Smells Like Teen Spirit

A recent trip to the Myer Centre convinced me that the latter day Leninist sects like the GreenLeft mob are on the wrong track with the protesting (and the infiltration of community groups, etc etc). The quickest and easiest way to destroy capitalism would be to convince teenagers to stop consuming.

A rather interesting article in today’s SMH poses something of a dilemma. Queensland banned under 15s from having body piercings (except for ears) and under 18s from having nipple or genital piercings by legislation in 2002. A rather short lived moral panic erupted a few years ago about tweens wearing sexy Britney style garb. And that was before Britney became a serial heterosexual bride. A legislator in Louisiana sought to outlaw hipster jeans.

The SMH reports on the increasing trend among teenagers to have cosmetic surgery. The worry is that the intense focus on body image at such an age is damaging. There is no doubt that the incidence of bulimia and anorexia among young men increased rapidly from the early 1990s in parallel with the increased sexualisation of male bodies in advertising and popular culture more generally.

Being officially part of the marketing niche called “hip mid-youth” (the mid 30s are the new 20s, etc), and possibly also a metrosexual, I’ve nevertheless resisted the urge to do anything about thinning hair or crows’ feet. I’m somewhat torn as to how to view this trend (although the SMH notes that it’s so far mainly an American one, it’s probably right to think it’s heading this way). On one hand, I think that all different body shapes should be valued, and health is a bigger concern than beauty. On the other, my libertarian instincts tell me to be highly sceptical of condemning personal choices. Even if I’d agree that these choices are overdetermined by the media and popular culture – it’s the corollary of the idea that our bodies are our own. And I think consistency in this argument is helpful to head off abhorrent intrusions into the privacy of people’s bodies like this proposed Virginia law that Miss Piss at Piss’n’Vinegar reports on.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“…banned under 15s from having body piercings (except for ears) and under 18s from having nipple or genital piercings..”

And who and how checks individuals to make sure that law’s being enforced?

“Excuse me Miss.” *flashes ID*, “Either your engagement ring has slipped into the crotch of your hipsters or you may be in breach of the law. I’m afraid I’ll have to take a closer look. Step this way please.”

I can see the job ad now…

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

It’s symbolism over substance, Nabs – a cheap headline for Premier Pete and who cares if the law’s not enforced. Piercing shops are also required by law now to inform any woman wanting a nipple piercing of possible impacts on the ability to breast feed.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“…now to inform any woman wanting a nipple piercing of possible impacts on the ability to breast feed.”

Yes, who’d want a chunk of ironmongery in the middle of their lunch?

While I tend towards the centre-left liberal side of things, I do think anyone who hasn’t thought this particular issue through will rightly end up as a practical example of social darwinism.

Irant
2022 years ago

The problem I see is assuming that just because the Yanks have their panties in a twist over some trend itis assumed that Aussies will soon crumble the same way under the might of cultural imperialism. I’m starting to see a trend in Herald that runs like this:

(1) Find some cultural trend in the United States
(2) Make tenuous links to Australia
(3) Write and article in Herald as if Australian youth are about to succumb to new imported cultural crisis.

For example, this article http://smh.com.au/articles/2005/01/06/1104832211188.html,
comments on sexual politics in Universities. Apart from the anecdote at the beginning the studies related exclusively to the US. I don’t see the correlation between US campus life and Australian campus life.

And what the hell is with the OC with that lead male actor who only has that one pathetic, hangdog expression. Every picture or ad I’ve seen he has the same expression (not that I’ve ever watched the show). The female lead needs to eat a sandwich. Soon.

Can’t we have our own cultural trends/crisis without having the fall lockstep with overseas? Whatever happened to good old Aussie ingenuity?

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

‘On one hand, I think that all different body shapes should be valued, and health is a bigger concern than beauty. On the other, my libertarian instincts tell me to be highly sceptical of condemning personal choices.’

With respect Mark, this is the kind of thing that gives libertarian instincts a bad name. The extremes of body shape should not be valued, since they are very unhealthy. To the extent that they are personal choices they should be condemned, at least at a general level (more tactful responses are probably better in individual cases). As I have argued in some of my exchanges with Don, a liberal/libertarian society requires that norms do some of the work that laws do in paternalist/conservative/social-democratic orders.

Being a liberal/libertarian does not mean you value any half-witted or self-destructive thing that others decide to do. It does not mean relativism or nihilism. What it does mean is a high level of tolerance, and a great deal of scepticism about the ability of governments to systematically make better choices than citizens.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Andrew, yes, and I said: “health is a bigger concern than beauty”. Some body shapes are injurious to health, but stigmatising them is unhelpful as it tends to reinforce the negative factors that lead to them in the first place.

Irant, yeah, the guy in the OC has only one expression. (I watch the show…)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

So, Andrew, more specifically, if you agree this is a problem, how would you suggest it be addressed?

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

“There is no doubt that the incidence of bulimia and anorexia among young men increased rapidly from the early 1990s in parallel with the increased sexualisation of male bodies in advertising and popular culture more generally.”

Careful Mark. Other than in the minds of feature writers there isn’t any evidence of an increase. For a start there is no baseline or ongoing data collection.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

FXH, I was going on the work of a US Sociologist who’d looked into it. I’m assuming your comment refers to Austalian data?

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

Is body modification acceptable without informed consent? Should circumcision be banned for under-18s?

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

Stigmatising obesity can lead to further problems, adding depression to high blood pressure, diabetes etc, but I think a fat stigma is a protective norm, encouraging people to do something about their weight . The danger in taking stigmas away is that while this makes life somewhat easier for the stigmatised person, it helps make obesity normal. Parts of the US are already near or at this stage, where so many people are obese that social norms against it are weakened and there is less incentive to lose weight or avoid getting fat. ‘Acceptance’ here will just make things worse overall.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“Is body modification acceptable without informed consent? Should circumcision be banned for under-18s?”

Dunno Evil Pee. But given your extensive experience with a magnifying glass and naughty bits, perhaps you should keep your eye out for a certain ‘Inspector of Underage Genital Piercing – position vacant’ ad in the Courier-Mail. I’m fairly certain no feminazi’s gonna get in first for that job.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

That’s twice you’ve made the same joke in this thread, Nobblecon. You’re getting stale.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

I’m not quite sure how we got to circumcision, which is rarely done as a cosmetic procedure. It is however done for non-medical reasons, such as religion. But provided there are medical reasons for doing it, as there are, it is acceptable practice in my view.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Andrew, my general position is that there should be very little legislative interference with choices people make about their own bodies. If you follow the link to the post at piss’n’vinegar, you can get some idea of where this can lead, if the principle is not held sacrosanct. As a liberal, I imagine you’d agree with me.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

But provided there are medical reasons for doing it, as there are, it is acceptable practice in my view.

So when my future government proposes to correct all genetic defects before people can reproduce, provides compulsory surgery to correct bad teeth or deficient eyesight, and removes the tonsils and appendices of all children, you’ll be there voting for it.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

mark – I would have doubted there was any good data anywhere, not least because of the slipperyness of the diagnoses.

I’m always suss about any USA surveys on anything as they all seem to be conducted on midwest college students. [I know thats not true]. Actually in this case they wouldn’t be a bad sample / population.

Any chance of a cite of the study so I can have a squiz?

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

Its a matter of priorities. First up I’d ban hipster jeans and shirts that show belly and bum crack for any female OVER 18. Next pony tails and gold hoop earings on bald guys over 40.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

EP – Circumcision sounds like fun compared to you controlling a future government:) I think there is a slight difference between parents deciding to cut a bit of surplus skin off junior’s willy and compulsory genetic modfication and surgery. And I am still not clear why you raised this topic…

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Francis, I’ve emailed you a couple of articles. The study I was thinking of was Susan Bordo’s “The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private” –

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0374527326/qid=1105268238/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-7858168-5947154?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

Andrew, I raised the topic because we are talking in general about the right of individuals to control their own bodies.

If you regard medical reasons as being sufficient to overrule that right, then there are many invasive procedures that could be performed on the non-consenting with medical justification.

In fact, there is no need to circumcise young boys, any more than there is a need to remove children’s appendices as a precautionary measure. Both procedures can be performed as and when necessary, if any problem develops.

Circumcision in particular is an interesting case, because it involves the removal of part of a person’s body without their consent, and is practiced widely in our society. Why is this particular intrusion on an individual’s body regarded as acceptable, even desirable, when other intrusions are not?

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

I think there’s a significant difference between body piercing and cosmetic surgery. one is self-expression, one is conformity. at least in theory, I guess in practice a lot of piercing is conformity too…

TJW
TJW
2022 years ago

It should be kept in mind that in Australia, as opposed to the US, patients must be referred to a specialist medical practitioner by a GP (I’m pretty sure that this is still the current practice, although I’m not certain). This is meant to act as a safeguard against ill-considered surgery (amongst other things). Plastic surgery is also highly regulated here, and I believe that surgeons are generally more reluctant to preform inappropriate procedures (one of the Colleges banned its members from appearing on a local ‘extreme makeover’ show because it was considered to potentially unethical). Of course, none of this prevents clinics being established where referrals are given my a resident GP to see the resident surgeon, or even untrained GPs calling themselves ‘cosmetic surgeons’ and performing the operation themselves (I’m not sure if this has been banned). Either way, fear of litigation or disciplinary action makes most surgeons in Australia more willing to thoroughly consider the patients needs, including requiring a psychological assessment, before operating, or even not operating.

alphacoward
2022 years ago

why are teenagers denied access to alcohol? Its the same question really.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

there’s a similarity in that teens aren’t supposed to be entirely responsible for their own choices, alphacoward, but a difference in that alcohol is an addictive drug. though again maybe body modification can be habit forming too.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

I’m really helping clarify the debate in this thread, aren’t I?

incidentally, people should go read the post by miss piss. that virginia law is really horrendous.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

EP – Circumcision is anomalous in being non-consensual and non-essential (at the time) surgery. But I have trouble seeing what the fuss is about – it is minor surgery, does not impair any functions or pleasures, and has no social stigma attached. Parents do many other things to their sons that will have much greater impact.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

mark – i just noticed that it was an old email address here that a junked sometime ago due to the amount of spam it attracted. Sorry I’ve fixed it now.

tjw – For all their faults, the excellence of the australian health system is, to a large extent, dependent on the, generally, well performed gatekeeping roles of GPs.

ep – circumcision is much much more complicated the older one gets. just ask a guy who has had to have it. parents already fix kids crooked teeth, wonky eyes, and inflict weird haircuts without permission

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Francis – that’s a pity. I didn’t directly email them to you but sent them via a database so don’t have the articles in my outbox. I don’t have time to try the search again but basically I just looked in a few of the better known academic databases with search terms “social research”, “men” and “eating disorders”. There isn’t a large literature on men and eating disorders as the small literature on men and eating disorders constantly points out!

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

circumcision has health and other benefits including allowing one to keep a cleaner willy.

production line 12
production line 12
2022 years ago

Yes, but how clean is clean enough?

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

gosh, boys, a discussion of male genital hygeine is always illuminating :)

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

well the title of this post is ‘smells like teen spirit’ what did you expect?:)

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

true, Jason :)

Nic White
2022 years ago

“pony tails and gold hoop earings on bald guys over 40”

Pony tails + bald does not compute.

I thought I was the only one who noticed the miscarriage story, good to see someone else caught wind of it. It really is terrible.

Irant its true though. With Australias current relationship with the US, any trends from there are more than likely to end up here, as with politics… Its sad but true, and therefore legitimate subject matter.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Nic,

We’re talking about the infamous “skullet” ‘do, an example of which (careful, kids!) can be found here:

http://www.mulletjunky.com/skullet.htm

Here endeth the lesson.

Jason,

I’m a little shocked to hear a nice libertarianish dude like yourself defending non-consensual cosmetic surgery on minors. I’ve yet to hear of an adult male opting for the unkindest cut because of “hygiene” reasons.

Quite the contrary (just to gross you out further, yellowvinyl): there are plenty of circumcised chaps that go to extraordinary lengths (excuse the pun) to grow their foreskin back.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Pony tails + bald does not compute.”

No Nic, but – sadly – they do it anyway. There are far too many middle-aged dudes who pair bald-on-top with a pony tail.

I understand that the Carr government will be intoducing legislation this year to outlaw the practice in NSW.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

“I’ve yet to hear of an adult male opting for the unkindest cut because of “hygiene” reasons. ”

I know of two adult males and one boy who have had it cut for those reasons. I probably know more, except I have not swapped surgery stories with them and it is not the kind of thing you just throw into conversation. I’m sure they’d all rather have had it done when babies.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Remarkable. A delicate subject, as you point out, but did they try washing first?

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

I’m sure they thought of that, Fyodor. I can’t recall the details, but I think repeat infections were the triggers for a surgical remedy.

production line 12
production line 12
2022 years ago

Could it be there’s a correlation between being circumcised and advocating circumcision? It’s time to come clean: How many on this thread have had the chop? How many think it’s a good idea?

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

We should note that there are also religious reasons for circumcision in some faiths ie Jewish.

I’ll out myself – uncircumcised. A doctor was going to do it when I was about 8 and I refused. My mum backed me up. I don’t think it’s a good idea generally.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

i’ll out myself too – cut and clean

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

fyodor – if it is to be done i’d rather it were done as a baby when you have no recollection of anything 20+ years later.

i had mine done when i was 5 for medical reasons (too tight foreskin leading to inability to pee – technical term is phimosis), and believe me, it hurt as hell – i can still remember the day.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

andrew
it sounds like these people you mention who have had to have it done as adults because of repeat infection may have had my problem of phimosis. too tight a foreskin can lead to infection. if they had it done earlier they would have been saved lots of grief – it is possible for milder cases of phimosis to go undiagnosed and untreated – the line between pure ‘cosmetic’ and legitimate medical reasons can be quite thin in this case, which reinforces my point that ‘consent’ isn’t that sacred in such cases.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

OK, Jason, you’ve got a good reason, although I gather there are alternative treatments for phimosis. I don’t buy the line about hygiene, though.

While I’m at it, I should declare my bias: natural and clean.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

here’s a site about some cut guys who think they didn’t have a choice – ‘The Australian Foreskin Restoration & Anti Circumcision Site’:

“Before you ask, NO foreskin restoration and anti-circumcision IS NOT a gay thing. It is a human rights thing – It’s about having a choice! A choice that many of us didn’t have.

Over the next few month I will be substantially adding to this site. Please feel free to bookmark this page and be sure to check back soon. If you feel so motivated please feel free to join the site (which is absolutely free) and become and active contributor to this information portal.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

On Restoration :

There is a movement among men who feel that they have been wrongfully circumcised and are fighting to stop the routine circumcisions of infant boys in America and Australia. We feel violated and raped, and do not wish for another generation of males to feel as we do. Not only are we doing something about it through the many different organizations that have sprung up around this cause, but we are taking measures to restore the foreskins we have through non surgical methods of foreskin restoration.

Does the thought sound absurd?

It shouldn’t. If a woman had lost her breasts to breast cancer, would she not want to undergo breast reconstruction to regain the “normal” anatomy she once had? None of us, men or women, would think twice about the normalcy of her behavior. The same is no different for a circumcised man who wants to restore his foreskin.

However, in this case, it is even more devastating, because I did not lose my foreskin to disease or cancer, it was a healthy, normal part of MY body that was amputated days after my birth for no medical reason whatsoever.”

no idea why anyone would think this was a “gay thing”…

human rights talk is obviously very malleable – first I’ve heard of anyone complaining about violation of their “MY body”!

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“no idea why anyone would think this was a “gay thing”…”

I think it’s a disclaimer around the fact that straight blokes don’t generally discuss the aesthetics of their wangdoodles with other straight blokes and they wouldn’t want anybody to get the wrong idea – not that there’s anything wrong with that – kind of thing. .

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

of course, Geoff! must say that Troppo blokes don’t seem at all inhibited about such discussions :) anyone see ‘coupling’ last night -‘vaginal discharge’! just thought I’d say that…

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Yellowvinyl, you must feel like you’ve just wandered into the men’s locker room! That, or the Weekend Warriors are passing the “talking stick” around.

Saw Coupling. It’s a damn shame Jeff (Richard Coyle) left the series – I don’t think the new bloke (i.e. the “gynaecologist” John Hurt fan) is going to cut the mustard.