IN THE MATERIAL WORLD
by Josey Vogels
Vogels is the author of the nationally syndicated sex and relationships
My Messy Bedroom and the dating advice
Dating Girl . She has published five books
on sex and relationships – the most recent is entitled
Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy.
The easy part
was that it had nothing to do with me,
I knew I liked the Parasuco jeans on my ass,
I could lay and watch TV,
He wouldn't even notice,
He was getting what he wanted,
I could make some noise, make him feel wanted,
But it really didn't have anything to do with me.
are plenty of young women who wouldn't have sex with a guy for
a pair of designer jeans. But the young woman who wrote this poem
would and does. And sees nothing wrong with it. After all, as
she puts it in her poem, he's getting what he wants; she's getting
the jeans she wants. What's the big deal?
ideally, we try to teach young people to hold out for intimacy,
love and ‘the right person’ when it comes to sex.
But when you're 15 and you reeeeally want those jeans, having
sex with a guy so he'll buy them for you is an easier concept
to grasp than an abstract idea like intimacy or love.
Sinclair and Chi Nguyen say educators are missing the mark when
they talk to young people about sex. For one, teaching that there
should be no such thing as sex without love is at best naïve,
and, if you're a young girl who sees sex as a way of scoring clothes,
a ride somewhere, or some weed, downright irrelevant.
a stint as youth workers at St. Stephen's Community Center, Sinclair,
28, and Nguyen, 21, discovered that some young women hanging out
at The Youth Arcade -- a St. Stephen's-operated drop-in center
for 12-19 year-olds in Toronto's Kensington Market -- were ‘bartering’
sex for ‘stuff.’ The pair shared their findings in
a seminar entitled I'll Scratch Your Back, You Scratch Mine at
the annual conference on sexuality at Guelph University last year.
street kids who sometimes enter into sexual relationships in order
to secure shelter or other basic needs, the 14-17 year-old girls
that Sinclair and Nguyen spoke to were doing fine money-wise.
Instead, they were in it for luxury items like clothes and jewelery.
They didn’t consider the guys they slept with ‘boyfriends’"
referring to them as guys "we’re talking to" or
"hanging out with." Sinclair and Nguyen call it ‘bartering.’
"They didn't know what that term meant," says Sinclair.
They were also fine with it.
asked why they don't buy this stuff for themselves, most of the
girls responded, "Why bother?" To them, it made good
common sense. After all, many of these young women said they see
female friends having sex with boyfriends and not enjoying it.
They figured they might as well get something out of it.
cases, says Sinclair, the guys involved in this practice are older
(16-19), have dropped out of school, and are earning a living.
The girls believed they were doing the right thing by staying
in school and being financially supplemented by the guys who were
earning the cash.
even said it was empowering to have something guys want so badly
they're willing to buy stuff to get it. Just don't call them ho's.’
the blatant exchange of sex for economic gain, these young women
didn’t consider this prostitution. Sex trade ‘work’
implies that it's a job, whereas these women weren’t doing
it for necessities, explains Sinclair. Besides, most believed
it was simply a reality of male/female relationships, and don't
have to go far beyond their own backyard for examples. "They
talked about housewives who aren't into sex but fuck their husbands
out of obligation to the marriage," says Sinclair. "Or
women who never have orgasms but still have sex with their partners
-- again, out of obligation to the relationship."
unlike prostitution, these young women didn’t ‘advertise’
their services. In some cases, the arrangement just evolved out
of a date with a guy who buys her an expensive dinner, or maybe
a gift at the end of the evening. "She might not be really
into the guy, but thinks, 'hey, he's nice, and if I can get some
nice stuff out of it, why not?'" explains Sinclair.
of the young women they interviewed admitted they don't really
care about the actual sex, she added, though they don't necessarily
hate it either.
the reality is that, despite years of sex education and a social-sexual
climate that is increasingly focused on female pleasure, sex for
most young girls still sucks. In the seven years she's been working
with teens in public school clinics, Guelph physician Mary Pierson
can only remember one girl ever telling her that she "loves
sex." "Most women still have a long learning curve to
experience before sex becomes good," adds Pierson, who was
also in the audience at the workshop. "Young women go into
first-time sex with highly romantic expectations and ideals and
are usually disappointed."
words, they have sex once, it's disappointing; they have it again,
it still sucks, so they start thinking, hell, I might as well
try and get something else out of this. According to Sinclair,
there's typically no guilt until a gal tries to end an ‘arrangement’
-- especially if a guy feels he owns her.
admits that among the guys they spoke with who finance such arrangements,
most agreed that while a girl doesn't ‘owe’ them sex,
she's a ‘bitch’ if she doesn't put out.
room full of sex educators who are used to delivering touchy-feely
messages to young people, this was hard to take. But Sinclair
and Nguyen urged us to consider what sex-without-love means in
our culture, especially for young women. When we talk about sex
solely as a physical act, we tend to attach our own moral baggage
and judgments to it. Still, ignoring these kinds of relationships
is Sex Ed suicide. "When we leave out their experiences because
we're not comfy with them, we lose these people," offers
Sinclair. "These girls think, 'oh they're talking about the
good girls, and that's not me.'
reality is that women use sex in our society," she continues.
"Instead of making them feel like the bad girl, in order
to get to them with safer sex info or other messages about healthy
sexuality, you have to acknowledge and try to relate to and understand
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