Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shudder to Think

Recently, I was talking with a friend (hi!) about peer pressure and sex. She asked how I avoided the peer pressure to be sexual (or at least, that's what I think she asked). I don't think I've ever written about peer pressure directly, so I thought it would be fun to write about.

One of my best-remembered experiences with peer pressure was around seventh grade, when I had recently moved across the country. I bought Chumbawamba's Tubthumping album because everyone else was into it, even though it had no relation to any of my own musical tastes at the time. Later, this seemed so stupid to me that I vowed never to be moved by peer pressure again. I did lapse a few times, most notably when I wrote an angry letter to a teacher because the other kids asked me to. That was really a terrible idea, and, before high school even started, turned me off to peer pressure even further.

I don't think anyone "avoids" peer pressure, although that's mainly an issue of semantics. Unless you're a wolf-child, you'll have peers that will pressure you. But, I always felt a disconnect with the other kids in school. I couldn't relate to most of my peers at all-- when most of the girls were talking about things like Jonathan Taylor Thomas (remember him?), I was most interested in environmentalism and science. Whenever I went to school, I felt like a tourist visiting another culture. Finally, in high school, others began to share my interests-- my favorite part of school was working in the organic garden with about 3 other "alternative" kids.

Later on, I think having an asexual identity is precisely what helped me most to avoid the peer pressure to be sexual. If I hadn't discovered asexuality, and still identified as heterosexual, I shudder to think about the unwanted sexual contact I might have had by now, trying to prove to myself that I was "normal" (operative word being "unwanted"--scary thought!). I got new peers in terms of sexuality, which enabled me to withstand the pressure. Instead of coming from my own group, like it did when I identified as straight, the pressure now comes from "outside", making it easier to ignore.

Little did I know that peer pressure would persist into adulthood, and it would be the same as childhood peer pressure. The pressure as a kid is to be a "grown up", and apparently, this is the pressure that we'll still face, apparently until we're around 50. How many times have you heard someone's marriage announcement, and someone else invariably comments about how "grown up" we're getting? As if a marriage is some kind of timewarp that ages you beyond the rest of us! Perhaps Michael J. Fox should look into that.


gatto fritto said...

Speaking of wolf-children....

I guess I would say that cats are the closest beings I consider to be my peers. I know, it probably seems sad. They can't talk to me. I would love to have human peers; it isn't elitism that makes that difficult. I am a freak, I freely admit, and with no shame, but I've never met a freak like me. Maybe one day. My people must be somewhere; I just don't know where they are. I've likely never met them, or if I have, I didn't know it when I did. Ah well, at least I have my beloved kitties. They are enough; they have to be.

Ily said...

Well, you know I love cats, so I don't think that's too strange. I think animals have a lot of positive attributes that we can emulate. Lots of cultures have had really close connections with animals, we all know the ancient Egyptians thought cats were holy. From what I've read, Christianity came along and started to discourage that sort of human-animal connection. But I think a lot of us see it anyway. My only problem with cats is that you can't take them places. That's one of many reasons why I like people. But there are definitely some cats that are cooler than some people.

Fellmama said...

I remember JTT! I never thought he was cute myself, but I had friends who were head over heels.

And in Christianity's defense, most of the Greeks and Romans thought worshiping animals was freaky and dumb.

Noskcaj Llahsram said...

I never really felt peer pressure. I was always so different, when I was younger I was SSSOOOO much smarter (Go Kafka and Asimov in grade five! Whoo...), then later the whole asexual & introverted thing kept me apart. I was never really anything more superficially their peer.

Now peer pressure exists in my life soley as a drive to drink
[Other people: Come to the bar with us.
Me: No.
OP: Come on!
Me: No.
OP: Come on... Peer pressure
Me: No.
OP: But... Peer pressure
Me: No.
OP: Peer pressure!
Me: Peer pressure?
OP: Peer pressure!
Me: Fine.]
This conversation takes place verbatim every Friday.

Mary Maxfield said...

And here I thought I was the only one who didn't have a picture of super-hottie (can you hear the eyeroll? ;)) JTT up in my locker. Ah, the memories I've tried so hard to suppress.

Yeay for resisting peer pressure, and happy belated Avenversary.

Anonymous said...

I think peer pressure actually gets worse as we get older - maybe not specifically to have sex, but to conform to the whole set of societal expectations related to "growing up," like dating with the goal of getting married, having kids, etc., and it's generally assumed that having sex will be an integral part of all that. It doesn't always manifest itself as direct pressure from others to do certain things, but it often shows up in their reactions--confusion, dismay, disapproval--when we don't display a desire to live that way.