"Gossip Girl" star's fascinating vibrator furor

Taylor Momsen causes a furor by talking about her sex toy. What's so wrong about that?

Published July 22, 2010 2:23PM (EDT)

America will always be intrigued with sexy little pieces of jailbait — but, as it turns out, we're not too comfortable with the notion of them getting off on their own devices. Take Taylor Momsen. No one would accuse the 16-year-old "Gossip Girl" star and pop singer of having a surplus of discretion — she's already stirred up plenty of controversy in recent weeks by badmouthing Miley Cyrus and her "Disney bubblegum shit," smoking, prancing around in stripper shoes, and writhing around in a weird send-up of the Last Supper for her "Miss Nothing" video. So it shouldn't exactly have come as a shock when she revealed to Disorder magazine this week that lately she's "not into guys" and that "her best friend is her vibrator."

But shock it did. PopCrunch lamented that her comment was "Wrongtown USA!" because "this child is 16," and Hollywood Life pronounced her "out of control." Yet leave it to our most reliable morality cop, Perez Hilton, to show Momsen how to be really gross in public (and reveal his ignorance on the distinctions between sex toys) — with a post about how she "can't live without her dildo." Cue requisite Twitter battle of half-wits, with Hilton offering her a fist-shaped dildo and accusing her of behaving "like a 40-year-old hooker." Eventually, Gawker stepped into the fray, rightly declaring Perez "disgusting" but decreeing, "A 16-year-old — and especially one who has already taken so much flak for acting 'too grown up' at times — probably shouldn't be talking about vibrators in an interview."

Well, should she? Momsen may not be the role model I'd prefer my tween daughters to emulate, but the collective horror over her reference to self-pleasure speaks volumes about how taboo the subject still is. And frankly, if I'd had a vibrator at 16, high school would have sucked a lot less.

Male masturbation — in particular adolescent male masturbation — is so blithely accepted it has its own canon — from movies like "Spanking the Monkey" and "American Pie" to an astonishing number of pop songs. Suffice to say that if you're a teenage boy, everybody assumes you're about to beat it, you just beat it, or you're beating it right now.

But girls? We hit our first stirrings of big league horniness, and we think the guy who scratches that itch is a miracle worker. It must be the real thing — I feel it in my bathing suit area! Some might get aggressively in your face about their newfound wantonness, possibly because many females are accustomed to being displayed and shared. Being sexual just for yourself, on the other hand, is something that takes a lot of ladies a long time to embrace. Maybe if we had a few more Rabbit Pearls in our hands, we wouldn't be so eager to cash in our V cards — and even avoid a few teen pregnancies along the way.

Sure, the retail industry for sex accessories for women is considerably more elaborate than the one for men — which is located in the sock department of JCPenney. But ever wonder why so many women still equate sex with love? Could it be in part because they're still barraged with the message that there's something dirty or weird or inferior with loving themselves — especially when it involves equipment? Behold, for example, the advice from Redbook that a lady's fiancé "replace that vibrator" because "women prefer the real thing." "The real thing" is plenty awesome, but why does a vibrator have to have a rep as a shabby substitute for Mr. Right, instead of as something that just gives pleasure?

When you figure out you can rock your own world just fine, it changes how you view sex. You understand that that specific, everything-is-right-with-the-world feeling isn't luuuuuuv, and you don't have to overromanticize something your male counterpart can rub out in the shower before homeroom. Taylor Momsen might not be the soul of youthful wisdom, but there's something unique and powerful about a teenage girl announcing she doesn't depend on a boy to feel good. It might not be the buzz her critics were expecting from her, but I suspect it makes her happy nonetheless.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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