Love: A Dirty Word for Teens

Here is a forgotten recommendation, which the educational groups and assistance hotlines that deal with the subject should teach teenagers: You have sex when you’re in love.

Aner Shalev
Aner Shalev
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Rape victim (illustration).
Rape victim (illustration).Credit: Tomer Noiberg
Aner Shalev
Aner Shalev

A tsunami of sex scandals has hit Israel recently, casting a heavy shadow over us as a country and as a society. Some of the cases involve well-known people − politicians, media and culture personalities, and even senior police officers. Particularly shocking are those in which minors are involved and there is a suspicion of rape, and sometimes procurement and incitement to prostitution.

These scandals, including the most recent one of procuring dozens of girls aged 14-18 for sadomasochistic relations with adult men, in return for a handful of shekels or candy, requires renewed thinking not only in terms of criminality, but in terms of information, education and ideology as well.

Public discussion of these subjects is widespread, but one word is absent from it. Its absence is so blatant that it seems to be deliberate censorship, as though it were a dirty word whose use in the media is absolutely forbidden. The word is: love. Its connection to sex, which in the past was common, no longer exists in the present media and educational discourse.

What caused love − or, to be more precise, the perception of sexual relations as making love − to disappear? Why do we accept that so easily? Is there a connection between the severance between sex and love, and the frequency and intolerable ease of sexual harassment and sexual assault, rape, exploitation of authority, incitement to prostitution and relations with minors?

In the era of capitalism, many people measure themselves, or are measured, according to the number of sexual partners they have had. Sex, money, external appearance and fame are the new gods, and the result is a severance of the sex act from emotion and extreme alienation, as described in Michel Houellebecq’s book “The Elementary Particles.”

In addition, the culture of smartphones, WhatsApp and the social media increases accessibility but also leads to alienation and loneliness. When children are exposed to sex for the first time on porno sites, the natural association between sex and love is erased, to be replaced by a link between sex and power, violence, humiliation and the objectification of women.

In this connection, sexual relations between a singer and minors, between police officers and policewomen subordinate to them, between ministers and their secretaries, or between a girl and dozens of young boys or adults serving as her pimps, are not seen as taboo. On the contrary: They reflect the familiar relations of power and humiliation.

Criminal-legalistic language is only a partial solution. When a singer receives oral sex from a girl he has just met, the question as to whether she is just under 16 or just over 16 is not the only question. When many boys have sex with a young girl using a “friend brings a friend” system, the question of whether she is already 14 years old is not the only question.

Here is a forgotten recommendation, which the educational groups and assistance hotlines that deal with the subject should teach teenagers: You have sex when you’re in love. That’s why sex using the friend-brings-a-friend method is not recommended at any age, even when it is not a crime. That’s why exploiting a position of power in order to receive sexual favors is unacceptable.

Teaching this simple message requires the involvement of parents, teachers and senior Education Ministry officials, led by Education Minister Shay Piron, if he really believes in education for values.

But meanwhile the word “love” is censored, “making love” is an expression in English, and there are already 40,000 complaints of sexual assault a year. If we continue this way, Israel will become Sodom and the former president, who embarrassed us and was sent to prison, will represent us faithfully.

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