August 19, 2011

What To Do About Sexy High School Girls Having A Slumber Party

rat.jpg
wait, that's not sexy

A case, the summary of which is everywhere:

During another sleepover, T.V. took a picture of M.K. and another girl pretending to kiss each other. At a final slumber party, more pictures were taken with M.K. wearing lingerie and the other girls in pajamas. One of these pictures shows M.K. standing talking on the phone while another girl holds one of her legs up in the air, with T.V. holding a toy trident as if protruding from her crotch and pointing between M.K.'s legs.   In another, T.V. is shown bent over with M.K. poking the trident between her buttocks. A third picture shows T.V. positioned behind another kneeling girl as if engaging in anal sex. In another picture, M.K. poses with money stuck into her lingerie - stripper-style.
And up to facebook went the pictures; and the school got involved; and the court got involved; and now I got involved.

Important to the story, these high school girls were volleyball players.  Not important to the story, but featured in every one anyway, is that they were cheerleaders.  We get it. They're white.

The judge ruled that the pictures were protected under the First Amendment, which is fine, but then said this, which is weird:

I wish the case involved more important and worthwhile speech on the part of the students, but then of course a school's well-intentioned but unconstitutional punishment of that speech would be all the more regrettable.

Why wish that?  If it was more important and worthwhile, we wouldn't really have a controversy.   The importance of the law is in these cases that don't have worth or importance.

II.

The set up is one of free speech, but there's a different game in play.

The judge explained that it isn't true that just any old photo/speech is protected, but speech  that is "intended to convey a particular message" "understood by those" who would view it.  In this case: this is funny (message) to the people on my facebook page who would understand that it was funny.
 
The fact that adult school officials may not appreciate the approach to sexual themes the girls displayed actually supports the determination that the conduct was inherently expressive.
This is where free speech gets really interesting, when it bumps against generational mores.  The only thing "bad" about the speech was that the school officials didn't like it.  Nothing else.  Is that enough to allow the school to shut the kids down?  No.

But what about the argument that the pictures affected the school or other girls by causing "divisiveness?"  Isn't this kind of like harassment, or bullying, or intimidation, even if it is not as bad?  Wouldn't the "pure" girls feel reluctant to play volleyball with a team of sluts?

Petty disagreements among players on a team... is utterly routine.  This type of unremarkable dissension does not establish disruption with the work or discipline of the team or the school...Consider, for example. [the case in which] getting a phone call from a disgruntled parent, and evidence that a student temporarily refused to go to class and that five students missed some undetermined portion of their classes... did not rise to the level of a substantial disruption.
In other words, get over it.  If you don't meet these girls in school you'll meet them in college or in their 30s in Indianapolis (the whole city is horny.)  The fact that you have to avoid them or deal with them or sleep with them or argue with them is mostly your problem.  I sympathize, sure, and I'm happy to help, but it's still your problem.  You can't change other people, even if they are wrong.

III.

But wait a second: how did the school even see the pictures?  Take a moment and come up with an answer.

...a parent brought printouts of the photographs to the [Superintendent]... The parent reported that the images... were causing "divisiveness" among the girls on the volleyball team... Separately, but on the same day... the principal was contacted by a second concerned parent, one who happened to work at the school as an athletic department secretary.

The school has a problem, and it isn't high schoolers wrestling with their hormones.  The school is infested with rats.

The true social implications of this case aren't about the girls' behavior, but the parents'.  To what extent are they allowed to impose their values on their kids, and, separately, what is the proper structure to impose these values?

This popular reading of this case is that the school (i.e. government) doesn't have the right to reach into the private home and control the speech of students, but that evades the important cause of this case: the parents want the government to control the kids because they aren't willing to do it.  See?  It's not just black kids.  Parents all over the U.S. have checked out, can't be bothered and anyway don't really know how to bother.  How can I explain to my daughter that this is bad?  I know: Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. School Dist.  Yeah.  That'll show her.

The way it should have worked is that one concerned mother calls the other mother, and she opens up with, "I just want to bring something to your attention" or "Jesus, do you know what your wenchy daughter is up to?!" and they work it out and stuff gets handled, and if it doesn't it gets kicked to the fathers, who freak out on their daughters and then reluctantly agree to talk to the other father about it and settle it once and for all, and if that doesn't work they can agree to meet in the Woolworth's and Woolco parking lot and punch each other like girls.  I recognize this is all quite sexist, but that's the way it should have gone down.  That's the way it has always gone down.

But the parents couldn't handle this as parents, i.e. as the ultimate arbiter of a controversy, because they are not practiced at being the ultimate anything.  Stripped of all power as children, and never given either power or responsibility, they drowned in freedom and looked for a practical solution to their existential crisis: everything always has a higher authority.  Call the school, call the cops, call the government.  The joke used to be, "hey, lady, don't make a federal case out of it!" but that's no longer a joke, it's the preferred method.

The idiocy of such parents is mind boggling, certainly,  but even more compounded by the message that it sends to their own kids:  higher authorities always exist for everything.  Just not God.  That's for stupid people.











Comments

This is incredibly insightf... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 12:35 PM | Posted by Fred Woodbridge: | Reply

This is incredibly insightful: “… they drowned in freedom …”

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 33 (35 votes cast)
This is incredibly insightf... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 12:40 PM | Posted by Fred Woodbridge: | Reply

This is incredibly insightful: “… they drowned in freedom …”

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -16 (32 votes cast)
yeah, nice article. I agree... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 1:30 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

yeah, nice article. I agree

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (22 votes cast)
"Just not God. That's for s... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 1:56 PM | Posted by Ilya: | Reply

"Just not God. That's for stupid people."

All this talk of coercive authority replacing society and culture makes you sound like a hip, all-American Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels)! I'm a big fan of that guy. Anyone who likes this blog should really check out his articles in The City Journal and his books! I just spent several hours reading your past posts. It is refreshing to see some real thinking. I like the phenomenological approach - i.e. what does the existence of this event/article/controversy really mean? "All that is rational is actual, and all that is actual is rational." GWFH - yo!

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"Permissiveness is the prin... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 2:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Permissiveness is the principle of treating children as if they were adults; and the tactic of making sure they never reach that stage." Thomas Szasz

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... Meanwhile this clique o... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 2:11 PM | Posted by Slow Lane: | Reply

... Meanwhile this clique of girls has probably got at least a dozen poor souls bullied to tears and ready to hurt themselves like Phoebe Prince...

Priorities?

In loco parentis indeed.

Has Alone discussed the immature little twits, my peers in the dumbest generation in history, how we lose control when we leave the nest for college ... and everybody expects the Uni administration to supervise us and keep us out of trouble? Are the kids in other countries as also as immature the Yanks? We already know that some in countries it's hard to pry the kids out of hotel mama, but that's another story.

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someone downvoted that post... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 2:12 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

someone downvoted that post of mine... why?

Just wanted to show a little bit of appreciation to the author of this blog, and some idiot internet justice man has to go and downvote it... I'd seriously like to downvote him in real life, with my fists.

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They up-voted your first on... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 2:43 PM | Posted by Ilya: | Reply

They up-voted your first one 3 times though, so on the net you're good.

Thomas Szasz quote - YES - FINALLY! How come when I search "Thomas Szasz" on this blog, nothing shows up? You'd think he'd be mentioned all the time!

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Anything but God.S... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 3:06 PM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

Anything but God.

Suggesting that kids not have sex until marriage, so that one can avoid the repeated emotional turmoils, avoid the VDs, avoid the unintended pregnancies, avoid the drunk dangerous ex-boyfriend who just got his driving license, and so on, is "oppression," is repressed perverts forcing their issues on others.

Instead, the forces that be are out there trying to teach our elementary school-age children the correct attitudes toward same-sex relationships, how to accept poly-whatever, and so on - as part of school curriculum. So now, you must correctly check the multiple-choice box, or you are morally incorrect.

If I have to check boxes to be moral, myself, I pick God over whomever it is that is making up the human sexuality-for-elementary-school-kids curricula.

Let's not make a Supreme Court issue out of it.

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@Slow lane:On what... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 3:44 PM | Posted by Paul: | Reply

@Slow lane:

On what are you basing your statement that these girls are bullies? Is it because they are becoming sexual beings? They play volleyball? They're cheerleaders? You're comment is a complete non sequitur.

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The way it should have w... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 4:09 PM | Posted by The Devastator: | Reply

The way it should have worked is that one concerned mother calls the other mother, and she opens up with, "I just want to bring something to your attention" or "Jesus, do you know what your wenchy daughter is up to?!" and they work it out and stuff gets handled, and if it doesn't it gets kicked to the fathers, who freak out on their daughters and then reluctantly agree to talk to the other father about it and settle it once and for all, and if that doesn't work they can agree to meet in the Woolworth's and Woolco parking lot and punch each other like girls. I recognize this is all quite sexist, but that's the way it should have gone down. That's the way it has always gone down.

I think Alone is being a little whimsical here, so I'm not really yelling at him, but I hope everyone is clear that this kind of argument is total bullshit. "Responsible" and "Old-fashioned" are not synonyms. I couldn't agree more that that the parents should have handled it themselves, but doing it in a sexist way is worse than getting the school involved. They should handle it, and they should handle it like non-assholes. Is that too much to ask?

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Huh? This issue isn't about... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 4:13 PM | Posted, in reply to medsvstherapy's comment, by The Devastator: | Reply

Huh? This issue isn't about sex ed, or elementary school kids. What are you talking about?

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I love the snarky way the j... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 9:25 PM | Posted by Kejia: | Reply

I love the snarky way the judge points out that the complaining mom--who said the photos were disrupting the team--had a daughter who was not even on the team. Was this sour grapes or a Machiavellian way to get her daughter on the team?

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I'm considering that the gi... (Below threshold)

August 19, 2011 11:13 PM | Posted by anon: | Reply

I'm considering that the girls could be doing something criminal by publishing rauchy lingerie photos of underaged girls. Isn't that the case?

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Children are developing see... (Below threshold)

August 20, 2011 3:37 AM | Posted by Jack: | Reply

Children are developing seeds and the parents have a responsibility to guide protect and encourage their growth. This is perhaps not easy when the internet is full of porn showing teenagers of not much older doing the same sexual things but for real. They will be largelly products of their enviroment which I think is where free speech needs to be governed by responsibility. When a child is fully grown, that is the time for free speech to totally kick in - before that the adult world needs to to get its total act together to provide a healthy nurturing enviroment.

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I'm considering th... (Below threshold)

August 20, 2011 10:40 AM | Posted by Dancing Jalapeños: | Reply

I'm considering that the girls could be doing something criminal by publishing rauchy lingerie photos of underaged girls. Isn't that the case?

This would be a huge violation of their rights over their own bodies. Remember, the main ethical reason behind pro-abortion advocacy is the right of women over their bodies. And while the anti-abortion movement can concoct counter-arguments about how there's another being with rights inside them already, there's no such thing in this case.

"But aren't there laws about public nudity"? It depends. Jainist monks are allowed to wander about nude in India. Nudity is all about context. In many countries there are nude beaches for people who just enjoy spending time out in the nude. The vague proscription against public nudity is all about the right of people not to be offended or shocked; but this being Facebook, you had to click on a thumbnail at least to see the pictures.

And who could be offended by lingerie pictures of 17-year-old girls who happen to be cheerleaders and volleyball players, and thus are probably really, really hot? Particularly considering that their Facebook friends are probably all people from her school who get to ogle them on the frankly sexual tease spectacle that cheerleading is. As a non-american, cheerleaders always struck me as schools having a strippers club along the chess club and the band club. I won't condemn another culture's mores, but there's absolutely no rational reason for getting puritanical about it.

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Children are devel... (Below threshold)

August 20, 2011 10:50 AM | Posted, in reply to Jack's comment, by Dancing Jalapeños: | Reply

Children are developing seeds and the parents have a responsibility to guide protect and encourage their growth.

There's a beautiful poem about parenting by Khalil Gibran.

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

At seventeen years old, these arrows have been in the air for a while now. And a girl discovering that she desires to be desired is really, really about life longing for itself.

Yes, sexting and the internet present dangers. So do manholes, AC electricity and cracks in the pavement. But these kids have grown on the internet (I'm 29 and I've grown on the internet), and if they're not fully aware of the risks involved by now, accidents will have been accidents. I do agree that it's important to protect the 10-12 years old who don't understand sexuality in full and get lured into weird cyber-bullying situations, these are 17 years old girls. Cheerleaders, who know the power their bodies wield.

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Hey, lots of downvotes. Why... (Below threshold)

August 20, 2011 11:37 AM | Posted, in reply to The Devastator's comment, by The Devastator: | Reply

Hey, lots of downvotes. Why? Honestly wondering.

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I agree each generation wil... (Below threshold)

August 20, 2011 12:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Dancing Jalapeños's comment, by Jack: | Reply

I agree each generation will be different and that this is part of lifes growth. But the adult world has a responsibility to our immature offspring to provide a healthy enviroment in wich they can form. I probably dont have as much a problem with teens exploring boundaries as part of their growth as I do the adult world failing in its responsibility to give them a healthy growing enviroment. Porn involving kids of about their age is piped into every home, their parents divorce, babies are aborted, music and tv is garbage - in other words the enviroment they form in gives the message that the adult world values convenience over its children. The arrows are in flight but going in the wrong direction - until those teenagers are matured the adult world, including schools, have a responsibility to lead by example, guide and mould.

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So I'm stupid. That's good... (Below threshold)

August 20, 2011 4:55 PM | Posted by Lizzie Bennett: | Reply

So I'm stupid. That's good to know.
That is, if I'm smart enough to even know what stupid means.
Anything I could say now has undoubtedly been said about you before, Doc.

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Freedom: Useless and downri... (Below threshold)

August 20, 2011 6:29 PM | Posted by reçue_reçue: | Reply

Freedom: Useless and downright dangerous in the wrong hands, not unlike money in the hands of the poor.

Parenting, modern: Thunder against it!

The Past: A place inhabited by sensible people. They had their faults, bien sur! but they knew how to raise children - we see the evidence in ourselves!

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The important thing here is... (Below threshold)

August 21, 2011 11:52 AM | Posted, in reply to medsvstherapy's comment, by Adam: | Reply

The important thing here is that, upon reading this post, your previous opinion remains not only unchanged, but reinforced. I think that's the point of this blog.

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I think today, in order to ... (Below threshold)

August 21, 2011 1:46 PM | Posted by HeXXiiiZ: | Reply

I think today, in order to see level of hysteria in the parents (rats) who went into fits over this incident, one must consider roughly the same situation but with 17 year old guys from the football team. That is, suppose the pictures were of a bunch of male students simulating sex acts on each other. Nobody would be surprised at all. One of the fathers of the guys would perhaps have to tell his son "knock it off you knuckle head" and punch him in the arm a couple times.

Crude adolescent sexual humor would come as absolutely expected from teenage boys, but for similar aged girls somehow it is still assumed by the generation of the parents that the same crude adolescent sexual humor is horrifically out of place. Today's women are becoming in social and cultural situations more like men in many ways, because what had in many social contexts made the difference between women and men were indeed social. In the past, women were socially interpallated as lacking a fundamental agency that constituted being a male subject. Consequently, an act of self-assertion or agency from a women was always reframed into a question of what masculine force was really at work behind her: pop-culture, the media, peer pressure, abuse, etc... This is particularly true when the body is involved.

The male body has been traditionally conceived of as a tool for expression and work, a medium for agency wielded by the man, whereas traditional culture commodifies the female body as an object of property the integrity of which is of paramount importance. In the road between these traditional gender roles and a more egalitarian modern society there is indeed a middle ground occupied by hoards of hysterical baby-boomers and gen-Xers for whom there was some acceptance of women as having, like men, agency over themselves and their self-expression, but also yoked with the vestigial responsibility to use that agency with the imperative to maintain the traditional integrity of their bodies as objects that play integral roles in social relationships and social structure.

Being progressive but with one foot firmly rooted, often with guilt and anxiety, in the past has made those in this interstitial period between traditional gender roles and egalitarianism hysterical in a fundamentally psychoanalytic fashion: they unconsciously find themselves nervously asking themselves "what does it mean to be a man/woman?". And to answer this question, they attempt to use their bodies. These interstitial generations are caught in a paranoiac vacillation between two kinds of societies, and these vacillations are particularly disorienting for women of these generations who want to move into the future, gaining agency as a full social subject, but have trouble letting go of the comforting infantilism of the traditional female role: perpetually being provided for, protected, and free of making difficult decisions.

The relevance of this incident, the reason that it provokes such hysteria, amongst particularly mothers, is precisely because it is a group of teenage girls acting with the agency (obnoxious and adolescent as it is) of teenage guys. There is most certainly a resentment aroused in the generation of suburbanite, middling class, mothers who had seen the sexual revolution of the 60's as a form of empowerment that could only serve to structure their fantasy space (ideological space, not space of fantasizing). The injunction of this interstitial culture being "you are free to think of yourselves freely and autonomously like men, but in return you must freely choose to uphold tradition and fulfill your roles as mothers".

Moreover, in order to defend themselves from this traumatic realization of agency in the teenage girls, the mothers undoubtedly will or have reframed the incident to ask the question of what male agency was really at work: pop-culture, the internet, sexualization in media, etc... They will attempt to convince the girls that they are victims of one or another male influence. As a matter of fact, the above accounts for much of the issues of gender today, and I think that the young people of today are in certain respects past the issue of gender is for the older generations the very issue. For the younger generations, this incident is just stupid obnoxious adolescent hackneyed humor, and I think the young people of today see it with boredom and apathy. Indeed, therefore, this is an issue with the parents, the generation of rats who must fuss up an issue where one does not exist, until one in fact does exist.

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That is, suppose the pic... (Below threshold)

August 21, 2011 3:25 PM | Posted, in reply to HeXXiiiZ's comment, by EH: | Reply

That is, suppose the pictures were of a bunch of male students simulating sex acts on each other. Nobody would be surprised at all.

Well I'm surprised to learn that it's common for guys to do such a faggy prank. We're not talking about The Navy.

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"If I have to check boxes t... (Below threshold)

August 21, 2011 6:06 PM | Posted, in reply to medsvstherapy's comment, by Joyce: | Reply

"If I have to check boxes to be moral, myself, I pick God..."

The point of God being for stupid people is that it's the same moral laziness as deferring to the school system you seem to despise. It's not "moral" if you're just doing as you're told. You can be as intolerant as you like of whatever lifestyles make your brothers and sisters happy, but it's hoped you'll defend your bigotry with some cogency and self-awareness, instead of abdicating the responsibility of thought to your most comfortable authority figure.

"God" is the explanation you were given as a child for the complexities of a dizzying world, and maybe it's a manageable moral model for adolescent cheerleader brains which aren't developed enough to entertain abstraction or internalize contradictions, but it's just as vacuous as the "zero-tolerance" moral absolutism of the sexless schoolmarms who brought this case to federal court. Not to mention, a more fruitful worldview might be the one of critical inquiry [that one that understands "statistics"] that can demonstrate the abstinence-only indoctrination you advocate to actually increase teen pregnancies and the transmission of disease. Seriously, science says you're ruining children's lives. You don't have to be a transsexual heroin junkie to question your superstitions.