From Turkey Trot to Twitter: Policing Puberty, Purity, and Sex Positivity

quinnmProfessor Mae Quinn of Washington University in Saint Louis School of Law, who is an expert on criminal and juvenile justice system issues, has a new article that has just been posted to SSRN .  I look forward to reading it.

Here is the abstract:

From outward appearance, to physical presence, to intimate communications and engagements, young people have continually faced familial, community-based, and state-sponsored management of their most basic day-to-day actions and interactions. This obsession with policing puberty has, at times, reached the level of panic. This article seeks to examine this recurring phenomenon and suggests that adults find more productive ways to grapple with the teen identity formation process in this country.

It focuses on one particularly powerful panic-producing intersection of adolescence with American life – young girls and the big city. It describes reform efforts that took place in emerging urban centers at the turn of the last century, comparing them to the policing strategies that are taking place in our newest metropolis – the internet.

In doing so this article analyzes how the state has repeatedly worked to proscribe and prosecute a wide range of popular adolescent activities in the name of protecting youth from the dangers of modern life. It further argues that instead of providing a sense of security for young girls, such punitive actions often have sent mixed messages about intimacy and sexuality, discounted youthful and female agency, and unnecessarily attempted to prevent social change. In the end this article argues we should take some lessons from the failed efforts of the Progressive Era and respond differently to adolescent girls’ identity exploration in the 21st century.

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About Tamar Birckhead

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