Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Caitlin Flanagan on American Girls' Knees (Teenage Oral Sex)

Caitlin Flanagan reviews Rainbow Party
by Paul Ruditis, a young adult book that takes place on a single day, in which a tough little sophomore named Gin issues invitations to a party at which she and five of her friends will perform oral sex on the lucky guests, a group of popular boys. The girls will each wear a different color of lipstick, so that when a boy has completed the circuit, his penis will bear the colors of the rainbow. The party is to take place after school, to last about an hour and a half -- including time for chitchat -- and to conclude before Gin's father returns home from work.

In her review, the consistently thoughful writer for Atlantic Monthly, asks lots of pertinent questions like
How, exactly, in the course of thirty years, did we get from Katherine to Gin? How did we go from a middle-class teenage girl (fictional but broadly accurate) who will have sex only if it's with her boyfriend, and only if her pleasure is equal to his, to a middle-class teenage girl (a gross media caricature reflective of an admittedly disturbing trend) who wants to kneel down and service a series of boys? Katherine and her mother (who still enjoys a pleasurable sex life with her husband) represent two points on a continuum. In the mother's generation sex was contained by marriage; in the daughter's it was contained by love and relationships. The next point on this progression ought to be a girl who feels that nothing save her own desire should control her choice of sexual partners. Instead we see a group of young girls who have in effect turned away from their own desire altogether and have made of their sexuality something that fulfills all sorts of goals, but not the one paramount to Katherine and her mother: that it be sexually gratifying to themselves.

She also discusses the American's media obsession with teenage oral sex (which is girl on boy - where are the feminsts of the Story of O now?) as
It's a no-miss formula: descriptions of young girls performing oral sex that are so luridly specific as to seem pedophilic in the adults' retelling, coupled with stern warnings to parents that their daughters are in harm's way. All of which misses a less alarming but more poignant fact. What's most worrisome about this age of blasé blowjobs isn't what the girls might catch (one can contract an STD through oral sex alone; however, the risk is lower than for most other forms of sexual transmission), it's what the girls are almost certainly losing: a healthy emotional connection to their own sexuality and their own desire. In this context all the unflinching medico-sexual naughty talk is but a cowardly evasion of a more insidious problem -- one resistant to penicillin.

She then goes on
Blowjob nation has also been blamed on "abstinence only" sex-education programs. In this line of thinking the evil Republicans have made such a fetish of the intact hymen that teenagers -- parsing the term "sexual abstinence" with Jesuitical precision -- have decided to substitute oral sex for intercourse, thereby preserving their technical virginity. I'm no fan of these programs. In light of advances in birth control and the economic advisability of delaying marriage until after the college years, sexual purity seems a goal best advanced by those religions that advocate it, not by our public schools. But even if "abstinence" is at stake, why would girls voluntarily turn to giving blowjobs? Whatever happened to the hand job? Whither the dry hump? Why do girls prefer the far more debasing, uncomfortable, and messy blowjob? And why are they apparently giving them out so indiscriminately? These are questions that none of the usual suspects can answer.

Wherever there's a girl gone wild, there's a gender-studies professor not far behind, eager to blame her actions on the patriarchy.

She ends with

I believe that we are raising children in a kind of post-apocalyptic landscape in which no forces beyond individual households -- individual mothers and fathers -- are protecting children from pornography and violent entertainment. The "it takes a village" philosophy is a joke, because the village is now so polluted and so desolate of commonly held, child-appropriate moral values that my job as a mother is not to rely on the village but to protect my children from it.

I am old-fashioned enough to believe that men and boys are not as likely to be wounded, emotionally and spiritually, by early sexual experience, or by sexual experience entered into without romantic commitment, as are women and girls. I think that girls are vulnerable to great damage through the kind of sex in which they are, as individuals, as valueless and unrecognizable as chattel. Society has let its girls down in every possible way. It has refused to assert -- or even to acknowledge -- that female sexuality is as intricately connected to kindness and trust as it is to gratification and pleasure. It's in the nature of who we are.

We've made a world for our girls in which the pornography industry has become increasingly mainstream, in which Planned Parenthood's response to the oral-sex craze has been to set up a help line, in which the forces of feminism have worked relentlessly to erode the patriarchy -- which, despite its manifold evils, held that providing for the sexual safety of young girls was among its primary reasons for existence. And here are America's girls: experienced beyond their years, lacking any clear message from the adult community about the importance of protecting their modesty, adrift in one of the most explicitly sexualized cultures in the history of the world. Here are America's girls: on their knees.

Apologies for the crazed cut n' pasting but Flanagan says it very well.
I'm going to post my review of Female Chauvinist Pigs later on this evening after I do a bit of college related study!



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