Whenever I read about the many ways teenagers are enthusiastically participating in hypersexualized Web culture, I thank my lucky stars that YouTube wasn't around when I was 13. But I now have two items to add to my list of Things That Thankfully Didn't Exist Back Then: underage clubs and Fotolog, a "photo-blogging" site.
In conservative Chile, underage dance parties -- "dance" being, as it often is, a euphemism for "make out" -- are wildly popular among teens, according to the New York Times. It isn't news that teens like to grope, grind and smooch, but the Web has changed all the rules. No longer are they restricted to nervous dance floor flirtations; long before they even hit the club, many have already exchanged photos and comments on Fotolog and then hook up with digital crushes at the events. Party promoters offer Fotolog's most popular users VIP access and occasionally even treat them like mini-socialites and pay for their appearance. Sometimes photos of their exploits -- sucking a stranger's finger, cupping someone's breast -- also end up on Fotolog.
Beyond the fact that teens compete at these events to be the "ponceo" -- essentially, the one who swaps the most spit -- there's the worry that all this making out sometimes leads to s-e-x. Nicole Valenzuela, 14, told the Times, "After the kiss follows making out, and after that, penetration and oral sex. That's what's going on, sometimes even in public places." Indeed, last year a video of a 14-year-old performing oral sex in a park made the Web rounds, sparking public outrage. Of course, while some Chilean teens are having sex in public, and some are filming it and posting it to the Web, it's hard to know just how common these cases are compared with the undeniably popular mass make-out sessions. There is always the risk that a handful of the most extreme, highly publicized cases will be magnified as the prevailing generational trend, just as with "rainbow parties" in the U.S.
The fact that, if allowed, teenagers will gather to feel each other up and lock lips isn't shocking. (Nor is it surprising that, if allowed, some will post the evidence to the Web.) Ultimately, I'd say outrage is best channeled toward Chile's "badly lagging," according to the Times, sex education in public schools.