Can Watching a Couple of Rihanna Videos Really Turn a Girl into a Knicker-Dropping Strumpet?
Penny, Laurie, New Statesman (1996)
Teen sex is catching. According to politicians, we are suffering from an epidemic of promiscuity that is turning our young women into knicker-dropping strumpets before our eyes. The language of "sexualisation", as employed by professional pearl-clutchers such as the Tory MP Claire Perry, implicitly assumes that sex is always something done to women rather than something we do--a logic by which we can only ever be sex objects. By this measure, a young girl merely has to leaf through a copy of Cosmo or stumble upon a Rihanna video on YouTube and wham, that's it: sexualised. Ruined for ever. Nothing to be done. Abuse and wanton, abject harlotry will surely follow.
Apparently we cannot cope as a culture with the idea that a young girl who experiences sexual desire might not be promiscuous, wicked or dangerous. And if young women are victimised--one in six children aged between 11 and 17 has experienced sexual abuse--we still seem to have a problem with placing blame where it belongs, with the abusers, whether they are strangers or members of the victims' family. No politician seems able to come forward and tell adult men to stop abusing young girls. The problem must, instead, lie with female sexuality--too much, too young or both. On 24 January, our national treasure Joanna Lumley took it upon herself to weigh in and tell young women to stop dressing "like trash" if they don't want to get raped. It's an attitude that, despite the best efforts of sex-positive feminists, is becoming increasingly common.
Young women are encouraged to look and act available in a passive, submissive manner at all times but they are slut-shamed and dismissed, assumed to be complicit in their abuse, if they ever allow the boys to touch 4 them or, heaven forfend, pursue them of [section] their own volition. Young men can be equally 6 confused by the violent, thrusting, hyperbolic images that are increasingly the only easily available model of adult sexuality--yes, you can find every type of porn imaginable on the internet but you have to know what you're looking for first; otherwise, you find yourself, like many young men, lost in a world of disembodied dicks brutalising women into submission. We assume, though, that boys' sexuality is both normal and inherently violent, so nobody seems worried about protecting young men from so-called sexualisation.
An incredible thing has happened. We live in an age of boundless information. I am typing part of this column, for example, on a device no bigger than my open hand through which I can access, with a couple of finger-swipes, more data than my ancestors ever conceived of--though I mainly use it to look at smutty web comics and find my way to the pub. Yet, even with this hyper-abundance of information, with all of these learning tools at our disposal, we have somehow managed to raise yet another generation of people who are as ignorant and confused as ever about that most intimate of mysteries, human sexuality. …