Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A bit more on preteens and sexuality

Sharon Lamb has a great essay about the dilemma of theorizing and socializing sexuality... here is the cite: The 'Right' Sexuality for Girls. By: Lamb, Sharon, Chronicle of Higher Education, 00095982, 6/27/2008, Vol. 54, Issue 42

and the last bit :

The problem is that frequently when a girl looks inside, she finds a packaged version of teenage sexuality. For example, she can end up concluding that she wants to be swept away by love. Replacing the image of the powerful, sexually active female (the "bad" girl) with the image of the old-fashioned female longing for romance (the "good" girl) does not show more authenticity. Rather, it shows that our culture presents just a few ways for women to be sexual. The opposition between the two images reinforces age-old sexism and even suggests that shame about sexuality is connected with wild-girl bravado. Thus seeking romance has problems, but so does empowerment as a wild girl: Teenage girls behave in all sorts of self-destructive ways in the name of love as well as desire.

An additional difficulty with empowerment is that it is self-centered for girls to look within to discover themselves and their true desires. Once a partner is no longer needed to look, approve, admire, or sexualize, a girl's sexuality is disconnected from her interpersonal relationships. Instead of urging girls to look within, researchers might do better to recommend the goal of mutuality with a partner: mutual respect, pleasure, excitement, and interest. Choosing to give as well as to receive, to please someone else as well as being pleased, is not only a realistic aim; it would also reinforce the idea that a good sexual relationship should meet the same standards as other good relationships.

When we tell teens about the kind of sexuality we hope will be theirs, we ought to be careful to guide them toward something that is achievable. For instance, turning away from the subject/object dichotomy and the notion of authentic desire might lead teens and adults to develop ways of being sexual that are more individualized and satisfying than simply accepting what the culture and the media think is sexy, or an idealized alternative. And an emphasis on mutuality could redefine shame, attaching it to the mistreatment of others rather than to the violation of social expectations.

Teenagers will always have their own definitions -- both idealized and realistic -- of good sex. But if researchers can show them achievable goals that include fairness and mutuality, we may be able to help young people form relationships that help them and their partners flourish.

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