Help me with my (non-education related) research
May 31, 2007 3:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm writing an article for a friend's zine about fictional media portrayal of adolescent and pre-adolescent sexuality - looking for examples and sources

So, the inspiration for this article is the Showtime series Weeds. Last week I "rented" the second season and I was completely surprised by an incident in one of the episodes (possible spoiler ahead). Basically, the younger son of the main character, a boy of about eleven who has recently discovered masturbation, is upset because other boys at school claim they've already received hand jobs, and he hasn't. So his helpful adult uncle takes him to an oriental massage parlor, where he receives a "happy ending" from one of the employees. Yes, that's right, a boy of eleven receives a hand job from an adult woman. When a school official overhears him talking about it, and calls in the uncle to suggest that abuse took place, the school official is made to look like a prude and an idiot.
The bias is obvious - if the story had involved a sexually frustrated eleven year-old girl and the friendly aunt who arranges to have an adult male bring the girl to climax via manual stimulation - well, that story line would never happen unless it was a Very Special Episode about the Evils of Sexual Abuse, or unless the girl was somehow portrayed as completely, irredeemably evil and manipulative. It would not be taken lightly, or played for comedy.
Some other examples I've come up with are the Tom Hank's movie "Big", in which a boy of the mental and emotional age of twelve has sex with an adult woman, and, of course, Lolita, as a classic example of twisted female adolescent sexuality. Other than that, though, I'm stuck, and I need to have this written by Monday!
(I plan on citing all the help I get here, either individually or as a general thanks to the ask metafilter community, and I might e-mail you for more information or to ask if I can quote you if your e-mail is in your profile, unless you ask me not to)
posted by Wroksie to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Rainbow Party comes to mind, though it was apparently commissioned by Simon and Shuster to scare kids off oral sex, so I'm not sure it entirely suits your purpose. Then there's also Judy Blume's Are you there God? It's Me, Margarent. If you're also looking for a modern, present-day take on adolescent sexuality, this article via our very own MeFi is long, a bit tedious and a bit full of self-righteous BS, but definitely a very, very interesting read.
posted by Phire at 3:36 AM on May 31, 2007


I previewed and everything!

Oh, and sidenote: the novel is a very (for that time period) frank examination of the experiences of a girl going through puberty, with parents who are surprisingly open about sex and all the monsters in the closet that come with it.
posted by Phire at 3:41 AM on May 31, 2007

Have you seen Happiness?
posted by kimota at 4:25 AM on May 31, 2007

All Larry Clark's movies portray adolescent sexuality, but Kids and Ken Park particularly.
posted by goo at 4:34 AM on May 31, 2007

Also, Judy Blume's novel Forever was a must-read in grade 5, as were all of the Virginia Andrews' books - the Flowers in the Attic series, the Heaven series and My Sweet Audrina. The frank sexuality in these books was a huge contrast to the other must-reads in grade 5 - the Sweet Valley High books and Sweet Dreams series from Bantam, in which sexuality is usually negative when portrayed (guys going too far! having your reputation ruined!). Being sexy was encouraged in these books, but sex was punished.
posted by goo at 4:42 AM on May 31, 2007

Response by poster: I should have been more specific - I'm looking for examples that highlight the double standard in portrayals of adolescent male sexuality versus adolescent female sexuality in fictional media. The Rainbow Party and the Atlantic Online article linked to are interesting, though, because the apparent (though perhaps over-hyped) phenomenon of girls casually "servicing" boys might be somehow related to the popular portrayals of adolescent male sexuality as normal and wholesome, as opposed to adolescent female sexuality, which is often portrayed only in the context of abuse and manipulation. AYTGIMM is something I should read again, I remember liking it but at the same time being surprised at how tame it was compared to all the fuss I'd heard about it.

"Happiness" is an interesting movie to think about in relation to this subject - it doesn't treat the sexuality of the young male character as a happy-go-lucky joke fest, it's definitely uncomfortable and thought-provoking. At the same time, though, I wonder if even Todd Solondz would have portrayed a girl of the same age masturbating on a balcony. I'm guessing probably not (but you never know with him).
posted by Wroksie at 4:43 AM on May 31, 2007

Wait, did Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins actually have sex in "Big"? Sorry to derail slightly but if so, I will seriously have to reframe that movie.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:52 AM on May 31, 2007

Going back to the 1970s: The Last Picture Show, Summer of '42, Harold and Maude(?). (If you do this keyword search in IMDB Older-woman-younger-man you'll get lots of examples.) I saw the Summer of '42 when I was about as old as the boy and thought the whole thing was very, very cool.

Recently, the movie The Ballad of Jack and Rose touched on a young daughter with a somewhat unnatural attachment to her father. Some of the scenes made me uncomfortable in that "oh, please, don't" way.
posted by loosemouth at 5:15 AM on May 31, 2007

Men, Women and Chainsaws by Carol Clover is an examination of gender in horror movies, especially focusing on the character she calls the "Final Girl." Its basic premise is that the Final Girl is masculinized (unisex name, no sex, "male" hobbies/interests) so that the young male audience can identify with her subconsciously. I think it pre-dates the post-Scream horror revival, so it may be somewhat out of date, but as an historical document, it might be interesting.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:24 AM on May 31, 2007

Private Lessons (1981)
An immigrant housemaid seduces a 15-year-old boy and later fakes her own death as part of his chauffeur's blackmail plot.
posted by Sailormom at 7:11 AM on May 31, 2007

In Little Darlings, the girls have a bet to lose their virginity at summer camp. In Taxi Driver, Iris is a 12-year-old prostitute.
posted by macadamiaranch at 7:35 AM on May 31, 2007

Pretty Baby had young Brooke Shields' character living in a brother, getting her virginity auctioned off and being photographed nude. She was 12.
posted by SassHat at 7:49 AM on May 31, 2007

posted by SassHat at 7:50 AM on May 31, 2007

What about The Ice Storm?


Adolescent Christina Ricci's character fools around with her neighbor (Elijah Wood), but is somehow compelled instead to approach his pre-adolescent little brother Sandy (LITTLE MAN TATE!) for a game of "you show me yours, I'll show you mine." The end result is not exactly consensual and is cringe-worthy, especially when Sandy's mom Sigourney Weaver gives her a talking to about it ('your body is a temple').

Meanwhile, her father (Kevin Kline) talks to his son (awkwardly) about sex and masturbation ('On the self-abuse front - and this is important - I don't think it's advisable to do it in the shower'), but basically wigs out when he catches Christina and Elijah fooling around in the basement.
posted by SassHat at 8:01 AM on May 31, 2007

it's not an exact parallel, but you might get something out of comparing happiness to solondz's older movie welcome to the dollhouse. the main character is a frustrated thirteen year old girl and though it's maybe not quite as explicit, it certainly adresses her sexuality to some extent.
posted by lgyre at 10:29 AM on May 31, 2007

Anne Rampling/Rice's Belinda.
posted by brujita at 10:48 AM on May 31, 2007

In Taxi Driver, Iris is making money for her pimp, not exploring her own sexuality, and Travis has no interest in havnig sex with her -- he wants to rescue her from her sordid existence. And in Big the sex isn't portrayed, it's (blatantly) implied. Hanks and Perkins start out their evening each sleeping in a bunk bed, and then (IIRC) we cut to the next scene, in which Hanks bursts into a room with a big grin on his face and the subtext is obvious.

So ANYWAY, I'll chime in with "The Motel," an overlooked indie film about a young teenage Chinese-American who lives in a hot-sheet motel owned by his mom. Definitely about preteen boys' sexuality and a good little movie to boot. Netflix it, why don't you. Also, the movie Thirteen has an unsettling scene where the two girls basically throw themselves at an older guy (who knows how young they are and comes to his senses and kicks them out).

And, although it doesn't quite fit your criteria, Lisa Dierbeck's novel "One Pill Makes You Smaller" is about what it's like to be a precociously "developed" preteen girl (read: has big boobs at 12 or so, looks much older than she is) and dealing with perpetual, inescapable male attention. (Unwanted, natch.) Excellent and unique book.
posted by scratch at 11:41 AM on May 31, 2007

I suggest Loving Annabelle. Adolescent/adult love affair among a lesbian student and her teacher.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:41 PM on May 31, 2007

"The Squid and the Whale" has an 11- or 12-year-old boy who masturbates in the school library and gets in trouble--could compare it with your example from "Weeds."

And it might be really interesting to compare the boy/man in "Big" with the girl/woman from the "Light in the Piazza." The heroine is 26 years old physically but 12 years old mentally, and the story (available in novella, movie or musical-theater form) is about her falling in love for the first time, desiring both a romantic and sexual relationship.
posted by clair-de-lune at 4:51 PM on May 31, 2007

Do you know the dirty-real / dark-comic British TV series, Shameless? I think it's set in Manchester housing estates.

Anyway, there's one episode in which a youngish male member of the family (13?) is wondering all about love & sex, whereupon a local girl of around the same age, clearly not a virgin, ends up shagging him. It didn't seem too awful a depiction of early adolescent sexuality. Sorry, but I can't remember the characters' names.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:02 PM on May 31, 2007

UbuR, the boy's name is Carl. There are other examples of
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:12 PM on May 31, 2007

this sort in the series. And it's pretty funny to boot.

posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:13 PM on May 31, 2007

Ture. And the series is showing again on Aussie TV! Tonight, I think...?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:23 AM on June 1, 2007

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