Apr 18, 2005

Three words you don't ever want to hear

"Mom, what's chlamydia?" Kate from Cider Press Hill writes on a frank discussion she had with her son about sexually aggressive girls at school, some as young as 14. This prompts the Achoress to ask:
Why are the girls so out of control?

Well, if they are watching MTV and VH1 and looking at fashion magazines, or going to the movies, the role-models they’re being exposed to are (I’m sorry, but I have to say it) pigs like Paris Hilton. If they stay up past midnight, they’re watching “Girls Gone Wild” infomericals that make it look like exposing themselves and acting like sluts is the thing to do.

It almost sounds like these teens are in a mindless frenzy, not thinking at all about what they are doing, merely moving forward, taking their cues from television and peer pressure. There is no thinking going on here, and clearly there has been little-to-no moral grounding.
I've got news for them: It's not just Paris Hilton or "Girls Gone Wild" videos. Submitted for your disapproval: "My Super Sweet 16", a show from MTV in which the members of the teenaged set prepare for their sweet sixteen parties. I've a notion that your average Roman orgy looks lowkey compared to these bacchanalian shindigs.

In the episode to which I have linked, Ava gets carried into her party on a chaise hoisted by four college-aged hunks who auditioned for their roles by taking their shirts off and picking up our little sweet sixteen. Mom and Dad attended these auditions and found them to be quite hilarious. Next Ava and Mom go to Paris to buy a dress for the party. Ava throws a temper tantrum when Mom vetoes her choice of dress, a red satin number cut--not to her pupik, that would be too demure--but to her public bone. I confess I was shocked at Mom's puritannical decision to nix the dress. But--not to worry--Ava gets a custom-made version of the dress that's only slightly more revealing than the average costume worn by a Vegas showgirl.

(Lest my readers think this is my regular TV fare, let me hasten to explain that I was watching this in the exercise room of a Delaware hotel room where I stayed this weekend. I simply turned on the TV and hopped on the elliptical machine. After a while I became so absorbed in the spectacle that I couldn't turn away.)

Ava's parents were simply unable to put any limits on their daughter's behavior. In one scene, Ava's mother tells her she cannot go to Santa Barbara for the weekend with friends. Ava goes anyway. Her mother, in desperation, cuts off the girl's credit cards. Ava calls her father to get the credit turned back on. In order to avoid contact with her mother, Ava goes to live with her father for a while. No punishment is ever imposed. And, by the time of the party, all is forgiven. Ava gets a brand new Range Rover and is carried into the party by her harem with the approval of all parties.

David Brooks says recent studies show that teens are having less sex and having it later than previously reported.
The first lesson in all this is we shouldn't overestimate the importance of the media. People like 50 Cent may produce hit after pornographic hit, but that doesn't mean his fans want to lead the lives he raps about. It's make-believe.

What matters is reality. The reality is that we have a generation of kids who have seen the ravages of divorce, who are more likely to respect and listen to their parents and their ministers, who are worried about sexually transmitted diseases and who don't want to mess up their careers.
But we're not out of the woods yet. And as "My Super Sweet 16" shows, many teens haven't read those studies.

And neither have their parents.

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