And speaking of youngsters, students, your professor is here with Cliffs Notes to One Life, Take Two. Pay attention—this will be on the final.
Astute readers have noted that I tend to write series of posts on a particular theme, as when I took all of four months to write about a single weekend in relating the events of Sex Camp. Sometimes, though, the theme is less overtly stated than it was in that case.
Since around the time of my birthday last month, I have focused on one recurring leitmotif. Did you notice? Anyone know what it was? Any hands at all?
Okay, then I will tell you.
Youth and maturity.
I wrote about my teenage daughter’s engagement, my weekend with a nineteen-year-old thesaurus, my jailbait girlfriend’s contention that a cute boy was “too young” for me, my orgy boy toy, the gay escort with a thing for “really, really young boys” and Vanessa del Rio’s three decades in porn.
And, of course, the aforementioned twentysomethings.
I decided to write about youth and maturity for a couple of reasons. Most obviously, because I added another candle to my birthday cake.
Less obviously, because of the war.
I was recently watching the evening news with my son Jason, himself a newly minted teenager. During a segment on soldiers returning from Iraq with missing limbs, Jason observed, “It’s so weird when they call teenagers ‘veterans.’”
I agreed that this sounded odd. We are accustomed to thinking of vets as gray-haired men who march in parades and cry at memorials. And yet these teenaged soldiers, male and female, are also veterans. It’s odd to two generations of Americans—including my children and me—as we remain unsettled in our new life in wartime.
So as I wrote these stories, and read reader’s responses in comments and emails, I was consciously addressing issues of age, maturity and consent. And as I wrote my tales of autobiographical erotica, as I do, I noticed relevant reports in recent news stories—and not just about the war.
For example, consider seventeen-year-old Genarlow Wilson, sentenced to ten years in prison for having consensual oral sex with his fifteen-year-old girlfriend, or the two teenagers convicted of producing and trafficking child pornography when they photographed themselves nude and the female emailed one of those images to the male.
(These and other issues of public policy and sexuality are more smartly considered at the essential Sex and the Public Square.)
As a parent, I want to protect my children from genuine sexual predators. I also want to protect them from overzealous legislation that criminalizes normal adolescent sexuality.
All of that swirled in my head as I wrote my posts about youth and maturity. I paid close attention as these posts elicited some telling responses, as well as some telling silences.
There was a consensus of approval for my reaction to the engagement of my eighteen-year-old daughter. It is her decision to make, and while I have expressed my wish that she would not marry so young, she has the confidence of my enduring love and full support.
By far, the most controversial of my recent posts had to do with Nicole. Some readers viewed my weekend with a nineteen-year-old woman unfavorably, saying that she was much too young to engage in sex with someone my age.
It is notable that this opinion was generally expressed by older women. Men tended to write that I was one lucky dog. Younger women tended to write that Nicole was one lucky dog.
The surprise in these reactions is that there is no surprise to these reactions. They were subjective, based primarily on the anxieties and desires of respondents as opposed to facts related in the tale.
Such is sex.
Apparently, I had tripped over a taboo: heterosexual intergenerational sex.
Why do I emphasize the taboo concerning heterosexuality? Well, as a test case, consider my story of sex with a nineteen-year-old man, which garnered no unfavorable responses (except, of course, that of Shelby, as related in the story).
I suspected there would be a gender gap concerning the comparison of these two stories, and that bore out. Evidently, young women are not to be trusted in choosing older sex partners, whereas its hunky dory for young men to do so.
All of which got me thinking again about the war.
We hold contradictory notions about adolescence and maturity. On the one hand, it is acceptable that eighteen year olds have the right to marry, get tattoos or enlist for military service at a time of war, even as we acknowledge that these decisions are likely to forever alter their lives.
On the other hand, the sexual agency of adolescents makes some people uncomfortable, even when teenagers have sex with partners of the same age, as in the cases cited above.
It is all the more discomfiting if a young woman in late adolescence seeks consensual sex with an older man, a decision that is likely to alter not her life but . . . a weekend. The man is presumed to be “predatory,” as one reader responded, even though the related facts made it clear that Nicole sought out the relationship, and stressed over and again that she is no dummy.
In this case, that presumption stands in opposition to troublesome facts to the contrary. It is a presumption as firmly rooted in cultural bias as that of a younger man being fortunate if an older woman takes him as a lover.
I have two more stories in the series on youth and maturity, and then I am off to other things.
But before I do anything, I need to relate the adventures of a blue balloon.
(I should add: this is the type of post that may draw comments. Be advised that I do not approve vitriolic commentary, particularly that posted anonymously. These are, frankly, a buzzkill for readers. If you comment, please have something relevant to say.
I welcome responses of any kind via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)