(I apologize to anyone who is offended by this photo, but it is a perfect example of the sexual environment today's teens are living in)
I attended a
late-1980’s and what high school students were doing and saying 25 years ago
wasn’t puritanical or demure, that’s for sure. Catholic
What was different back then was if you “messed-around” or “experimented” in consensual sexual activities with someone a little younger or a little older than you, prosecution by the state wasn’t likely. If it did happen it was likely because of an angry mother or father wanted to stop the relationship and destroy the participant who wasn’t their child. And if charges were filed and a conviction was handed down the “offender” wouldn’t have been branded with the scarlet letter of “Registered Sex Offender” for the rest of their life. Today they would be.
It’s now 2014 and teens today live in an even more sexual world than I did 25 years ago when Madonna was singing “Like a Virgin” and big hair, eyeliner and spandex mini skirts were the norm. Teens are inundated by television, movies, advertisements and music of teens having sex, talking about all kinds of sex, pregnancy and dressing sexy, so in turn they are a reflection of their environment.
I reflect on when I was a teenager and I wonder if there had been a Sex Offender Registry how many of my friends, classmates and ex-boyfriends would have been placed on it? I believe a lot more than our parents would have ever expected. But were they a threat to society, were they criminals, did they need to go to prison, to bear the burden of being a felon and the stigma of being a Sex Offender? No.
Today I came across an article from a month ago about how parents and society have raised boys versus girls over the last 20 years in an overly sexualized world and with the on-slot of the Internet, social media and cell phones having cameras what are the results? Below are the points that caught my attention in this multi-page article:
Clearly, girls aren't the only ones struggling with modern adolescence--but at least most girls have developed the vocabulary to talk about the connection between sex and relationships, and they usually have an adult who believes it's critical to their health and safety to have those conversations. Many boys don't have that. Often, all they get are stern warnings based on the assumption that their overpowering sex drive makes them thoughtless or irresponsible.
"Well, they say things like 'Try to think with your other head. The bigger one,'" Ian Davis, 19, told me at a group discussion I held in a classroom at his high school in a small town east of
. "When I'm walking out
the door," another boy told me, "without fail, my mother will say,
'Don't bring me back any grandbabies.'" Columbus,
Treating boys as emotionally illiterate has costs. It shames them into hiding how much they want meaningful connections in their intimate relationships and leaves them unprepared to process their feelings--or convinces them they can't go to anyone for support when they're in pain.
Developmental psychologist Andrew Smiler has spent decades studying masculinity and adolescents. "We've been teaching girls for two generations to be in charge of their own sexuality, their desires," Smiler says. "But we're still teaching boys the same things we did 20 years ago ... that they are supposed to be the pursuers. But the world has changed around them."
But for anyone who wants to read the entire article it’s below and it’s worth a read.
What Boys Want
Hook-up culture doesn't just hurt girls. An examination of who is actually falling behind amid parental panicBy Rosalind Wiseman December 2, 2013
Eighteen-year-old Dre Gambrell doesn't look like the sentimental type. A defensive tackle at Potomac Falls High, he's a big athlete at a big, diverse 1,600-student school in
A guy like Dre doesn't have to look too hard for a date, but not long ago he
fell for a girl who wasn't in his usual universe--a pretty girl, a friend of a
friend from another school. He tried to get to know her, but their
conversations stalled. So Dre thought he'd do something creative to impress
her: "I went on Instagram and took some of her pictures and made a cute
little collage and told her I was going to make it my phone wallpaper so I
could have something to think about her every day." Her reaction was not
what he expected. It was something along the lines of "Ewww ... That's
creepy as hell. Why would you do that?" Dre backed off, but now every time
he happens to see her, she still makes fun of the collage.
Dre is complicated. While he's capable of romantic gestures and feeling the sting of rejection, he's also capable of sophisticated manipulation. Sometimes, as he explains it, he'll ask girls to send him pictures of themselves partly undressed, and not for the reason one might expect. "If the girl lies a lot, goes around saying she doesn't like me ... I'll have that picture of her," he says. In an environment where looking as if you've been rejected in front of your friends is tough to stomach, the images are insurance. Sometimes, Dre says, he'll ask for a picture just to see if a girl will send it.
Such is the code of Boy World--a place where the rules of courtship shift by the hour and the Internet can accelerate any teen impulse to the speed of light. As an entire generation of parents panics about hookup culture and its effect on their daughters, it's easy to write off the emotional lives of boys. (Even the word hookup is fraught with ambiguity; it can refer to any kind of physical intimacy ranging from kissing to intercourse, though among high school kids it's less likely to be the latter.) Boys often wind up portrayed as either opportunistic perpetrators of the worst sexual behaviors or thoughtless beneficiaries of an era in which boys get sex and girls get hurt.
But is that really what boys want?
As the mother of two boys who's worked with teens for more than 20 years--and having previously written a book about girls' interior lives and social dynamics--I wanted to delve deeper. So I spent two years researching my new book to better understand boys and the challenges they face. I explored the latest research, talking to experts and examining studies in fields ranging from psychology to the neuroscience of how boys' brains are wired. I also worked with and interviewed pediatricians, occupational therapists and learning specialists. But--most critically--I conducted detailed ongoing conversations with hundreds of boys and young men across the
(Straight and gay boys
participated. I saw their issues as intertwined, and I focused on how
homophobia and the performance aspect of masculinity affect both straight and
gay boys.) This cross section of teens I spoke with came from places as varied
as elite East Coast academies and U.S. New Orleans
charter schools, working-class towns in the Midwest and upper-middle-class Southern California suburbs. What I found was striking.
First, to get it out of the way: of course boys want sex, and they spend a lot of time thinking about it. (Let's remember: so do girls.) More surprisingly, though, I found that teen boys face many of the same challenges and are longing for many of the same things as girls: they fall in love easily, get their hearts broken and have very mixed feelings about the hypersexualized culture in which they live; they hunger to be more open about their feelings, both with their families and with their male friends, though they exist in a culture that discourages such emotional openness; and they desperately want to maintain their social position among their guy friends, regardless of the cost to them or others.
While some of these problems are eternal, the landscape for boys has been changing in significant ways. A culture of sexual liberation and empowerment for girls and young women has left boys (and their parents) largely at sea. The rise of digital communication has opened up new ways for boys to express themselves to girls, with a scary and complicated lack of established rules. And the very idea of hookup culture (whether or not teen sexual behavior has really changed all that much in recent decades) has altered how boys see their female peers. As many boys are left to process these cultural changes on their own, lacking many of the communication skills girls have in spades, they appear to be paying the price for this deficit in elevated rates of depression and falling levels of academic achievement.
What's Changed--and What Hasn't
Looking at the data on adolescents and relationships, it's surprising how much overlap there is between boys and girls--and how little things have changed in the past few decades on key issues like when most teens lose their virginity.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that promotes reproductive health and rights, only 16% of teens have had sex by age 15, and there is little difference between the genders in the age of first intercourse. In 2012 the birthrate among teens dropped to the lowest level in the 73 years the government has been collecting these data, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It's now less than half what it was in 1991. Among students in grades 9 through 12 nationwide, the percentage who say they've ever had sexual intercourse actually decreased from 1991 to 2011, to 47.4% from 54.1%.
Despite our culture's recent focus on girls and their self-esteem, it's actually boys whose emotional and academic lives have been suffering. A working paper this summer from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that from the 1980s to the 2000s, the mode (that is, statistically, the value that appeared most often) of girls' high school GPA distribution shifted from B to A, essentially leaving boys behind, as the mode of boys' GPA distribution stayed at B. College enrollment has followed the same pattern. Whereas 58% of college students in 1970 were men, by 2010, 57% of college students were women, according to a recent study by Harvard's Graduate School of Education. The same study found that women are now also more likely than men to earn college degrees and to enroll in graduate school, making up 60% of grad students.