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Jewish World Review April 12, 2000 /7 Nissan, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Just something to do --
SO YOU THOUGHT the trend was going in the right direction? You've read the encouraging stories about teen pregnancies declining, abortions declining and the number of high-schoolers who say that sex should wait until marriage increasing?

Well, don't stop worrying yet. As The New York Times reported on April 2, (strangely enough -- in the Sunday Style section), the good news about declining sexual activity among high-school students may mask a different and appalling trend. According to physicians, psychologists, educators and sex researchers, sexual activity among middle-school students, those ages 10 to 13, is way up.

As the Times story describes it: "One 13-year-old boy at a junior high school in Manhattan said he first had oral sex at 12 and has had it about eight times at parties and in the hours between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., before parents come home from work. ... 'It's something to do with someone,' he said. 'I think it's curiosity. I don't think that's bad.'"

According to Dr. Robert W. Blum, the director of general pediatrics and adolescent health at the University of Minnesota, "Besides intercourse, (preteens) are engaging in oral sex, mutual masturbation, nudity and exposure as precursors to intercourse."

Where do they get the idea to engage in this precocious sexual behavior? Everywhere. Turn on the television, glance at any magazine -- even those selling at the check-out counter in the supermarket. "Mommy," I recently overheard a young girl ask her mother "What does 'Drive Him Wild in Bed' mean?'" Turn on MTV. Watch any non-G-rated movie. Surf the Net.

One 13-year-old told the Times that he had first become interested in sex watching "Beverly Hills 90210" when he was in the third grade. "The people were cool," he said. "I wanted to try what they were doing on the show."

Together with his friends, the boy came up with a schedule for sexual initiation. By third grade, they were familiar with slang terms for masturbation and oral sex. By fourth grade, they were playing kissing games with the girls. In the fifth grade, they were dating; in sixth, French kissing and petting. By seventh grade, they had done oral sex and some had had intercourse. By the ninth grade, one boy reported, "It's just one big spree of going all the way."

No matter how depraved the popular culture, this "spree" could not possibly go on without the tacit or explicit permission of the parents. Dr. Wayne Warren, a psychologist practicing in Long Island, N.Y., told the Times that groups of seventh- and eighth-graders (11- to 13-year-olds) rent limousines to take them to clubs in Manhattan "where they get drunk, grind on the dance floor and have oral sex in dim corners." Do they do this without the knowledge of their parents? Inconceivable. And who pays for the limos?

At Friends Seminary, a private school in Manhattan, parents were called to a meeting to discuss the "problem" of dating and breaking up among fifth-graders. Half of the parents were appalled that kids so young were dating. But the other half thought it was cute.

Warren also reported seeing girls in the seventh and eighth grade who "tell me they're virgins, and they're going to wait to have intercourse until they meet the man they'll marry. But then they've had oral sex 50 or 60 times. It's like a goodnight kiss to them."

Yes, but apparently boys are getting all the action. Where are the feminists when we need them? Actually, The Times thought of that and asked Deborah Tolman, director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, to comment. "It's the heterosexual script that entitles boys and disables girls" she explained. Oh, so if we were raising more sixth- and seventh-grade lesbians, all would be well?

Clearly, the editors of the Times are disturbed enough about this prepubescent sexual behavior to highlight it. What is equally clear is that they would oppose most of the steps necessary to reverse the trend. The pages of the Times itself are host to highly suggestive clothing and underwear ads. And its culture critics regularly celebrate the lewd and the raw.

Only when The New York Times and other arbiters of culture can muster as much outrage at Madonna as at Brown and Williamson will these dehumanizing trends slow or reverse.

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate