This week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt (above) got me thinking about the concepts/labels we use to define ourselves and how those labels guide our behavior just as much as our behavior earns us those labels…especially when it comes to young people (mostly because when I hear the word in the prompt, I see a pursed-lipped old lady telling a buxom young woman to avoid promiscuous behavior and guard her virtue with her life because “no man will buy the cow when he can have the milk for free”).
I remember a time not so long ago (okay…it was more than 20 years ago…but who’s counting?)…when I was in junior high – there was this girl – her name was Erin: bleach blond, over-processed hair, boobs no 13-year-old girl should be allowed to have, giant blue eyes ringed by too much black eye-liner and mascara, skin-tight frosted jeans, and occasionally…red high-heels she borrowed from her mom’s closet. But, see…here’s the thing. I still remember her. I can hardly remember my own friends from that long ago…but I can remember her in crisp (creepy?) detail. Why is that? Well, because she was “that girl”…you know the one…
Only now…that “one” has a whole damned posse in pretty much every local (even elementary) school. It used to be that openly promiscuous young girls were few(er) in number. And they used to be sort of ostracized. Talked about. Shunned by most of the other girls. Disrespected by most of the boys…who still had no problem taking advantage of their indiscriminate sexual appetites and painfully obvious lack of self-esteem.
How have we gone from having that one well-known girl to having a large portion of a generation of young girls who have been overtly sexualized from birth (seriously…bikinis and leopard print might be cute on little girls, but we must be aware of the message we send when we dress them in provocative clothing at young ages). There have been so many stories over the past several years about marketing sex to and with young girls…thongs and push up bras for the under-10 crowd…”sexy” child-stars and beauty pageants for tiny tots…reality TV (when did pregnant teenagers become entertaining role models for today’s youth?).
Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I see things from a prudish stance. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked by the little 2nd grader I saw in my son’s music recital who showed up in a strapless, zebra print dress with knee-high faux leather boots. Maybe that’s cute in someone’s world.
But, I’m of the mind that we should protect our childrens’ innocence for as long as we can. That doesn’t mean protect their ignorance, of course. In fact, we almost have to teach them more about the world (and sex) at a younger age just to protect them from the increasing amount of danger that surrounds them.
I never had the internet (although I did have my dad’s Playboy’s under the bathroom towels). Now, kids have a dizzying array of truthful and not-so-truthful information at their fingertips on the internet. They text, they sext, they send naked pictures back and forth. Girls suck cocks to get boys to do their homework for them. They “hook up” and seem to have no real perception of how dangerous what they are doing is. Hell, a lot of them don’t even think “oral sex” is “real sex” and that they can’t get the same diseases if they avoid genital penetration.
And somewhere along the way, love and romance seem to be getting stamped out of existence. Sex is sex. Animal. Base. Relationships are superficial…virtual…fleeting. Marriage is now like dating. The majority of young people in the West tout divorced parents and never see what committed relationships look like. Couples have a fight…fill out the necessary paper work…and move on to the next new thing. Everything is easy. Nothing is hard. Nothing is worthy of commitment or respect.
Okay…I’m being crabby and cynical – and I’m stereotyping. And honestly, I’m around enough young people to know that they aren’t all like this. But, an astounding number of them are. And even the “good ones” are dabbling in shit I wouldn’t have even considered or been aware of when I was young. I will admit that I’ve read a few refreshing articles that have happily proven my fears wrong (though I don’t know how deeply I believe them):
Generation Scold (Slate)
The Myth of Rampant Teenage Promiscuity (NY Times)
I wonder…how will this all affect them when they are older? How will it color their relationships? As our culture continues to propagate images and expectations to our youth, how will their behavior and acceptance (or denial) of those images and expectations then change our culture?
What Motivates Sexual Promiscuity (Psychology Today) – This article (and it’s related links) is highly interesting. And it gets at a point I’d like to end on. While this post has targeted promiscuity in youth (which I think many of us can agree is something to be avoided), I am not about to begin judging consenting adults. Any adult who freely engages in any consensual sexual activity with any other adult should not be labeled “promiscuous” or any other of a laundry list of negative terms we seem to love to throw on people who don’t follow society’s conservative expectations (no matter how hypocritical they might be). I am mainly concerned that we raise our youth to be intelligent and safe about sex and love and provide them with the knowledge they will later need to navigate the tumultuous and murky (though often fun) world of sexuality…with their mental and physical health and emotional stability in tact.