Dress codes and distraction

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Post by C-Bass on Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:03 pm

I'd like to share something with all of you; this comment came up in a fb post my 'The line' discussing a list of things women have been banned from wearing, which included (as it usually does) examples of girls in school being banned form wearing leggings or short pants or over 'revealing clothing.'

On the subject of dress codes and distraction, this comment caught my eye.

Spoiler:
In the case of school children then it makes sense the girls should have to wear normal clothing because most of the boys that age are going through puberty, they don't know what they're looking at and they don't know what to do about the urges they have, I sure as hell didn't. Children can't even comprehend the difference between right and wrong until a certain age. Our brains don't fully develop until males are 28 and women are 27 (on average).

This got my brain gears working on over drive; cards on the table, I don't accept that men in anyway cannot control their sexual impulses. The men who claim they can't just don't want to.

But in the case of high school, especially year 7, 8 and 9 (which might be junior high for the yanks among you) we're not dealing with men; we're dealing with boys, boys going through puberty with a coal train's worth of strange and powerful feelings flowing through them, feelings that they don't understand and won't for some time (especially given the piss pore job of raising boys to be emotionally aware that we do).

Now for the million dollar questions;

Is it a reasonable position to expect that young boys be in full control of their impulses when they are at an age when young people are generally accepted as largely lacking the same capacity for understanding and controlling impulses as an adult does, and should we more empathetic and understanding?

EDIT ONE

Re-reading this I realize that it makes some un-comfortable implications, so I'll change it to this;

Is it a reasonable position to expect that young boys be in full control of their impulses when they are at an age when young people are generally accepted as largely lacking the same capacity for understanding and controlling impulses as an adult does, and should we change the way we approach this issue in light of this?

Or

Should the focus be on imparting the capacity for understanding and controlling sexual impulses as soon as possible?

My opinion:

Spoiler:
I really don't have a straight answer; on the one hand a lot of experts on human development do say that young people lack impulse control due to those parts of the brain not developing at the same rate, or something like that. For that reason, it does seem somewhat unreasonable to expect the same level of control of a well adjusted adult from a confused 14 year old. I'm also wary of people with the best of intentions ending up shaming young boys for looking at all. I don't personally find the act of looking at someone physically attractive to be an inherently malicious act.

However there is inherent danger in saying that young men lack the ability for self control; we all know that this is used as a justification for men's shitty behavior and it needs to stop post haste. Introducing this idea into boys at a young age seems as good an idea to me as giving a misanthrope a flame thrower and directions to the nearest mall.

EDIT TWO

Just to clarify, It is not my intention to suggest that sexual harassment from boys going through puberty is in any way excusable due to a lack of impulse control skills and I apologize if I came across as suggesting that.


Last edited by C-Bass on Tue Oct 21, 2014 11:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by The Wisp on Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:33 pm

Ultimately, I think this takes a very insulting view of boys, and would be counterproductive. It's counter productive because it would excuse bad behavior and never give them a chance to learn to control themselves. It's insult because, I know for myself, I controlled my impulses just fine in middle school, and most of my male peers did, too. To be honest, I find attractive women much more distracting now than I did when I was 14 as I've become more aware of, understanding of, and accepting of my sexuality (which isn't their fault; it's actually enjoyable in its own right).
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Post by eselle28 on Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:38 pm

Teenagers are more impulsive than adults and have far less experience to make good judgments about appropriate behavior than older people do. That's true whether it's about sex or driving or substance use or deciding whether to stay up late texting versus going to bed early and being rested for tomorrow. It's also true whether the teenagers are boys or girls. As such, I think expectations for students of those ages should be set to levels that are achievable by most of the kids most of the time, with appropriate guidance for the kids who can't or choose not to meet those expectations. In the case of sexual attraction at school, I think it's reasonable to expect that kids will sometimes blush or stare a bit too long or be distracted by their classmates, and also reasonable to expect that they won't make sexually charged comments or harass people who they're interested in (or who they're not interested in, but want to make uncomfortable).

I'm generally troubled by the way discussions about school dress codes tend to focus exclusively on male sexuality, for whatever it's worth. Teenage girls have those same urges and are perfectly capable of being attracted to and distracted by the new kid in the first row or the hot geometry teacher. We don't generally design male dress codes to minimize those distractions.


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Post by kath on Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:39 pm

It seems ridiculous to me that it seems like a good idea to control the behavior of the person who isn't doing the actual unwanted thing.

I don't think young men feeling the feelings that go along with puberty is bad, and I don't think young men are spared those feelings in places where the clothing women are allowed to wear is more stringently controlled, and I totally think that the actual lesson is learning how to deal with impulses constructively as soon as possible.

And, girls go through puberty and get weird feels too. So they need that impulse-control training too. (Yes, the hormones involved are different and act in different ways, but impulse-control is something everyone needs to learn, and the impulses can take a range of forms).

If you are going to have a dress code, enforce it for both boys and girls, give it some parity in terms of types of requirements, and give reasons that don't indicate that society considers them just inherently too sexy for their own good, which is super disturbing in and of itself.


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Post by Conreezy on Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:41 pm

I think it's a tall order to expect young teens to analyze, judge, and reject the negative aspects of the socialization that's forced on them.  It's hard enough to get adults to do it.  That doesn't excuse anyone entirely, but part of the problem is when people don't know when they're part of the problem.

But if you could change the entirety of sexualization from the ground up, it might not be so difficult to expect discipline without repression, though there will still be difficulties, I would assume.

Just brainstorming.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:43 pm

Funny thing...

All of the men I know went through puberty. The only guys I know who "couldn't control themselves" were arseholes in more than just this one area. I know guys who had really difficult childhoods, had a hard puberty, had anger issues and had reasons to feel the need to assert their masculinity who NEVER had a problem "controlling themselves" around girls and women.

In any case, even if it is possible that some boys struggle to learn this stuff with the pressure of puberty on them, the solution is not to force other people to change their own - harmless - behaviour. The solution is to do the same thing we do when teaching teens about impulse control in every other area in life. We teach them what is and isn't wrong, and we enforce actual consequences to them when they fuck up.

Most of the guys I've talked to about puberty have joked about getting horny because of a stiff breeze anyway, so it's not like making girls dress differently is going to stop them from getting aroused.

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Post by The Wisp on Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:08 pm

eselle28 wrote:I'm generally troubled by the way discussions about school dress codes tend to focus exclusively on male sexuality, for whatever it's worth. Teenage girls have those same urges and are perfectly capable of being attracted to and distracted by the new kid in the first row or the hot geometry teacher. We don't generally design male dress codes to minimize those distractions.

FWIW, my middle school banned sleeveless shirts on boys. But yeah, aside from that they focused exclusively on women's clothes which I think is BS. As is often the case with these stereotypes, female sexuality is erased, while male sexuality is seen as inherently problematic and in need of control.

To play devil's advocate, though: compare the average teenage girl's clothes to the average teenage boy's clothes. For the boys, you have athletic and cargo shorts, not particularly tight jeans, and t-shirts. Often, these don't fit well because boys go through huge growth spurts in middle-school. Many (thought not all) of the girls, on the other hand, often wear skin-tight tops and bottoms, short-shorts, and short skirts. Additionally, since girls tend to go through puberty a few years earlier, their male peers still have relatively childish physiques when the girls are experience the rush of hormones, while the reverse is true for boys and their female peers. I can see why boys might be more likely to be distracted than girls (though I think, even in this devil's advocate framework, the idea that they're likely to harass girls is still absurd).
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Post by Wondering on Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:10 pm

When you make dress codes for girls because of how boys react to girls' clothing, then what you're teaching both the boys and girls is that women are responsible for men's reaction to them and especially to their clothing. That is a dangerous message to teach and one that needs to stop because it leads to attitudes like "she was asking for it" because she was wearing something revealing.

You can say boys should be excused but men shouldn't because men should have better impulse control than boys going through puberty. Well, girls in junior high and high school get raped, assaulted, and harassed by their peers, too. I strongly object to continuing to blame women of any age for men of any age's behavior.

Also, there's this. Dress pants vs yoga pants (which are frequently banned):
Dress codes and distraction  542f13f6bf339.preview-620

Can you tell the difference?

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Post by reboot on Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:57 pm

I would say that the onset of puberty is absolutely the right time to teach boys and girls about how to handle the emotions and sensory sensations tied to sex and sexuality. You teach kids how to control the impulse to steal once they develop the concept of "mine", you teach them not to hit when they develop those motor skills and need to control them. And you do it while all the distractions that spark those impulses are the same as what they will confront in the real world as they grow.

Why would sexual impulses be any different?
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Post by C-Bass on Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:58 pm

Wondering wrote:
You can say boys should be excused but men shouldn't because men should have better impulse control than boys going through puberty. Well, girls in junior high and high school get raped, assaulted, and harassed by their peers, too. I strongly object to continuing to blame women of any age for men of any age's behavior.

I don't think I made that suggestion in my original post but I'm sorry If I was conveying it unintentionally.

I'll clarify I don't support the idea that behavior of boys going through puberty can be excused due to poor impulse control; what I really want to ask is if you can take the same approach with young boys as you do with adult men when young boys lack the years of skills and experience as their adult counter parts.
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Post by reboot on Tue Oct 21, 2014 11:18 pm

I would like to unpack this a bit. Why do you only talk about men and boys needing to learn how to manage the distraction of desire? Women and girls have to learn it too, no? Do you think approach to teaching it should be the same for girls as women?
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Post by C-Bass on Tue Oct 21, 2014 11:36 pm

reboot wrote:I would like to unpack this a bit. Why do you only talk about men and boys needing to learn how to manage the distraction of desire? Women and girls have to learn it too, no? Do you think approach to teaching it should be the same for girls as women?

To answer your first question, my focus is on men and boys It think for these reasons;

1. I hate the suggestion that men and boys can't control themselves because reasons, and I hate the fact that other people should have to change their behavior to work around it. So progressing from that, I suppose I put more focus on men and boys because it means more to me.
2. This is going to reflect badly on me but I don't really see much to suggest that women cause the same kind of problems due to poor sexual impulse control that men do.

For the other questions, I can't say that impulse control should be gender specific obviously. And beyond a general spiel about 'teaching them how to relate as people and not sexual objects' and 'more emotional intelligence and awareness' I don't have a good answer.
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Post by The Wisp on Tue Oct 21, 2014 11:57 pm

C-Bass wrote:
reboot wrote:I would like to unpack this a bit. Why do you only talk about men and boys needing to learn how to manage the distraction of desire? Women and girls have to learn it too, no? Do you think approach to teaching it should be the same for girls as women?

To answer your first question, my focus is on men and boys It think for these reasons;

1. I hate the suggestion that men and boys can't control themselves because reasons, and I hate the fact that other people should have to change their behavior to work around it. So progressing from that, I suppose I put more focus on men and boys because it means more to me.
2. This is going to reflect badly on me but I don't really see much to suggest that women cause the same kind of problems due to poor sexual impulse control that men do.

For the other questions, I can't say that impulse control should be gender specific obviously. And beyond a general spiel about 'teaching them how to relate as people and not sexual objects' and 'more emotional intelligence and awareness' I don't have a good answer.  

Doesn't your first point work against what you were saying, though?
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Post by eselle28 on Tue Oct 21, 2014 11:59 pm

On your original question, I think that the concerns of keeping people safe from others who behave in sexual inappropriate ways and enforcing various kinds of sanctions against people who severely violate others' boundaries are present regardless of whether the people involved are teenagers or adults. With teenagers, I'd say that there's a substantial extra component of education that should be incorporated as well. Teenagers may be less set in their behavior than adults, and may be less purposeful about it as well. They also benefit from having a number of people and organizations that are already focused on educating them, both about factual material and about morals and common sense. Adults can occasionally benefit from education as well, but often the only people available to provide it are victims and victimized groups. With teenagers, it makes sense to incorporate some of these lessons into sex education lessons that are already being taught by people who are paid to do so.

C-Bass wrote:

To answer your first question, my focus is on men and boys It think for these reasons;

1. I hate the suggestion that men and boys can't control themselves because reasons, and I hate the fact that other people should have to change their behavior to work around it. So progressing from that, I suppose I put more focus on men and boys because it means more to me.
2. This is going to reflect badly on me but I don't really see much to suggest that women cause the same kind of problems due to poor sexual impulse control that men do.

For the other questions, I can't say that impulse control should be gender specific obviously. And beyond a general spiel about 'teaching them how to relate as people and not sexual objects' and 'more emotional intelligence and awareness' I don't have a good answer.  

1. I think this reason is a valid difference between the two situations. Society is more likely to ask women to change their behavior when men have trouble controlling their impulses than it is to ask men to change their behavior to avoid inciting women's impulses, and often doesn't consider the impulses of people who are attracted to members of their own gender at all.
2. I think that the reason for this is that women are more likely to be socialized to control (and sometimes unhealthily suppress) their sexual impulses than men are, and also that society is less likely to recognize that men can be victimized by women who have poor control of their sexual impulses and tends to explain away cases where it does happen. If you'd like to see some evidence of teenage girls who are struggling with their sexual impulses, I'd direct you to tumblr pages for fandoms likely to appeal to teenage girls, where you'll see lots of good imaginative sexualized fun but also some examples of inappropriate, creepy fan mail and expressions of aggression toward women dating the objects of their affection or toward people who dare to criticize the lust object. Is it the same as being a teenage boy? I have no idea. Only a few people are in a position to talk about both experiences from a position of knowledge. I know that I'd appreciate it if we didn't implicitly assume that teenage girls struggle less with sexual impulses than teenage boys, though.
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Post by trooper6 on Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:28 am

One thing I want to note. My hight school dress code that involved girls not being allowed to wear skirts that were more than a credit card above the knee. For modesty, you know.

Except, the cheerleader uniform skirts were really, really short. Really short. And that was somehow fine? And women who played volleyball or basketball had uniforms that were shorter and tighter...actually so were our generic PE clothes. But that was never a problem. Which seemed like a bunch of hypocrisy to me.

Also, it isn't about how short the skirt is. It is about the objectification of women. We shouldn't be telling women they need to dress differently, we should be teaching men to start seeing women as people. Why do I say this? In the Victorian era everyone's skirts were really long...but then seeing an ankle was considered enough to drive a man's "hormones" wild. Various men have claimed that women in burkas whose eyes were too pretty were driving them wild. The problem here is men being told that they can behave in a way that dehumanizes women. They need to learn otherwise. The length of a skirt is a red herring.

I mean, I was on nude beaches in Germany and people didn't go crazy.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:48 am

C-Bass wrote:
reboot wrote:I would like to unpack this a bit. Why do you only talk about men and boys needing to learn how to manage the distraction of desire? Women and girls have to learn it too, no? Do you think approach to teaching it should be the same for girls as women?

To answer your first question, my focus is on men and boys It think for these reasons;

1. I hate the suggestion that men and boys can't control themselves because reasons, and I hate the fact that other people should have to change their behavior to work around it. So progressing from that, I suppose I put more focus on men and boys because it means more to me.
2. This is going to reflect badly on me but I don't really see much to suggest that women cause the same kind of problems due to poor sexual impulse control that men do.

For the other questions, I can't say that impulse control should be gender specific obviously. And beyond a general spiel about 'teaching them how to relate as people and not sexual objects' and 'more emotional intelligence and awareness' I don't have a good answer.  

This line of discussion always feels very odd to me, because I've always considered self-control and stoicism to be "masculine" traits ("big boys don't cry" and so forth). Obviously that comes with its own problematic biases, but I guess at least it's an insulation against "oh well that's just my nature, no point trying to fight it".

I'm actually not sure how the rest of society does manage to reconcile both stereotypes. Wish I had more to add but this is kind of the extent of my ability to think at the moment.
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Post by Lemminkainen on Wed Oct 22, 2014 5:32 am

Yo, C-Bass, I think that you (and the people who are making arguments for school dress codes) need to disentangle arguments about people getting distracted by the sexy and people sexually harassing each other-- since these are really different issues. I also feel pretty sure that super-restrictive dress codes aren't a good way to address either.

I went to a high school that had something close to a uniform-- and not the attractive Catholic school kind. I managed to spend significant chunks of class time surreptitiously glancing at and fantasizing about people who I thought were attractive anyway, and I know that I wasn't alone in that either. All teenagers are probably going to do something like this no matter what. But honestly, it's fairly harmless. Even though I was a horny bastard, I still got excellent grades, made 5s on thirteen AP exams, and scored an excellent college scholarship.

I can also say that even though I was a stupid horny bastard with a social skills learning disability, I didn't have any trouble respecting people's explicitly expressed preferences about touch. I don't think that many high schoolers are more dense than I was about this sort of thing, so I'm pretty sure that a well-enforced "Don't Touch Other People Without Permission" rule would protect students more effectively than a ban on miniskirts or whatever.

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Post by C-Bass on Wed Oct 22, 2014 5:38 am

The Wisp wrote:
C-Bass wrote:
reboot wrote:I would like to unpack this a bit. Why do you only talk about men and boys needing to learn how to manage the distraction of desire? Women and girls have to learn it too, no? Do you think approach to teaching it should be the same for girls as women?

To answer your first question, my focus is on men and boys It think for these reasons;

1. I hate the suggestion that men and boys can't control themselves because reasons, and I hate the fact that other people should have to change their behavior to work around it. So progressing from that, I suppose I put more focus on men and boys because it means more to me.
2. This is going to reflect badly on me but I don't really see much to suggest that women cause the same kind of problems due to poor sexual impulse control that men do.

For the other questions, I can't say that impulse control should be gender specific obviously. And beyond a general spiel about 'teaching them how to relate as people and not sexual objects' and 'more emotional intelligence and awareness' I don't have a good answer.  

Doesn't your first point work against what you were saying, though?

I'm not sure I follow.
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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 9:28 am

IMO, the reason that we all focus on boys in this discussion is that as boys grow up and start to have sexual feelings, they look for advice on how to deal with them, and they find that advice in a culture which tells them, "Girls exist to be sexy for you."

Girls, in contrast, look for advice on how to deal with their feelings and find it in a culture which says, "Your value is in your sex appeal." Looking at the middle school crowd, I very rarely see boys in what I would call blatantly sexualizing clothes, but I often see girls in clothes like that, and I don't believe it's because it's a natural choice for girls. I believe it's totally cultural, and I know that as a pre-teen and teenage girl, I often wore clothes I was actively uncomfortable with, because that's how you explored your new sexual nature as a girl: you tried to make men look at you.

In contrast, it seems to me (from the outside), boys explore their sexual nature by looking, because that's what they're taught. I suspect a lot of them are equally as uncomfortable playing that role as I was with mine.

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Post by kath on Wed Oct 22, 2014 11:30 am

I don't think C-Bass was arguing for dress codes, he was trying to reconcile the points in the arguments for dress codes that he understands (young men potentially having impulse-control problems) with the part he thinks is ridiculous (controlling the behavior of girls to curtail a specific behavior in boys).

I also think ElizaJane's point is great.

And Nearly, I think there is a very real double-standard (split definition? Complete lack of coherent logic? I dunno) in terms of society's perception of control along gender lines. Women are cast as having all the control over sex - society casts them as controlling or not having their won feelings about sex, and as being primarily responsible for the feelings of men around sex, and as completely controlling all access to sex.

But society casts women as having no other types of control ever. They can't control their other feelings, behavior, a team of people, a situation, their bodies ... and men can/do control all those other things.

So men / boys can be given a pass on bad sexual impulse control, but women also don't get that type of pass. But, it's totally disrespectful of both men's totally reasonable ability to control their sexual impulses as well as other impulses, and incredibly judgmental of women's sexual choices. And women get their other feelings dismissed because they can't control them, and men are expected to never show other feelings ever.

I think the blatant ridiculousness of laying it out that way is a pretty good argument for neither half of that dichotomy being correct, and I'm not trying to start a who-has-it-worse discussion - I think both sides of that are toxic for everyone.

(Maybe the answer is nudist school!)
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Post by fakely mctest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:07 pm

ElizaJane wrote:Looking at the middle school crowd, I very rarely see boys in what I would call blatantly sexualizing clothes, but I often see girls in clothes like that, and I don't believe it's because it's a natural choice for girls.

I'd take this point a bit further because, when it really comes down to it, there aren't a ton of ways for men to even wear blatantly sexualizing clothes because the culturally-determined structure of the gender that gets to look and the gender that gets to be looked at is so rigid. And the way we parse a mode of dress that's sexual is quite narrow. There's a real dearth of ways that men are presented as "sexy dressing" in the media landscape that would then translate to the everyday world.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:21 pm

The closest thing I can think of is guys wearing shirts that are completely unbuttoned.

And FWIW, I can distinctly recall as a teen that - even in my school which, like most British ones, had a set uniform, that was one form of sexual self-expression a lot of boys tried to get away with. They'd come in smartly dressed, then come first break period they'd loosen their ties, untuck their shirts and undo the buttons as far as they could manage until a teacher made them do it back up again. And outside of school, every even slightly dressy function saw herds of young lads all flashing their chests and stomachs, and rolling up the sleeves to show off their arms while flexing.

But from what I remember, while they'd get told to button up in school because they were violating the uniform policy, I never heard anyone accuse them of being a distraction to other students, or of being slutty or suggesting they were asking for attention or trouble.

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Post by Enail on Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:25 pm

At my school, boys would take off their shirts in gym class on hot days. The school never made any comment on this.
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Post by reboot on Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:57 pm

Enail wrote:At my school, boys would take off their shirts in gym class on hot days. The school never made any comment on this.

My school was the same and the boys always took their shirts off if it was warm enough at lunch and after school.

The funny thing is a billion things distract teens (because being a teen is like being a squirrel with ADHD on speed) that are not prohibited and kids are expected to cope with it. Why is sexual distraction considered so different?
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Post by The Wisp on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:08 pm

reboot wrote:
Enail wrote:At my school, boys would take off their shirts in gym class on hot days. The school never made any comment on this.

My school was the same and the boys always took their shirts off if it was warm enough at lunch and after school.

The funny thing is a billion things distract teens (because being a teen is like being a squirrel with ADHD on speed) that are not prohibited and kids are expected to cope with it. Why is sexual distraction considered so different?

Cultural prudery that makes people uncomfortable with the idea that young teens are actually sexual beings.
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