Thursday, October 25, 2012

The White Flag

One of the recurring themes in this blog and in my lifetime of reading advice columns has been the urging of teens not to have sex. I'm not sure at what point it becomes "go for it"--18? Freshman in college? Dr. Wallace of Tween Twelve and Twenty (who often gives fairly good dating and parent-handling advice) perennially posts a column that goes something like this:

LW1: I had/am having/plan to have teen sex and the sky has not fallen. What's the big deal?

DR. WALLACE: A lot of girls disagree with you! Read on...

LWS 2-8: I had teen sex and from that moment on, my boyfriend stopped wanting to go out to drive-in or the soda shoppe, he just wanted to stay in and have more sex! Later, he dumped me! Girls, do NOT have sex! Obviously that is the moral and not that I was dating a jerk or that teen relationships end.

I've gotten used to ignoring this because it will never go away, but October 2's Ask Amy couldn't be ignored for sheer (1) needless badgering (Amy lists several panic-emergency procedures to mitigate the inevitable STD/baby damage of the teen sex even though the LW stated that both participants were virgins and used protection) and (2) acceptance of an entirely foolhardy premise.
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for a little over a year. We are both teenagers and above the age of consent in our state (I am 16). We are in love. We had a couple of serious conversations about sex, and we decided to go ahead.

It was the first time for both of us and was special. We were safe and responsible, and neither of us has any regrets. However, my parents do not know that we are sexually active, and they do not seem to trust me to be safe and responsible about my decisions.

I worry that if they found out the degree to which we are intimate, they would force us to break up. I would like to be able to talk to them about this, but I have no idea how to broach the subject. Please tell me how I can talk to them.
Amy's response:
DEAR ANONYMOUS: You should go to your physician or to Planned Parenthood for a checkup and STD and birth control counseling. If you and your guy are unable to face this task together, then you should not be in a sexual relationship. Check or call 800-230-PLAN (7526) for a local clinic.

The reason your parents might not trust you is because they were your age once and they know how momentous this choice is -- and how physically and emotionally vulnerable you both are. Your parents have the utmost stake in your emotional and physical health.

Your desire to talk to your folks about this tells me that you have a good relationship and simply want to be honest with them. Share this first with the parent you are closer to, but remember this: Your honesty will also inspire their honest reaction.

They may be upset. But if they are thoughtful, they will appreciate the opportunity to talk it through with you. (Your boyfriend should also talk to his parents.) The Planned Parenthood website also has resources for parents.

Lulu: Wrong! Correct answer: DON'T. Why, why, why, why, why, why would you tell them? Do you want them to tell you about their sex life?? If you cannot speak to your parents without omitting the personal, none-of-their-business details of your life, then you shouldn't be in a sexual relationship. Check for advice on how to lie.

Ashley: I have actually decided to wave the white flag of stupidity. If you WANT to talk to your parents about sex, then you can accept the consequences.

Lulu: It's like asking, How can I safely lop my own head off?

Ashley: If you are asking you are already beyond saving.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sex, oversharing, and videotape

Ashley: Prudence's chat has a question about a 16 year old making sex tapes.
Lulu: I saw that.
Q. Sister's Underage Sex Tapes: My little sister Rebecca recently confessed to me that she and her boyfriend Tyler have been filming themselves having sex. She says it excites her, because she's always felt pressure to be a good girl. Our parents aren't rigidly conservative by any means, but I know they'd object to Rebecca making sex tapes, not least of all because she's 16 and Tyler is 19. I'm not sure what to do, because I am worried my parents will lose their heads if I tell them. But, as I pointed out, Rebecca is underage, and it won't end well for Tyler if the authorities are alerted. As an older sister, what's my duty?

A: I hope most teenagers don't think that the alternative to being a good girl is being Paris Hilton. Your sister confessed to you for a reason, and it's good that you were apparently so flummoxed by what she said that you didn't offer much of a reaction one way or another. I think 16-year-olds should hang onto their virginity. I'm sure there's a study somewhere saying that keeping horniness in check correlates with higher trigonometry scores. But now that you know your sister is sexually active, the first thing you should do is to make sure she is using birth control and that's she's seen a gynecologist. Tell Rebecca you'd like to enlist your mother in this, and that you will not mention anything about her cinematic ventures. As for the tapes, I feel kind of sorry for today's youth, whose formal sex education consists of lectures on lethal illness and the potential for being prosecuted. But I agree that underage sex tapes are a bad idea, both legally and morally. Tell your sister you're really glad she came to you, you've been thinking about she told you, and it sounds as if she feels she's gotten in over her head. Explain it's not too late for her to change her mind about her extracurriculars. No, she can't get her virginity back, but she can decide that concentrating on getting through high school, instead of exploring her sexuality, is a better focus. Be calm and nonjudgmental. Then when the conversation progresses, you can suggest she get all copies of the tapes and destroy them.
Lulu: Prudence's advice to tell her to stop having sex at all seems... ineffective. Like a good way to get tuned out altogether.

Ashley: She clarifies later and focuses more on the sex tapes.
Q. Sex Tapes: Remind your little sister that it's incredibly easy for those tapes to wind up on the Internet, and all it would take is a few minutes for the boyfriend to post them on porn sites. If she doesn't think he'd do that, think again, because clearly plenty of boyfriends and ex-boyfriends have done it. They might consider looking online to make sure he hasn't already.

A: So true. That's why it's important for the girl to get possession of the tapes. But it would be best not to terrify the younger sister, just to explain this could happen given the technology.

Q. Re: Sister's Tape: I doubt the little sister's escapades are on actual tapes—it's probably digitally recorded on a cellphone or computer. The little sister needs to make sure her boyfriend deletes these videos. Even if he is a good guy who won't disseminate the videos online, his gear could be hacked or stolen!

A: Right, good point. She needs to make sure all existing evidence in all media is deleted. If the boyfriend won't cooperate, then a parental discussion about the consequences of disseminating sexual images of a minor might be highly instructive.
Lulu: Yeah, but by that time, I'm not listening. I'm sixteen, and I'm bragging about my sex tapes: what do you say??

Ashley: I don't think I care?

Lulu: Ha.

Ashley: I think what I'd actually say is to make sure her face isn't identifiable.

Lulu: That's good advice; while I'm sure it's a small percentage, you do hear stories about people getting in legal trouble when the subjects are under 18, even if they themselves took the video.

Ashley: Right. That's what I'm concerned with. She needs plausible deniability.

Lulu: Right, and that would solve the problem they bring up of what if someone posts the videos online, be it the boyfriend or the computer thief scenario.

Ashley: Right. The bf should be on board with this, because it gives him plausible deniability too.

Lulu: Right, he could get in more trouble.

Ashley: Although before the sister gets too self-righteous, she should check laws in her state. The three year age gap could be fine. It is in MA, for instance. Not sure about the stance on videotapes, but the actual sex is fine.

Lulu: Either way, some reasonable precautions with camera angles should make the videos much safer without diminishing the thrill of recording your awesome sex technique.

Ashley: Right! Or edit it in post.

Lulu: Or wear a mask. Like in Pulp Fiction. Or V for Vendetta. I haven't seen either of those films, but I assume the masks were for sex tape purposes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I don't want anybody else

Ashley: Dude. Prudie's chat re: masturbating college roommates.

Lulu: What.

Ashley: Read it.
Q. Lights Out Happy Time: I am a freshman at college. My roommate is pretty great—except for one thing. I'm pretty sure she "takes care of herself" after we turn out the lights and she thinks I'm asleep. The motions and noises she makes are consistent with this theory. I have no problem with her doing that, but it makes me uncomfortable that she does it while I'm in the room. I'm also absolutely mortified about possibly discussing this with her. They did not cover this in freshman orientation, so I'm counting on you for some insight.

A: I'm going to suggest this is covered under the same rubric as bathroom noises—you pretend you don't hear them. Once the lights are out and all is quiet, you are in a zone of assuming each of you is drifting off to sleep, and if under the covers she indulges in some quiet stress relief to help bring on pleasant dreams, I think you should ignore it. Instead of lying there anxiously listening for the sounds of self-gratification, just tell yourself your roommate tends to toss and turn before the delta waves hit. Unless to accomplish her task your roommate brings out a screaming, high-decibel vibrator, talking about this with her, or a resident adviser, is going to just be mortifying for you. Look, the school year is almost over, your roommate decided she couldn't get through freshman year going hands-off, and there's not really any other time or place for her to indulge herself. Just think of this as one of those "out of classroom" learning experiences admissions officers are always touting.
Ashley: How... how is this a problem? Why don't people do this in the shower?? Why would you choose a room that has other people in it??

Lulu: If it's a big school with small dorms, all the rooms could have other people in them. They could be communal showers too. Shower stalls, like at the gym. I've seen dorms like that.

Ashley: True. But at least the sound of the water will cover it up.

Lulu: yYah, it's a little more private, at least in the way cubicles are private--you know, the illusory way. The LW could also establish regular patterns of not being in the room at certain times. That might help.

Ashley: You'd think they would have non-overlapping classes. Unless the LW doesn't attend classes.

Lulu: They might just both be out of the dorm during the day then at home at night? Or the LW doesn't have predictable routine, so the roomie always thinks she might walk in at any time anyway.

Ashley: Yeah, I guess she can develop a new activity and mention it. "I've picked up a study group that meets EVERY DAY from 9pm to 10pm!" More library time can't hurt.

Lulu: Or develop a wildly different sleep schedule. So be studying in the common area while the roommate is going to bed, and come in when she's asleep. Surely her dorm has a lounge or something.

Ashley: Yeah. Start watching TV at a set time. Or go to bed really early, and be asleep by then.

Lulu: I think we knocked that one out of the park. We know our stuff when it comes to hiding masturbation routines, APPARENTLY.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Early to bed, early to rise

Lulu: Hmmm, Meredith’s question is about a guy who goes to bed/gets up early and girl who goes to bed/gets up late! Like you! And Galahad!

Ashley: That is relevant to my life!

Lulu: I know! How do you deal with it?? Meredith doesn't have much, just tells them to get a king-size bed. I agree with her that the solution is not for one of them to adjust to the other's sleep schedule, I don't think that would work.

Ashley: He goes to bed at 10pm, she goes to bed at midnight. He wakes up at 5-7am, she wakes up at 8-9am.

Lulu: Are you saying it's not that different? Because his seems super early to me...Hers seems early side of normal.

Ashley: I think we’re bad judges of “normal”. Left to my devices, I would be 3am to 11am sleep person

Lulu: Same. Maybe 4-12…

Ashley: Galahad and I both compromised, basically. We go to bed at 12-1am, and get up at 8-9am.

Lulu: So you're saying 11 to 7 would not that bad for either one.

Ashley: Right, I think they could try that. But, I mean, he works shifts, so that might be out of his hands. I don't see why his naps are a problem, though.

Lulu: Right, why can't he take a nap and she just... not.

Ashley: Right! And there is also a chance that once they live together, it'll be easier to ignore him getting out of bed. It used to bother me when Galahad got up at 6, but now that we live together, I don't even notice because it's background noise.

Lulu: Yeah, I think the distance makes that worse, because they can't acclimate.

Ashley: Right. So I think the only real problem is that she wakes up when he does, but then doesn't want to take naps, and can't fall asleep earlier. Because it also seems like he's not having issues here, right?

Lulu: Well, he didn't write in.

Ashley: But he just goes to bed when he wants and wakes up when he wants and takes naps when he wants? So the point is… her solutions don't need to be concerned with him, since he's doing what he wants to anyway. So she just needs to fix herself!

Lulu: Hah! I think her best bet might be sleeping in after he wakes up.

Ashley: Her options are:
1) fall back asleep after he gets up
2) go to sleep earlier somehow
3) learn to love naps

Lulu: Getting back to sleep after someone wakes up at 6 is easier than going to bed earlier.

Ashley: But yeah, unless he is actually waking her up at 5am on purpose, I don't think there's anything they can do except get more used to each other, which is admittedly hard in a LDR. So it's one weekend per month, right? I guess they can trade off sleeping on the couch during that weekend?

Lulu: Yeah, if that helps... getting woken up periodically on the bed might be more restful than sleeping in the living room, while people are all getting up making eggs singing songs.

Ashley: that common?

Lulu: I don't know what people do at 5am! I was using my imagination!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How many thirteen year old girls does it take...

Lulu: So… A thirteen-year-old writes to Cherie because she shaved her pubes and now she has a doctor's appointment and her mom will find out:

Hey, Cherie!
I am age 13. I've never written to you before, and I never thought I would, but I don't know whom to ask. This question is a little personal. OK, here goes. Well, we get the Playboy channel at my house, and my little sister and I were watching it. It turned out every girl I saw on the program shaved down there and no one had any hair. My little sister, who is 7, even said they looked like her down there.
Well, recently, my friends and I had a sleep over, so we started watching adult stuff on my TV, and once again, I noticed none of the girls had hair down there! So then my friends and I decided it would be cool if we all shaved. So we all shaved down there, and at the time, it was funny and stuff, and we looked really cool afterwards. 
So here is my big problem. I am going to be a camp-counselor-in-training this summer, and my mom just told me I have to go have a physical before she can send in all the paperwork, and my physical is in two days! My mom will be in the doctor's office with me when I have my physical. She will see that I don't have any hair down there, and she will throw a hissy fit you will be able to hear in California. She is very, very overprotective. I tried to get the appointment changed so my hair could grow back in (Then I would just shave it again because even though it kind of itches, it looks so cool, and now I think hair down there is gross.), but my mom said no way, she had to wait three weeks to get this appointment. I'm not kidding, she is going to go ballistic. Help!
Lulu: And Cherie responds:

Hey, Hair Free!
Wanna hear something funny? 'K. When I was your age, the exact same thing happened to me, except it was about shaving my legs. Let us pause for a moment of silence as to not how far we have come but how low we have sunk.
Hair Free, you are not going to be turning hair-free cartwheels over my answer. And actually, neither is your mom. The first question that comes to mind is: With a 7- and 13-year-old in the house, why doesn't your mom block stuff like the Playboy channel from the TV? It's very easy to do, and yet for some unfathomable reason, most parents don't do it. Option No. 2 would be to only have TVs, like computers, in public places in your house until you are in high school.
That way your mom knows what you are watching and can discuss it with you.
This is exactly the kind of social pressure on young women that Dr. Mary Pipher talks about in her seminal book, "Reviving Ophelia." You didn't think "hair down there" was "gross" until you watched the Playboy channel. Trust me when I tell you that the Playboy channel is not representative of what is "cool" or is anything you should aspire to. They are women acting out roles, not being themselves. I bet you and your friends hate "fake" people, right? Right. It's like the most common teen dis. "She is so fake." Well, Playboy is not only so fake, but it's fake and putting on a fake show for guys. That is so much grosser than hair down there. 
To wax or not to wax it a question appropriate to someone much older than you. No way outta this one, girlfriend. Just tell your mom the truth. Fortunately, when it comes to something such as "hair down there," it grows back. And I'm guessing you and your mom would benefit from some one-on-one bonding time, anyway. I hope she reads this.

Lulu: Well, she's unrealistic if she thinks a kid is going to ask her mom to block the playboy channel.

Ashley: To say the least. And why is it taken as a given that her mom will be staring at her vagina during a physical? Is that normal??

Lulu: It seems to me that 13 is old enough to say,  "Mom, I don't want you in the room with me". Or, "I need my privacy".  My mom didn't come into the doctor's exam room with me when I was that age.

Ashley: Yeah, and actually, I can't remember having to remove my underwear  until they started doing pelvic exams.

Lulu: That's true. They don't usually do pelvics until you're like 16+, right? But if she's worried about it, I think she can ask her mom not to come in; I think a doctor/nurse would support that, since they like you to feel that you can be honest with them. In the bigger picture, I agree that if you look to the playboy channel for a model of how people can or should act, you'll get a skewed, unrealistic view. Everyone being shaved on playboy doesn't mean everyone is shaved in real life, but it's a personal choice... if you want to shave, why not?

Ashley: I don't particularly see a giant problem with it, either. Nor with the playboy channel in general - it's one of many influences.

Lulu: It seems to me that telling someone they shouldn't shave because it's tacky is just as bad as telling someone they should because it's sexy. It's all subjective, might as well do what makes you happy.

Ashley: Yeah, and I don't buy the "you didn't think it was gross until you watched the playboy channel" argument. I didn't think all sorts of things were gross as a child, but childhood innocence isn't gospel, or we'd all be picking our noses constantly.

Lulu: Kids who are looking for info about what sex is like need to know that porn is fiction, not documentary, but if you see something in fiction that inspires your fashion sense, that seems okay to me, like wanting Katniss's hairstyle or something.

Ashley: True! Of all the things she could have learned, that's probably the most harmless. If she thought she had to be super skinny or something, or wanted to change things that are impossible to change without major surgery, I’d be more with Cherie. If she were like, no one will love me unless I grow another foot and a half!

Lulu: Right.

Ashley: (in height, not in actual feet)
(3.5 feet would be awkward)
(i imagine)

 Lulu: Even if she gave as her reason for wanting to be shaved that guys would like it, that would be concerning. But she just says it looks cool (to her).

Ashley: And to her friends. Who all shaved as a group?

Lulu: Yeah, I don't get that. Did they go into the bathroom one at a time or did they just do it in a big room? With like bowls of soapy water?

Ashley: I’m not sure of the mechanics myself. Maybe I should watch the playboy channel?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dance with the one that asked you first

Yesterday's Miss Manners asks:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable for a girl to decline an invitation to a dance, only to later accept another invitation to the same dance? This is for a high school dance or prom.
Miss Manners replies,
GENTLE READER: If you are the parent of a young gentleman to whom this has been done, Miss Manners can confirm that the young lady is indeed rude, and that however crushed your son is, he is better off. She would be capable of committing another rudeness, such as breaking the date later.

If you are the parent of a young lady who proposes to do this, it is still rude, but Miss Manners has more to say.

You should tell your daughter that as the idea is to avoid hurting the young gentleman’s feelings, in theory, she should be able to do this if he would never find out. Then ask her how she would decline without being unkind or untruthful. And remind her that there are no secrets in high school.

There is another lesson you might give, even though she will not believe it. That is that some law of nature makes the least popular boy in high school into the most desirable man later in life, yet, no matter how successful and glamorous he has become, makes him remember and continue to smart from having been slighted.
Lulu: Whoa. I thought I understood high school politeness rules, but Miss Manners seems really strict here. My understanding was that you certainly couldn't agree to go to the dance with one boy, then change your mind and cancel and switch to someone else, but I didn't think you couldn't say no to one boy then say yes to another!

Ashley: Yeah, what the ef!

Lulu: It makes THEORETICAL sense, I guess; like, if you show up with someone else, it's making a pretty unequivocal statement that you just didn't like that guy, which lacks the kind of plausible deniability that politeness strives for. Like presumably you say no for a particular reason, like in Jean and Johnny when Johnny said he couldn't go to the Sadie Hawkins dance with Jean because his grandmother was sick, and then she was super hurt when he showed up anyway with some lame excuse that she got better, so... But the practical result of this rule is that you have to go with whoever asks you first if you're going to go at all. What if someone you hate asks you super early?

Ashley: Right. You have to decide if you go with the first guy or not at all? That seems harsh. I guess you could lie, and that would be fine. "I'm sorry, I'm going with someone else," then just hope someone else asks (or ask someone yourself).

Lulu: That's definitely the solution if you're pretty sure a particular person will ask you soon, like in Achingly Alice when Sam asked her but she was more or less going steady with Patrick and assumed they'd go together even though they hadn't yet discussed it. In that book, she was honest, but it was pretty awkward.

Ashley: If you don't get another date, you could show up anyway by yourself, "Something came up and they cancelled."

Lulu: I just think you should be allowed to say "No thanks." Miss Manners is usually all about no excuses, no explanations. No lying, but a clear, unexplained "No" is fine, when it's adults. But I guess that is usually in situations where "No" means you're not going at all.

Ashley: I still don't get why she has to say yes to the first guy; there's a weird guilt trip going on. "Oh, no, the poor boy's feelings." What about her feelings?

Lulu: It does put her in a very restrictive position, where her only option is to stay home as punishment for being asked by the wrong guy. I feel like girls who are liked by creepy guys are already in super awkward positions. If there has to be such a rule, I would prefer if it were: you're only allowed to ask one person. If they say no, you have to stay home. At least then the person with agency is being punished for the wrong choice. It's a game or a gamble, not an arbitrary thing that happens to you.

Ashley: I guess the alternate solution if you think, as a girl, that a wrong guy is going to ask you, is to go around asking guys you like. They can't say no and then show up at the dance! Ask the most popular guy! This letter is so off the mark I don't even know...

Lulu: Yeah, that's the only solution. Just turn it into an aggressive game of instant asking as soon as the dance is announced. Everyone RUNS from homeroom and tries to find the cutest girl/guy while they dodge for cover, desperately trying to avoid being asked before they can find each other

Ashley: First day of high school. "Wanna go to senior prom in 4 years?" BOOM score.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Return to the Valley of the Porn

Yesterday's Dear Abby was titled A debate on why men love porn. This is the kind of debate we enjoy!
DEAR ABBY: At a recent dinner party, the men and women got into a debate about porn. The men said men love porn because it shows women enjoying sex with abandon. We women protested that women who behave this way in real life are labeled "sluts" by both men and women.

Do men not realize this makes no sense? If you can't answer this, maybe your male readers can.

- No Fan of Porn
Abby responds,
DEAR NO FAN: I posed your question to a recognized expert - Larry Flynt.

He said that men love porn because men are aroused by the VISUAL. Then he added that women are more turned on by the written word, which is why torrid romance novels are so popular.
Lulu: Well, true. It's not really a response to the postulate. But I do like how Abby/Larry sidestep the whole debate, thus implying that the LW's postulate BS.

Ashley: Well, it is. She doesn't explain why women don't like porn, or why she doesn't.

Lulu: If i'm reading her correctly, her proposition is that if women in the real world were celebrated for visibly enjoying sex, she would enjoy porn?? Or, I suppose, that it's irrelevant why women do or don't like porn, but that men have a double standard by enjoying one set of behavior in porn and another in real people.

Ashley: I think she's just looking for excuses. But sure, let's take her at face value. She's concerned that what men like to watch bears little resemblance to what they like in real life. Well, that's certainly not limited to porn.

Lulu: Right, people saying they want one thing but actually wanting another isn't the fault of the depiction of the thing they want/don't want

Ashley: There are lots of things I like in TV that I would hate in a person. So even if they do only like slutty behavior in fiction... what's wrong with that?

Lulu: Like I like it when men cry on TV.

Ashley: Yeah, I like a lot of emotional drama. But real people in my life have a crying-in-front-of-me limit of about once per year.

Lulu: Yeah, I'd be like... okay, so... aaaanyway... (backs slowly out the door)

Ashley: I'd label them a sissy, to get it back to offensive gender stereotypes! So you can have a perception of women who enjoy sex as being sluts, which is a problematic assumption, sure, but there's no hypocrisy in liking that behavior in fictional women. It's not a double-standard, it's just a stupid single standard.

Lulu: Although I suppose pointing to that problematic assumption could seem like a natural response to the LW's men friends' defense that porn is good because it shows women enjoying sex, which seems like a pointed attempt to make it seem pro-woman, when it's really just that you like what turns you on.

Ashley: That's true. It does seem to be like, "well, no real life women enjoy sex, so I have to turn to porn." But that's the kind of answer you're going to get if you ask people about their hobbies--some bullshit that they come up with because the real answer is, "I dunno. I just like it."

Lulu: It's certainly the kind of answer you'll get if you ask people why they sexually desire what they do, because that is totally like, I don't know, I looked at a bunch of stuff until I got a funny feeling...
a funny TINGLY feeling. I liked it. So I did the same thing again.

Ashley: I actually find people who overanalyze their desires problematic. It seems like rationalizing after the fact in all cases. The reason it sounds hollow is because it is.

Lulu: Well, yeah, I mean, I feel like most of the reasons we give for everything is BS rationalization. "Why do you like that?" "Why did you do that?" "Why did you come here?" "Why do you want to work for LexCorp?"


Lulu: Which would turn into: "I'm looking for a challenging atmosphere where I can grow and demonstrate my ruthless leadership capabilities over a number of interesting minions." There's various theories that the process of rationalizing your desires makes you lose touch with your gut reaction, which is actually most indicative of your true wants. Like that cat poster study -- subjects who were asked to justify the reason for choosing one free poster over another made different choices, and were less satisfied with them. So the good news is that maybe if the person makes the guy explain why he likes porn enough, he'll get confused and stop liking it.