Schoolgirls want to be the sexiest boy-toy on the block: Why?

February 10, 2004
Globe and Mail
By Margaret Wente

The content of this column may offend some readers because of its frank sexual language.

Forty years ago, the Beatles went on Ed Sullivan and sang I Want to Hold Your Hand. Dads across North America went ballistic when their darling daughters brought home boyfriends with hair down to their collars.

Today, a rap star named 50 Cent has a song that goes like this: "Baby if you get on your knees, put me in your mouth and suck me off." He was nominated for five Grammys this year.

Dads across North America are going ballistic when they discover that their darling daughters have joined the Rainbow Club. Never heard of it? It's when girls line up to act out the 50 Cent song with a boy, and they all have different shades of lipstick on. It's happening in middle school. If you're not aware of this phenomenon, I refer you to last Saturday's story in The Globe's Focus section, titled Good Girls Do.

Am I allowed to be shocked now?

When Janet Jackson's nipple ornament was exposed on network TV, the fashionable reaction was to pooh-pooh the overkill and prudery of the official response. What's the matter with those folks? Can't they take the sight of a decorated nipple? Do they really think a flash of naked breast will corrupt the nation's youth?

Oh, how sophisticated we've all become.

Call me a member of the Morally Uptight Club if you want, but I'd argue that there's a direct connection between Janet Jackson's tit-flash and the outbreak of oral sex in middle school.

Justin Timberlake's grab at his singing partner's breast was the climax, if you'll pardon the expression, of a dance routine in which women writhed on the floor in costumes that, like Janet's, suggested a S&M orgy. The halftime show also featured a hip-hop singer repeatedly grabbing at his crotch. "Bet I'll have you naked by the end of this song," sang Mr. Timberlake, as he ripped off Janet's clothing. Since when did simulated sexual assault become cute?

Somehow, I think there's a bigger issue here than our conflicted attitudes about sex.

It's true that those who thought this display was a vulgar new low in popular culture haven't been paying attention. The kids became corrupted a long time ago. Justin Timberlake's simulated sexual assault was merely an unscheduled spillover of standard MTV culture onto a mainstream network. In case you haven't noticed, Madonna has been groping herself on stage ever since her Blonde Ambition tour. Britney Spears's sexually saturated Lolita act is so familiar it's passé. When the entire culture is telling little girls to be not only sexually precocious but hyper-sexed, is it any wonder that deviant behaviour is now mainstream?

At high-school dances in your neighbourhood, the girls are competing to service the quarterback. Each one hopes that if she's the most skillful, he'll like her the best. Take a look at the friends your daughter is having for a sleepover. Chances are that those kids in PJs are probably talking about BJs.

It's so liberated of us to celebrate lesbian sex on TV. When Madonna and Britney tongue each other, we laugh at it for being so hokey and contrived, but we don't get mad because we all know it's so, you know, harmless. So I guess it must be harmless when the guys at school egg on the girls to tongue-kiss each other while the guys watch, isn't it? Isn't it? I mean, they're not serious.

How did things get this far? Well, we were the liberated generation, weren't we? We were going to be more relaxed about these matters. We weren't going to impose our parents' stupid hang-ups about sex on our own kids. We weren't going to get all uptight over their perfectly natural sexual urges, or the chastity of our daughters. We weren't going to intrude on their privacy the way our parents did, or try to censor their music the way our parents did, or chaperone their parties and wreck their fun. We would trust them, the way our parents never trusted us.

Instead of guarding our daughters' virginity, we would teach them empowerment and self-respect. Now they think empowerment means being the sexiest little boy-toy on the block. So much for a generation of feminism.

What interests me is what sort of behaviour we tolerate and what we don't. Twelve-year-old girls who dress like hookers are fine. Boys who wave toy guns deserve to be severely punished. In Hamilton, some 14-year-olds were suspended from school for 20 days because they fired off a toy pellet gun at recess. Police were summoned, and it's possible the boys will be expelled.

We believe that violence, even of the simulated kind, is so toxic that we've got to exercise constant vigilance and zero tolerance. We won't even let our kids throw snowballs in the school yard. Meantime, those same kids are wondering if there's something wrong with them because they haven't had oral sex yet.

"Girl you know I like it when you climb on top/ Love muscles feel tighter than a headlock," sings 50 Cent in a song titled I Smell Pussy. He didn't win any Grammys this time. I suppose we should be grateful.