|(H/T: Life as a Reader)|
Now, the girl was not physically attractive by American conventions. For one thing, she was much too fat to be fashionable (but see this post by Dr. Klein to get a refreshing perspective on our American notions of what's fashionable). For another thing, she had a rather plain face thickly coated with cosmetics. And, though her clothing was notable for being revealing, it did not seem that she had put much thought into the combination she'd chosen.
So, it wasn't long before I began to wonder whether the poor girl might be suffering from low self-esteem. That is, it seemed possible that she thought of herself as not having much to offer the boys besides sex.
I was thinking along those sad lines when I heard a male voice at the table behind me say, "God! Look at that slut!"
Of course, I don't know whether he was talking about the girl, or about someone else. I didn't ask. Yet, I assumed he was indeed talking about the girl -- and that made me feel old. Old and tired.
You see, the one attractive thing I had noticed about the girl in the few minutes I'd been watching her was that she seemed so full of life. Even if her dress and mannerisms were motivated by low self-esteem -- and I didn't know that for certain -- she appeared at the moment happy. She was, if only for a while, the queen of her universe. It wearied me to think anyone would simply dismiss her as a slut.
As the above "poster" suggests, we need to decide as a society which gender bears the primary responsibility for controlling sexual desires. Are women responsible for men's desires? Or are men responsible for their own desires?
Put differently, was the girl within her rights to dress in an overtly sexual manner?
Now, I'm one of those insufferable people who is of the opinion that men should take full responsibility for their own desires. I see no reason why men cannot. That is, I simply do not buy into the notion that men are so weak they cannot control their sexual desires without the help of women. And I suspect many readers will agree with me.
Where some of my readers might not agree with me is that I also happen to think women should be largely free to dress any damn way they please -- including as sexy as they please. I would only specify that they dress appropriate to whatever venue they're in. For example, I don't think it's appropriate for a fire fighter to dress in nothing but a corset and fishnet stockings (Unless she's responding to a call at my house, that is).
It seems to me that freedom and liberty should be maximized when doing so harms no one. And I just don't get the notion that a provocatively dressed woman endangers me. In fact, she's more likely to make my day.
For those and other reasons, I think that girl was more or less within her rights to dress as she did. I say "more or less" because I think that, at 14 or 16, her parents should have the final decision. But if she had been a little older, then I believe the final decision should be hers.
At the very least, she should not have been condemned as a slut. That's just sick. She was only being a kid.
It's no secret that kids -- both boys and girls -- experiment with what makes them sexually attractive. Many girls, for instance, go through a phase when they paint their faces in enough colors to give a gaudy sunrise an identify crisis. And most of us, during our adolescence, have worn clothing intended to sexually arouse the gender of our choice. Maybe the effect of that clothing wasn't always what we intended (much to our embarrassment), but that doesn't change the fact we wore it. Yet, how well does anyone learn about these things without experimentation? And when is a better time for experimentation than during adolescence?
Our society comes down too hard on adolescents while at the same time emulating them. We should tolerate their foibles and blunders more than we do while refusing to follow in their footsteps as much as we do. But it is a strange thing: We have a cult of youth going on at the same time we grow less and less tolerant as a society of youth. Nevertheless, it is a fact that adolescents quite often overstate things, very much including their sexuality. Understatement -- and perhaps sexual modesty itself -- seems to be an adult taste.