September 10, 2010

What evidence do you see for greater sex segregation among young people today?

Boys and girls live in totally separate worlds today. I can't think of any counter-examples to that big picture, except for the fact that girls are much more likely to have a gay friend these days. So I'm restricting this to boy-girl interactions or relationships where both are straight. I'll list some I've posted on before, and others that occur to me off the top of my head. But I wasn't a teenager in the '80s or before, so there may be lesser known boy-girl practices that are now dead and that I'd have no clue to look at. What else comes to mind?

- Boys and girls don't hang out in public in groups of friends. It's either a group of guys or group of girls (perhaps with some gays). I don't even notice cars that carry a mix of young guys and girls. That must reflect a lower level of mixed-sex social circles than before. So I'd guess that they don't even hang out at each other's houses or share the same cafeteria table spaces like they used to.

- At house parties or in dance clubs and bars, girls don't leave their friends alone. If they get the sense that one of their friends wants to slip away and pair up with a boy, whether for something light or heavy, they become cock blocks -- a phrase that did not exist before because there was rarely such a thing. They steal the friend back, or sometimes just walk off as a group, knowing that the girl (being a girl) cannot take being stranded by her clique and will fall in line behind them. In mixed-sex times, they would've left her alone, and if not, she would've told them to mind their own business, get a life of their own, etc.

- In the same settings as above, girls form tight circles meant to keep the world out, rather than having a more open formation like when they used to be boy-crazy. Watch a school dance or night club scene from any '80s teen movie, and notice how absent this is. Today even if there are only two girls, they face each other at close distance, closing out the rest of the world. I recall this closed formation only during 6th grade dances. It's as though teenage and 20-something girls today haven't socially matured beyond the level of middle schoolers when it comes to interacting with boys -- and therefore, boys haven't matured either for want of contact with girls.

What is a more open formation? Standing side by side, making a semi-circle, etc., showing your openness to being approached. The closed formation holds even in totally safe settings, and times are incredibly safer now anyway, so this is not simply a shift to deal with a greater level of danger at parties or clubs.

- There's all that terrible "girls gotta stick together" music that blew up with the Spice Girls in the '90s, although you could probably find some less popular examples from the early-mid '90s (like Queen Latifah's "U.N.I.T.Y"). The girl groups from the '60s through the '80s didn't sing about that at all -- they were boy-crazy and fought against other girls over their dream boys, which was reflected in myriad "choose me over her" song lyrics. In the '90s and 2000s, girl singers were either of the "girls united" camp or the "it's all about how hot I am" camp. Barf me out.

- On the guy side, how many songs are there about awkwardly falling for a close chick friend of yours? That can only happen when boys and girls socialize a fair amount inside and outside of school. I don't mean the girl who you're barely acquainted with, or who you only spy from afar after 2nd period as she's going down the stairwell that you're walking up. These songs are hard to pin down in any time because usually the guy who's fallen for a close friend appropriates a song that is probably about an actual boyfriend / girlfriend relationship, like "Bizarre Love Triangle."

Still, my impression is that these used to be common enough, at least from 1969's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" up through 1986's "Amanda," plus a lot of less popular stuff in the '80s by college rock bands like The Smiths ("There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"). I'm probably missing another big one from the late '80s and early '90s... Mr. Big's "To Be With You"? LOL, someone please give us a better example than that.

In any case, I don't remember hearing this type of song during the mid-'90s and after. Plenty of unrequited love songs by alternative / emo geeks, whether about girls in general not paying them attention or about a specific girl to whom he's invisible (possibly a current girlfriend), but again I mean someone who the guy has hung out with long enough for her to be in his circle of friends. And they have to have been big popular songs to count here, not a band that's unrepresentative of the zeitgeist.

What else is there that shows how separate boys and girls live today?

6 comments:

  1. I think your observation only holds in certain social circles. I teach high school and have children in both middle and high school. I've seen an increase in mixed social groups at least in the selected group I interact with (I teach upper level science classes and work in a magnet school).

    On the other hand I see a decrease in "hanging out" in general. When they get together the groups seem to contain mixed genders with both couples and friends but they get together less often with more electronic interaction inbetween.

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  2. I often see mixed-gender groups of teens hanging around in the neighborhood and other locations. It could well be that the whole atmosphere of dance clubs and bars fosters gender segregation, in a way that casually hanging around does not.

    Peter

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  3. - At house parties or in dance clubs and bars, girls don't leave their friends alone. If they get the sense that one of their friends wants to slip away and pair up with a boy, whether for something light or heavy, they become cock blocks -- a phrase that did not exist before because there was rarely such a thing. They steal the friend back, or sometimes just walk off as a group, knowing that the girl (being a girl) cannot take being stranded by her clique and will fall in line behind them. In mixed-sex times, they would've left her alone, and if not, she would've told them to mind their own business, get a life of their own, etc.

    Excellent point. This is likely the most maddening thing about the night scene - isolating the girl from the entire herd. To get a girl you have to win over ALL her friends; if one of the friends disapproves, she ain't getting alone with you.

    I'm Gen Y so this is standard girl behaviour. But this makes me wonder - were girl always like this? Was it like this in the 60s/70s/80s? I see clubbing scenes from movies of that era, and everyone looks to be relaxed, dancing and having a good time - very alien from the tension of today's scene where you see GIRLS dancing in tight herds with other girls and GUYS leering from the sidelines. Were one-night stands easier to get in the era of free love? What caused the change? I want to here from the older folks here.

    I imagine anyone 40+ would find Game and PUA - replete with its acronyms, lexicon, routines and evolved tactics to deal with cockblocks and obstacles - rather bizarre and alien. What happened to just "Hi, I'm Joe. Want to dance?"

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  4. my generation of girl's are terrible. it's a royal pain in the ass to always go through all of the obstacles. generally speaking the girls aren't worth the trouble. I know I stay away from the girl-guy mix groups because of the vast amounts of drama that occur when girls are involved

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  5. shit hypothesis generator9/17/10, 5:48 AM

    Maybe, because of the wide access to porn of all kinds, girls and boys aren't comfortable around each other; they're always thinking about sex, which they want to avoid so as to not get horny in situations that would then turn awkward. Therefore we see both sex segregation and "hooking up".

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  6. "college rock bands like The Smiths ("There Is A Light That Never Goes Out""

    I highly doubt that Morrissey ever wrote a love song about a woman.

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