Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Let's Talk About Girls

Warning: this post includes frank discussion of sexuality, including heterosexuality.

If you've ploughed through all the comments on my last post and are thinking 'enough already!', you'd best skip this post and come back when things lighten up a bit.
One aspect I touched on in my replies was the greater concern that a patriarchal society has for the protection of teenage boys than of girls. I believe this attitude in a male-dominated society is due to a combination of misogyny and homophobia. Girls didn't get much of a mention in the previous discussions so let me redress the balance here.

Let's start with lesbian teenagers. They too suffer prejudice and bullying. One young girl killed herself quite recently as a consequence of this. But neither society nor the law are too concerned about what they do with their bodies. After all, you can't have 'real sex' if no cocks are involved, can you? Nevertheless, many straight men love watching young girls pretending to be lesbians on late night television porn channels.

Society is a little more protective of straight teenage girls but appearances can be deceptive. There's a worryingly high incidence of rape of teenage girls by teenage boys with group rape increasingly common. But convictions in those cases that come to court are low. Of course, proving rape beyond reasonable doubt where there is no corroborating evidence nor witnesses is notoriously difficult.
But all too often the victim will have her character and behaviour comprehensively rubbished while her attackers sit in their smart suits looking as though butter wouldn't melt in their mouths and the court will take account of their otherwise good character, their GCSEs, the fact that youthful high spirits sometimes get out of hand and that they genuinely thought she was 'up for it'.

The sexualisation of girls now starts well before puberty with adult fashions marketed at 10 year olds, including padded fake bras. Although many small boys now dress like mini-teenagers in baseball caps or hoodies I don't think there's the same attempt to present them as objects of desire or, for example, give them fake chest hair.

Like most gay men, most of my socialising has of necessity been done with straight men. So I know that sexual comments about quite young girls are considered acceptable so long as they're someone else's daughter and your wife's not around. I'm also aware that school uniforms figure prominently in heterosexual porn.
An apparently acceptable gag in Ali G's feature film had him tied to railings by a rival gang with his pants round his ankles but worried that passers-by weren't seeing him at his best. Then a group of young girls in school uniforms walk by and he immediately gets an erection. Now rewind the film and replace Ali G with a gay man and replace the schoolgirls with schoolboys. Would audiences think that just good, clean 'gross-out' fun? Would it get past the censors? Is the Pope a raving homophobe?

Which brings me neatly to society's very different attitude to the sexual protection of teenage boys. There's something of a contradiction here because on the one hand teenage boys are now demonised for their anti-social aggression and heterosexual promiscuity whilst on the other hand they are poor, vulnerable, sexually-confused creatures who must be protected from the power and potential allure of another male's penis.
Those who opposed an equal age of consent seemed convinced that otherwise heterosexual, and probably homophobic, teenage boys could easily be persuaded to submit to penetrative sex, particularly if the approach came fom a fat, balding middle-aged man. Of course, in the rare cases where it's forced sex that is rape and consent laws don't come into it.
Many otherwise sensible parents buy into this myth to a degree that they probably wouldn't with their daughters.

The conventional position is that vaginal sex is natural whilst anal sex is unnatural, painful and dangerous. Nobody, of course, should ever be pressurised into either if they don't want to. But it's worth exploring this in more detail because I don't think the distinction is quite so clear-cut or reflects a straight/gay divide.
Although a subject outside my experience, I understand that first penetrative sex for girls is not always the most pleasurable of experiences. And AIDS and other infections can be as much a consequence of straight sex as of gay sex. Indeed, STDs have reached epidemic proportions among young heterosexuals.
Now, apparently, teenage girls are increasingly pressured into allowing anal sex by their teenage boyfriends. One reason for this, I assume, is that it's an activity promoted by the heterosexual porn industry, whose products teenage boys now have easy access to through the internet. Another reason may be that it eliminates the risk of pregnancy or the need to wear a condom.
To demonstrate how 'mainstream' this has become I'll cite Ali G again, who often boasts of doing it with his girlfriend, even while constantly sneering at 'batty boys'. I've also seen Frank Skinner joke about it on television and football fans used to chant at David Beckham 'does Victoria take it up the arse?' (I wouldn't like to have to explain that to my 10 year old child at a football match.)
Not that this is a new adoption by heterosexuals of something that is considered uniquely disgusting when practised by homosexuals. It used to be known as the 'Italian Vice' back in the days when Italian Catholics followed the Church's teaching on contraception and wanted a way round it.

I'm not sure how keen teenage girls are on anal sex. I get the impression that many of them are not exactly gagging for it, unlike the women in porn films but those are being rewarded with rather more than a McDonalds meal or a necklace from Argos.
Men, of course, have an erogenous zone in that region but I'm not sure that women do. If they don't, then surely it's even worse to perform an act where only one partner is getting any pleasure and the other might be getting only pain?
But I suppose they're just expected to do what women have always had to do - close their eyes and think of England. Because these are girls' bottoms not boys' bottoms we're talking about. Front bottom, back bottom, a girl's got to satisfy her man. She loves it really. She was probably gagging for it. She's a slag. He's a stud. That's how it's always been. That's how it still is all too often.

And so it is that in considering the mixed messages and double standards surrounding the age of consent issue, a middle-aged gay man has discovered feminism.
I'm with you on this one, sisters.
If you'll have me.

13 Comments:

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Lost said...

I couldn't have put it better myself.
I'm not sure how teenagers are in Britain, I'm going to assume they are same as here. From my own experience with my teenagers, I'd have to say that teenage boys are overwhelmingly homophobic, so I would think the chance of middleaged man taking advantage of one would be fairly small.
There are incredible double standards about the way boys and girls are treated when it comes to sex. Oh and you were right about something else too - me and every one my friends that have talked about it agree - first time sex was awful.

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger JayMaster said...

I didn’t dare enter the debate a couple of posts ago. Come on boys – play nicely!

Doesn’t this debate seem to ignore the fact that you cannot legislate for attraction? I realised I was attracted to men when I was about 17. I had already had rather unfulfilling sex with a couple of girls (probably doubly unfulfilling for them!) before my first sexual experience with another man (3 days short of my 18th birthday). The age of consent was 21 then, but this didn’t stop me getting as much cock action as I could. I was a teenage boy who realised what turned him on and I wanted to do it all the time. A deferential age of consent couldn’t change the way I felt or make me decide to hold off exploring my sexuality until I was 21.

I subsequently joined the marches for an equal age of consent, accompanied by some of my family and some close straight friends. We weren’t arguing just for an equal age of consent, rather we were arguing against maintaining a system that made my feelings and relationships appear second rate, shameful and criminal. You may still not want a 16-year-old boy to be having sex with another man, but at least now he is less likely to feel such sickening shame that he will consider committing suicide, self-harm, living a lie or hiding his feelings from family and friends forever. Equality is not about saying anal sex and vaginal sex are the same, it is about saying that an individual has the right to protection and respect for their consensual relationship, regardless of the gender of the partners.

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

lost, thanks for that. Also, the minority of serious 'predators' or rapists in the population are not going to be deterred by age of consent laws. Obviously, both boys and girls need warning about such people but one hopes that by 16 they'll be aware of such dangers. And I think that here new laws have been passed to stop people in positions of trust like teachers or staff in children's homes having sex with 16 year olds in their care, despite the lower age of consent - but of course that applies to both sexes, not just boys.

Jaymaster, thanks for sharing your personal experience and making those points.
I'm pleased you and your family went on those marches. You are an even more admirable person than I always thought you were.

 
At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Sarsparilla said...

Very interesting point of view.

One idea occurs: as someone who works in industries that deal with young people, conformity is often expected of young boys, and legislated for, that is not expected of young girls - and is assumed impossible to achieve, though.

Another point: if anal sex were uniquely painful and unerogenous for women, then it probably wouldn't be a part of the lesbian sexual repertoire to the degree that it is.

Again, a very calm discussion of the issues - I haven't read the previous posts yet, but will be interested to see different opinions.

 
At 5:44 PM, Blogger geokker said...

Some interesting points although some of your statistical claims might require some consideration. I generally think the age of consent should be the same.

My interest is mostly biological on the subject. People often claim that homosexual sex is unnatural and I've always disagreed - surely it would have been selected out of the gene pool by now of it weren't natural.

As for the sexual inequality between male and female sexual identities, that's just the way it is but I believe things are changing for the better.

Jaymaster makes a lot of sense. If a 16 year old is feeling suicidal over homosexual feelings, that cannot be right. He should have an outlet to express and certainly shouldn't have the law against him.

Sarsparilla brings up a good point too. I've always wondered why I see so many lesbian women who seem to look the same, want to be men, and simulate men during sex with strap-ons etc. Why doesn't the submissive one just have sex with men? But that's another discussion! ;-)

Blog on Lupin.

 
At 7:35 PM, Blogger Clare said...

Phewie, so much content here, and I've only just found time to read it through.

Firstly, the age of consent. I think it should be the same for people of all sexualities, and both genders. I also think it should be low. Why? Because we're talking about consensual sex here. Anything else is rape or sexual assault. So predatory adults are a complete red herring.

People mature at all sorts of different rates. And heterosexual sex involves both male and female, so the relative maturity of young women is another red herring.

In fact, those crimson fish have abounded in this whole discussion. AIDS? Another one. Straight people contract STDs too, as do people older than 18. The age of consent for gay men is not a relevant factor in protecting people from HIV.

As for somehow affecting the behaviour of young people, the age of consent is simply not going to stop people from acting on their sexual urges. The most effective of way of doing that is religion. It's not 100% by any means, but a lot of young Catholics genuinely do temper their sexual activity for fear of going to hell. So yeah, if you really feel that it's necessary to repress natural sexual urges and fuck people's heads up for life, put the fear of God into them. It might work. A little.

So I can't see any valid arguments against a lower age of consent. But the ones in favour are overwhelming, and they deal with the trauma that a young person goes through, not just if they are prosecuted for being themselves, not just from the fear of prosecution that goes along with that already stressful period of adolescence, but from the still-widespread homophobia that is encouraged and ratified by unequal consent laws.

OK, I'm saying nothing new. All these points have been made already; I just felt like pulling them together.

But as a bisexual woman, I do have things to add to the discussion. At the age of 16, I had my first penetrative sexual experience, with a 21-yr-old man. I've written about it in detail here, but in a nutshell: I suffered from a not-uncommon condition known as vaginismus, which meant that my vaginal muscles clamped shut. My partner attempted to rectify this situation by the use of force (with my misguided consent). It was painful and traumatic, and went on for a couple of months.

After it ended, I became a lesbian instead. My first gay sexual experience happened when I was 17, with a 19-yr-old woman. It was much more successful.

Might I have had a different experience if, for instance, the age of consent was 18 across the board? No. I was in love when I was 16, I was sexually mature and enthusiastic, I wanted to please my man. I was also inexperienced and scared, and that's what caused the vaginismus. You could say that I was taken advantage of, or at least treated badly, by an older man. Except that he was just as dim-witted as me, being that the whole thing was caused by his (mistaken and clearly nutty, as I'd been using tampons for years) belief that I still had a hymen. If I'd waited until I was 18, the chances are I would have been just as scared (if not more so, after two more years of build-up) and he just as stupid. What I needed, but didn't have, was not some law to make me feel dirty for having sexual urges. What I needed was guidance, support, access to proper information.

You could argue that the vaginismus was my body's way of screaming "You're not ready for this yet!" This would contradict Peter's belief that 16-yr-old girls are mature enough for sex, but would it lend credence to the calls for a higher age of consent across the board? No, because the law is an indiscriminate hammer. How would I have benefited from the fear of prosecution? What about the fact that there is an enormous variation amongst human beings, and to suggest that all are ready for sex at 18 but not before is just asinine?

What is needed is an environment where people's wishes are respected, whatever they are. Where young people are encouraged to talk about these things, and to treat each other with respect and equality.

And I certainly wouldn't have gained anything if the frankly-rather-lovely gay sexual experiences I had while I was 17 were illegal.

The only other thing I can comment on is women and anal sex. Certainly many women do enjoy this, but no, they do not have "G-spots" in their anuses like men do, and as far as I can work out, most women aren't really [ahem] arsed.

Finally...

"I've always wondered why ... so many lesbian women ... simulate men during sex with strap-ons etc."

Yes, me too. Weird, huh? Still, celebrate diversity and all that. And I will say this: Most "butch" lesbians are not emulating men, they are simply rebelling against the feminine stereotype. There's a difference. And not all lesbians use strap-ons. And there is a big difference between a woman with a strap-on and a man with a dick. Breasts, for a start.

 
At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Sarsparilla said...

Simulating men? Oh come on...

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger Clare said...

Sarsparilla, I can't work out whether you mean

(a) "Oh come on, of course they are - they're wearing false dicks!"

or

(b) "Oh come on, get over yourself! Why do men have to come into the equation? Why can't they just be doing what turns them on?"

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Norbert Trouser-Quandary said...

I'm sure I read somewhere recently that it had been discovered that women do, in fact, have an analagous anal erogenous zone to that of men.

Don't ask me for details, though, that's the limit of what I remember about it.

 
At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Sarsparilla said...

The latter. I've heard it too often. Way way too often.

The *point* is that they're not.

Also, the phrase assumes that 'feminine' women are not lesbians.

(I apologise if it sounded sarcastic, though - on re-reading it, it's harsher in text than it sounded in my head.)

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger Clare said...

David: 'anal'ogous... [giggle]

Sarsparilla: In that case, I couldn't agree more!

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Thanks for all the most recent comments here. There's been a wonderful mix of ages, gender and sexuality in this discussion. Forgive me if I don't reply to every point.

geokker: I think you notice only the lesbians who look like men and not the many who don't, just as people only notice camp gay men and are blissfully unaware of all the other gay men they rub shoulders with every day.

Sarsparilla: I was speculating about women and anal sex. But I've read that teenagers' agony aunts say that it's a matter of concern and anxiety to many of their young, female readers. The jury still seems to be out on whether women have an erogenous zone there (see David's comment) but I always thought it had something to do with the prostate and women don't have one, do they? Is there a doctor in the house?
But yes, clearly some women do it willingly and enjoy it, for whatever reason.

Clare: personal experiences certainly illuminate abstract debate. Thanks.
Your summary of the age of consent arguments was very perceptive. Consent laws invariably carry a prison sentence so those who take the other view need to say if they are content to see a teenage boy in a prison cell, or hanging from the bars of his cell, or being raped in the shower block. We already lock up too many young people in this country and tragically too many of them kill themselves every year.

The other point is that some European countries have long had a much lower age of consent, as low as 12 in Spain. If the consequences of a lower age are as dire as some people say, then why have they not happened in these countries? Indeed, the opposite is true, with the age of first sex lower than in Britain and the level of teenage pregnancy much lower.

Finally, a strong argument for lowering the age to 16 was that young men were more likely to seek advice on safe sex and on their sexuality more generally if their sexuality wasn't illegal and there was no fear of prosecution. That's why the BMA and every other similar body supported it so strongly. In this respect, it's a higher age of consent that is more likely to lead to infection and death than a lower one.

 
At 4:15 AM, Blogger Julian Silvain said...

I skim a lot of blogs, and so far yours is in the Top 3 of my list of favorites. I'm going to dive in and try my hand at it, so wish me luck.

It'll be in a totally different area than yours (mine is about mens male enhancement reviews) I know, it sounds strange, but it's like anything, once you learn more about it, it's pretty cool. It's mostly about mens male enhancement reviews related articles and subjects.

 

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