There was an item in today's paper that reported a higher rate of pregnancy for teen girls who watched lots of racy TV shows compared to those who did not. Seems reasonable. Teens are very impressionable, and if the young TV stars they idolize are having sex, then they will too.
Sex on television has gravitated from late-night R movies to prime time. The Soaps are full of it at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Jessica is having Brad's baby even though she feels an unnatural attraction to beautiful Bree, her Pilates teacher. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit often deals with graphic scenes of previously taboo subjects like rape and incest. Janet Jackson has a "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl half-time show, clearly a lame attempt to spice up her image and breathe life into a career that is so over. You just can't get a break from all the boobs on TV...pun intended.
Then we have the Internet. It seems like every day, some pillar of the community is found with pictures on his computer of him having sex with gerbils. How dumb must you be to actually save or email these files! Pornography is rampant; well-meaning parents and school officials try to block these sites, but kids always find a way to access them. I'm convinced that children who are bombarded with sexual images come to have a twisted sense of what sex is supposed to be about.
In the fifties, this wasn't really a problem. There was no Internet, and an ad showing a woman wearing one of those iron maiden bras was enough to get young male pulses racing. Sex on TV was virtually non-existent. In family sitcoms like I Love Lucy, husbands and wives always slept in separate beds. Screen kisses were chaste affairs with no gum-swapping going on. Consequently, it was almost unheard of (despite the wild bragging of guys that knew girls who went all the way) for teens to do anything more than kiss on dates.
This wasn't the guys' doing. Men are pigs, and even back in the fifties, the minute they discovered their sexuality, they were like dogs in heat. Girls were the opposite; their reputations were everything and they guarded them jealously. Starting around 7th or 8th grade, kissing games like Spin the Bottle and Post Office were popular at parties. Most kids, even the girls, participated because there were rules and boundaries.
Later there were make-out parties in high school. After a few slow dances to set the mood, couples would pair off and spend hours on couches, porch swings, backyard steps, anywhere they could be alone, making out like mad. At the stage when things were ready to move to the next level, the girl would firmly push away and say something like" Sorry Skippy, not tonight. I have to receive in the morning". (For non-Catholics, this meant she had to receive Communion at morning Mass.) The dopey guy, who deep down knew this would be the inevitable ending,
nevertheless allowed himself to dream about what was under that pink angora sweater. When reality dawned, he limped home for the all-to-familiar cold shower.
I remember the name of my first girlfriend in 8th grade: Carol Diehl. She was a pretty good kisser. Then there was Isabelle Terucchio who had a face like Isabella Rosselini, but who also had a hatchet-faced aunt who would come along as chaperon on our dates. Not a lot of kissing going on here. Everybody on my block had the hots for Joanne Prevete. She was really a nice girl, but she looked fast; that was enough for our overdeveloped imaginations.
When I think about how innocent we were back then compared to teens today who grow up so fast (at least where sex is concerned) I think I like the old way better. In spite of all the cold showers, I like to believe that we had more respect for women. It's an old-fashioned notion, and maybe I'm remembering things as being better than they were, but I'd rather see a woman up on a pedestal than hanging off a brass pole.
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