Saturday, July 09, 2005

What to do about those teenaged skanks?

Reihan's response to the NY Magazine piece about girls'-school girls who go for older men differs from my own, but that doesn't mean I disagree with it. He argues that, "Strenuous labor ought to be part of a real education." Would strenuous labor make kids less skanky? While we did not have to travel 30 miles in the snow barefoot to get to school, Reihan's and my classmates at a certain institution had, for the most part, crazy commutes that entailed, from age 13 or 14 on, learning to navigate the NYC subway system cleverly enough to arrive at an inconvenient location near the West Side Highway in time for 8 am classes. And, by and large, Stuy kids aren't all that skanky. This is probably due to other factors, now that I think of it, and even the most difficult commutes--for instance, those involving the LIRR--don't really count as strenuous labor. But, moving on...

I agree with Reihan that teens should have more day-to-day contact with adults, and that that would demystify 17-year-old girls and 35-year-old men to one another. (Would that make 17-year-old girls lose their appeal to 35-year-old men? Doubtful, but the mystery would no longer work both ways). By the same token, I'd add that coeducation is not a bad idea, either. The girls profiled in the NY Magazine piece are dismissive of boys their own age, but how well do they even know that demographic, since they don't have any male classmates? True, high-school boys aren't the greatest, but whatever charm they have is appreciated by generation after generation of high-school girls, who don't so much as consider that they'd have other options.

That's really the missing link here: single-sex education turns all male-female relationships into sex-related ones, everything from sex-appeal-derived power to, well, sex. These girls know about getting guys--this is something even 5th and 6th graders at the girls' schools discuss, or at least did when I was that age--but don't know much about working with them, talking to them, or arguing with them as friends and classmates. No wonder the girls profiled in the NY Magazine piece are interested in seducing older men and getting pregnant--if the end goal is a man, preferably a high-status man, why not just accelerate the process?


Rachel said...

I think it is somewhat unfair to blame single sex education, I participated in it for my 4 high school years and anything that is lost by not interacting with boys in a classroom is far outweighed by the virtue of not having to interact with boys in a classroom. Not all 15 year old boys are Stuyvesant sophomores, most are immature assholes who are going to laugh through a biology presentation. A female-focused institution does wonders for the shaky self-confidence of most of the girls attending and I don't recall a rash of girls at my high school sleeping with much older men. I think the problem may be unique to Manhattan, not all-girl's institutions.

Anonymous said...

I think Reihan comes closest to his real feelings when he says, "Prudery is one response."

But one would expect better from someone who proudly proclaims their Francophilia on their homepage. Where but France do you think the Half Plus Seven rule was invented?

Now it is indeed true that a 35m+17f is as much of a perversion of the rule as a 17m+17f or a 35m+35f. Those 35m's should be dating 24f's to keep the Half Plus Seven rule holy.

But what I find odd is the thought that if the particular girls of the NYMag article had more day-to-day contact with adults, they would no longer have interest in dating 35 yo men - that somehow they are dating 35 yo men only out of ignorance.

Given what those particular girls are after in dating, I'd suggest they're pursuing the right targets.


What I also find fascinating is how new a historical phenomena this reaction is.

The past 20 years have witnessed a relentless raising of the age of consent throughout America. Mainstream societal attitudes toward inter-generational relationships have moved from seeing them as benign or silly to seeing them as dangerous.

But while there have been many, many conservative sexual changes over the past 20 years, this one is different in that it is a reaction to long-standing attitudes, not just post-sexual revolution attitudes.


And while I agree with you wholeheartedly that single sex education badly skews both sexes in their relationship skills, I don't think co-education would affect this kind of behavior.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Rachel--point taken, but I should respond. You write: "Not all 15 year old boys are Stuyvesant sophomores, most are immature assholes who are going to laugh through a biology presentation." There was a boy in my chemistry class at Stuyvesant who shouted "faggot" randomly and repeatedly during class. I think that counts as immature asshole behavior, and it wasn't shocking in the context of the school, so I wouldn't say that the fact that I went to Stuyvesant means I can't at all speak about the coed high school experience. Maybe we could compromise and speculate that the problem is mostly unique to Manhattan girls' schools?

Rachel said...

Vis-a-vis my reading of the "Gossip Girl" series I can certainly agree that all-girl's schools in Manhattan have some unique problems, skankification of juniors and seniors among them. Wasn't there just some glowing NYT article about some charitable fashion show put on by Spence girls? When not trolling for men twice their age they are raising money for charity? Couldn't the two be combined? Like the Kissing Booth in the original Revenge of the Nerds?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Huh. The only trolling for men twice my age I did while a Spence girl was having a crush on a counselor at camp who was about 22 when I was about 11, but then again, I left Spence after 8th grade, and thus before the real fun begins. I suppose skankiness could be combined with charity work--the only chance many private-school middle-schoolers have to meet those of the opposite sex is at these bizarre charity dances, so it makes sense that the fusion would/could continue.