The question of when children should be allowed to experiment sexually has been asked since the beginning of civilization. Parents are seen as the protectors of a daughter’s virginity. Yet, attitudes toward sex can be drastically different in cultures around the country and can also change with the times. Taboo: Teen Sex explores the wide range of attitudes toward underage sexual relations and asks what is taboo?
Freedom to Experiment
Ratanakiri Province, 400 miles northeast of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, is home to the Kreung people. In their villages of the Kreung “love huts” are built to give teenage girls and boys privacy from their parents. The fathers build the huts for their daughters so that they can “talk” with their boyfriends. Working long days, parents do not want to be kept up listening to their daughter entertain. All teenagers want alone-time away from their parents, but this practice of encouraging young girls to be alone all night with their boyfriends would be considered taboo in many cultures.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher who has studied the culture states, “Once you spend a little more time with the Kreung girls, you realize there’s a lot more goes on in there than just talking. Some of the girls that were well-known amongst the local boys for being accommodating in their love huts, they would have several different boys coming to stay with them during week.” Though Fisher doesn’t think that the girls are necessarily intimate with all their male visitors, they are definitely free to if not encouraged to experiment with sex. Some argue that this gives the girls a sense of empowerment and the ability to choose a compatible husband, but in places like the United States this might be considered taboo.
In the United States girls there is an evangelical practice that involves young girls pledging to remain pure and abstain from sexual relations until they are married. The first ever father-daughter Purity Ball was staged in Colorado Springs in 1998 by Evangelical Christians. Now nearly every state in the U.S. stages Purity Balls where the father places a ring on his daughter’s finger, symbolizing her vow to remain pure until she decides to marry a man of whom her father approves.
Not everyone agrees with this practice. The fact that there are no Purity Balls for boys gives critics pause. Some argue that pressuring a girl to participate in a Purity Ball puts her in a position where a man is always in control of her sexuality, first her father and then her husband. Jesse Prinz, a professor of philosophy points out that, “There’s never an opportunity in a woman’s life to make her own sexual decisions. When we see a Purity Ball, we associate it with that form of male dominance.” To some people the pressure of a Purity Ball is seen as taboo. Should young girls abstain or be given freedom to explore their sexuality? These are eternal questions and when answered on either extreme may just be taboo. Tune in to Taboo: Teen Sex on Sunday July 8 at 10 et/pt and decide for yourself what is taboo!