Carol Platt Liebau is concerned about morals, particularly those of young girls. The sky is falling. Seriously, it is.
Before we get to her column, let’s first look at something written a few years ago in the San Fran Chronicle:
Teen suicide is more than a personal tragedy; it’s a powerful reminder of adults’ own fear of the future. Ninety years ago, commentators led by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman and Literary Digest’s editors variously blamed the "appalling rate of child suicide" on salacious media, Prohibition, women’s suffrage, harsh schooling, success anxiety and loss of innocence. In the 1950s, it was horror comics, rock ‘n’ roll, the Bomb. Today, experts blame the "epidemic of teenage suicides" on commercialism, drugs, bullying, academic demands, homosexuality, homophobia, lax parenting, tough parenting, post-Reagan coldness, liberal permissiveness, absentee moms, depressing media — in short, whatever the commentator deplores about modern society.
(Empahses mine). And as if to prove that thesis, here comes Carol Platt Liebau:
Tila Tequila has been Playboy’s Cyber Girl of the Week. She has self-published singles titled “F— Ya Man,” and “Playgirl Central,” where she proclaims “I don’t want no love, I just wanna get screwed!"
One advantage of being my age is that I don’t know who Tila Tequila is. The second advantage is that I don’t care. Right off the bat, I have to say that it sounds like a fake name. "Tila Tequila"? Sounds like Pepe LePeu’s girlfriend.
She’s got more “friends” than anyone in the history of MySpace.
Except Jon. That guy is wicked popular.
She recently announced her bisexuality, and stars on a popular new MTV reality show. Tila has become a sign of the times.
Really? If Tila is such an icon, why did Carol have to explain who she was?
Tila Tequila and her career have prompted ruminations on the nature of celebrity in The New York Times, and she’s been profiled in TIME magazine.
O.K. I get it. She’s biiiig.
But more than anything, the Tila phenomenon highlights a pernicious trend in American culture: Celebrating young women only for their “sexiness” and their willingness to flaunt it — rather than for character, intelligence, or talent.
Right. It’s only a recent trend. Not like it was in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Marilyn Monroe, as you recall, was celebrated for her character, intelligence and talent. Not — repeat not — her "sexiness". </sarcasm>
On “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila,” both straight men and lesbians vie for Tila’s affections. To do so, they engage in a variety of sexually explicit activities features lewd behavior among the contestants, encouraged and applauded by Tila herself, including group sleepovers and raunchy rounds of “Truth or Dare.”
It is the most popular show in its time period among people 18-34, and no doubt has many younger viewers.
Ooops. Sorry, Carol Platt LIEbau. It’s premiere show was ranked number one "across all cable competition". But cable viewers are still meager compared to the networks.
Certainly most young people understand that what they’re watching is more than a little over the top. But seeing the behavior also normalizes it – and allows women like Tila to set standards for young people all across the United States. When the culture tells girls that sexual decision making comes down to nothing more than “if it feels good, do it,” they become pressured to conform to a sexy ideal that’s as unwholesome as it is difficult to attain.
I think Carol is giving Tila waaaaay too much credit. And haven’t we heard this before? In my day (and indeed, in Carol’s day — she was born in 1967), it was Madonna.
And look how Carol turned out. The woman serves as her own antithesis.
That’s quite a contrast from the days when American society (and media of all sorts) reflected a consensus that took into account the dangers – not only physical, but also emotional, psychological and even spiritual – of giving too much too soon.
That’s just silly. A lot of old culture was about sex, and everyone then knew it. How about, say, the popular 1940s song "Goodnight Irene" with lyrics like "Sometimes she sleeps in pajamas, Sometimes she wears a nightgown, But when they’re both at the laundry, Irene is the talk of the town"? Hello??? What do you think that was about?
Now, girls have lost much of the social support that once buttressed decisions to abstain from sex, and parents and clergy are left trying to protect them from a culture that glamorizes sexual promiscuity and exhibitionism. Because of the example set by “celebrities” ranging from Tila Tequila to Paris Hilton (who came to prominence after the release of a sex tape) —
I think Paris Hilton was prominent before the sex tape. Let me put it this way: if I released a sex tape, nobody would care.
Okay, bad example. The point is that merely "releasing" a sex tape does not make one prominent.
— it seems more difficult to resist the advances of boys interested in nothing more than sex…
How Carol knows this, we don’t know.
…appropriate to wear revealing clothes, and acceptable to behave in suggestive ways that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.
Really? Let’s take a side excursion to "twenty years ago", when things were oh so much more Ozzie and Harriet.
Here’s a Time Magazine cover from 1987:
In 1987, People magazine (a pretty good barometer of culture) listed it’s 25 most intriguing people. 4 of the top 5 were involved in sex scandals (Donald Trump, Donna Rice, Gary Hart, Jessica Hahn) and the fifth was a looker (Fawn Hall).
What planet was Carol Liebau living on back then?
The point is that with every generation, there is the older generation decrying how life, culture, etc. are all going to hell in a handbasket. And yet, we seem to forge on ahead.
And now Carol pulls out the ugga-bugga scare tactics. Yup. The decrease in our society’s morals leads to … death!
The results are devastating. Giving too much, too soon can result in girls confronting emotions including regret, anxiety, guilt, shame, and lack of trust in males. In fact, recent academic research has suggested that even modest sexual experimentation increases the risk of depression for girls…
Well, yes and no. Recent academic research suggests that risky behavior (which includes sexual experimentation, drug use and alcohol use) leads to depression for both girls AND boys. The confluence of all these factors and the degree to which they cause depression, and the degree of depression itself, are not known. Carol presents these findings in such a way as to suggest that if a girl, any girl, has her boob touched, she will become suicidal. That’s simply taking the data too far.
… so it’s worth asking: Does the widespread sexual behavior celebrated by teen culture explain in part the CDC’s latest report finding that suicide rates among preteen and young teen girls had spiked by a whopping 76%?
76% sounds like a lot. A "whopping" lot. Unfortunately for miss LIEbau, it’s misleading. It rose eight percent for 10-24 year olds. And ifor many ages ranges, it’s still down from what it was 17 years ago.
But accurate facts aside, Carol support her assertion that widespread sexual behavior among teens leads to increased teen suicide. You know that she can’t, because she asks the question ("Is it possible that….?"). That’s rightwing speak for "I have a theory, but I can’t support it…..
There are others who have better ideas about the cause for the spike in teen suicides, but that’s for another day. Back to Carol….
It’s not easy to fight the pernicious messages being purveyed by the culture – but making the effort is important for the mental, physical and spiritual health of America’s girls. And as difficult as it may seem to bring about change, it is possible to create a more wholesome teen culture if people realize that their objections to the status quo are hardly idiosyncratic.
There are, however, two ways to approach this problem. One is to work with America’s girls — particularly your own. The other is to fight culture. The second is a losing battle, and becomes Stalinist and Maoist. Not very sporting for a woman who writes a blog devoted to (among other things) free enterprise.
After all, concerted effort and dedication on the part of environmentalists have brought us to a point where retailers are beginning to package detergents in smaller, more “earth-friendly” bottles and businesses brag about how “green” they are. Government involvement is unnecessary (and, when it comes to free expression, unwise) when Americans themselves are willing to confront the sexual saturation of the culture and demand something better.
But obviously Carol, Americans are demanding sex. That’s why the shows you complain about have high ratings.
It’s high time for a change. After all, a culture in which someone like Tila Tequila can be vaulted even to the outermost rings of the celebrity galaxy isn’t anywhere that America’s girls belong.
Ms. Tequila has been vaulted to the "outermost rings of the celebrity galaxy"? Again, I think Carol is overstating the Tila Tequila "problem". But to a hammer, everything is a nail, right?