Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Girls and Sex, Did You Know?


This morning I chatted with a young (probably mid-twenties) woman about some of the findings I gleaned from Peggy Orenstein's book, Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape and The Porn Phenomenon report put out by Barna Group.  As we talked, she shared my deep concerns over the high incidence of porn use by young adults and its creation of unrealistic expectations saying: "You wouldn't believe what guys expect now," and "I'm not comfortable with some of what they want." Fortunately for her, she has the confidence and values that empower her to uphold her convictions. But according to Orenstein's book that's rare. Many girls go along to get along, and in the process large numbers of young women are disassociating themselves from their feelings and missing out on the joy of a genuine love relationship. Not to mention severely damaging their self-esteem in the process.

Pop culture validates the approach of using sex to initiate relationships rather than as a major step toward intimacy in a long-term committed relationship. A recent episode of "Chicago Fire" depicted this aspect of the new sexual landscape described by Orenstein. Blonde paramedic, Sylvie Brett, developed a romantic interest in Dawson's detective brother (Antonio on Chicago P.D.). Unless I missed something they had only had a drink together before she shows up unexpectedly at his door wearing a trench coat. As I recall, the first words out of her mouth were: "I'm a good girl." While walking into his apartment, she adamantly states: "I didn't even kiss a boy until I was 17." Intrigued, he says, "Okay?" She then adds: "As for sex -- " and he finishes her sentence with respect and no obvious disappointment, "I get it. You want to save it for marriage." She replies with a devilish grin: "Hell no," as she opens the trench coat revealing the sexy lingerie she's wearing.

Of course Antonio couldn't have been more delighted and their sexual escapade kicks their relationship into high gear. I can't help but wonder what if I'd been watching this show with my daughter? What would I have said?

Being informed about what's going on can help us ask questions and hopefully respond with life experience that teaches how men value a girl who has not slept around. How fantasy experiences as portrayed in the media seldom work out with happy endings in real life. Rather as Orenstein's book indicates those types of casual experiences (often when a girl has had too much to drink) usually lead to heartbreak. Though Orenstein for all intents and purposes ignores this reality in her best-selling book--that's because there is no commitment. Respect and trust have not developed. The relationship has no foundation to build on.

Add in the problems with porn and according to a Time magazine article in last April 11th's issue, men who become frequent users often can't even perform when it matters. "Porn: Why young men who grew up with Internet porn are becoming advocates for turning it off" by Belinda Luscombe explains that: "there are much broader concerns about porn's effect on society that go beyond the potential for sexual dysfunction, including the fact that it often celebrates the degradation of women and normalizes sexual aggression." (p. 42).

Women contribute to these problems by supporting blockbuster films and books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Entertainers like Beyonce, Usher, and Rihanna further convince young people that sex is the ultimate achievement. Sometimes the lyrics even glamorize trafficking. Yet all too often we cheer these so-called "artists" and spend our entertainment dollars to support them.

If we're going to complain about the objectification of women, we've got to complain about all of it--whether it involves our country's leaders or Hollywood or the guy down the street. Either we're for it or against it. There's no middle ground. Girls and women are not objects. That's the message we must give our children if future generations are to have any hope of healthy relationships. It's no wonder sexual assaults are rampant on college campuses. The predominantly white college girls Orenstein interviewed often couldn't even define whether or not they had been raped. And one in four either had or will be.

What about those in poorer economic groups? Aren't they at all the more risk of being convinced they should get paid for casual sex if they're "doing it" anyway? If they've already been used and abused until they've disassociated from their feelings, why not?

Do you have ideas for how to stop the objectification of women? Please click on "No comments" and share them. We're all in this together and for the sake of our young people, this cultural climate doesn't just need to be navigated--it needs to change.

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