John Hughes, sexual consent, and the value of the virgin vs. the whore


I couldn’t remember the last time I’d watched John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles. I saw it in the video store last week, and decided enough time had passed. After the kids went to bed last night, I popped it in and traveled back in time to 1984. In retrospect, I kinda wish I hadn’t. Let me share with you the scene between Jake Ryan and “Farmer” Ted that left me feeling less than nostalgic for high school:

“I could get a piece of ass any time I want. Shit, I’ve got Carolyn up in my room, passed out cold. I could violate her 10 different ways if I wanted to.”

“What are you waiting for?”

“I don’t know. She’s beautiful and she’s built and all that… Just not interested anymore.”

“Does that really matter, guy?”

“Yeah, it matters! She’s totally insensitive. Look what she did to my house. She doesn’t know shit about love. The only thing she cares about is partying. I want a serious girlfriend, somebody I can love, that’s going to love me back… Is that psycho?”

“It’s beautiful, Jake. You know, I think a tonne of guys feel the same way as you do.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it’s just they don’t, they don’t have the balls to admit it, you know what I mean? I mean, they’re just, they’re wimps. Samantha’s uh, she’s really special, you know?”

“I’ll make a deal with you: let me keep these [Samantha’s underwear], I’ll let you take Carolyn home. But you gotta make sure she gets home. You can’t leave her in some parking lot somewhere. Okay?”

“Jake, I’m only a freshman.”

“So? She’s so blitzed, she won’t even know the difference.”

“Jake, I don’t have a car.”

“You can take mine.”

“Jake. I don’t have a license.”

“I trust you.”

It doesn’t matter how obnoxious someone is. NO ONE deserves to be sexually violated (10 different ways, no less). Carolyn, the drunk, sexually experienced young woman in Jake Ryan’s bed, is given to the geek in exchange for the panties of a naive younger virgin who looks at Jake in adoration. This is a girl with whom he could have a “serious relationship.” And the geek, convinced that this is the only way he’ll ever get laid, totally goes along with it. He makes sure to warn Jake, though, of the virtue and value of the innocent Samantha. Everyone protects the virgin, and no one looks out for the slut who, by virtue of having put out at all, makes her usable by anyone, anytime. This is a familiar trope: what happens to the girl in the horror movie who chooses to have sex, and who is the heroine or sole survivor?

I’m not arguing that people aren’t making conscious choices around the use of drugs and alcohol in relation to sex. Some folks like the difference in sensation that comes from a indulging in a little recreational use. Some people feel some anxiety about the events to come, in spite of wanting to participate to their fullest capacity. They are using their agency to self-medicate a bit to reduce the inhibitions that get in the way of their desires. These are VERY different situations than drinking to oblivion and coming to without clothes and with someone’s penis in your mouth.

If a person is incapable of providing non-coerced consent, don’t have sex with that person. Why do we need to keep saying this?

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