Newsweek just ran a monster-length piece about tween girls and sex called Sex and the Single Tween, finally giving readers access to the enduring question: So are Our Nation's Precious Little Girls sluts, or what?
Abigail Jones' examination of tween culture reveals technology has a lot of parents worried (and adults; the piece is teeming with Concerned Adults) about the health and virtue of their girlchildren. Some of it reads like a word salad made of tossed together 2013 neurotic parent buzzwords (Miley Cyrus is mentioned 9 times; Instagram gets 15 mentions, and the word "short" in reference to clothing, is mentioned over 20).
But it turns out, the more things change, the more things stay the same, and Jones' piece is more noteworthy in uncovering the omnipresent moral panic people feel when girls between 8 and 12 start growing breasts than it is in uncovering a shocking new truth about how little girls are time bombs made of slut juice that can't wait to explode all over society, like Miley Cyrus. For example, several paragraphs are devoted to examining the clothing that girls like wearing nowadays with a particular flavor of cultural amnesia that seems to forget that every generation horrifies the one that came before with clothing that is so very short, tight, and cropped. Every little girl horrifies her mother the first time she tries to sneak off to school wearing lipstick. Change the cultural references around, and panic about tween clothing and makeup experimentation could have been written ten, twenty, thirty years ago.
Moreover, despite all their Instagrams and Facebooks and Giant Foam VMA Fingers, none of the girls interviewed are actually having sex. They're trying on the most superficial trappings of sex, and they're able to look at sexy things online, but they're not having sex.
Further, Jones is very upfront that her piece examines only a tiny, itty bitty sliver of tween girls. They're middle and upper class, and they're white. They're the sort of girls who are more likely to have more adults in their lives who actively give a shit about them. These are girls in "good" neighborhoods, attending "good" schools. These are the girls whose faces are made into Nancy Grace over the shoulder graphics when they go missing. These are the girls that people worry about. These are the girls who people have always worried about.
For a change of pace, it would be nice to read a 10,000 word thinkpiece about the girls that society forgets.