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Sexpectations for Today's Young Women


When did we shift from empowering women to overpowering women, with the notion that sexual promiscuity is the social norm?

The Plan B pill, more commonly known as the “morning after” pill, is now available to women of all ages, thanks to a recent ruling by a Federal judge on April 5th.  Not only does this ruling state that women under the age of 17 will be able to buy the pill, it also allows the drug to be sold over the counter –no prescription needed.

Are we now assuming that every seventeen-year-old girl is sexually active?  “Hey girls- it’s okay! Your parents don’t need to know!”  Rather than teaching teen girls about sex in a healthy, honest way, we’re now giving them the option of lying to their parents.  It’s like giving girls an out: If you get pregnant, just take a pill and your “little problem” will go away.

I'm the product of a pregnant teen who didn't have the option of Plan B.  Instead, she made the decision to live with her actions and gave me up for adoption.  I’ve had a very happy, fulfilling life and have always understood the consequences of teen pregnancy. I might even not be here if the morning after pill had been available to my birth mom 25 years ago.

The court’s decision comes on the heels of the recent Victoria’s Secret scandal involving a new line of racy lingerie targeted at teens and co-eds. Cheerfully dubbed “Bright Young Things” (BYT), the line is part of Victoria’s Secret’s youthful PINK line, and features lacy, colorful underwear printed with phrases such as “Call Me”, “Dare You” and “Feeling Lucky?”  The new line sparked backlash from over 17,000 women who signed an online petition demanding “BYT”’s removal from stores.  While the campaign has mysteriously disappeared from the Victoria’s Secret website, there’s been no mention of pulling the line from stores.

Victoria’s Secret has denied any and all allegations that PINK is aimed at teenage girls.  The Limited Brands official statement claims that it’s part of their “Spring Break Tradition.”


That’s not what the company’s CFO, Stuart Burgdoefer, said: “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, who do they want to be?  They want to be older, and they want to be like the cool girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK.”

But let’s assume that Victoria’s Secret is indeed targeting co-eds, not younger teenagers. Is it really any better to encourage sexual promiscuity when girls head off to college? They say goodbye to Mom and Dad with suitcases full of colorful, lacy bras and panties they hope will be seen as soon as possible! Victoria’s Secret says: “It’s okay, girls—you’re in college now. Time to flaunt what you’ve got!”  What a “magical” message, indeed.

Funny, but I seem to remember attending college to get a degree to enrich my mind. Thank goodness Victoria’s Secret is here to set me straight. Now I understand why women really go to college.

As a 25-year-old single Catholic woman, I am troubled by Victoria’s Secret’s campaign and the Morning After pill. I’m all for equality and the promotion of women’s rights but I scarcely think this is what Susan B. Anthony and the suffragettes fought for.  When did we shift from empowering women to overpowering women, with the notion that sexual promiscuity is the social norm?

I get it: teens think about sex. It’s a natural part of growing up.  It’s healthy to ask questions about human sexuality; however, what’s not healthy is to indiscriminately throw sex at teens. Victoria’s Secret’s “Bright Young Things” does exactly that. Not only does “Call Me” imply casual sex by assuming that your partner might not call you, but “Dare You” suggests that women should tease men into a game rather than understand what real, committed relationships are about.  And “Feeling Lucky?” – well, that’s pretty clear.

Why do the marketing geniuses at Victoria’s Secret think this is okay? Have we become so desensitized that one-night stands are not only normal but even expected?

Teenagers are bombarded with images of nearly nude, seemingly uninhibited lingerie models of all ages in magazines, online, on billboards and in TV commercials.  There’s even a show devoted to teen pregnancy: MTV’s Teen Mom, which boasted 5.6 million viewers and turned pregnant teens into celebrities.  The message: “Want to be famous? Get pregnant and join a reality show. We’ll put you on the cover of People Magazine and celebrate you!”

This is irresponsible. Nearly 820,000 teen girls get pregnant each year in the U.S., which means that 34 percent have a least one pregnancy before they turn 20.  My birth mother was 17.

It seems like network VIPs, Madison Avenue ad execs and even American culture at large all ignore the consequences of promoting sex to young girls. Can you imagine underwear with “Dare You” stamped on it in a place like India?  Sexual assault is so common there that a group of young students recently developed “rape-prevention” underwear that sends shock waves to an attacker.

But in this country, women are taught that sex is now the great equalizer –- if men can have sex with no strings attached, so can women. But there are drawbacks to being “an independent woman”: shame, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy not to mention the financial and emotional cost.

Despite all the messages to the contrary, women can actually empower themselves by saying no to sex.  Young women, especially, should know there is nothing wrong with saying “No thanks, I’ll wait.” And they aren’t alone in waiting.


The author, a New York City-based journalist, is a 2010 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Prior to Notre Dame, she studied English Literature and Shakespeare at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Also a playwright and theatre enthusiast, she graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2012.

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