When Carrie Underwood gave a 12 year-old boy his first kiss on stage, why didn’t we question our double standards about protecting girls vs “making men” out of boys?
Listen, I’m not saying that Carrie Underwood had anything other that good intentions when she pulled a 12 year-old boy out of the audience to give him his first kiss on stage in front of thousands of people. The boy had been carrying a sign requesting that the stunning 29 year-old superstar give him a kiss, and when Carrie learned about it, she had her crew bring him up for a kiss. “Lip to lip,” as he said.
This is an old story – it happened in 2012. I’m writing about it now because there have been a lot of stories in the news lately about teachers, most of them pretty and in their twenties or thirties, having sex with their minor students, and I think both of those situations are excused based upon the same societal stereotype about boys.
Now let’s be clear: In no way do I think the sexual abuse perpetrated by teachers against students is comparable to a little kiss by a celebrity upon a kid, with his parents’ permission. I’m going to italicize and bold that, so you know I’m serious. But I do think this little kiss and the abuse of boys by female adults are related in one way: people’s double standards about protecting girls vs “making men” out of boys.
Imagine a concert with a gorgeous, highly-desired star on stage. A kid is in the audience with a sign asking for a first kiss from the superstar singer. The singer pulls the kid on stage and delivers a lip-to-lip kiss. We just saw that in the video above, right?
Now imagine if the singer were John Mayer. Imagine if the kid were a somewhat awkward 12 year-old girl who still had some adorable baby fat on her face.
That creeps me out.
Luckily it didn’t really happen. But it changes things, doesn’t it?
An adolescent girl’s first kiss shouldn’t be with a grown man, no matter how famous. So why doesn’t the Carrie Underwood video creep people out?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because, as a society, we don’t feel a need to protect boys’ innocence when it comes to sexual or romantic interactions with girls and women.
We’ve also already cast our victim/perpetrator roles and they are as follows: Girls and women are the victims of men and boys. The end.
We see it time and again when yet another pretty teacher is charged with sexual abuse of a minor boy. Comments sections are filled with “‘atta boy”s and virtual high-fives for the children.
We hear taunts from celebrities like Bill Maher who famously coined the term “Lucky Bastard Syndrome” for boys who have been raped (statutory or otherwise) by adult females. We hear him reflect what many people think – that a boy or man who complains about being raped or sexually abused by a woman or girl needs to man up and grow a pair.
And that is sick. That is sick to a degree that I can’t even start to explain. And it often keeps male survivors of abuse silent.
I remember my first kiss vividly, both the great and terrible aspects of it. The kid’s name was Joey, and he lived across the street from my new friend Shannon. He was my age, rode a scooter (illegally) and I swear already had a five o’clock shadow. I batted my eyelashes at him enough for him to know that I wanted to kiss him. Oh, and I told him I wanted to kiss him. I’ve never been subtle.
And I remember exactly how I felt – before, during and after. The longing was intense, and the idea of kissing a boy was terrifying. Would I know what to do? Would he fall in love with me? What would happen with my braces?
During the kiss I wondered what the hell was going on. It was slobbery and gross and not romantic – turned out there was such a thing as French Kissing that nobody had warned me about, and it was disgusting.
Somehow, though, my memory of it afterward remained wistful and made me feel tingly. I didn’t date Joey, though we went to the same school. I think I started listening to Nirvana not long after and bought a pair of Doc Martens. That doesn’t exactly make you popular in Michigan in the year 1991.
Once again, I am not saying that Carrie Underwood kissing a 12 year-old boy on stage is abuse. I’d guess that her intentions were pretty pure toward the kid (though perhaps it was a media stunt, and there’s a whole weird angle to examine there). But generally, it’s clear the intention was to fulfill the mostly innocent fantasies of thousands of little boys who think she is the greatest thing ever. Because she is. She’s great. And if you ask me, she has the best legs in show business.
But there’s a strange story that runs through our collective consciousness that needs to end here and now. It’s the myth that guys are always up for sex, and that they’ll never say no. Somehow we’ve come to believe that the hallmark difference between boys and girls is that boys want “it” all the time and girls’ job is to protect themselves from having “it” taken away from them. And it’s bullshit. Women experience deep and overwhelming physical desire, just as guys do. And boys and men deserve the right to say no, just like girls and women do.
Don’t all kids deserve to have a truly romantic, mutual experience for their first kiss? Didn’t he deserve to have what I had, what you may have had, what we all hope for our kids: butterflies when seeing the person he crushes on, questions of whether he or she loves him back and wants to kiss him, the mutually awkward experience of being a young person who has no idea what they’re doing, but does it anyway because the desire in both of them to connect in this special way is so overwhelming?
If you think that this kid was a lucky bastard, but that a girl in that same position with a grown man would’ve been just plain sick and wrong, then you need to take some time and examine your double standards.
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** UPDATE: A Twitter follower, Al, pointed out that John Mayer DID in fact kiss a teen girl on stage – she was 16, it wasn’t billed as her “first kiss” and he made it VERY clear that the kiss was going to be on the cheek, and it was. Video below.