Apr 10, 2013
I am not a parent of teenage girls. In fact, I am not a parent at all -- unless you count two chihuahuas.
But I find myself wondering if all the brouhaha over teens dressing too sexy -- and it's always the girls we're talking about, never the boys -- isn't misplaced. Perhaps it's an expression of our larger anxiety about how female sexuality is used in the media to sell us stuff, though anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of advertising history knows this is nothing new.
We're all sexual beings from a pretty early age, and it wasn't that long ago that a girl getting married soon after puberty wasn't considered unusual. The term "teenager" came into being only in the 1940's, when a youth market was recognized for the first time. Watch a film like 1938's "Love Finds Andy Hardy" and you'll know that young people were just as interested in sex as they are today -- maybe more so, since overt sexual expression was so taboo.
Lana Turner was already an established sexpot on screen (and off, as it turns out) while still a teen. She may have been more clothed than today's celebrities, but movie moguls exploited her assets shamelessly.
"Wholesome" family-oriented fare like the MGM Andy Hardy series turned into teen exploitation movies in the Fifties about juvenile delinquents. Though often presented in quasi-documentary style as cautionary tales, these films were obviously meant to titillate.
On the flip side there were "good" girls like the the late, great Annette Funicello, one of my favorite celebrity teens. From everything I've read, Annette was a genuinely sweet and modest person, but the set of The Mickey Mouse Club was a hotbed of hormones, with intense competition among the girls to look sexy despite Uncle Walt's watchful eye. Annette's full-figure was usually front and center, even if she wasn't dancing around a pole in platform shoes and lip gloss.
So is the fuss over more recent envelope-pushers like Britney or Mylie Cyrus really anything new?
There's also been controversy recently over Victoria's Secret "Bright Young Things" line -- allegedly aimed at teens -- and its lacy, racy underwear.
Many teenage girls are going to want to wear this stuff, if only because it's heavily marketed to them. But don't most teenage girls want to dress more provocatively than their parents might wish, hiking up their school uniforms, putting on makeup, unbuttoning the top buttons of their blouses, just like they always have?
Wouldn't it be better to teach them about sexual health rather than simply forbidding them to wear "Call me" thong panties?
Readers, I ask you:
1) If you were ever a teenage girl, did you push limits and try to dress more grown up than you were? Could anything have kept you from doing what you wanted to do? (Any "hot-rod girls" out there?)
2) If you have teenage daughters, does the sexy teen fashion issue come up, and if so, how do you deal with it? (Are you stricter than your parents were with you?)
3) Has anything really changed with regard to teen fashion -- is it truly more revealing -- or are we adults simply not comfortable with pubescent girls looking sexually provocative?
Jump in! (But please be respectful if others' opinions differ from your own.)