Teenage sex

The sad state of teenage sex – young women being coerced into painful anal sex by young men. Read more here.

Thanks for your thoughts, and sorry not to provide more commentary on the article when I posted it up – I’m extremely pushed for time at the moment, thought that folks might find it interesting, so threw it up quickly when I had a spare ten seconds. By way of providing more context/discussion, here are some quick notes in response to some of the thoughts below (and again, there isn’t time to formulate all of what I might want to about this right now, so bear with me):

1) As C. K. Egbert notes, this is being read in the context of other studies/reports about sexual attitudes and behaviour amongst teens. Also, more anecdotal reports from friends who work with young people in various capacities, and my first year students reflecting on their experiences. These all point to a pretty toxic sexual environment, which prevails in at least some sectors of the teen population, where the dominant norms involve coercion of young women, lack of regard for consent, pressure on young men to prove their manliness in the eyes of their peers by getting enough sex, a lack of regard for women’s sexual pleasure, and so on.

2) I don’t care whether teen sex culture today is better or worse than previous generations. I care about the fact that certain aspects of it are pretty toxic. So this post wasn’t intended to bemoan the state of kids today compared to a previous rosy state of affairs.

3) What’s interesting (and worrying) to me, is that the toxic norms exist in a culture where many folks think that equality for women has been achieved and there is nothing more for feminism to do (at least, this is an attitude I encounter often when teaching an intro to feminism course).

4) Quite right, I didn’t mean to suggest that anal sex is always painful or that there is something inherently wrong with anal sex. The worry was instead that some of the young men surveyed thought that it might be painful for their partners but didn’t care. However, I find myself a bit confused now. I can’t help feeling that there is some significance to the fact that the sex being coerced is anal, but I’m not quite sure I can articulate it. Do I think it’s worse than being coerced into, e.g., vaginal or oral sex? No – because any sort of coerced sex is wrong. Is it because I think there is something wrong with anal sex? No. I *think* what’s bothering me is that whilst penis-in-vagina sex can certainly be painful if the penis-wielding person isn’t sufficiently sensitive to the vagina-wielding person, for anal sex to be pain-free (and pleasurable) the person doing the penetrating has to be more sensitive to the person being penetrated. In other words, it seems to me that to be pain-free, it requires more equality of interaction than penis-in-vagina sex, so it seems significant that it’s – according to studies like this – taking place in a context where there is a lack of equality of interaction. Does that make any sense? Thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Teenage sex

  1. This reminds me of Cindy Gallop’s TED talk (not safe for many work contexts): “Make love not Porn:”

  2. I have been seeing this post at the top of FP for a couple of days now, with discomfort that I’d like to try to explain. I wish it had been presented with some further context or discussion. Of course it is terrible (and not new) that girls and young women (and sometimes boys and young men) are being pressured and sometimes forced into sex acts that are uncomfortable and even painful for them. But I find that the emphasis on “anal” here can readily appeal to narrow and heteronormative ideas about what sex should be – like, the coercion is especially shocking here because it involves a kind of sex that is wrong or taboo. I’m not saying that this is what motivated the post, or that this is the only possible understanding. But without any further discussion, this is the cloud that hangs over the post for me.

  3. Yes, I had the same thought as Sherri Irvin. There’s something, too, that bothers me about the sentence, “The sad state of teenage sex – young women being coerced into painful anal sex by young men.” If it were edited, for example, to say “into (often painful) anal sex,” it would avoid what I think the sentence could be read to suggest — that anal sex is by its nature painful.

  4. From the article: “Even in otherwise seemingly communicative and caring partnerships, some men seemed to push to have anal sex with their reluctant partner despite believing it likely to hurt her…”

    I think what’s relevant here is not that anal sex is “taboo.” It is that the men were perfectly aware that anal sex would not be pleasurable for women, that it would hurt women, and that it might harm them, and they coerced girls into it anyway (vaginal intercourse at least carries with it the idea–if not the reality–that it can sometimes be pleasurable for women). So what this is saying is that (a) many men actively enjoy hurting women or else don’t care if they do, (b) many men find it acceptable to coerce women, and (c ) many men do not care about women’s pleasure. I also don’t find it really relevant whether anal sex is “by nature” painful or not: if a woman is not enjoying what is happening and did not actively and enthusiastically seek it out, then it shouldn’t happen at all.

  5. The data linked by this study: 18% of 18-24 year olds report having anal sex in the previous year. 34% of adults report having ever tried it at all. This particular study isolated the smallish number of teens who had engaged in anal sex and asked them about *their* practices and attitudes. Any non-consensual sexual activity is deplorable and the attitudes of the perpetrators reported in this study are certainly reflective of rape culture. But I’m not sure that the language in the post and in the comments is warranted: this is not “the state” of teen sex.

  6. Lucy, I think, though, that this is being also read in the context of other studies/reports and facts about sexual activities and attitudes of teens and young adults.

  7. I agree with Sherri and Lucy, and I would add that we should be suspicious whenever we find ourselves bemoaning ‘the kids these days.’ Do we have any evidence that, apart from the specific taboo, these behaviors (e.g. pressuring young women into sexual acts that they are presumed not to want) are more prevalent than in previous generations?

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