It started here—with this story.. It continued when Ramona JoyCarmelly linked to that story (see her face book page and scoll down to the Prom dress controversy (at this posting (blog) the face book post is over 6 hours old)which started a lively (but reasoned) discussion.
It continued (scoll back up) to posting by Marty Coleman—or jump here
Which prompted me to write this..(if you just read what I have written here--you are sort of coming in at the middle.. At least read the story that started it all.)
Prom—short for promenade (a noun: A formal dance; a ball; A march of all the guests at the opening of a ball.
Until recently—a dance for HS or College graduates.
The “prom” in the article? For middle school students (8th graders). 13 years olds.
What is appropriate for 13/14 year old GIRLS? (or boys, for that matter?)
Girls is not a word I use lightly—13/14 year old girls are at the edge of puberty.
Girls (and boys) on the edge of puberty are at a difficult age. They are beginning to take on sexual traits--(enlarge breasts, wider hips, narrow waist for girls, as well as menstruation) and similar/different physical characteristics for boys ( broad shoulder, muscles, and fully functioning sexual organs) But—our society (and many others) realize that in spite of their physical ability to be fully functioning sexual beings, they are not emotionally or psychologically ready to function as adults.
For just this reason, 13/14 olds are not considered to be mature enough to drive a car, or live on their own, to sign a contract, or (in most states) old enough to give consent—to either non marital (or marital!) sex. This is true in civil law and in many religious canons. (The RC church is not alone to considers 16 years old to be the age of consent for a girl).
Yes, I realize many 13 and 14 year old girls are engaging is sex--(another topic!)
But legally and traditionally, they have been considered to young to do so. (And we tend to judge those societies were girls are married off as pubescent—as cruel and abusive of girls and women)
Is this old fashioned thinking? Are 13/14 year old girls to be treated differently than 16, or 17, or 18 year old young women?
Certain new science shows that the teen years (from about ages 12 to 20) involve a huge amount of brain grown—that young teens (of both sexes) are physically incapable of thinking (and acting) the same as older teens (and that 21 as an age of majority has some real grounding in science!)
Yet, here we are—reasonable (am I wrong to think those engaged in this discussion are reasonable?) are arguing for the right of pubescent girls to dress up and display their bodies as if they were adults and to do so in a very explicitly sexual way.
HUMANS, like all animals, have instincts. Unlike most animals, we also have reason. There are instincts that are part of sexual arousal. REASON keeps us from acting purely from instinct.
Instinctualy, humans (both men and woman) see symmetry as beautiful (symmetry is only skin deep—but it is a clear indication of good physical health—and signals potential for being capable of bearing healthy children)
Instinctualy, humans see broad hips (in the context of a narrow waist) as an other clear indication of good physically health (and a signal for being capbabile of bearing healthy children.)
Instictualy, clear skin is another measure of good health--(ask any one with acne!)
When aroused, both men and woman exhibit some classic responses.
The lips (on the face and the “lip's” of woman's genitals get red--and slightly swollen)
For men, it is the lips and the penis--and for a man's penis, it goes from slightly to very swollen--very fast!)
Like wise, the pupil of the human eye dilates—which make the eyes look bigger and darker.
So lets look again at the 'prom' dresses/girls attire. Narrow bodices (tightly fitted at least) –that accentuate (or create the illusion of) full hips.. Lots of exposed skin. The girls will also likely be wearing make up.. mascara, eye shadow, and perhaps eye liner—to make there eyes look bigger and darker (as they might be when aroused), lipstick, too, to darken, and accentuate the lips (making them look bigger)-- High heels complete the outfit—and these change her posture—and thrust her hip forward (in to a sexual position)
Combined, the effect are a collection of visual signals of sexual arousal and availability.
It this appropriate for 13/14 year old girls? Do we really want them promenading about announcing their sexual arousal and availability?(at a dance? At any time?)
WE denounce societies that treat 13 and 14 years girls as ready for marriage—but we seem to be willing to fight to the death to allow our 13 and 14 year old girls to project themselves as sexually mature and aroused. More mature than they really are.
Part of rape culture is an attitude that men and boys can't be REASONABLE—and can only act on instinct—an argument I reject. Men and boys are HUMAN, and as humans, can act responsibly and reasonably (if if they do at times have an instictually response to certain stimuli)--and I believe most men do--Boys? well its harder for teens to make reasoned decisions--see that thing about their brains not being fully functional!-- but still, I think most boys do.
But another part of rape culture is an attitude the woman are MOST valuable as sex object available for pleasuring men. (And secondarily, as thing to gestate children.)
Unfortunately, we all (men and women alike) often buy into this. WE CHOSE to wear high heels that thrust our hips forward (and arc our bodies into an upright sexual postion!) WE Chose to wear clothing that reveals lots of skin (and shows how healthy we are for breading!) We redden our lips, and darken our eyes—and emulate sexual arousal. We act as if our only value was our physical appearance, our sexual body and ability to get pregnant. Woman buy into the idea that being beautiful (and sexy) is vital. Not all women, but many, many women.
WE start training girls at a young age (see Toddlers and Tiaras) to the idea that they should measure their value by their looks—and that the that best way to looks is ready for sex—to the point of looking sexual aroused all of the time.
Media, (TV, movies, magazines) re-enforces the message. We pay lip service to the value of education, sports and other aspects of our humanity.
No, the girls don't (shouldn't!) wear burka or cloth sacks to the dance (and yes, it should be a dance, not a prom). The girls should dress like girls. Not like sexual aroused and ready to go sex objects.
Yes, the boys should be taught to respect girls and woman (and not to act like animals and use animal instincts as an excuse—because instinctual urges are not an excuse.)
Yes, we need to change the culture of our society—we need to change how men view woman.. but we also need to change how we woman view women. Yes, we are sexual beings. Yes, we should be in control of our bodies, our thoughts and our actions.
And we need to be in control of our children, too. We need to protect them from them selves at times. We recognize that our 13 and 14 year children are not of an age to sign a contract, or to drive a car, or to drink alcohol. We also need to recognize that they are not ready to consent to or engage in most sexual behavior. And we need to stop thinking is OK for them to dress and act in ways that present the message that the most valuable part of them, is their sexual nature. We need to step up and change the culture. Not just as it present the world to boys and men, but how it presents girls and woman. If we see our selves and value our selves most as sexual object--how can we expect men to do differently? Rape culture exist not just because of men, but because of women, too.
There are pressures on boys, too, in our society--and these are just as real, (very different, but there!) and these too need to be addressed. (but that's another essay!).