I tuned in to Oprah last Tuesday, as I try to do every Tuesday, because I love Dr. Phil truly and deeply and I don't care who knows it. Dr. Phil rules all within his sight. Yes, his advice often seems pat, his counsel easier said than acted on. Yes, the Life Laws he's always on about bear a suspicious resemblance to a hunk of Roquefort. I don't care. My love obeys no logic. Every time Dr. Phil leans forward and skewers yet another whiny mother-in-law with that deceptively gentle-sounding Texas accent, I clap and squeal and sigh like a schoolgirl. The mere sight of his bald dome, carefully powdered by Oprah's make-up team so as not to reflect the studio lights too intimidatingly, reassures me that all's right with the world.
And last Tuesday promised a particularly lavish banquet of Dr. Phil's trademark bluntness and eye-rolling. The subject? "It's the new Spin the Bottle: 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds are engaging in alarming sexual behavior. Now, frantic parents turn to Dr. Phil." Yes. Yes, they do. To get yelled at, dressed down, and stripped naked and shivering of their pathetic delusions of control. Whee! I couldn't wait.
Dr. Phil did not disappoint — he never does — but the show itself gave me a nauseated feeling like when I try to read in the car. The "alarming sexual behavior" in question consisted primarily of junior-high girls engaging in oral sex. Neatly coiffed mothers wore rictuses of horror as their sneeringly blasé daughters reported on the "blowjob parties" they had attended, and how giving the boys head "just isn't that big of a deal" because it doesn't really count as sex.
"Just isn't that big of a deal"? "Doesn't really count as sex"? Wow. Okay, that's…wow. How old did you say she — fourteen? Yikes. Yiiiiiikes.
And it got worse. Oprah had brought boys on the show, too, clean-cut-looking young gentlemen who proceeded to send me running for the Pepto by claiming with a lot of "we know this is bullshit, but the bullshit swings in our favor, so whatever" shrugging and facile grinning that it's "cool" to have gotten head from a girl — in fact, from the more girls, the better — and "uncool" not to have gotten head from a girl. All right, so it's a status thing; nothing new under the sun there. Then one boy informed us in a positively noisome "hey, I don't make the rules" tone of voice that, while it's cool for a guy to get a lot of southern exposure, it's pretty skanky for a girl to give a lot of it.
It also became sadly clear over the course of the show that the girls don't get anything in return. It's not a reciprocal arrangement. The girls do it; the boys get cred from it; that's it. Going down on girls isn't cool or uncool. It's not even a factor. Confronted with the basic unfairness of that arrangement, the boys merely blinked, confused at the implication that perhaps a girl would like to have an orgasm also. The thought obviously hadn't occurred to them.
Now, let's leave aside for a moment the other disturbing elements of the show — that children today receive education about sex and sexually transmitted diseases so woefully inadequate that they think oral sex is "safe," that they don't feel it qualifies as sex even though a sexual organ is IN THEIR MOUTHS, that a girl in a butterfly t-shirt with a zit on her chin thinks that she's not only old enough to handle the emotional consequences of sex but also to ROLL HER EYES AT DR. PHIL when she just got done snitting that she considers kissing MORE INTIMATE THAN A BLOWJOB, AND that she apparently considers those fugly-ass braces a protective charm against HERPES, like, hello, YOU ARE FOURTEEN, missy, so wipe that face OFF YOUR HEAD, go to your room, and do NOT come out UNTIL 2022 — because I don't want to argue the fine points of "how old is old enough." I mean, I don't know the answer to that anyway, although a few of the girls on the show clearly shouldn't have control of a stereo, much less their own sexual destinies. And Lord knows I didn't exactly cover myself with glory in the waiting-for-true-love department myself at that age. Everyone's different, blah blah. What I want to focus on is the double standard at work here. Well, it's more like a triple or quadruple standard, but it doesn't matter what I call it, because by any name it's sexist and sickening. Once again, still, in the twenty-first century, in our supposedly wonderful and cutting-edge country full of freedoms and opportunities, the boys get props for getting off, and the girls get tarred with the "slut" brush for accommodating the boys. And that's ALL the girls get. They don't get any thanks. They don't get any compliments on a job (so to speak) well done. They don't even get any head of their own, ohhhhh no. No, the girls get fucked. Literally. And apparently, that's okay with them. Apparently, pulling a train on a bunch of skate-punk douche-bags who DON'T EVEN SHAVE YET is just what's expected of them. So, they do it.
And that sucks, my friends. It doesn't just suck because the boys don't seem to see anything wrong with it, although that's sucky too. It sucks because the girls don't expect any better. "It's not a big thing" this, "it's just something kids do" that — um, excuse me, but shoplifting is "something kids do" too and THAT'S not the greatest idea, and furthermore, oral sex IS TOO a big deal. It's a boy's genitals in your MOUTH. Able to give you DISEASES, diseases JUST AS SERIOUS as those COMMUNICABLE BY INTERCOURSE. Yeah. Welcome to Big Deal, population: you and a penis. If that's "not a big deal," fine, but don't let me hear you bitch at your girlfriends for backwashing in your Snapple, mmmkay?
And what exactly do these girls get out of it, anyway? If memory serves, the average blowjob given to a teenage boy is not exactly a garden of earthly delights for the giver, unless she also happens to enjoy walking directly in front of the tees at a driving range without protective headgear. And the guys don't generally return the favor, so we can rule out pleasure as a motive. Giving blowjobs doesn't increase the girls' social standing, only the guys', and if they give too many, the guys tag them as slutty. So it's not out of any desire to increase their popularity…or maybe it is. Maybe the girls don't see beyond the short-term approval they can get out of it (and if it's a girl who's twelve or thirteen, that's probably a safe conclusion), but that still doesn't answer the question: why do these girls give these boys oral sex in the first place?
Because the boys want them to.
Now, there's nothing wrong per se with boys wanting girls to go down on them. There's nothing wrong with girls doing it, either, per se — well, after a certain age, because obviously thirteen years old is too young to start interacting socially with penises — but really, it's the slut label that really pisses me off, especially if it's assigned by the very boys who accepted the oral sex in the first place. And no similar standard is enforced on the boys, even if they do go down. A boy who gives head to a lot of girls doesn't get called a slut. "A keeper," maybe, or "a rock star." And other boys don't call him that — girls do. But the boys on Oprah don't go down. They don't have to. Why don't they have to? Why don't teenage girls insist on getting the same treatment teenage boys do? Why don't teenage girls enforce a standard for boys that matches the one the boys enforce for them?
Again, it's not that I blame the boys for wanting blowjobs, or for asking for them, and I don't think they force the girls to give them or anything…but in a way, that's the most disturbing part of all. The moms dragged their daughters on Oprah, and the girls sort of huffed and sighed and whatevered at Dr. Phil, and I can sort of see why; I mean, I'd have done the same thing if my mom hauled my blowjobbing ass onto a talk show at that age, and the horse is pretty much out of the barn anyway, I think. The girls can't un-give the head they've already given, after all, and I have a feeling that the oral sex "epidemic" rhetoric is blown way out of proportion by Oprah and her ilk.
But either way, the girls don't care. They don't question it; they don't see anything wrong with it. It is what it is, to them. The boys want it, they do it, and that's that, but I really don't think "because he wants me to" is a good enough reason to do anything, much less something intimate, and dangerous, that doesn't have any payoff for me. I mean, I've done some dumb shit in my life when it comes to sex, but at least I went into it with my eyes open. If that makes any sense.
Regardless of the decisions they make, girls should not have to deal with the disgusting, judgmental, double-standard crap thrown on them by boys. Girls should not have to hear "if you love me, you'll [insert sex act here]" and take it seriously. Boys should not think that they can treat girls like poker chips. What boys want shouldn't matter more than what girls want, and girls shouldn't think it does, or act like it does. There's giving a bunch of half-assed Britney-Spears lip service (no pun intended) to girl power, and then there's following your own mind. Following your own mind is hard, but it's usually worth it.
And now, a few reminders.
You don't have to give boys blowjobs for them to like you. If you do have to give a boy a blowjob for him to like you, that boy is an asswipe. If you give a boy a blowjob and he doesn't at least offer to respond in kind, that boy is an asswipe. If a boy says or implies that cunnilingus is dirty, wrong, or beneath him somehow, that boy is an asswipe. Tell him so. No, really. Go ahead. In ten years, you won't even know that boy anymore.
If you have given boys blowjobs, you don't have to do it again if you don't want to. And you don't have to let people talk shit about you for doing it, either. If a boy you gave a blowjob to talks shit about you for doing it, fight back. Tell him to cram it sideways. Tell him he can either keep his degrading, antediluvian opinions about you to himself, or he can hear all over school that he said "Mommy" when he came. Cut his sexist ass dead. If a girl who found out you gave a boy a blowjob talks shit about you for doing it, tell her to mind her knitting.
And if you give boys blowjobs, try to give them for a good reason. "The other girls all do it"? That's their problem. "He's one of the cool guys at school"? Well, bully for him. "He'll dump me if I don't"? Good. That's a favor he's doing you, right there. "What's the harm?" You could get herpes or HIV, that's the harm. And please, PLEASE don't fall for the blue-balls excuse. If he's in that much pain, well, God gave him two hands.
You really dig him, and he really digs you — you, not the scored point you represent to his friends? THAT'S a reason. He's great at giving, and you'd like him to receive? THAT'S a reason. It's fun, and you practice safe sex? THAT'S a reason.
We all make mistakes and misjudge situations, so, you know, do what you have to do, but for the love of little apples, think about it. Seriously. Think about whether you really understand sex — what it means, what it does, what it does to you. Think about whether you feel ready for that, at your age. Think about whether it's okay for a boy to decide what you do, how you behave, what's important to you. Think about why it's validating for him to get a blowjob, and yet it's demeaning for you to give one. Think about why a boy won't brag about how much head he's given. Think about what that means — that it's not worth doing, that he doesn't have to bother, that he couldn't care less about your needs because he thinks he's the shit — and think about how you never hear a girl slagging on a guy for giving head a bunch of times. Think about yourself a year from now, or five years, or twenty years, and about all the things you want to do and see and become, and about whether the opinion of an arrogant chauvinist butthole who thinks he's too good to touch your beautiful flower should make one goddamn bit of difference in the way you value yourself and your goals and achievements as a human being.
You and your vagina deserve better. Believe it. Demand it.
May 13, 2002