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“Oral Sex is the new Goodnight Kiss”

May 30, 2009

I found this article, Teens: Oral Sex and Casual Prostitution No Biggie to be really upsetting. Yes, because of the behaviors the teens are engaging in (especially these forms of casual prostitution), but also because of the way the authors handle it.

It discusses the new documentary “Oral Sex is the new Goodnight Kiss” which reveals a teen culture of parties, sexual favors, and the rise of “casual prostitution,” where girls are exchanging these favors for money, homework, or other rewards. I do find the increase of these trends really troubling, it’s clearly a culture of sexual exploitation which violates and devalues the female body and sexuality. But rather than discussing how this is an iteration of a patriarchal culture of sexual violence permissibility, which is occuring shockingly early, the major issue the authors have is: “oh noes! the girls are have teh sex!”

The article is supposed to be about all teenage sexual activity, but focuses entirely on the girls. In both the video and the article it is mentioned that these are, “typical teenage girls from good middle class families”:

“The prettiest girls from the most successful families [are the most at risk]. We’re not talking about marginalized girls,” she said. “[Parents] don’t want to know because they really don’t know what to do. I mean, you might be prepared to learn that, at age 12, your daughter has had sex, but what are you supposed to do when your daughter has traded her virginity for $1,000 or a new bag?”

Excuse me? Am I supposed to be more upset because these are “the prettiest girls”? Is this just expected behavior from marginalized communities? Is violence against the body of girls of color not shocking, noteworthy or severely damaging? It doesn’t matter which race, class, ethnicity, part of the world women are from, or whether the reporter deems them “good” or “bad”; all forms of sexual violence against the female body is worthy of outrage. Just because the authors are shocked by the fact that these actions are taking in place in white, middle class communities, does not give them the right to allow their ignorance to promote the idea that this type of behavior shouldn’t happen in these communities above all others. And am I wrong, or is their an insinuation that marginalized women aren’t pretty?

The other thing I find really wrong with this article, is that it is entirely focused on the girls, what behavior they are engaging in and at what age. First, because it feels invasive and voyeuristic. While I haven’t figured out a better way, I am constantly upset by how “commentary” on female sexuality often involves the same sexual objectification and shaming as the “real” problems.

Next, I would love to have the authors call out how these males’ behaviors are oppressing and violating female bodies, but no, the major outrage is that girls are having sex at all. By focusing solely on the girls, they are making an assumption that this isn’t a problem for boys. That clearly the boys in the situation are lucky to be receiving sexual favors, that sexual activity this early isn’t negative for males too. Sharlene Azam, the filmmaker, describes why girls might participate in this behavior,

she thinks the “no strings attached” romances could be a defense mechanism against a greater disappointment.

“A lot of girls are disappointed in love,” she said. “And I think they believe they can hook up the way guys do and not care.

“But unfortunately, they do care.”

While it may be true that these girls care too much to be fulfilled by purely sexual relationships, this doesn’t mean that it is not the same for these boys. This assessment reinforces the idea that a young man’s goal should be to have sex, no matter the girl or the situation; that causal sex and hooking up is what’s normal for boys their age, and caring about a relationship is not “the way guys do.” This all plays into this purity myth bullshit which I’m sure you’re aware of.

While the authors don’t posit a solution to the problem, my good friend Melissa does. If teenage girls shouldn’t be having sex, but boys should, why don’t the guys just have sex with each other? Problem solved.

Also see Lisa’s Update post.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. janebejane permalink
    May 30, 2009 11:20 AM

    I agree, when I viewed the video clip, it seemed absolutely absurd how the behavior of young men is not discussed. At all. We were bombarded with examples and statistics of young females, but the role that boys play in this culture went completely unacknowledged.

    I am upset that very young girls are losing their virginity younger and younger for the wrong reasons, but this video clip made all sex for anyone under the age of 18 sound unacceptable, and I just don’t agree with this. If a girl is in a caring, monogamous relationship at the age of sixteen, then why can’t she engage in oral sex? I am much less upset to hear about oral sex than I am to hear about intercourse because I feel like it is an appropriate way to explore sexuality with a lot fewer risks. This whole article and news clip make sex seem like the devil when in actuality, in the right circumstances (and obviously the age varies for everyone), it can be enjoyable and healthy.

  2. Lisa permalink
    May 30, 2009 3:02 PM

    While I agree that some of the statistics from the article and video are alarming, I think I’m most disturbed by the lack of responsibility assigned teenage boys. They say how bad it is that these girls are being paid for sexual favors, but never mention the boys who are pressuring them into prostitution. They mention the social pressures that fall on girls, but don’t even hint at the causes of those pressures. It seems fairly obvious that the teen culture around sex is promoting the idea that the female body is just there for the pleasure of men, and that it is acceptable to pay for the “use” of women’s bodies.

    I also take some issue with their use of the age group 15-19 when giving statistics on oral sex. At 18 or 19 girls are no longer minors, are probably close to graduating from high school (or already graduated), and could even be married. Essentially, they’re adults, so are we condemning the right of adult women to engage in whatever kind of sexual behavior they find acceptable and enjoyable? And are we in general condemning female sexuality as something that is scandalous in all of it’s manifestations? I wholeheartedly agree that a 12 year old girl receiving money in exchange for her virginity is a major problem that needs to be addressed, I don’t think that older teens having oral (or vaginal) sex is as worrisome as they make it out to be. In short:

    teens having sexual encounters = just fine (as long as they’re emotionally and physically safe, establish consent, etc.)

    teen girls being coerced into or paid for sexual acts = deplorable

    • Estaven permalink
      October 1, 2009 4:25 PM

      It seems to me ever since Bill Clinton got head in the White House I have been encountering more and more articles about minor females engaging in oral sex. I am not sure I understand and not being a minor female I don’t think I can relate. But it does occur to me that engaging in oral sex is not an act that any human being engages in without some compelling reason or motivation. I have never thought the male genetalia was an attractive thing and certainly not something I would want to try. So when these girl consentially and voluntarily take a man’s or boy’s privates in their mouth and deal with what is ultimately going to come out there has to be a reason. The question becomes why do women engage in this behavior at all? What do they get out of it that makes them try it, do it again and suggest it to their friends? Rather than look for someone to blame (men) women might try answering these fundamental questions.

  3. Lyndsay permalink
    May 30, 2009 5:00 PM

    Have I missed something or is the only statistic in that article about oral sex for 15-19 year olds? That stat is not surprising. I’ve read half of teens have sex before they graduate high school around 17 or 18 and most of them have done oral sex and some teens have done oral and not intercourse.
    Just because something hasn’t been documented and publicized, doesn’t mean it’s new though it might be. And just because something is publicized, doesn’t mean a lot of teens are doing this. It doesn’t mean it’s the norm. I’d like to see some statistics.

    • janebejane permalink
      May 30, 2009 7:57 PM

      I agree – I was not at all shocked by this statistic!! Especially because, as Lisa wrote above, at 18 or 19, women are out of high school and well on their way to becoming adults. If the ages were 11-15, I would be a little more shocked.

    • Becky permalink
      May 30, 2009 8:37 PM

      I think part of the reason there weren’t more statistics is that the info is coming from a documentary rather than a study. The girls were interviewed over a series of four years, so I think the ages vary more than was represented. Additionally, if you watch the video, you’ll see that they are telling stories about their lives, some from as early as 11 years old.

      While I totally agree with you that 1. It’s fine if teens have sex at these ages as long as it’s safe and consensual 2. oral sex is a safe(r) option, I do still find these statistics problematic. While I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, out of experience it seems that it’s usually the men receiving oral sex and women giving it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with pleasuring your partner, the expectation of oral sex as a very early step in the relationship, and one that is particularly one-sided I think is very damaging. In my middle school, for example, girls were caught giving oral sex to boys in the bathrooms, are school nickname was forevermore “Whoresyth” (off of Forsyth). I do think this behavior is exploitative, and part of phenomenon described in “Female Chauvinist Pigs” where women are taught to equate sex with attention, rather than pleasure.

  4. Lizzie permalink
    May 31, 2009 10:18 AM

    When are we going to realize that to change the culture of horrifying underage sex acts (if casual teen prostitution actually is on the rise, then I would consider that horrifying,) we have to educate our boys about how to treat a girl with respect, not just our girls how to avoid sex (oh no!)

    The culture of sexuality in our country is really fucked up.

  5. Sarah H. permalink
    June 3, 2009 5:50 PM

    I read the article and watched the video before reading your blog and I was concerned about the exact things you were.

    First, its supposed to be about teen sex then they only talk about girls. What about these teenage boys who think its OK to offer a girl money for sex? There are definately two sides to this issue. Well, three if we’re going to count the parents of both parties.

    Then this comment about how teenage girls view sex:

    “A lot of girls are disappointed in love,” she said. “And I think they believe they can hook up the way guys do and not care.

    “But unfortunately, they do care.”’

    Um….thats a pretty BROAD statement. Yes, some teenage girls have issues with confusing sex and love…and some teenage girls may feel like they need to have sex to get love, or they want to feel more grown up, or they feel pressured, or whatever other reasons girls have sex at young ages for…but not ALL teenage girls feel this way. Im sure there are a good number of teenage girls out there who, like *gasp* boys…just want to have sex cause it feels good.

    But a female LIKING sex…thats just ridiculous.

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