Sex & Sox

My passions: Sex and the Boston Red Sox!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I <3 Thongs

This is a cut and post of my take on a conversation on a bulletin board I'm a member of, after a bit of chit-chat back and forth between people about teenage girls looking like "sluts" because they wear hip-huggers that expose their thongs, and them talking about how they're going to control their children's clothing and behaviour.

Here goes -- all of this is opinion, of course, a rather strong one, but opinion nonetheless, and I'm certainly not trying to slap people's wrists and tell them they're wrong. I'm simply not that kind of person. Anywhere that I've used "us", "we", and "you", I'm referring to people who are 'adults', in whichever sense of the word you wish to use.

North American culture is uncomfortable with the maturation of its children. There are few rituals we can point towards and say, "Look -- this child is now an adult in the eyes of our community." The nearest thing to this is the Jewish Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and even that has become a commercialized party rather than a spiritual celebration and welcoming.

Do we take our children aside and discuss sexuality with them? Do we celebrate the changes of their body, support their explorations of self, and invite their questions? Do we discuss what sex is ideally? No -- we give them the basics (his thingie goes in your private parts and you can get pregnant) or, worse, leave it to Sex Ed. classes where the environment is one of embarassment and laughter. Having to study and learn these basic physical functions/reactions of your body in a place where you are surrounded by other young adults that have been conditioned to be uncomfortable with themselves is not conducive to a positive experience.

However, as these young adults are exposed to the media, as they invariably are, they learn an entirely new commercialized view of sex and what "being sexy" entails. This sense of sexiness doesn't involve knowing and understanding yourself and your partner(s), but rather the eager pursuit for the pinnacle of perfection.

Teenagers are sexual. We all are. It's a basic, primal fact of human existence. And, instead of letting sex become an issue about which our youth are thoroughly educated, we shroud it in taboo and mystery. What is more intriguing, when one is rebelling, than that which is forbidden? The teens I knew were all practically frothing at the mouth to toss away their virginity on the first likely suitor.

Do we tell our children anything about pleasure? No -- we don't even acknowledge it. Sex is something to be feared, because it can lead to pregnancy and disease.

So then, young adults have sex, and if something goes wrong, or they have questions, their entire upbringing pushes them away from the people who have truthful answers (or know where to get them) -- their parents.
Our culture leaves its youth to discover their sexuality, and what it entails, with no intelligent source of positive, factual information. I think this is a shame.

The cliche goes, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Modified, we can apply this to the situation: "If you can't eradicate it, embrace it." The exploration of such a basic need cannot be eradicated. (I'm reading a book called "The History of Celibacy" right now, so who knows what new kinds of things I'll learn about that particular thought!)

I am certainly not saying to encourage young adults to have sex with anyone that crosses their path. I do feel, however, that we have a responsibility to teach them about it, and not leave that task to others.

As to the entire "revealing" clothing thing, looking at it solely from a female perspective, we have this: teenage girls do not know how to be comfortable with, or in, their growing bodies. If what they're wearing makes them feel sexy and us feel uncomfortable, whose feelings are we more concerned with? Do we exclaim, "Wow, honey, you look really grown-up and beautiful in that!" or do we demand, "Go get changed, you shouldn't be wearing that."

Not being far from a teenager myself, as well as having a sister that age, and being an avid reader of books dealing with any aspect of sexual anthropology, I can confidently say that the latter is certainly damaging to the psyche. You are invalidating your child's sense of self -- but even moreso, teaching her to distrust you and simply hide who she is, what she wears, and how she feels until she has left your sight. The distrust comes from the sense that as a teenaged girl, no, you simply cannot identify with nor confide in your parents.

I feel grateful to have a mother who, while she certainly didn't approve of everything I did, never made me feel ugly or like I couldn't talk to her about something.