Interviewee 1 (52 year old woman): Black Font, Interviewee 2 (21 year old woman): Red Font
Me: In high school, were girls commonly labeled sexually?
- Yes, a girl’s sexual status was usually known
- Virgin or not
- Big part of gossip
- Always heard girls labeled as “sluts” or “virgins”
- Boys used to like to guess if a girl was a virgin or not
Me: When did you go on your first date?
- 17 years old
- In high school we would just go over each other’s houses
- “Hey, come over”
- 16 years old
Me: Did you ask the person out, or did he/she ask you out?
- He asked me out, I never asked anyone out
- He asked me out, over text
Me: Did you do anything to let someone else know you were interested in him or her? If so, what?
- Yes, I let a mutual friend know that I was interested, so that my friend would tell him
- I talked to the person more
- I asked him “hey, are you going to that party this weekend?”
- Yes, I used to go through friends in high school, so they could spread the word
- Never directly, but would talk to the person more
Me: What were the dating and relationship norms? What was acceptable?
- You dated one person of the opposite sex, one person at a time, never dated someone your friend liked
- Never dated someone and then dated that person’s friend or brother
- Dated someone about the same age as you
- Same race – no interracial relationships when I was in high school
- All very casual, nothing was very serious
- More of “hook up culture”, not very many people dated seriously
- Everyone in friend groups would hook up with each other
- Normal to hook up with the friend of someone you already hooked up with
Me: How closely did you and your friends follow these norms?
- VERY closely, I didn’t know anyone who stepped out of the norms
- Yes, definitely
- Maybe one or two girls that had the same boyfriend all through out high school
- Other than that, you could go to a party alone and hook up with anyone there that
Me: What would happen if you broke norms? Were there social impacts?
- Yes – definitely social impacts, you would definitely be gossiped about in high school
- Yes, everyone made fun of the people who dated all through out high school because they would only spend time with each other
Me: Were there impacts or consequences within your family if you broke any norms or rules?
- Yes – my parents would not have appreciated me dating someone outside of my race or age or of the same gender
- My parents would not have supported that at all
- My parents are fine with everything, really
- My parents trusted me in general and generally let me do what I wanted to
Me: I read the quote from Hari Ziyad’s “Choosing Queer: I was Not Born This Way, and That’s Okay”, “…I hated what it would mean for my relationships with family and friends if they were to know”. Does this ring any bells to you, looking back on your experiences with sexuality norms and pressures?
- YES – definitely. I can’t remember anyone in high school who was gay.
- I mean maybe there were gay couples in school, but they were too afraid to be open about it with family members or friends.
- Nobody was openly gay
Me: One last question, I learned a lot about sexual education this week, and I’m curious as to what you remember about your experiences with Sex Ed in school. Can you tell me what you remember?
- Wow, I don’t remember being taught about sex in school…I really don’t think we had a formal sexual education program
- It was dumb, nobody really paid attention to the teachers (who were are gym teachers actually)
- Taught abstinence, and then some education on safe sex was given
- The emphasis was definitely abstinence
For this interview, I was particularly interested in how these women experienced sexuality and relationship norms in high school because it is a common time where people first experience relationships, sexuality and sexual education. In addition, norms are very evident, as social life is a huge part of high school. By interviewing women from different generations, I learned about how courtship norms have changed and remained the same over time.
Both women recalled “virgin” and “slut” were commonly gossiped about. Peers usually knew a girl’s sexual status. In addition, boys liked to guess if a girl was a virgin. I asked this question to examine if Jessica Valenti’s statement, “The idea that virginity (or loss thereof) can profoundly affect women’s lives is certainly nothing new” (Valenti 2009, 19) is correct. Based on my interview, Valenti’s statement, and her ideas about how a woman is labeled just because she made a personal choice are certainly correct.
Both women said Hari Ziyad’s quote reminded them of sexual norms in high school. They touched on how they didn’t know anyone who was gay, but they admitted this could have been because gay couples were too afraid to be honest about their sexuality to friends and family. Unfortunately, the pressure to be heterosexual has not changed much over the years.
I talked about sexual education because I found John Oliver’s video on sexual education relatable and accurate. The older woman laughed as she said never experienced a sexual education program in school. The younger woman admitted that her sexual education class was “dumb”, and it was taught by gym teachers that nobody really listened to. Additionally, she remembered a focus on abstinence and brief lessons on safe sex. Although these answers were slightly different, they both support that teenagers are not, and haven’t been, given an accurate, well-rounded sexual education in school, which is ultimately what John Oliver portrayed.
One important difference is that although these women remembered that norms existed and were followed, the norms they mentioned differed in some ways. For example, the older woman admitted that relationships in high school were heterosexual, and people of different races never dated. She said her parents would not support her if she dated a girl or someone of a different race. In addition, she stated that it was “normal” for a girl to be in a relationship with one person at a time, and girls never hooked up with multiple people or people who were friends. The younger woman answered this question differently because the “hook up culture” was more common than relationships in school, and people within a friend group would hook up with one another. It was interesting to gain insight on how norms have changed, even though the foundation of norms still exists strongly.
I think it is important to ask these questions and examine norms. If we do not, the same norms will continue to dictate our lives. I’m excited to see what everyone learned from their interviews!
Valenti, Jessica. 2009. The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Berkeley: Seal Press. (Selections).
Zeilinger, Julie. 2015. “John Oliver, Laverne Cox and Nick Offerman Just Gave Us the Sex Ed Psa America Needs,” Identities.Mic. (http://mic.com/articles/123634/john-oliver-laverne-cox-and-nick-offerman-just-gave-us-the-sex-ed-psa-america-needs#.bZ5fKEmvn).
Ziyad, Hari. 2015. “Choosing Queer: I Was Not Born This Way, and That’s Okay.” Race Baitr Blog.(http://racebaitr.com/2015/09/30/choosing-queer-i-was-not-born-this-way-and-thats-ok/).