One Year Into #MeToo: What’s Changed for Teen Girls?
It’s been just over a year since high-profile actresses Salma Hayek, Asia Argento, Gwyneth Paltrow and more than a dozen other women rocked Hollywood—and the nation—when they came forward as survivors of sexual assault and harassment and made allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Soon, the #MeToo movement—a term coined over a decade ago by the activist Tarana Burke—swept through one industry after another, such as hotels, food service, even airport security.
But how is the #MeToo movement affecting teen girls? A group of YR Media’s reporters held a roundtable to discuss the language they use around emotional intimacy and sex. Here’s a conversation between Ivelisse Diaz, Sarah Ng, and Valencia White.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
On going out
ID: When you leave the house without your parents, what kinds of things do you watch out for simply because of your gender?
VW: If I tell my parents I’m going to a party or something, they’ll always just tell me to make good choices. I don’t really talk about boys much, but they just want me to be safe. They want me to be able to make decisions while sober, because I could be taken advantage of.
ID: My parents always say, “Are there going to be any boys there? You have to be careful.” I think that they don’t trust the stereotypical guy and they’re not sure if any of the guys around me fit that stereotype.
SN: I think when it comes down to parties, I think we’ve built enough trust for them to know that I’m not going to do something really stupid.
On the language used to describe sex
ID: What conversations have you had about sex with your parents?
VW: The extent to which my parents and I have talked about sex is consent.
ID: It’s hard to talk to your parents about those things because sex is a touchy subject. I do think that the standards [are] different [for] guys and girls. Girls have to be more careful and consider so many things, while the guy only has to consider himself.
SN: Having a lot of sex is considered masculine [for guys], which I think is terrible because, on the flip side, girls [are] considered whores. Men’s sexualities are praised and women’s sexualities are shamed.
ID: I’ve had some friends open up to me and tell me about their sex lives, and it’s really nerve wracking for them to talk about it in front of other people. I can tell they’re very picky in who they choose to talk about it with. Girls get so nervous and afraid of being judged.
ID: For women, if you have too much sex you’re a ho, and if you don’t have any then you’re a prude.
On sex ed
VW: My sex ed experience was actually really good, because I went to a charter school. Now, the way I see consent is—if you ask someone, “Do you want to have sex?” and they say, “I don’t know”—then that’s not a yes. If you need to ask them a couple times, or if they’re drunk, it’s a no. If it’s anything but a “yes, I want to have sex,” then it is a no.
ID: I go to public school, and we had to take sex ed. During sex ed, I noticed that other girls were all really calm about the topic, just like me. But the guys were making a big deal out of a lot of the topics we covered. It was just weird to actually see the difference between how guys approached sex in general, versus how the girls around me did.
On the language boys use around sex
ID: So I know this is really heteronormative, but what have you heard among your friends about how boys describe sex with girls?
SN: It sounds like “guy talk” when it comes from guys.
VW: People say things like, “How many bodies do you have?”—which basically asks how many people they’ve had sex with. People say things like, “Oh I was in those cheeks, I was beating those cheeks.” Oh gosh, it’s so bad.
ID: It’s like another language. You don’t ever hear a guy go, “I’m trying to make her feel good,” or “I’m trying to make her happy.” It’s more like, “I want to hook up with her, I’m trying to smash.” Kind of like saying, “I want to go pick out that toy.”
VW: I think with guys, it’s like bragging, so they mention consent less. They’ll just say “I’d f**k” her,” or like, “Oh, I tore up that p***y,” or something like that.
On the lessons learned from Kavanaugh
ID: What does the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court mean to you or girls anywhere?
VW: It shows that people can get away with sexual assault. That’s just so disgusting to me, because I don’t want someone who has committed sexual assault to be making my laws. And I don’t want them to tell me what I can and can’t do with my body.
ID: It tells me that men can shut women up and that men won’t get their deserved consequences. If a man like himself could have power in the Supreme Court through all of his unprofessionalism, it means that no matter what, the white man wins.
SN: It would basically tell every single person who has come forward that their stories don’t matter. The fact that he was even considered after all of the hearings is infuriating. It should’ve been an open-and-shut case.
ID: That hearing was an interview for his job. You don’t cry during an interview and you don’t yell at the person interviewing you. So, I just can’t believe that it happened.
VW: This is more proof that we need to educate boys and even women about consent and what is acceptable behavior. People shouldn’t have to be worried about something they did 30 years ago because they shouldn’t have done anything to begin with.
SN: Yeah. There’s no excuse behind it. You can’t just say, “Boys will be boys.”