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.