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Public displays of affection in the Youtube generation

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Reel Mama: Public displays of affection in the Youtube generation

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Public displays of affection in the Youtube generation

Several striking cases involving teen sexuality have hit the news this and last week.  Today we learned of the bizarre case of a photo of a dance being published in the Big Bear High School yearbook that showed two teens performing a sex act in the background.

The photo went unnoticed by the yearbook advisor until it was too late.  Now the yearbooks have been collected, and the photo itself is being called child porn, because the teens were only 15 and 17 respectively.  The 17-year-old boy may face additional charges related to sex with a minor.  Apparently the act involved the boy’s hands being inside the girl’s dress, but just how explicit the act was seems to be a matter of debate in the media.  According to the Huffington Post, it could have been quite explicit.

I had to think about this one when I first heard about it on an NPR call-in show, where it was presented as a rather mild case of teen intimacy, nothing too explicit.  Seen in this light, most of the parents felt it was a waste of the county’s resources to treat this as a case of child porn.  All teens fool around, they argued.  What’s the big fuss?  Let this one go. This photo has not been made public from a reliable source, so there isn’t a way to verify just how far things went.  Law enforcement’s swift and strong reaction to this leads me to believe that the act isn’t very innocent. 

I think that if the act was consensual, if it was a case of two teenagers in a relationship letting things get out of control, then charging the boy with statutory rape is an extreme punishment that would ruin his life.  The teens are already suffering the public humiliation, possibly the ridicule of their peers, in addition to punishment they may be facing at home.  If it wasn’t consensual, then that is another matter entirely.

I have to ask, where were the chaperones at this dance?  I think they were intentionally looking the other way.  What struck me the most about this case was how this young couple took “PDAs” (public displays of affection) to a whole new level.  Sure, teens fool around, but the Youtube generation takes voyeurism to a new level.  Growing up as a member of Generation X in middle America (Texas), performing a sex act of any kind in public was absolutely unthinkable, especially for a 15-year-old girl. Discretion and privacy were the order of the day:  what those kids did on the dance floor in the photo would have at the very least demanded the cover of a low-lying hedge or some bleachers. The Youtube generation doesn’t just have a completely different definition of privacy than previous generations: I’m not sure they understand what privacy is, and I don’t know what the implications of that will be.


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