If Girls Don’t Know Where the Clitoris Is…

There’s an old line from sex ed circles: if girls don’t know where the clitoris is, they’ll think they’re in love with the first person who shows them. While it’s really meant to be a tongue-in-cheek way to deal with fears around sex ed, it’s good to see a similar sentiment being expressed on Salon.com.

The piece is a response to the kerfluffle that was sparked by 16 year old Taylor Momsen saying that that “her best friend is her vibrator.” Of course, a whole lot of people are getting their knickers in a twist because (gasp) a teenage girl masturbates. And yet, where was the similar reaction to, say, the scene with the apple pie in American Pie? We can accept (or at least recognize the inevitability) of boys masturbating. So why is there such a big reaction when a girl says that she does?

I see this as yet another example of slut-shaming. Boys will be boys, but girls better keep their legs together. Now, I think that some of the ways that Momsen presents herself are less than ideal. I’m not thrilled with the ways in which young women performers use hypersexualized imagery to sell their performances (which are often not all that memorable without the sexy outfits). And yet, I can’t help but notice that many of the sites that are shaming her are showing photos or breathless descriptions of her “inappropriate clothing.” For example:

Here’s the deal: last weekend Taylor performed both Friday and Saturday nights in a nylon corset so short it exposed her underpants,plus garters and black stockings .Both nights her well-endowed breasts were almost falling out of her corset top;  she sported thick ,dark black eyeliner circled heavily around her eyes and wore high clear lucite heels with the word “tips embellished on them with dollar bills, visible inside. Nice!

Is this any way for any 16-year-old girl to dress? “She looks like she’s a hooker who’s been ravaged sexually \’ like she’s had rough sex, asserts Cooper Lawrence, psychology expert and author of The Cult of Celebrity. “She’s wearing clothing that prostitutes wore in bordellos. A girl who wears garters is sending the message that she’s easily available sexually.


There are plenty of other examples, and I don’t need to bore you with them. I do think it’s ironic (if not actually hypocritical) to berate and shame someone for their appearance, while using photos and descriptions of them to drive traffic to your site. And I’m not even going to bother unpacking the assumptions underneath the statement “A girl who wears garters is sending the message that she’s easily available sexually.”

So yes, I do think it’s worth asking questions around the ways in which young women are sexualized. But to attack Momsen because she masturbates? Please. I think the last paragraph from the Salon piece sums it up nicely:

When you figure out you can rock your own world just fine, it changes how you view sex. You understand that that specific, everything-is-right-with-the-world feeling isn’t luuuuuuv, and you don’t have to overromanticize something your male counterpart can rub out in the shower before homeroom. Taylor Momsen might not be the soul of youthful wisdom, but there’s something unique and powerful about a teenage girl announcing she doesn’t depend on a boy to feel good. It might not be the buzz her critics were expecting from her, but I suspect it makes her happy nonetheless.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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