I just read They Know What Boys Want in New York Magazine’s Porn issue. The article focuses on what it’s like to be a teenage girl learning about sexual interaction from the Internet. I’ve often wondered how it feels to be a teenager these days. What this piece reveals is that no matter how much changes, so much stays the same. There was always the girl who dared to wear less and attract more. The girls who hated her for it. And the boys who swooned. If not AIM chats, there were notes, and late night phone calls. And while porn was not as ubiquitous as it is now, the boys always knew how to find it.
When I was a teen, way back in the 90’s, our version of Omegle was phone-dating services—the ones that still, post Internet, mysteriously survive and are advertised on late night TV. We gals used to sit around at slumber parties and gab with random older men, make plans to meet them, and then scope them out at the mall without ever speaking to them. For a moment, we tentatively played cat, hovering nearby, observing the mouse. I think a similar, from-a-distance interaction is what these girls seek out on the Internet. They are testing the waters and eliciting reactions; yet maintaining a sense of power in a dynamic where they know all too well that they are expected to play mouse.
What seems important to me about this article, which is largely complied of teenage girls’ words, is that since parents will never be able to adequately teach their children about, or shield them from, the Internet, the only solution is to teach them about themselves.
When the girls say:
“They (boys) see a pretty girl on the computer, big boobs or whatever, so they’ll be like, ‘Okay, I want a girl like that.’ ”
“I can’t stand that. The subject about the big boobs and all of that other stuff.”
“I don’t want big boobs!” Samantha wails. “I have small boobs. I have a small booty.”
I hear a need for discussion about:
Body issues. Self esteem. Self respect. So no, it’s not easy to be a teenage girl these days. I can’t imagine it ever will be.