to carefully guard their untouched wholesomness. We have so many ways to tell girls they should "keep their legs closed" because boys are apparently incapable (or not required) to keep their pants up.
We live in a society that denies the sexuality of teen girls while both simultaneously valorizing and ignoring the sexuality of teen boys. What's worse is that we live at a time where the development of boys and girls is rapidly changing. Girls are now entering puberty as young as seven or eight years old. Caucasian boys, on average, are entering puberty at 10. African American boys are entering puberty, on average, at 9.
Our children are developing their sexual bodies and emotions at earlier and earlier ages. There is no research to suggest that children are also developing critical, moral, or emotional thinking earlier--skills that equip young people with the ability to navigate the feelings developing in their young bodies.
The best we offer, it seems, is to suggest that girls keep their legs closed and boys explore their sexual feelings behind a closed bathroom door. That can't possibly work out well.
We ignore our children. We don't offer our children help and guidance in caring for, celebrating, and enjoying their developing sexuality.
We tell girls not to be sexual. We ignore them (while simultaneously dressing them up like sex objects). Girls are left to figure out their sexuality on their own. We give them no skills to learn about their bodies and responses. We don't teach them about empowerment or equip them with negotiation skills to say yes or no. We don't teach them that they are in control of their own bodies and their own pleasure.
We let girls grow up and discover their sexuality alone in a society where women are treated like the sex objects of men. Then we somehow expect teen girls will act as something other than the sex objects of men.
We ignore our boys sexuality--or send it underground. Boys expected to be boys, and we tolerate their exploration of sexuality behind the closed door of a bedroom or bathroom. We leave them to themselves to figure out what to do with their feelings and bodies. We give them no skills at how to negotiate desire and closeness within the context of relationships.
We let boys grow up and discover their sexuality in a society where men are treated like the takers of the sex objects they want. Then we somehow expect teen boys will act as something other than the takers of the sex objects they want.
Nope. This doesn't have a chance of working out. Not a chance. Not a damn chance.
This morning I came across a blog on Psych Central entitled "My Teenager Has Sex on the Brain." The post made me so sad. The author started off, it seems, with good intentions. She talked about having open conversations about sex with her son. It seems, however, that once he started to actually express his sexuality and sensuality his mother wanted to shut it down. While she didn't say this directly, the author seems to suggest that sexuality and sensuality is something that one waits for--perhaps for marriage. Sexuality and sensuality isn't something that someone safely explores, incrementally, over time.
These two have had their make-out sessions and some time to be stupid before we figured out they were up to no good. Their hormones are going bonkers and my son is thinking with the wrong head.
What a missed teaching moment for this teen boy and his partner. There is nothing wrong with make-out sessions. What a great way for two young people, equipped with communication and negotiation skills, to consensually explore closeness, sensuality, and feeling good. What a wonderful opportunity to discuss the merits of waiting to have sexual intercourse, and the variety of ways to people can share closeness.
Why shut down the conversation, and the experience, and deny teens the experience of their bodies and the closeness and attachment they want with another person?
My son has turned into a typical, nasty, horny teenage boy and I hate it!
What a sad and painful way to think about a teen aged boy. His nastiness can easily be something beautiful and sublime. Rather than to teach him that sexuality and sensuality is something that is forbidden and nasty (outside of marriage, of course), why not give him a variety of skills to be close and sensual with someone he loves and cares for? Why not teach him about handholding, and kissing, and touching, and tenderness, and saying yes, and saying no?
Why not teach girls the very same thing?
How in the world can we expect teen boys and girls to have healthy, robust, tender, loving, sensual and erotic lives if when they start to explore their bodies and relationships we think of them as nasty? How do we expect teen boys and girls to grow up to be men and women who do not see see women as objects to be used and men as users of objects?
Think for a moment who is currently allowed to be sexual in our culture. Boys and men will be boys. They are nasty, gross, and dangerous. They are expected to be sexual in ways that are gross. We either ignore it, forgive it, or despise it. Increasingly so in the last few years, middle aged women (aka, cougars) are allowed to be sexual as long as they are pretty objects are on the hunt to be consumed by the nasty young men.
Everyone else has their sexuality and sensuality repressed or otherwise ignored.
When we live in the world like this, how to we expect our world to be different than it is?
....and let's not forget about the plight of teens who have same sex attractions. They are perhaps the most invisible of all.