(About a 6 minute read)
It is easy to fall for the cliché that ours is the most sexually liberated age in history. It might be actually closer to the truth if we were to think of ourselves as among the most sexually complicated ages in history.
As for sexually liberated, several cultures have at one time or another encouraged or allowed greater sexual freedoms than ours.
For instance, the Mosuo ethnic group, who live near the Tibetan border in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, are a matriarchal people who form pair-bonds (as is ubiquitous to humans) but who have no institution of marriage. Apparently, they don’t have much rape either. Their language lacks a word for it.
Many Native American cultures went well beyond even contemporary liberal Western standards in their acceptance of homosexuality — seeing such people as spiritually blessed.
Prior to the introduction of Western Marxism, traditional Chinese attitudes towards sex could be characterized as “nothing goes in public, everything goes in private”. Although the Han Chinese are a patriarchal people, their ancient wisdom literature often enough advised men to keep their women, “well fed and sexually satisfied”.
The Chinese, after all, were the inventors of perhaps the first known device intended to enhance female sexual pleasure — Ben Wa balls. While I would bet it was the women who invented the balls, I doubt you will find much Chinese wisdom literature opposed to their use.
I do not believe it can be reasonably argued that ours is the most sexually liberated age in human history. At least not by many measures. But perhaps it can be argued that ours is the most complicated.
What else to call an age in which most young women feel free to have sex without shame, but not equally free to demand to be pleasured?
Or what else to call an age that seems to increasingly understand and accept the right of adults to nearly any kind of consensual sex, but can’t seem to figure out something so basic as the stupidity and obscenity of promoting and exploiting the sexualization of young girls, teens, and adult women?
About that last point, one has to be careful to be clear about what is meant by “sexualization”. To sexualize someone is to reduce them to a sex object. It is to strip them of everything that they are as an individual and a human except their sexuality.
Sexualzation is very much kin to, say, racism and antisemitism. Racism intrinsically involves the reduction of someone to no more than their skin color. Antisemitism, to their ethnic group. Sexualization, to their sexuality.
So, for instance, if you were to sexualize your friend Naomi, then you would treat her as if all that mattered to you about her were such things as whether she was willing to sleep with you, whether she wore revealing clothing, whether she would pose for raunchy photos, etc. You would not care much at all whether she was a kind person, an intelligent person, a good humored person, etc — unless those things could be seen by you in some kind of sexual light.
Sexualization is not seeing someone as sexy. It’s only seeing them as sexy. That’s sexualization in a nutshell.
It’s bad enough that adults are sexualized, it’s worse that teens are, and it’s obscene that even children are these days. At least that’s how I see it. But this is a big world. Plenty of people are perfectly cool with it. Some don’t even see it as an issue.
Now, what makes it so easy to misunderstand sexualization is that teenage girls and women tend to play around with their new-found sexuality in experimental ways that seem — that appear — to be them sexualizing themselves.
They put on nuclear levels of make-up, wear revealing clothing, rub up against their boyfriends in school hallways, wildly swing their butts while walking — and that’s just for starters. When I was in high school, the valedictorian of my class, Vanessa, delighted in teasing her closer male friends by sucking on their little fingers. That was the closest some of us came to a decently exciting blowjob in years.
All of those things all too often give casual observers the impression the girls themselves want to be sexualized. Of course, nothing really is further from commonsense than to suppose most teenage girls want to be thought of and treated like mere meat.
Quite the opposite in fact. Most of them on one level or another wish they were Marylin Monroe. Not so much the actress herself as her reputation. They want to be thought of as exuding captivating sexiness. As least that’s how I see it.
It is almost a requirement, it is almost a law of nature, that a teenage girl must go feral for awhile, must lose her sexual domesticity for a period, lose it in order to mature into a functional adult.
And can you blame the girls? I mean, what kind of fool does it take to blame adolescent girls for trying to learn about their sexuality and its effect on the boys (and/or everyone) through a process of trial and error experimentation?
Oh, I don’t know what kind of fool it takes. Maybe a prude? Maybe a concerned moral crusader? Maybe a politician? Maybe a patriarch? Maybe an Incel? Maybe a damn fool?
Blaming adolescent girls for playing around with their new-found sexuality makes no more sense than it would make sense to blame the boys for flexing their new-found muscles. Basically, those girls are doing nothing worse, nor anything that’s more immoral, than learning how to attract the mate of their choice.
But Jane Basil puts it better in her poem, The First Rehearsal. Here are a couple stanzas:
smoking stolen ciggies like pros,
noses pressed against a future we think has arrived,
music in our ears, eyes wide closed.
We’re subtle as a scream,
cool as pyromania,
a fool’s wet dream of creamy thighs and wild abandon.
Virgin blueprints of sin;
aces who play Queens of seduction,
we throw jokers over our shoulders
if fingers reach to hook our knickers, since
is our first rehearsal.
April and me are both fifteen,
luscious, delicious, any chef would recommend us.
We’re poised to rule the Universe,
There’s no more you can teach us;
the dress rehearsal.
In a comment on her poem, Jane states:
“I hate it when I see a couple of small kids enjoying noisy play and someone walks past and says “Bloody kids. Why doesn’t someone shut them up?” We were all kids once, and then we were all youths. I love to watch the joy and chaos of humans growing up.”
That seems to me a much more commonsense attitude to take to the sexual expression of teenage girls than high-handed and self-righteous condemnation. But don’t get me wrong. I’m all for telling the kids to be a bit careful, helping them understand when they’re coming across as genuinely sexy and when they’re coming across as mere meat, or encouraging them to think of themselves as more than sex objects. I’m all for that. But just let us not listen to those fools who condemn them for a natural flexing of their sexuality.