Adolescent sexuality has been at the forefront of the recent “Culture Wars,” as is clear from the many news stories and political battles over issues such as sex education, teen pregnancy and STDs, Child Sexual Abuse, enhanced legal regulation of sex offenders, pedophiles on the internet, “sexting” and child pornography. On the one hand adolescents today are more sexually mature than at most historical periods: physical puberty occurs ever earlier (Moller, 1987), while children’s capacity to access the same media as adults grows ever more sophisticated. Already in 1982, Neil Postman presciently observed that electronic media had obliterated the historical technological superiority of literate adults relative to not‐yet‐fully-literate children (Postman, 1982). At that point, he was thinking mainly of television, but his observation has become even more true in the digital age, when adolescents are often the ones teaching their parents and grandparents. 1982 had not yet grasped what would be the ubiquity of MTV or cheap, highly graphic visual pornography in many parents’ closets, or if not there, on their kids’ computer screens. Children have become the most clever at accessing media at precisely the time when popular media culture is more saturated with verbal, musical, and visual images of sexuality than ever before.
Thomas K. Hubbard
Rethinking Girls' Resistance and Agency in Postcolonial Contexts
In this article I explore the performance art of international hip-hop artist M.I.A. to interrogate the problematic of girls' resistance and agency within a global youthscape. Using a feminist transnational framework, I analyze how her music and celebrity persona may be considered gendered post-colonial cultural productions that highlight issues of inequality, violence and domination. I argue that M.I.A.'s cultural productions serve as pedagogical symbolic resources for theorizing girlhood in post-colonial contexts specifically around issues of sexuality. As a symbolic resource, M.I.A.'s work is pedagogical in the larger global youthscape as well as in scholarship on girls in post-colonial contexts. Specifically, M.I.A. (in her music and interviews) openly wrestles with the embodied tensions between complicity and possibility in post-colonial girlhood. Consistent with a feminist transnational framework, I argue that the identities of “Third World” girls are discursively produced as innocent yet hypersexualized exotic Others in the service and/or mercy of “First World” colonial men and women. However, M.I.A. makes explicit that within the context of globalization, the cultural politics of gender and sexuality take place on/through/with brown female bodies—whether it is in the battlefield, the street or in the bedroom. A close analysis M.I.A.'s song 10 Dollar illustrates how Third World girls exercise resistance and agency in negotiating imperialist and nationalist heteropatriarchy.
Re-Theorising Contemporary Tomboyism in the Schizoid Space of Innocent/Heterosexualized Young Femininities
This article critically explores the seduction of contemporary tomboyism for young tweenage girls within neo-liberal postfeminist times and an increasingly commodified (hetero)sexualised girlhood culture. A central aim of the article is to contextualize the persistence of the tomboy discourse and girls' appropriation of tomboyism within competing schizoid discourses of presumed innocence and compulsory normative (hetero)sexuality. Drawing on past and current predominantly UK based ethnographic research mapping girls' relationship to tomboyism, the first half of the article considers how to theorise girls' fluid appropriation of 'being a bit tomboy' within a discursive terrain of multiple femininities and fashion feminism. The second half of the article revisits a case study of one eleven-year-old self-identified tomboy, Eric/a, to re-think conceptualisations of girls' sustained appropriation of 'tomboy' as more than some licensed mimicry of masculinity when it is taken-up as a performative politics of subverting emphasized (hetero)sexualized femininities. The article concludes with a call for future theorizations of girlhood (for example, tomboyism) that foreground the intersection of gender, sex, sexuality, age and time and their socio-cultural and contextual contingency.
Teen Girls Negotiating Discourses of Competitive, Heterosexualized Aggression
In this paper I explore the themes of heterosexualized competition and aggression in Avril Lavigne's music video Girlfriend (2007) as representative of the violent heterosexualized politics within which girls are incited to compete in contemporary schooling and popular culture. I argue that psycho-educational discourses attempting to explain girls' aggression and bullying fail to account for the heterosexualized, classed or racialized power dynamics of social competition that organize heteronormative femininity. Then I elaborate a psychosocial approach using psychoanalytic concepts to trace how teen girls negotiate contemporary discourses of sexual aggression and competition. Drawing on findings from a study with racially and economically marginalized girls aged thirteen to fourteen attending an innercity school in South Wales, I suggest that the girls enact regulatory, classed discourses like slut to manage performances of heterosexualized aggression. However, alongside their demonstration of the impetus toward sexual regulation of one another, I show how the girls in my study are also attempting to challenge heteronormative formations of performing sexy-aggressive. Moments of critical resistance in their narratives, when they refuse to pathologize aggressive girls as mean and/or bullies, and in their fantasies, when they reject heterosexual relationships like marriage are explored.
Bodil Formark and Annelie Bränström Öhman
While we have been working on this themed issue the political talk about The Girl has entered a new phase in a global shift manifested both by the establishment of the International Day of the Girl and through the launching of various campaigns on themes such as: Give Girls an Education and Eradicate World Poverty. The necessity for such initiatives was cruelly illustrated by the violent attack on Pakistani girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai on her way home from school on 9 October 2012. Such blatant discrimination makes it difficult for us not to feel that we live in a privileged part of the world. The five Nordic nation states—Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden—are indeed often perceived by outsiders, too, as progressive countries that have come very far in achieving gender equality. However, although Nordic girlhood may appear in stark contrast to that of the millions of disadvantaged girls in the world, there are complexities and ambivalences beneath the surface of Nordic progressiveness that a reductive, comparative, and linear, framework fails to take into account.
The Figure of the Girl in International Cinema
girl soldiers in film, rather than questioned. Affinities and commonalities between the chapters emerge even as they provide suitable sites of tension and/or juxtaposition. The collection shows that the girl on screen can be politically transgressive
Teenage Girls’ Forays into Digital and School-Based Feminisms
Crystal Kim and Jessica Ringrose
indelibly sexist. In these and other recent examples, teen feminists are troubling what Sinikka Aapola et al. (2005) think of as engrained constructions of youth, particularly girls, as lacking in political agency. Social media are opening spheres of
In the call for articles for this special issue on girls’ health, we highlighted that “[g]irls’ health is an ongoing and evolving issue with ties that go beyond medical analyses to include a wide array of social, educational, political, and environmental discourses (among others!).” Th at a number of different perspectives might contribute to or strengthen the interdisciplinary focus of an issue as crucial as girls’ health was important to me as guest editor. Th is issue demonstrates that the relationship of girlhood to health—sexual health, in particular—is of critical concern to us all. It is an area full of challenges and barriers, most of them, as is evident in this issue, understood and often expressed by girls themselves. The articles presented here point to the many perspectives from which to approach this topic. Girls’ sexual health is linked to an array of intersecting issues including the pedagogical influences of popular romance literature; the ways in which girls use blogs to construct counter narratives about their sexual identity; how girls’ increased inclusion in citizenship discourses can increase their capacity to address sexual objectification; what girls do to negotiate power within their heterosexual relationships; how barriers to water access in Africa can lead to the awareness of the risks—which range from being perceived to be promiscuous to being raped—that young women face; as well as how the (mis)management of menstruation can affect girls’ education. This issue points to the global and local specifics of sexual health, and to health more generally. Th e concerns discussed here are geographically wide-ranging: Cameroon, Lesotho, Australia, the United States, and Canada provide the settings—some urban and others rural. Th e authors present a wide range of methodologies from which they explore girls’ health: literary analysis; autoethnography; and participatory methods such as digital storytelling, mediamaking, listening to what young people have to say in various research paradigms, blogging, and photovoice.
The issue of age of consent for sexual activities has been bedevilled by the absence of any objective standards or criteria for what is meant by or involved in "consent." Despite this absence—or because of it—the social and political response has been to reach for blanket prohibitions on sexual activity by persons under particular ages—ages which have settled in the mid‐ to late teens. At the same time, the percentages of persons aged 15 and under who are sexually active in our societies indicate that young people are regularly consenting to sexual activities. Consent to sexual activity has also been a concern in relation to the lives of the cognitively or mentally impaired. In an attempt to clarify issues surrounding consent there, a significant proposal in regard to objectifying standards for consent was reported by Carrie Hill Kennedy, in her article “Assessing Competency to Consent to Sexual Activity in the Cognitively Impaired Population” (Journal of Forensic Neuropsychology 1:3, 1999), where she developed a two‐part scale for ability to consent, including twelve criteria involving knowledge and five criteria involving personal assertiveness and safety. Kennedy herself has maintained that there is no relevance for her research as applied to minors: adults have sexual rights, minors do not. However, it would seem clear that there is a certain relevance—if not in the use of a similar scale for assessing the competence of a particular minor to consent, then in generally comparing the age at which children attain the developmental level comparable with that implied by Kennedy’s five Safety standards, and using that information to critique the present, obviously unrealistic ages of consent. In relation to the Knowledge scale, the importance of sexual education becomes still clearer.
Empirical, Historical, Cross-Cultural, and Cross-Species Considerations
Social response to age‐gap sex involving minors has become increasingly severe. In the US, non‐coercive acts that might have been punished with probation 30 years ago often lead to decades in prison today. Punishment also increasingly includes civil commitment up to life, as well as scarlet‐letter‐like public registries and onerous residence restrictions for released offenders. Advocates and the general public approve, believing that age‐gap sex with minors is uniquely injurious, pathological, and criminal. Critics argue that public opinion and policy have been shaped by moral panic, consisting of unfounded assumptions and invalid science being uncritically promoted by ideology, media sensationalism, and political pandering. This talk critically examines the basic assumptions and does so using a multi‐perspective approach (empirical, historical, cross‐cultural, cross‐species) to overcome the biases inherent in traditional clinical‐forensic reports. Non‐clinical empirical reviews of age‐gap sex involving minors show claims of intense, pervasive injuriousness to be highly exaggerated. Historical and cross‐cultural reviews show that adult‐adolescent sexual relations have been common and frequently socially integrated in other times and places, indicating that present‐day Western conceptualizations are socially constructed to reflect current social and economic arrangements rather than expressions of a priori truths. Analogous relations in primates are commonplace, non‐pathological, and not infrequently functional, contradicting implicit assumptions of a biologically‐based “trauma response” in humans. It is concluded that, though age‐gap sex involving minors is a significant mismatch for contemporary culture—and this talk therefore does not endorse it—attitudes and social policy concerning it have been driven by an upward‐spiraling moral panic, which itself is immoral in its excessive adverse consequences for individuals and society.