In July, the CDC released another study: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing of Teenagers Aged 15–19 in the United States. Among the findings were the following highlights (as determined by moi):
In the early teen years males were more likely than females to have had sexual intercourse. But the percentage of older teenagers who had sexual intercourse was similar for female and male teenagers.
That would mean that there’s a lot of gay sex earlier on; or that males tend to exaggerate their sexual lives to live up to some idea of what it means to be male, while females tend to downplay to fit cultural standards. Yes, that’s still happening.
In 2011–2013, 44% of female teenagers and 47% of male teenagers aged 15–19 had experienced sexual intercourse; the percentage has declined significantly, by 14% for female and 22% for male teenagers, over the past 25 years.
While some credit the sex ed from physicians (which accompanies the HPV vaccine) as a sexual deterrent, others, such as myself, wonder how much honesty is going on in the reporting. Especially with media stories spreading panic about “the youth today” and their hook-ups and casual sex. Could it be, as suspected? That those cries about the sex-crazed youth of today is tantamount to talking about “kids today, with their blue jean dungarees and loud rock and roll music” ~ just something old cranky people bitch about when there are no kids on their lawns to yell at?
It might just be.
Don’t believe me or the CDC? Maybe you’ll believe journalist Rachel Hills.
In her book, The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, Hills discusses how the supposed new sexual liberation (which one can obviously debate ~ especially if you are a woman or part of the LGBTQ community) is resulting in its own set of expectations, disappointments, and humiliations. Simply put, for Hill, the Sex Myth has changed from “we’re dirty if we have sex” to “we’re defective if we don’t do it enough or well enough.” And people are bucking under the pressures.
Despite the New York Times Book Review referencing Hills position as “a smart argument against that strain of neo- or anti-feminism that would have women rebel against objectification by objectifying ourselves,” Hills position is more about the pressures we all put upon ourselves to have fantastic, mind-blowing, swinging-from-the-chandelier sex ~ and having it often ~ because we think everyone else is, and we’re freakish if we don’t.
Turns out, most of us aren’t. The collective “we” is neither freakish, nor having “all that great sex.” No matter our gender, orientation, etc.
Hills’ research for the book consisted of talking with 200 people, most of them between the ages of 16 and 32. For three years, Hill interviewed these 200 people, a group consisting of “men, women, gay, straight, trans people, people of different ethnicities and religions”, which Hill traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom to speak with. Her findings indicated that she was not alone in feeling the need to embellish her sex life in terms of both quality and quantity.
In her interview with Hills, Alice Robb sums up the findings this way:
Sexual liberation, Hills argues, hasn’t liberated us from anxieties about living up to a sexual standard. We’ve simply replaced the fear of having too many partners with the fear of having too few—and in many ways, that’s just as damaging.
Perhaps what’s more enlightening than this discovery of trading one sexual tyranny for another, are radical notions of what sexual freedom really means.
In another interview, this time at the Chicago Tribune, Hills discusses her hopes with journalist Heidi Stevens:
We need a new way of speaking about sex,” [Hills] told me. “One that appreciates the role it plays in our lives without overhyping it as the most important thing.”
Those choices might include abstaining altogether.
“A new brand of sexual freedom will incorporate the right not to do it as much as the right to do it,” Hills said. “What I’d really like to see is a world in which people aren’t shamed for liking nonconventional sex acts, for being kinky or polyamorous, for being vanilla and monogamous, for being a virgin, for having sex once and then going months or years without having it again. Basically, I’d like to see the weight attached to sex lightened so we could make the choices that are actually right for us.”
Sounds like Hills is taking a page right out of Alain de Boton’s book, How to Think More about Sex ~ a page directly from the introduction, to be precise:
Despite being one of the most private of activities, sex is nonetheless surrounded by a range of powerful socially sanctioned ideas that codify how normal people are meant to feel about and deal with the matter.
In truth, however, few of us are remotely normal sexually. We are almost all haunted by guilt and neuroses, by phobias and disruptive desires, by indifference and disgust. None of us approaches sex as we are meant to, with the cheerful, sporting, non-obsessive, constant, well-adjusted outlook that we torture ourselves by believing other people are endowed with. We are universally deviant – but only in relation to some highly distorted ideals of normality.
Typically when people talk about whether sex is “normal” or not, the focus is on the acts themselves… Fetishes, kinks, BDSM, etc. And who we do these things with (married, strangers, multiple partners, sex workers, etc). Even how we look. But it turns out, there are a lot of people worried about how often they are having sex ~ and not just in terms of “too much,” and so-called sex addictions, either. All these pressures should cease. They key to free love is to let it be free.
As Hills said:
If someone makes a joke about a certain way of life being freakish or loser-ish, we can speak up and say, “Actually, plenty of people do that and it’s fine for them.” We can all do our part to shed light on the truth and call people in instead of calling them out.
Like the Peck & Call Girls, I just hope the subject of masturbation, solo and mutual, is included in all of this acceptance as well.
Image Credits: Ironic use of the judging & humiliating phone sex FemDom Not Your Angel (aka @TrailerTrashGrl) of Clit Orations.