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Early childhood fatherhood can impact the young adolescent male's life for the rest of his life, assigning him a responsibility that he perhaps never considered taking on when he was being sexually active (p. 95). Being sexually active is, for young adolescent boys, about more than sex. It is also about how the media says that "men," or boys who are going to grow to manhood, should behave, and much of the advertising media suggests to young male adolescents that if they do not partake in certain practices, like beer drinking, then they will not achieve happy manhood (Rouner, Slater, and Domenech-Rodriguez, p. 435).
Becoming sexually active as an adolescent is usually about much more than meeting physical needs or curiosity, and it is much less about emotional attachments than it is about peer pressure, trained imagery through the media, and a desire to take on responsibilities as an adult without an awareness of what a responsibility is. For young boys, making decisions about having unprotected sex as adolescents can change the course of their lives when they find themselves young fathers. Often times, the young adolescents who brought a child into the world together do not have the financial or emotional wherewithal to meet the responsibilities associated with child rearing. It often means that the families, parents of the adolescents, take on these additional extended family responsibilities.
On a social level, the relationship between young girls and boys is distorted by the images that young adolescent males adopt as meaningful imagery of relationships through the media (Rouner, Slater, and Domenech-Rodriguez, p. 435). Alcohol is an ever present depiction of young adulthood, upon the late adolescent stands at the brink of, and which can set a precedent both for perception and behavior in the adolescent's life that are harmful. Rouner, Slater and Domenech-Rodriguez explain it this way:
Most of the advertisements in this study were found to target males, with almost none targeted specifically to females. However, many images of females appear in these ads, and these images are not always favored by female or male viewers. Comments about the unnecessary display of nudity, especially the female body, were common. Perhaps both females and males saw gender roles in television ads that are no longer as ubiquitous in the culture at large, thus questioning why these ads are not a closer reflection of the reality of their age group. As one male asked, "Where are all these girls who look like this [the way the females looked in the ad]? (Rouner, Slater, and Domenech-Rodriguez, p. 435)"
The problem is, of course, that the adolescent had so little experience with women in reality that he was compelled to ask, "Where are all these girls who look like this? (Rouner, Slater, and Domenech-Rodriguez, p. 435)." This is a good sign of avoidance of reality, because certainly the adolescent goes to school and sees females in their real and non-media visually or socially enhanced roles, but chooses to ignore that reality in lieu of the one that has been created for him by the media. The media creates alternative realities that adolescents crave living in. Smylie, Medaglia, and Maticka-Tyndale say that these risk behaviors have short- and long-term cost and social repercussions (p. 95). Smylie, Medaglia and Maticka-Tyndale say that while most adolescents outgrow the media advertising aimed at them, too many fall victim to it (p. 95). The failure, they say, is manifest in what they term as the "social capital," that they define as:
features and resources inherent in the structure of social relations (e.g., information channels, social supports, and material aid) which individuals and communities can draw upon to prevent and/or solve common problems (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; 1990; Putnam, 2000). High stocks of social capital make it possible for individuals and communities to avoid or deal with problems such as drug, tobacco, alcohol use, or sexual and other risk behaviours (Coleman, 1988; 1990) and to overcome other community struggles such as racism, depleted social welfare programs, crime (Portes, 1998; Putnam, 1993), and employment and income inequities (Loury, 1977) (Smylie, Medaglia, and Maticka-Tyndale, p. 95)."
Tangential to the positive outcomes that are reflected in terms of social capital, these researchers say that consistent parental involvement in providing guidance, rules, and structures for adolescents to function within as a family are essential (p. 95). The family structure is balanced with a healthy community interaction in religion, school, and community events that help to invest the adolescent beyond their own environment, to the greater environment that they will become members of as young adults (p. 95).
The intensive attention paid to sexuality and gender roles by young adolescents, especially for young adolescent males, is emphasized by the increasingly common incidents of grade school and middle school aged boys having sexual encounters with their female adult teachers (Angelides, Steven, 2007, p. 347). These are cases not just where the adolescent is susceptible to the authority of the teacher figure, but where the teacher figure and the adolescent share the same misshapen perception of gender roles and relationships. Social researcher Steven Angelides cites the case of a 37-year-old physical education teacher who engaged in an adolescent boy who was 15 years old at the time the affair began, but turned 16 just three months after the affair began (Angelides, p. 347). While many people wanted to focus on the fact that the "child," was actually of an age where adolescents generally become physical, the fact was that the young adolescent was not 16 when the affair began, or at least when authorities could best determine it began (p. 347).
The point to be made by introducing this case scenario is less one about the salacious nature of it, and more about the perceptions of the two individuals: an adolescent boy and an adult female authority figure. The young adolescent was cooperative with authorities in establishing the facts of the case, but he disagreed on their perspective that he was the victim of a predator (p. 347). As is the case with many adolescents his age, the child in this case perceived himself in terms of the definitions that have been provided for him by society about his status as a teen, and about his role and relationship from a gender perspective (p. 347). The age discrepancy between himself and the teacher, and the fact that her role as a teacher was one perceived as carrying with it a responsibility not to put him in physical or emotional harm's way, was not something the young teen was focused on (p. 347). Nor did it make a difference to him, because from his place in society and role playing, he was engaging in an appropriate behavior by following through on his sexual attraction to the teacher (p. 347).
The adolescent's perception of his role as an adolescent was distorted, although that perhaps would not have enabled him to rationalize the inappropriateness of the relationship. However, how he perceived himself as a young adult, rather than a young adolescent, is what "erased" his own role as an adolescent with an adolescent role to maintain, which in and of itself might have helped him to gain a sense of the inappropriate nature of having a physical relationship with his teacher (p. 347). Even though the teacher was sentenced with multiple counts of illegal behavior that resulted in her incarceration for 22 months, the young adolescent felt that he had benefited from the relationship (p. 347).
Gender in Contemporary Society
Ancient history has long been a marker for understanding gender roles in contemporary society. Greek and Roman societies which provides invaluable insight into ancient life, culture, and society also provides insight into gender roles and sexuality (Hanson, Victor Davis, 2004, p. 42). Ancient patriarchal societies have been useful in understanding how the roles of women and men have evolved. However, some of the long-held perceptions arising out of studies of ancient life have recently been re-evaluated (p. 42). Ancient Greek artifacts have recently been found to reveal that the role of young women as objects sexuality whose purpose was to serve as vessels of procreation may not be entirely accurate (p. 42). In fact, the art work on some ancient vases show that young girls were actually going to school, carrying study materials (p. 42).
For historian and social researcher Victor Davis Hanson, ancient Greek artwork shows a greater level of confidence and independence in young girls than he had expected to find (p. 42). He says:
We are told that Greece was a male-dominated society where women were often segregated and relegated to the kitchen and care of the children, while men fought, conducted business, or ran the government. Perhaps -- as, for example, a group of terracotta sculptures from central Greece shows a young girl learning to cook from an older woman. But from this exhibition there also emerges a sense of female confidence and a familiarity…[continue]
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