When I saw the ABC article “Teens: Oral Sex and Casual Prostitution No Biggie” I figured it would be some moral panic bullshit about how every 13 year-old girl in America is blowing convicts for coke money. These things are always crap, but this one is uniquely aggressive in its incitement. The video won’t embed, but you can watch it here. The story is about a new documentary by Sharlene Azam called (I kid you not) Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss. In the film, Azam apparently interviews teenage girls who tell stories about having oral sex and some having sex or flashing for money.
So first, the slightly crazier prostitution claim. Azam says that prostitution is a serious problem for rich suburban girls.”The prettiest girls from the most successful families [are the most at risk]. We’re not talking about marginalized girls,” Azam says. If we want to know about underage prostitution and who is most vulnerable, we could A. look at the FBI crime reports or B. talk to a few teenagers on camera and just generalize. Behind door A: the 1995 FBI Uniform Crime Report found that five percent of underage prostitution happened in the suburbs. 81 percent was in the city. Azam isn’t kidding when she says she’s not talking about marginalized girls. But ABC probably won’t interview filmmakers who shine a light on the exploitation of young women of color in the cities, so let’s freak the fuck out over what “pretty” high schoolers from “successful families” are doing. It’s such a crass attempt to cause panic, she might as well have named her film “Your Daughter Is A Prostitute.” So Azam is wrong, racist and classist. Next.
I’m really sick of the panic over oral sex. The ABC interviewer says roughly “Remember when we were teens, we were scared of a goodnight kiss, well teens now have moved way past that.” When you were a teen, in a Leave It to Beaver? You grew up in the fucking 70’s or 80’s, please don’t talk to us about sexual promiscuity. My favorite study to pull out in the oral sex debate is this one from the Guttmacher Institute. Here’s what it says,

Comparison of 2002 NSFG [National Study of Family Growth] data to surveys from the early and mid 1990s such as the 1991 National Survey of Men, the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, and 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males finds little change in oral sex among opposite sex partners over the past decade for young women, 18-24 year old, or adolescent men, 15-19 years…

Panic! If anyone (besides Jess Valenti) actually wanted to discuss the commodification of virginity and media depictions of young women, there are plenty of us who’d welcome it. But provoking panic in suburban mothers (aren’t they jumpy enough?) by telling them that their daughters are prostitutes is reprehensible. It’s exploiting underage sexuality and more than anything it’s gross. Nowhere do the interviewer or Azam talk about female teen agency at all, but here’s what one teen they interviewed had to say,

“I mean, we’re not looking for our future husbands,” one girl said. “We’re just looking for, maybe like … at our age, especially, I think all of us, both sexes, we have a lot of urges, I guess, that need to be taken care of. So if we resort to a casual thing, no strings attached, it’s perfectly fine.”

But no, she must be covering up for some girly insecurity.

Azam said she thinks the “no strings attached” romances could be a defense mechanism against a greater disappointment. “A lot of girls are disappointed in love,” she said. “And I think they believe they can hook up the way guys do and not care. “But unfortunately, they do care.”

You know girls, always crying over boys and such. All they want is Prince Charming, so they’ll trade oral sex for jewelry. Uh huh. Scared yet? Remember we’re talking about rich white girls here.

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