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Uh-oh, you guys. The sexy teens are at it again!* 
I know about this, you see, because I read the Internet. Specifically, I know about it because I read Tracy Clark-Flory’s piece over at Broadsheet (which was written up by Miranda at Women’s Glib in a post that was cross-posted at Feministe and also quoted at Feministing: look, the Internet is complicated) about a pamphlet published in the UK by National Health Services, entitled (yikes!) “Pleasure.” 
Yes, this pamphlet is about the fact that sex feels good. And it was handed out to the teens! Who were no doubt corrupted by their early exposure to this top-secret information! Here is a sample of the terrible and pornographic knowledge contained therein: 

Beyond having the audacity to suggest that educators tell students that sex can feel pleasurable, the booklet says that teenagers have “a right” to sexual satisfaction, so long as it is in a safe and consensual situation. It also advises honesty about masturbation being perfectly healthy — it  winkingly says that “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away,” which strikes me as a cheesy attempt to be cool — and that sex isn’t always about procreation.

Oh, dear! So, you can totally see why certain UK newspapers are up in a huff about it, saying (as Clark-Flory notes) that it is telling “schoolchildren” to have orgasms every day and so forth. Clearly, had this pamphlet not been published, no UK teenagers would ever masturbate, and the world would be a far safer and more wholesome place. 
Say, you know what else comes from the UK and is of interest to the sexy teens? Harry Potter, and specifically the Harry Potter series of films starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and that one homely kid! (“Rupert Grint?”) Salon published a piece about that, too, and specifically about the fact that Emma Watson, who is 19, is posing for sexy photos, has been the victim of an upskirt shot, and has a legion of devoted fans who would really, really like to see her naked. They furthermore note that plenty of people have already had the opportunity to see Harry Potter himself naked, as 19-year-old Daniel Radcliffe and his naked penis had a starring role in Equus not so very long ago. 
It is a truth universally acknowledged that at least two of the Harry Potter kids grew up to be really, really hot. (The other one is Rupert Grint; also, that Malfoy kid, who now has THE FACE OF A MONSTER.) It’s also a fact that we got to watch it happen – and, as anyone who has spent any time on the weirder and less comfortable portions of the Internet can tell you, a lot of people were very invested in that process. 
On the topic of Naked Harry Potter, Joy Press notes that Since it was for a serious role in a serious play (Peter Shaffer’s “Equus”), Radcliffe was feted for artistic credibility and bravery (especially after he talked in interviews about the shriveling effects of a live audience on the male member)…. I doubt many people actually wanted to glimpse Harry Potter’s wand.” Actually, a whole lot of people did, and they were all on the Internet; also, they were at the showing of at least one of the Harry Potter movies I attended (can’t remember which one! It was about wizards, if that’s helpful). In that movie, an underage Naked Harry Potter was shown slipping into a large tub – the scene really only showed his back, but one contingent of grown adult women started to cheer and hoot in a wild and excitable manner. I was rude, and turned around to stare at them, because I had simply never seen women do such a thing. I kind of thought hollering at naked teenagers was for guys! 
But I do, in fact, smell what the Salon article is cooking. Its point – that young women, especially, are pressured to be sexual as soon as they reach “legal” age, and sometimes before, and that this can have a major impact on whether they’re perceived as Artists or just spectacles – is a good one. 
We eroticize teens all the time. The “Twilight” series is popular among teens and adults basically because it is entirely about one teenager wanting to fuck the living daylights out of one specific non-teenage dude (but not doing it, because it will DESTROY HER) and apparently conveys the feeling of wanting to fuck that dude very effectively. It manages to play to both sides by devoting thousands of pages to horny teens whilst telling a story about how sex will, literally, kill you. 
It shouldn’t be that revolutionary to note that teens eroticize each other, or to educate them about how to do that in a way that’s not unsafe, cruel, or otherwise disastrous. Yet we’re more comfortable with sexy teens as spectacles – spectacles for adults, no less – than we are with them as subjects. It’s a predatory dynamic: we want girls (and also maybe Daniel Radcliffe) to be pure, asexual, not enthusiastic or assertive about sex in any way, but we also want the freedom to slaver over them at will, to sexualize them whether they want us to or not. 
Of course it’s never OK for grown-ups to pursue sex with non-grown-ups, even if those non-grown-ups are teenagers who have sexual feelings: it’s a desire based on a profoundly unequal power dynamic, one that’s about exploiting young people’s “innocence” or trust or respect for adults, and it’s often profoundly abusive. Yet the idea that acknowledging teenagers’ sexuality is somehow invasive or un-OK or will lead to a vast wave of statutory rape (or just forbidden teen sex) is completely wrongheaded. 
The fact that the dynamic is so very much about ideas of “innocence” or “purity” is precisely what makes educating teens about pleasure so subversive. If they’re not “innocent,” if they’re not “pure,” if they’re just people with bodies like the rest of us, who are trying to figure out how those bodies work and how on Earth one integrates the fact of sexual desire with the demands of polite society, the entire dynamic crumbles. And then we might realize that they’re kids, and that they have a lot to work out, and that they deserve our support in the matter. 
“Support” is kind of incompatible with “sneakily taking pictures of someone’s underpants,” by the way.  
* I am just now realizing that every single post this week will be about sex in one way or another. Didn’t plan it that way! Oh well, enjoy your cheap titillation. Meanwhile, I will try to get my hands on a copy of Ginger Snaps. 


  1. s. wrote:

    I would love to see the faces of the people that give you all the unintentional pageviews.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  2. Scott wrote:

    "Support" is kind of incompatible with "sneakily taking pictures of someone's underpants," by the way.

    <sarcasm>Party pooper.</sarcasm>

    This is a scene that has played out time and again, though. Before Harry Potter there were the Olsen Twins, and before them there was Annette Funicello.

    I suppose the fact that now there are some women participating in the show with Mr. Radcliffe wasn't exactly the equality you were hoping for, but it is a form of equality 🙂

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  3. CaitieCat wrote:

    Funny thing is, I thought Rupert Grint (Ron) was quite hot in the latest movie (which, otherwise, was kind of a dud, I thought: Harry Potter and the Significant Glances).

    Very mild spoiler below:

    The moment I'm particularly thinking of was after a Quidditch match, when he just looked confident and happy and stuff. I was surprised to find myself saying, "Hey, nice beefcake, baby!" It might just be that since he's now an actual adult, I'm just noticing that he's kinda cute in a way – I have a hard time seeing teenagers as sexually attractive.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  4. fugitivus wrote:

    Oh my god, Sady, Ginger Snaps.

    Do you need to borrow my copy?

    I mean, do you need to borrow my boyfriend's copy if I can rip it out of his hands?

    My boyfriend is enormously fond of your blog, so there may not need to be a lot of ripping, but I think he is more fond of Ginger Snaps, so there is a conflict.

    Also I live in another state entirely so it might be a whole lot easier for you to just rent it somewhere.

    But oh my god Sady yes tell me what you think about Ginger Snaps.

    Except don't watch the sequel, which is not so good and also perhaps a subtle indictment of Canada's foster care system? I'm not sure, but I think so.

    Except DO watch the third movie because it goes BACK IN TIME. Yes.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  5. julian wrote:

    Can I point out that Daniel Radcliffe is about as awesome as a teen celebrity can get? The dude is openly atheist, and also openly pro-gay (he even told one interviewer that he wished he was gay).

    I was never into the whole HP thing, but when I read these two tidbits (on random separate blogs, both this week) I named Danny boy my new hero.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  6. smadin wrote:

    I am just now realizing that every single post this week will be about sex in one way or another. Didn't plan it that way!
    That's OK, a couple weeks ago you said you were going to do a whole week of sex-related posts and then there was only one, so it balances out 🙂

    (Also, your comment-entry box won't accept blockquote tags! What's that all about?)

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink
  7. Tangoing with Evita wrote:

    Yeah, not gonna lie, I thoroughly enjoyed watching DanRad slip into the tub in movie #4. I hated that movie otherwise, naked Harry Potter was its saving grace. And Equus – oh Lord.
    but what d'you have against Rupert Grint? I think he's damn hot, myself. And the actor who plays Cormac Mclaggen in the movies, even though he doesn't sound in the least bit good-looking in the books.
    but yeah, I watched Half-Blood Prince, pretty much all the Hogwarts boys sent the naughty thoughts ablaze in this female fan's loins, I MEAN MIND, mind, in this female fan's mind. Yes.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Permalink
  8. ChelseaWantsOut wrote:

    Your comment entry box IS kind of an asshole, Sady.

    When I read the part in that other piece about people not caring about Mr. Radcliffe's junk, I was like, Pshah, this person is clearly delusional, because a bunch of people were major Potter Penis Pals.

    Way to articulate the icktitude of the adult/teen sexual relationship power dynamic. People sometimes act like it's either "teens are sexual so we can have sex with them" or "teens are totally not sexual and should never have sex." And I cannot even tell you how much it makes me want to barf that some people are like, "It's totally okay for a much older man/woman to teach a teenager about the sexuality by using the sexual touching." Like in Don Juan De Marco, which is for some reason the first example that came to mind.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  9. Aeryl wrote:

    One thing I give the Potter books credit for, is that the Wizarding world is not a world that values appearance over abilities, and those that would judge on such trivialities are rightly held up as objects of scorn. There are subtle messages about body acceptance throughout the books.

    The movies haven't adhered to this as well, especially as the young stars grew into easily marketed heartthrobs. But it has retained the essence of the world, with the outrageous clothes and accessories, facial deformities and damaged limbs abound amongst the heroes and villains.

    I recently read this article about Matthew Lewis the young man who portrays Neville Longbottom, Harry's hapless but courageous classmate, who's life has been affected by Voldemort as much as Harry. It mentions that Lewis, who was was cast at the age of 11, now wears a fat suit under his robes. Which is completely accurate with the book(Longbottom? hello). Neville was always the tubby kid, and over the course of the story, he becomes as crucial and important as Harry in the war against Voldemort.

    Which is pretty awesome, IMO, since the last tubby kid in a movie that I paid attention to(and I don't watch many movies), was Seth in Superbad(shudder). Seeing the handsome young man Lewis has become is nice, but I would have felt cheated had my favorite character been robbed of his uniqueness, to feed the WB money machine.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  10. The Magnetic Crow wrote:

    You hit the nail on the head yet again, Sady. Bringing these two points together is just…perfect.

    I feel truly sorry for Emma Watson. Yes, she's beautiful. But she's also a very talented actress in her own right. What if she doesn't want to be yet another 'sexy actress'? What if she wants to play her talents instead? Is that even allowed for women?

    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  11. LSG wrote:

    I am breaking my long lurking status for this, the most trivial of reasons:
    Julian is right. Daniel Radcliffe is teh awesome.

    In the same pro-gay interview Julian referenced (it was linked on Shakesville, but I am DEEPLY incompetent at techy things and will not attempt to link), he also called out the slimy icky creepiness that was grown-ups openly slobbering over Emma Watson as the clock struck midnight on her eighteenth birthday. He even refused to take potshots at Twilight, which must have required HEROIC self-restraint. And he's an atheist! Unapologetically!

    I loved the books and am irritated by the movies, both because they inevitably have to truncate the plot and because they just couldn't keep themselves from making everybody super attractive. My visions of Hermione and Neville (Aeryl, YES) were definitely scarred before I abandoned the movies.

    Finally: I was in college when the naked Equus pictures were making the rounds, and they inspired many hiiiiilarious listserve conversations about the size, attractiveness and uncircumcised state of Radcliffe's penis. I was deeply irritated. Can we kindly refrain from discussing and snarking at the teenager's penis? I'm glad he has a sense of humor about it…which brings me full circle to the fact that he seems to be a remarkably decent person. Well done him, and well done parental figures.

    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink