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Teens, Virginities & Misogyny #ThoughtProvokingThirstTrap

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

See attachment for the tweets I'm referencing

TW//sexual violence

First of all, research around what is typically called teens’ sexual debuts (aka their first sexual experiences) are cis-

heteronormative af – meaning most academic discussions about “early” sexual encounters (typically defined as before the age of 15), no matter the context, are limited. Secondly, the majority of research about “early” sexual debuts are informed by the goal to prove there are negative side effects (ie. many are not aiming to research, generally, what children and teens’ experiences are) – this skews the research entirely. Additionally, it often isn’t stated in research what comes first (ex. it may say that teens with “early” sexual debuts have emotional problems but it fails to mention if they were because of the sexual debut or if they preceded it).

Further, most of the research does not included an in-depth analysis about socialization (RE: the “meaning of sex”, why people jump to coercion if it’s a teen girl versus a teen boy) or oppression (RE: patriarchy, classism, etc.). Or how those things contribute to people’s, children and teens included, attitudes around sex. Parents are also often overlooked. Namely, parenting style, values, etc. and how those preface teens’ understanding of sex, sexuality, autonomy, etc. FUCKING FURTHER, neither of those tweets and most of the research fail to address how children, teens or adults can engage sex and their bodies if they are, in fact, survivors – meaning, that nuance is either completely ignored or being a survivor is framed as the end of a person’s sexual life, specifically their sexual satisfaction.

So, let’s just unpack some of this, in no particular order.

a) There is no “right time” to start engaging in sex behaviors. The closest thing we can get to a “right” time is when children and teens have solid politics, at the least, around consent, autonomy, sex equity, anatomy and rape culture. This means giving children and teens access to quality sex education that includes discussions about pleasure and masturbation. Limiting sex education to reproduction is reductive and absolutely does not help kids approach sex from a realistic or ethical manner – it means they’ll likely rely on porn for examples of “pleasure.”

This also means parents have to unpack their own shit around sex, sexuality, etc. so that they can have an ongoing safe space for communication with their kids about sex STARTING FROM DAY ONE. Ongoing means, when you’re teaching your toddler body parts, you’re not skipping penis, vagina, breasts, anus. It means not being ashamed of your own body or sex life because children pick up on that shit. It means answering questions when your children ask and when you don’t know the answer saying, “you know what, I don’t know the answer but if it’s okay with you we can find out together.”

This means listening to your toddler when they say “no more kisses” and teaching them to ask their little friends for hugs because, “consent is asking for permission.” It means constantly unpacking gender roles with them and affirming the exploration of their own gender. It means avoiding a knee-jerk reaction when you see your child fondling themselves and saying, “it’s okay to explore and celebrate your body however this is something you do in private” (hello, boundary setting). It means discussing with them the importance of equity in a manner that they’ll understand, in a way that can evolve as they become more active – this can start with teaching empathy and how to create safe spaces for their friends to disclose info to them (something they can mirror if you’re doing that with them already). This means ensuring your language, values, etc. support everything you’re teaching them – that it’s ok if Mom enjoys her body. That Mom isn’t making statements about girls being “fast” or that Mom isn’t asking things like, “what was she wearing?”

There is no “right” time, however, children and teens that have tools, language and a solid sense-of-self have a better chance of making safer decisions that are in their favor when THEY are ready (as opposed to being peer-pressured or when YOU think they should) and the ability to rebound from unwanted situations because they have you as an unwavering support system.

b) Ok, so to reference the tweet from @TheBlackLayers let’s start with: the center of your conversation need not be “coercion and abuse.” Even if that is what’s going on, your first approach to the discussion needs to be listening. If your knee-jerk reaction is to interrogate, you better believe your child doesn’t trust you as a confidant and they also aren’t finna tell you shit. Active listening, folks. Unfortunately, if there isn’t already an established safe space it may be difficult to have this conversation – which is why it is so important to work on that from jump – however, reminding your child you’re available if they want to talk, actively showing you can listen without judging, and taking an interest beyond listening for things to lecture about are good places to start.

As far as you, the parent, YOU NEED TO UNPACK YOUR SHIT. Kids can read the fuck out of you. If you’re uncomfortable and afraid of appearing uncomfortable, IT SHOWS. If you’re ashamed, if you’re full of rage, if you’re unsure, etc. it all shows. And, while experiencing any of those feelings/emotions is fine, it’s important how you manage them both individually and with your child.

So, what comes up for you? You, reading this, what is the first thing that came up for you when you imagined a 12-year-old girl engaging in sex? What feeling? Name it. What messages and meanings do you assign to this/her? What’s being triggered? What’s your internal voice saying? Additionally, reflect on how socialization and oppression inform your thoughts. Is what you’re thinking a result of misogyny? Patriarchy? Transphobia? Unpack all of this. You will be little help to your kids if you’re too triggered to process THEIR shit with them. If you want your kids to be emotionally intelligent, productive communicators, etc. you need to set an example.

c) Ok, boom, so the tweet @Lexi4prez wrote. LOL. First of all, wtf is mainstream feminism? What is hyper sexuality? What is promiscuous? The reality is, mainstream feminism is White FeminismTM and those bitches are wearing pink pussy hats, voting for Trump and are highkey married to cishet men whose power they are invested in maintaining. So…

The section of our culture, whether you want to align it with feminism or not, that encourages sexual liberation is a direct result of years of (and continuous) violent removal of women’s autonomy. Sexual liberation is necessary and important. It is the OPPOSITE of patriarchal values which rely on men’s ownership of women and women’s purity to define worth. Sexual liberation is, “whatever the fuck you do is fine because your body belongs to you.” And there is no mainstream movement of sexual liberation that overpowers gender roles, traditional values and purity (ie. patriarchy) WHICH ARE THE THINGS DAMAGING YOUNG GIRLS. Teaching girls they have autonomy is not damaging.

Now, we could talk about the hyper-sexualization of women and women’s bodies. We could talk about how patriarchy informs the objectification of women. We could talk about how patriarchy’s view of women and non-men, as a model for sex and sexuality, can be damaging (to young girls) because it centers the male gaze. We could talk about risk-taking behaviors in young girls who don’t have the language or wherewithal to understand how their behaviors are centering the male gaze. We could talk about how risk-taking behaviors can lead to unsafe situations that leave young girls more vulnerable to (more) harm. We could talk about how unresolved trauma in literally anyone can lead to more risk-taking behaviors, lower self-esteem, unhealthy coping mechanisms, etc. We could talk about how patriarchy socializes, allows and encourages boys and men to be violent.

Like… there are so many productive directions that tweet could have gone but alas here we are.

d) The last thing I want to address (honestly, I could keep writing about this forever) is that these conversations erase that MANY OF US are or have engaged in sex that is a result of sexual violence. Children. Teens. Adults. Queer folx. The straights. That is not exclusive to young girls. Many of us are engaging in sex that is unethical. That is a matter of fact statement that needs to be said separately because then that pattern/culture can be acknowledged and we can focus on how to change it.

Changing that can be giving teens the language to negotiate ethical sexual debuts. It can be giving adults the tools to gauge how unresolved trauma informs their current sexual scenarios. It can be reminding cis women that we can engage in harmful and violent (sex) behaviors towards our partners. It can be reminding queer men that the idea that men are “inherently sexual” is bullshit and doesn’t need to push them into unwanted sexual scenarios. And so on and so fucking forth.


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Raquel Savage

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