My (abnormal?) teenage dream

Introducing our new sex-advice column! First up: A 20-something wonders about his attraction to high school girls

Topics: Am I Normal?, Sex,

My (abnormal?) teenage dream (Credit: iStockphoto/TommL)

I’m a 27-year-old guy. I feel as normal as one can be while still being human. Had a great childhood with loving and supportive parents whom I am still close with today. Currently single but have had a lot of healthy relationships with great girls so that has never been a big problem or anything. Never been to jail — yada, yada. I preface all of this because I have recurring thoughts that seem to only happen with people who have some serious, serious issues.

I often think about and am aroused by thoughts of first-time sexual experiences and playful, innocent-type teenage sexuality. But it’s important that I use the word “teenagers” and not “young children.” This isn’t something I have ever acted on or would even consider for a moment, but I will see high school age girls or couples and get fixated on what they would be like sexually — what they have done and what it would be like to see a girl experience all these new sex acts for the first time.

It is ridiculous. They are underage and it is wrong. It just seems like someone who is really into that would be someone who has an abusive past, trouble socializing — I don’t know, things like that. Do you feel like I have any reason to be concerned?


Chris, I started mulling your email by imagining that you were one of my dearest male friends (having already given you a made-up name, I felt at liberty). This was not only easy to do, seeing as you’re the same age as most of them, but it also made me feel comfortable assuming that you were indisputably a “Good Guy,” and being a “Good Guy,” you were fantasizing about a physically developed and emotionally mature girl of 16 (the age of consent in most U.S. states). If that had been the case, I might have teased you for being so damned normal and boring. Find a legitimately messed-up fantasy already!

But sexual desire isn’t so black-and-white, is it? That’s why I responded to your first email and asked you to clarify exactly what ages you were talking about. You responded, “I would say fourteen to seventeen. Thirteen seems a bit outlandish, but then again it is hard to tell with girls.” This is a bit more intriguing, so I figured it might actually be worth taking your question to Ray Blanchard, one of the world’s leading experts on “erotic age orientation,” for a professional opinion. Seriously, I took this to one of the world’s leading experts on the subject. What I wouldn’t do for one of my dearest guy friends!

Blanchard, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto, is the chairman of a committee currently tasked with revising the section on paraphilias in the next edition of the DSM, psychiatry’s diagnostic bible. I shared your original email with him to lay the groundwork and Blanchard said, “If he is more attracted to girls aged 13 to 14 than to physically mature females, I would say that he has a paraphilia” (read: not normal). However, if you’re primarily attracted to girls between the ages of 16 and 18, says Blanchard, “I would say that his preferences are somewhat problematic but not paraphilic.”

It’s crucial to note that in both scenarios, Blanchard is strictly talking about erotic preference, as opposed to the mere existence of attraction. That’s why I emailed you a second time to clarify whether you were predominantly attracted to teens (and you said no, that this is just one facet of your erotic imagination). This is important because even “normal” men who are primarily attracted to adults can be aroused by adolescents. We know this thanks to studies that use a penile plethysmograph, which measures blood flow in your junk. (Just try to imagine the unreliability of self-reports on a taboo subject like attraction to minors.) Based on clinical assessments of sexual interest, most adults are chiefly aroused by adults, but they are also, to a lesser but still significant degree, aroused by teenagers.

You don’t have to have access to a plethysma-thingy to figure all that out, though. As any Internet-porn connoisseur knows, there is plenty of interest in a girl’s “first time.” Now, I’m assuming you’re not looking at porn of actual underage girls, Chris, since you didn’t mention it (and as one of my dearest guy friends, I know you wouldn’t hide anything from me). That’s a relief, because child porn is supremely illegal, not to mention very much “reality” and not harmless “fantasy.” But perhaps you’ve indulged in some “barely legal” or “virgin” porn, in which case you are hardly alone. In his book “A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” cognitive neuroscientist Ogi Ogas analyzed millions of erotic Web searches from around the world and tells me, “Several very popular genres of male-targeted pornography highlight the male interest in women’s first time sexual experiences, including ‘virgins’; ‘first-time X’ where X can be a variety of acts including fellatio, anal sex, or threesomes; and the huge ‘amateur’ genre.” Ogas goes so far as to say, “Given the online data and biological evidence supporting this interest, I’d say it would be more unusual for a man to not be interested in hearing about a woman’s initial experience of various sex acts.”

You see, “normal” is so often subjective. That’s why they need a freaking committee of expert researchers to update the list of officially recognized sexual disorders — and even still, their recommendations inspire scalding criticism from their peers. It’s why there is no universal, or even national, age of consent. From a strict moral and social perspective, attraction to someone underage (however it’s defined within the context) is all sorts of messed up. In reality, though, such standards don’t dictate physiological arousal. Complicating things further, these supposedly off-limits desires are culturally reinforced at every turn: Just you try to keep track of the number of sexy schoolgirl costumes at your local Halloween superstore. Thankfully, it sounds like you are not even remotely tempted to turn your fantasy imaginings about high schoolers into reality. That is what’s truly important here — more so even than the fact that, yes, you’re probably in the range of normal. Meredith Chivers, another kick-ass sex researcher that I presented with your question, put it to me like so: “If he never acts on this fantasy, and is not significantly distressed by his fantasies or the role they play in his sexuality, then he can think about whatever he wants.”

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>