Thursday, June 25, 2009

Female Chauvinist Pigs, Part III

To conclude my review of Levy's book, I want to address the issue of how the younger generation (or "pigs in training", as Levy refers to the teenagers) sees and relates to sexuality. I mostly teach college students but I have also had an opportunity to teach kids between the ages of 13 and 17 in a year-long course on Hispanic literature a couple of years ago. My experiences are extremely different from what Levy and the media tell us about the young people's vision of sex.

Every time you turn on Dr. Phil, Oprah, Law and Order, etc. you see suburban parents flapping their hands and clucking about how profoundly sexualized the younger generation is. They discuss the supposed orgies that their children (or somebody's children) participate in with such gusto that you can't fail to wonder whether they are verbalizing their own secret desires. Take, for example, the ridiculous invention of the so-called rainbow parties (Levy, at least, recognizes that it's a myth but doesn't try to identify why and where this myth originated.)

I'm just going to give a couple of examples of how my students see sexuality, so that my readers would understand why I view this massive hysteria about the intense sex lives of American teenagers with the deepest suspicion.

The following story took place in a class I was teaching to high school students. A female student, whose outfit, hairdo, and makeup are of the kind that make people like Levy imagine sex orgies of all kinds, talks about the main character of a short story:

Student: The main character is a prostitute.

Me: ???????

Student: She had sex with a guy without being married to him.

Me: But did she take money or anything for sex?

Student: No, it doesn't actually say that but it's obvious she did.

Me: How is that obvious?

Student (triumphant): Why else would she have sex with him??

The next story is one of my pedagogical failures. I never expected the response I got from the students, so I hadn't prepared any arguments for a debate on the subject. We were reading a novel where a woman in her mid-twenties is forced to marry a much older, impotent guy she barely knows in order to avoid dying of starvation. I suggested that this is not a happy ending. Unexpectedly, my undergrads disagreed.

Student: I think it's a pretty happy ending. She has a house now, and food, and she can afford to buy things for herself and her children.

Me: What kind of an existence is this for a young person? No love, no sex, no profession, no social life. Would you be content with this?

Student: But she has a nice man in her life.

Me: A man she doesn't love. A man who can't give her sexual fulfillment.

Student: But he takes care of her!

Me: Like she is a puppy?

Several students at once: It's important to have someone take care of you.

Me: More important than having a happy sexual and emotional life?

Students: Of course!

And to conclude, a sentence from a male student's essay (I'm translating from Spanish but I swear I didn't change a word): "The main character wouldn't have had to have wild sex with his mistress if his wife had gone to the opera with him more often and shown more interest in his hobbies."

A wildly sexual generation. Yeah, right.


Natalee said...

This is a very funny post. Thank you for brightening up my day. Have you ever thought about writing fiction?

Clarissa said...

I'm glad you liked it. :-) But no, I have no literary talent.

Anonymous said...

My students are like this, too.

They are now also convinced that "Las medias rojas" (Pardo Bazan) is intended as an object lesson of sorts, or a warning - or that it supports what the old man does to his daughter and suggests this is moral.