From twitter and facebook pages to the down and dirty antics of characters on teen-driven night time dramas, mainstream media relishes the very public sexuality of teenage girls. Broader society, however, isn’t as crazy about the concept of teen girls actually being sexual. This is reflected in teens’ lack of access to all things ‘adult,’ including sex toys. Some would go so far as to say the mere concept of ‘underage’ women getting mechanical delight – even if these women meet their state’s legal age of consent for having sex – threatens a patriarchal culture.
The age of consent in the United States varies by state, but is often around 16. Buying sex toys, on the other hand, is strictly limited in all states to 18 years and older. Why the contrast?
“My feeling is that it is illegal to sell sex toys to teens because legislators are largely straight, conservative men,” says Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen, a teen sex-ed web site; “and an awful lot of straight, conservative men are intimidated by sex toys and still claim ownership of womens’ sexuality.”
“Men introduce young women to their sexuality – on men’s terms – so experimenting with sex toys doesn’t go along with the plan to keep women sexually passive.” she added.
Amber Madison, author of Hooking Up: A Girl’s Guide To Sex and Sexuality, said she considers society tolerant of young women’s sexuality, “but only to please a male partner. If teen girls want sex for themselves because it feels good, it becomes stigmatized.” Of course, there are ways around most laws and this is no exception. “Girls can buy back massagers at any drugstore or Brookstone,” Madison added.
Anne Seamens, marketing director of Babeland (the high-end and woman-owned sex shop chain) said the company is eager to empower teens who want to explore their sexuality but, “the law is the law. Plenty of us were sexually active teens who would have loved a store like Babeland. But at this point it’s just as important to educate other parents about giving their kids good information and access to materials.”
Experts agree. “Our government is funneling more than $1 billion into sex-ed programs that have been proven not to work,” Kierra Johnson, executive director of the youth-led nonprofit Choice USA, said. “Our number-one battle is to get misinformation about sexuality out of schools and to involve teens with a sex-positive movment that discusses healthy, positive sexuality.”