The concern for overly exposed young bodies may be well-intentioned. With society fetishizing girls at younger and younger ages, girls are instructed to self-objectify and see themselves as sexual objects, something to be looked at. A laundry list of problems can come from obsessing over one’s appearance: eating disorders, depression, low self-worth. Who wouldn’t want to spare her daughter from these struggles?
But these dress codes fall short of being legitimately helpful. What we fail to consider when enforcing restrictions on skirt-length and the tightness of pants is the girls themselves—not just their clothes, but their thoughts, emotions, budding sexuality and self-image.
Instead, these restrictions are executed with distracted boys in mind, casting girls as inherent sexual threats needing to be tamed. Dress restrictions in schools contribute to the very problem they aim to solve: the objectification of young girls. When you tell a girl what to wear (or force her to cover up with an oversized T-shirt), you control her body. When you control a girl’s body—even if it is ostensibly for her “own good”—you take away her agency. You tell her that her body is not her own.
When you deem a girl’s dress “inappropriate,” you’re also telling her, “Because your body may distract boys, your body is inappropriate. Cover it up.” You recontextualize her body; she now exists through the male gaze.
This comes up A LOT at Scarleteen, so just a reminder:
If you think — or are saying to others — things like that if you are using a method or methods of contraception, then there is no risk of pregnancy, or if you are either using safer sex practices, or aren’t, but you and partners have not had previous sexual partners, or have but have recently been tested for all the STIs you each can with negative results that there is no risk of STIs?
Please understand that is false.
If and when we are engaging in the activities — or have been made part of them unwillingly via abuse or assault — that pose those risks, there will always be SOME level of risk there still, including when we are using things, like birth control, latex/nonlatex barriers and testing, to reduce those risks.
Those things reduce risks (sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot, depending on what all we are using and how well we are doing so): they do not remove them.
If you only feel comfortable with NO risk of these things — and it’s okay if you don’t; most people will choose to take some level of risk of them because they can handle that and want to have the kinds of sex that present those risks — then you have to choose not to engage in those activities. At all.
If you want reduced risks of either or both of those things, then you have to use things and practices that reduce those risks. If you want to engage in those activities with the lowest risks you can have, then you need to do things like using dual contraception, including one highly effective method, and be really serious about safer sex — using barriers all the time and for all the activities that pose those risks, always keeping up with testing and insisting partners do, too.
Again, there is no one right set of choices here: this is about what you are yours want and feel most comfortable with now and in the long-term.
But just so we all understand, there is no, for example, penis-in-vagina intercourse that poses NO risk of pregnancy (when the people involved have bodies capable of reproduction) or STIs, even with contraception and safer sex practices to the letter. Just like we can’t say we are going to go out and have no risk of catching a cold interacting with other people during cold season because we are washing our hands.
If NO RISK — none at all — is what you want or need for yourself, then you will need to choose not to engage in the activities that present those risks at all.
(And of course, if you want to find out how to reduce these risks with any activity, either of pregnancy or STIs, or want help figuring out what you even want and need around all this in the first place, we’re always available at Scarleteen with both the information on all of that and to talk with you about it, if you’d like.)
How do I know if my relationship is purely based on lust? I am unsure about the difference between “love” and “lust”. I really really adore my boyfriend, but I wouldn’t call it love yet. We’ve been together almost a couple of months now and I already trust him a lot, he is such a gentleman to me and I even feel ready to have sex with him. But I wouldn’t say I was in love yet. How do I know? Thanks :)
Sam W replies:
The good news is, you’re definitely not the first person to ask this question. People have been trying to parse out what, exactly, constitutes love for most of human history. And who can blame them? Loving someone, and feeling loved in return is, in it’s best form, a really wonderful emotion. And most of us don’t want to miss out on experiencing it. So we look for a formula, an equation, some ultimate, objective definition that will tell us that what we are feeling is capital L Love. But love is more complicated than we’d like it to be, and that’s what makes your question tricky to answer.
Can you guess where I’m going with this? Greece. Greece is where I’m going with this. Because the Greeks, instead of focusing on the idea of one, true version of love, acknowledged that there were many different kinds of love. Now, I am willing to bet that you kind of knew this already. For most of us, the love we feel for a parent, or a close friend, feels somehow distinct from the love we associate with romantic relationships. The Greeks recognized this diversity of loves. For instance, they had a type of love called eros (or eratos in modern Greek). This love can refer to erotic desire and passion or it can simply mean a deep or intimate connection. One thing to notice about this definition is that doesn’t put sexual desire in a separate category from love. And that ties really importantly to your question about whether or not what you’re feeling is “purely” lust.
Lust is often thought of as a less complex emotion than love, because we see it as being “only” about sex. That it’s purely a physical desire, based on how attracted we are to someones body. But, even sexual attraction is variable and personal, and the equation for lust isn’t always as simple as “I think person x is super sexy, ergo I wish to climb them like a tree.” I would argue that, for many people, sexual desire is not purely physical, and that it also has an emotional component.
For instance, I have known many guys whose physical traits made them lust-worthy (by my standards), but who I never actively felt lust for because I found them to be jerks. I couldn’t uncouple the personality from the body. Some people can, others have an even harder time doing so than I do. There can be instances where you care about someone a lot and are comfortable and happy having sex with them but it doesn’t feel like love to you. And you can have a reverse scenario where someone has all the traits you look for and love in a person (brains, a sense of humor, charming smile, etc) but you’re just not feeling any spark of desire. Attraction is weird like that.
Read the rest of the answer here.