Monday, June 15, 2009

Hey Kids, Have Lots of Sex -- It's What Your Parents Did at Your Age

From AlterNet:

Yesterday, NPR sounded the alarm that "hooking up" is replacing "dating" for college students and twentysomethings and that this is very bad.

What is this "dating culture" of which they speak, that some long for, even in college? We didn't have it in the '70s, not really. Yo, NPR, I was there.

Then, as now, college was an environment where you were surrounded by peers, single, all coming of age, reaching or reaching for adulthood, exploring their sexuality.

Kids today -- meaning precocious high-schoolers, college students and twentysomethings -- hang out, go to dance parties, clubs and bars … drink, dance, try to meet people to whom they're sexually interested, and hook up, which might include fucking.

We -- meaning old people who went to high school and college in the 1970s -- hung out, went to mixers, clubs and bars … drank, tried to meet people to whom we were sexually attracted in order to make out, and sometimes fuck.

More here.

Back in '97 when I was getting certified to teach, I took part in one of many class discussions about about teens and sexuality: one of my classmates, a fortysomething woman, asserted that teenagers "have no business having sex." I was so shocked by this Puritanical attitude, and the chorus of agreement it received, that I found myself in a state that is usually rare for me, speechlessness. What the fuck does that mean, teenagers "have no business having sex"? I mean, for chrissakes, nature has designed human bodies such that teens are all about having sex!!!! Hormones and sex drives are at their peak during teenage years. To assert that teens "have no business having sex" is the height of absurdity.

It's probably just as well that I kept my mouth shut. Arguing with absurdity is automatically a losing proposition. Perhaps I should have tried belittling this point of view, arrogantly dismissing such country-fuck "arguments" as fucking stupid. After all, these anti-sex types usually respond well to harsh authority.

Anyway, the point is that thirty years after the sexual revolution, many Americans continue to be scared as hell of sex, and many of those sex-cowards occupy positions of influence--teachers, journalists, politicians, and of course, clergy continue to preach their sex-the-bad-monster messages even though they obviously have no fucking idea what they're talking about. This cultural oddity, the notion that sex is somehow unsavory and bad, is clearly the drive behind widespread "abstinence based" sex education programs, which downplay safe sex attitudes while pushing Puritanism, which results in unwanted pregnancy and STD transmission.

Meanwhile, Americans do what human beings have always done. They "hook up." Personally, I only see two detrimental ramifications here, and they have far more to do with the cultural landscape in which people have sex than with the sex itself. First, as mentioned above, young people having sex without good sex education are waaaay more likely to engage in risky behavior. Second, the capitalist media exploitation of sexuality tends to make youths more likely to value themselves in terms of their sexuality disproportionate to other important personal attributes, that is, boys who sport-fuck, and girls who chronically slut themselves out, which are psychologically harmful if understood as the sole source of self-esteem.

But this is about a sexually sick culture, not about sex being sick. Really, when establishment figures lament all the sex kids are having, they're talking about how fucked up the establishment is, and using the young as easy scapegoats. The real challenge for teens and twentysomethings today is figuring out how to navigate a sensible course between our malevolent bipolar cultural extremes on sexuality, Puritanism and exploitation, rather than avoiding casual sex.

In short, sex is fucking great. It is deeply embedded in our very identities as human beings. Everybody should have sex, even young people. Just be smart about it. And that's something that the schools could really help kids do. If only we had the social will.