For my Week 4 Assignment, I interviewed two of my friends, “Jessica” and “Karen”. They are both 20 years old. “Jessica” is from a beach town in Virginia, she is jewish, went to a private lower, middle, and high school and has seriously dated one man, her current boyfriend “Andrew”. “Karen” is from the metropolitan area surrounding DC, went to a public high school, is of asian descent, and has had two serious boyfriends, “Rick” and “Zayn”. “Karen” is still currently dating “Zayn”.
When I interviewed my two friends I asked them 6 questions about their courtship experience; How did they know someone was interested in them? How did they let someone know they were interested? What were acceptable and unacceptable courtship/dating/hookup activities? How closely did their friends follow these norms? What did the community think of someone who broke the rules? What types of relationships are acceptable? These questions while seaming fairly stale, actually sparked some interesting incites.
When “Jessica” was in middle school she would know that someone was interested in her because a friend would tell her, or when playing “Whats your Top 5?”, a game when’re you tell someone the top five people in your grade whom you are interested in. In high school “Jessica” knew that someone was interested in her because “guys were always staring blankly at [her] ass and tits”. According to “Jessica”, “in high school [she] went through a period of time where she didn’t want to date guys, she just wanted to hook up with them, she was enjoying her freedom”, “some guys would want to take things more seriously, but [she] was not interested”. In middle school, when ever “Jessica” wanted to let someone know that she was interested in them she would talk to her friends about him, slip him a note in the hall ways, message him on Facebook or on AIM. In high school, when ever “Jessica” wanted to let someone know that she was interested in hooking up with them she would use group gatherings as an excuse to see them. In middle school “Jessica” said that acceptable courtship activities were “slow dancing and school dances, hanging out in groups at friend’s houses, and playing truth or dare. In high school “Jessica” said that “losing one’s v card (virginity), talking at parties, hooking up at houses, and going to the beach together” were all acceptable courtship activities. Two of “Jessica’s” best friends “Hannah” and “Ashley” took very different routes within these norms; “Hannah” was “traditional, wanted a boy to ask her out, wouldn’t hook up with anyone unless they were dating, and was definitely the jealous type”, where as “Ashely”, “always needed confirmation from guys, she slept around, and would talk to multiple men at once”. In “Jessica’s” community of a small private school, “everyone knew everything about everyone else”, if someone did something our of the ordinary “it would be a huge deal for like 2 days, then it was like nothing happened”, “everyone had known each other for so long that even if some thing bad happened there really wasn’t much negative judgment outside of the initial shock”. To “Jessica”, “any type of relationship is acceptable, as long as they are not abusive”.
When “Karen” was in middle and high school she would know if someone was interested in her if she received notes, if they made excuses to talk to her, or would go out of their way to compliment her. Through middle and high school she wouldn’t let anyone know that she liked them, “even if the person that she had a crush on liked her back, she would act as if she didn’t like them”, she didn’t want to be “vulnerable” in that way. When she was in the latter years of high school she really liked a guy named “Rick” and she was ready to be “vulnerable” and let him know that she liked him so she would try to spend time with him, and talk about thing that she was interested in and listen to him talk about thing that interested him. For “Karen”, her courtship activities did not begin until the end of her junior year, she had her first kiss that year. Her and her close friends were “prude”, they never played games like spin the bottle, or hung out with potentially interested partners alone. At the end of high school they would hang out together as a group, usually at night so that they could say “yawn, I’m tired” then cuddle with some one. “Karen” went to a large public middle and high school so when people were “promiscuous, earlier than their age would suggest” they would get a reputation for being promiscuous, and this reputation would follow them, “people who slept around were disliked by most people, [she] never heard anything good about those people”. To “Karen”, kissing people is ok if you aren’t dating them, but for “sexual things, [she] personally believes that people should be dating”.
These are clearly two very different experiences with courtship and interactions with potentially interested partners. I found the comment that “Karen” made, “people who slept around were disliked by most people, [she] never heard anything good about those people”, to be very interesting. “Karen” is from the metropolitan area surrounding DC, so you would think that it would be a more forgiving area for people to choose to live almost any kid of lifestyle, but apparently it isn’t. It seems that in “Karen’s” upbringing the term “promiscuous” and “sleeping around”, can be equated to the term “sexually active teen” in the book “The Purity Myth” by Jessica Valenti. In her book Jessica says that the term “sexually active teen, was often used wit words like “at risk”, or alongside warnings about drugs and alcohol, regardless of how uncontroversial the sexual activity itself may have been”. Unfortunately a woman’s virginity and consequently her sexual experiences are so important to others that she can be labeled, judged, and assumed to be involved in other things, like drugs, because it sex is seen as unsafe. Why is it ok in “Jessica’s” town to be sexually active, but in “Karen’s” people are given a reputation and nothing good is said about them?