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Sunday Reflections: What It’s Like to Be a 14 Year Old Girl

The news has been full lately of issues regarding sex, sexuality and women’s issues.  A judge recently declared that a 14-year-old was just as responsible as the 59-year-old man that she had sex with; she later took her own life and the man will serve on 30 days in jail.  Salon recently ran an article looking at the various ways that we talk about the age of teenage girls, it’s interesting and you should take a look.  And a mother wrote a letter to teenage girls on the Internet suggesting that once a boy sees you as a sexual being, he can never see you as anything else.  Reading all of these articles got me thinking: What was I like as a teenage girl?  This is what I wrote.

I Was a 14 Year Old Girl

I remember being 14.

Like all girls – like all teens actually – I was just trying to figure out who the hell I was and how I fit into this world.  Not to be cliche, but I was not a girl but not yet a woman.  I still played with Barbies, but now our Barbies sometimes had mad, passionate sex with Ken because, well, my hormones were raging and I was trying to figure this sex stuff out.  That’s the funny thing about being 14, your hormones are in one place and your brain is in a totally different one.  In fact, science has shown that the teenage brain is in a massive time of development and change and that teens do not make good decisions for this very important reason.  We’ll get back to this topic in a moment. 

Like most girls, I would often play dress up, this was part of my identity exploration.  This meant that I would sometimes try to dress “sexy” because I lived in a world that told me – beginning at a very young age – that because I was a woman this was my goal in life.  Apparently I was obligated to make the world a better place by being young, thin, and “sexy”.  This meant that sometimes I put on what I thought was a sexy outfit accompanied by too much make up and did stupid things while I thought that I was “sexy”.  Remember world, through your TV shows and commercials and clothing you have been telling me since birth that this is my main goal in life.  If there would have been Facebook, I can assure that I would have posted a variety of stupid pictures of me attempting to look sexy that years later I would look back on and cringe.  Not cringe because I was posting sexy pics, but cringe because I would undoubtedly see some dated hairstyle, raccoon eyes or some other fashion faux pas that would prove that I was both 14 years old and not as smart or sophisticated as I thought I was – because that is what 14 years old do.  This trying on of different personalities, including so called sexy ones, are actually basic, fundamental, age appropriate stages of adolescent development.  It’s what teenagers do to figure out who they are. 
 
You should also know that I had crushes on 2 of my teachers.  1 in Middle School and 1 in High School.  In MS my English teacher played in a band.  He was young and single and I mentioned he played in a band, right?  Who doesn’t have a crush on the teacher that plays in a band?  And in High School I crushed on my Latin teacher.  I am less sure why, I mean he did not play in a band and his pants were always too long and I really thought someone ought to hem them for him.  And here’s the deal, in my stupid still developing 14-year old brain, I would have been flattered if they had returned any interest in me other than concern for turning in my homework on time.  Because I was 14 and here was an adult showing interest in me and how cool would that be.  So back to the teenage brain:  teenage brains, especially the decision making parts, are scientifically proven to be different than adults.  So, you know, we kind of count on adults to BE THE ADULTS and make adult decisions and keep us safe.  That is why at 14, I could not have consented to being in a relationship with my middle school English teacher, even if he was in a band.  This is also why 14 year olds can’t sign contracts, can’t vote, can’t drive, can’t drink and can’t serve in the military.  The other really important reason is because there are issues of power imbalance that come into play, which is why we have sexual harassment laws in the workplace.  If we protect people that ACTUALLY ARE adults, shouldn’t we be protecting our teens with their differently developing brains as well?  The correct answer is yes.

There has been a lot of talk lately about modesty and personal responsibility.  Here’s the deal, personal responsibility goes both ways.  You and you alone are responsible for what you think. And do. And say.  As for modesty, well – I have breasts.  At a very young age I had very big breasts.  A lot of people had strong opinions on this topic, though they had no right to.  Men often freaked out because I had big breasts, and they felt like because those big breasts were they and they liked them, then they could touch them.  It didn’t matter what I was wearing.  In fact, to be honest, there is nothing I could wear that would hide the fact that I had breasts.  Nothing.  Believe me, I have spent a lifetime trying.  I could seriously wear a tent and you would still notice them.  But they are there, in your face.  But, oddly enough, they are not ALL of me.  The fact that this is the only thing men see is on them, not me.  I can not protect you from seeing the fact that I have breasts, I couldn’t when I was 14 and I can’t now.  I have to think, though, that men are capable of looking at women and seeing more than breasts and thinking about more than sex; that they are capable of looking at a woman and seeing a human being with many facets to her life, personality and contributions to this world.

Here’s something else you should know:  When young girls are raped, one of various normal responses to their rape is to become sexually promiscuous.  They feel shame, they feel a sense of less worth, they feel confusion, they feel fear.    They have a wide variety of emotions and really all of them are okay because they have been violated and we don’t get to tell them how to feel, but we do need to help them through the healing process.  Sometimes they have a strong desire to have a lot of sex with a lot of men to try and take control of their sexuality.  Sometimes they are looking for a healing sexual experience.  So before you go getting all judgy about those “slutty” girls you see, know that they may be hurting girls.  1 out of 3 girls in the US is a victim of some type of sexual violence by the time they are 18.  That’s a lot of hurting girls trying to figure this sex stuff out with an uneven playing field.  What you see as slutty is really sometimes a girl trying to put on an armor.
 
Here are other things you might want to know about me before you decide to flip out and judge me:
I was a virgin until I got married at the age of 22.  Yes, all those times I wanted to be sexy, I still chose not to have sex until I got married.  It was a personal choice.  Even now, older and happily married, I sometimes like to feel sexy.  Sometimes I like to feel sexy for my husband. Although sometimes I like to feel sexy just for me, because I am older and I just want to know that I can still BE sexy if I want to.  And I am human.  That is part of how I believe God made us, as beautiful creatures with sexual desires.  And like it or not, those desires kick in during the teenage years because of biology.  They don’t call them raging hormones for nothing.

There also seems to be this double standard where we say men are visual so cover up and girls are emotional.  Have these people not been on the Internet and seen the way women can drool just as equally over a shirtless Zac Efron?  In fact, I am pretty sure that his current movie campaign is banking on this very phenomenon.  Just this past week Salon even wrote an article about how more and more America is becoming obsessed with naked men (their headline, not mine).  Men can feel the same body pressures as women, women can be just as visual as men. 

I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking our teens to be thoughtful about how they present themselves on the Internet; that is actually a good conversation to be having.  But instead of focusing on how teenage girls need to “take responsibility”, let’s change the conversation: we all need to take responsibility for our actions and our thoughts.


For More Information:
The Original Post
Some of the Replies:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/09/double-standards-and-responsibility-an-fyi-roundup.html

And just to prove it is not one sided, this man apparently will serve no jail time even though he has admitted to having sex with several young men to “rape the gay” out of them.  We are failing our children.

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