Following is the full text of parenting coach Lisa Bunnage’s TEDx Talk: The Unsexy Truth, The Hookup Culture at TEDxSFU.
As a parenting coach, I get to talk to a lot of troubled teenagers.
About six years ago, I had a really interesting conversation with a 16-year-old girl, who was on the phone – this is me with the phone by the way – and it was a coaching session; it was on a Monday.
I said, “Hi sweetie, how are you doing?”
And she says, “I’m doing OK.”
I said, “That’s good, how was your weekend?”
She said, “It was OK. I partied and the usual I drank a bit, and I met a new guy.”
“Oh! What’s he like?”
“He’s OK. I didn’t really like him that much, so I wouldn’t let him kiss me.”
“Good for you. I’m really proud of you!”
“So, I just gave him a blow job instead.”
True story, true story. I always say that I could never be shocked because I’ve heard everything, but that was the first time I’ve ever heard anything quite like that.
I was really glad it wasn’t Skype and that she didn’t see my reaction. It’s really good when you work from home: you don’t care what you look like, so I don’t like it when a client says, “Can we do a video Skype?” Oh, geez, anyway.
This young girl was right at the start of the hookup culture. It progressed, it got worse and worse, and shortly after I talked to her — I thought, maybe she was just a one-off — but shortly after talking to her, I talked to a 14-year-old boy. He said he was at a party, and they were drinking, and there were all these kids there, and he had shared his drink with this girl.
He said, “And afterwards, she wouldn’t give me a blow job!”
So, I had experience with this now, so I said, “Oh, what a bitch!” I admit, OK, that’s not what I said.
Then I thought, how did we get here? Like, what is going on? Am I that old that everyone else knows what’s going on, and it’s just me? But no, of course not.
So I thought, let’s go back in time to when I was a little girl. This is not me. And I figure she probably wasn’t getting much action even back then. That was the style.
Back in the 60s, it was all about parenting, and this is where the changes really started to happen. In the 60s, moms generally didn’t work. That was the norm: all moms were home, and every house had a mom in it; she had an apron, she was baking, she was gardening, all that stereotype.
She always had curlers in her hair, too. Does anyone else remember that? They never seemed to go anywhere, but had curlers in, all day long.
They’d be gardening with their curlers, but the thing is us kids were watched. Every parent knew every kid in the neighborhood, and they thought nothing on tattling on us. They’d phone up, “Dorothy, do you know what your little girl’s doing?”, and we’d get a whack on the butt with a rolling pin.
We were looked after, we were watched, and the schools were disciplining us, too. We get a ruler on the hand, or a belt on the butt.
I’m not saying it’s good, but it was something. So, kids respected adults as a result of this.
Let’s go to the 70s now. It’s interesting, the reason I chose these pictures is we all thought we looked like the one on the left. In reality, we looked like the one on the right. We tried, we really tried.
This was my teenage decade. In the 70s, there was a big shift. A lot of moms started going back to work. With that, when she did get home after work, she was more tired, right? She’d been at work all day; she didn’t have the energy for the kids. The term latchkey kids started coming in.
So, kids were coming home with the key. They were letting themselves in, eating Twinkies, sitting on the couch, watching “I Dream of Jeannie” or whatever; The Brady Bunch probably.
So, kids were on their own more. As a result of this, they started losing respect for adults because they were alone more. They started looking to their peers a little bit more for guidance, which we all know how that goes.
Also, schools were losing a lot of their power; they could no longer discipline children. But it just got worse.
Well, not necessarily that, but in the 80s, pretty much the norm was: all moms went back to work. Because of this, kids were getting more wild and less respectful of adults. The school’s hands were tied at this point.
There was all this new wave of parenting books coming out, about being friends with your kids and “Oh, don’t say no to your children, that hurts their self-esteem.” Could you imagine, like my parents saying that, “Oh, I don’t want to say no, do whatever you want,” it just started to really shift. “You’re a good girl, even though you just kicked the cat across the room.” It is ridiculous, but this became the norm.