Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Selling Youth Sexuality
The title of an On Point radio show with Tom Ashbrook. Except that the show is about selling teenage girls' sexual availability, not about selling youth sexuality. It has to do with Glee and those GQ pictures of the two female actors dressed as porn starlets while still being dressed for their roles as teenage girls at school. Ashbrook had several experts on the show, all women.
I listened to the whole show while cleaning the kitchen. I'd scrub the stove top while waiting for the obvious to be said. It never was said. I washed the fridge while euphemisms flew around the room, coming from that radio program, and I scrubbed the floor with the anger it all developed.
You may not wish to listen to the whole show to see what made me so furious, and perhaps you wouldn't be furious at all, because the causes of my anger are not blatantly obvious but rather something lurking in the shadows of an otherwise well-lit room.
The show wasn't bad in terms of addressing the pressure for even tiny girls to dress as if they were looking for someone to give a blow-job to, and it wasn't bad in terms of pointing out that there should be more to the female life than that, even after the girl grows up and turns into an adult woman. Indeed, my guess is that the pron-lovers would find the show quite disconcerting.
But two things made my eyes light up and blink red.
The first, and lesser one, had to do with all those euphemisms, beginning with the title of the show and this line in the blurb: "We look at the debate over kids and marketed sex."
Then one of the experts argued that teenage girls always have had to learn how to cope with "male attention" on the street and to "negotiate" it. That, my friends, is an euphemism for street harassment. It's just something that happens and women must learn to negotiate it successfully, in order to get home in one piece, I guess.
Because, really, what teenage girls must learn to do is to deal with the power they have over men! The sexual power. This power can be turned on and off, naturally, and every teenage girl will be completely safe if she just says no to everyone finding her erection-inducing!
Now, I'm not saying that sexuality wouldn't have a power aspect or an attraction aspect. But possessing that kind of power is a bit like possessing an expensive diamond necklace. It can simply be taken from you. It's not always the kind of power which makes other people do what you wish them to do.
And what about the sexual power of teenage boys? Ashbrook tried a few times to draw out comments on the effect of all this (the soft-pron pictures in GQ) on teenage boys, but the only answer he got was that it's like the boys' dreams turned into flesh! That's where the boys were left, just learning that girls are sexual receptacles, and nobody seemed to have a problem with that.
This brings me to the second ire-causing aspect of the show: That invisible elephant again. This time sexuality was all about what teenage girls do and what their parents might be able to do to talk them into something else than porn starlet outfits.
Nobody else was asked to change anything at all! Pron would still determine what an attractive woman or girl should look like and what she is expected to do, and sexual harassment on the streets is something that every woman must learn to negotiate. Places like GQ would offer soft-pron pictures of actresses pretending to be teenagers to adult men but we would somehow block teenagers from seeing them. Or from watching pron in general.
All this reminds me of the advice women get on how to prevent rape. Both focus on individual solutions aimed at the victim and leave the rest of the picture the same.
But that wasn't the only odd thing about this program (and many, many others like it). As I scrubbed I started thinking that surely the experts would soon tell me at what age teenage girls become fair game for the pron culture, that they'd finally tell us at what age teenage boys can start watching the hard-core pron on the Internet.
Because the system itself was left completely untouched in the discussion. Only the age at which one should enter it was debated.