August 16th, 2013

You’ve come a long way, baby: beyond “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

The idea that hookup culture hurts both boys and girls, and both young men and young women, doesn’t seem strange or revolutionary to me; it seems obvious. But apparently it still needs highlighting, so I’ll highlight it by recommending this article.

Of course not all teens are doing this. But the ones who aren’t are bucking a strong trend towards what I’ve come to think of as the coarsening of American culture, which continues apace and shows no signs of slackening.

It’s everywhere, celebrated and promoted and rewarded in popular entertainment—and not just rap, but dance and movies and the internet in general where porn is ubiquitous and readily available and has been normed. And parents? They are either not present, or are fully into it themselves, or are unaware, or feel powerless to stop it.

The Beatles Wanted to Hold Your Hand. Many of their songs were about love. There are still a lot of songs about love—witness the popularity of Adele, for example. But rap music (and probably other genres and artists I can’t name; my finger is not exactly on the pulse of this stuff, but if you have teenagers you are likely to know more about it than I) sets a tone that that is usually sexually exploitative and empty, and this is true of both boys and girls, young men and women.

And yes, I know this does not exist in isolation. The left and feminists on the left are a big part of it. But it has also taken on a cultural life of its own and is additionally driven by the enormous profits to be made.

But hey, let’s stroll down memory lane:

[Hat tip: commenter "Artfldgr."]

17 Responses to “You’ve come a long way, baby: beyond “I Want To Hold Your Hand””

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    Teenagers have always been sexually aroused to some extent, but there used to be lots of countervailing forces like religion, schools, the law, families, a self regulated entertainment industry and stigma. Pull those out and things devolve rapidly.

  2. George Pal Says:

    I Want To Hold Your Hand

    Evidence, if you needed it, of the first boy band girls squealed to (Beatles).

    If you, the male, were in tune with your hormones you insisted on The Dave Clark Five – dynamic male energy:

    I Like It Like That; Anyway You Want It; Glad All Over

    We were innocent but not ‘hold your hand’ innocent. You’d have to go back to Andy Hardy for that kind of innocence.

  3. Scott Says:

    I think this video captures the change quite well.

  4. CV Says:

    Parent of three teenagers here (two girls, one boy). I’ve done all I can to help my kids stand against the cultural tide, but it’s a pretty powerful current. It’s depressing also because I feel like there are fewer and fewer contemporaries that share the values we’ve tried to instill in them, which makes the pool of potential mates smaller, etc.

    Atlantic writer Caitlin Flanagan has taken on some of these issues in her writing and every time she does she is slammed by self-proclaimed feminists at Salon, Slate, The Nation and elsewhere. Here’s her take on why so many teenage girls are still captivated by what she calls “the boyfriend story” in the songs of Taylor Swift, the Twilight phenomenon (a crappy series of novels). The boyfriend story is a lot more appealing than the “hookup” story and for good reason:

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    George Pal:

    You misunderstand me, I think.

    I’m not saying that in the early 60s boys (or girls) only wanted to hold hands. Of course not; I remember.

    But the popular culture celebrated young love and romance as well as sexual attraction of a less innocent kind. The sex was subtle. Elvis Presley, after all, preceded the Beatles, with his hip-swiveling (and girls squealed plenty). But compared to today it was relatively innocent and relatively subtle, and dating mores were likewise FAR more restrained. People still had sex, but later and ordinarily, for most young people, with more feeling and commitment. And popular culture set a very different tone than now.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    George Pal:

    Here’s an illustration of the sexual subtext.

    In the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (released in 1966) they’re basically saying they can’t wait to get married and have sex (as well as all the other activities of living together). But sex is going to wait till marriage.

    The more overt expression of a similar sentiment was the Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” (also recorded in 1966, although it was released in 1967).

    That one doesn’t assume marriage at all, and talks about “I’ll satisfy your every need, and now I know you will satisfy me.” The lyrics are pretty clearly about sex, but are positively sedate compared to today, and not the least bit graphic.

    The two strains co-existed. But both were very conservative and restrained compared to today.

  7. Sam L. Says:

    Don’t forget the bobby-soxers who swooned for Frank Sinatra in the ’40s.

  8. blert Says:

    But then, the very term Rock N Roll originally, originally meant sex in a jalopy — aka ‘Jeepin’, another term for car-sex.

    Sexual mores have been under assault ever since Ford birthed the Model T and the teenagers could take their action on the road.

    Lear’s Motorola radio (it was a retro-fit radio that geeks could mount in the dash) tied Model A sex to popular music.

    (Today he’s remembered best for his Learjet.)

    [Motorola was named in euphony with Mazola. (corn oil, margarine) (Recounted during a video interview late in his life.) At that point in time "-ola" suffixes were 'tech hip' -- rather like today's iPhone, iPad, iPod, iMac, i-anythings.]


    The absolute debasement of mores is entirely tied into Big Government as Universal Husband.

    This economic castration of the XY crowd permits the girls to follow their Ids.

    Since the sex drive is NOT driven by the prefrontal cortex — but the (reptilian/amphibian) hind brain — the newly fledged girls are prone to land on their first object as they fly out of the nest. — And the automobile provides just such a flight.

    [ "The Graduate" illustrates the phenomenon: sex slightly away from home.]

    Hypergamy drives the rest.

    Every girl wants the quarterback. One such fellow notched up 4,000 young women in four years of college play, so it is said. Even one tenth that number is disturbing. Such tales have the ring of truth — because the drawing power of a hyper-alpha male is flamingly apparent to all.

    The mass media compound this impulse. Girls shoot for mates entirely outside their sexual draw. They can’t stop this self-delusion.

    This is balanced by high-end babes who must endure transitory competition from their lessers — endlessly.

    And, occasionally, there will be a generational jump, if the man is hyper-alpha. (Murdoch, Clarke)

    (Both are past their pull dates.)

  9. George Pal Says:


    I take your every point and agree completely. My point was that the Beatles, generally, and I Want To hold Your Hand particularly, were not indicative of the sexual mores at the time. I wouldn’t have thought you so callow or unaware as to believe they were.

  10. parker Says:

    Teens have always had strong sexual desires. (All males must remember what it was like to be 16 and eager to run the base paths.) This was not much of a problem when you were expected to shoulder adult work responsibilities in your early teens, were married in your mid to late teens, and expected to die at age 40.

    Casual sex among youth came into fashion during the hippie era. Even then, females were for the most part afraid of being labeled a slut. Now we have slut parades, teen sexting, and 12 year old girls dress in ways that are overtly sexual.

  11. neo-neocon Says:


    Well, I had no interest whatsoever in the quarterback. I didn’t even know who he was.

    But then, of course, I was kind of an outlier in a lot of ways. But I don’t even remember discussion of sports guys in my group of girls.

    We all went after the brainy boys, because we were the brainy girls and that’s mostly who we knew. Brainy and funny was my cup of tea, and although my high school boyfriend was not academically inclined (he was more the artistic type, and later went into the movie-writing and directing business) he was very smart and very funny.

    Later, in college, I had a period of going for the “bad” boys (well, one of them, anyway). But he was a very smart bad boy.

  12. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    That video does capture the change quite well Scott.

    I noticed the change started to happen circa 1994-95. I also think of passing interest that the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted in 1998. As we all recall, democrats and liberals made light of Clinton’s disrespecting the Presidency by engaging in immoral, tawdry behavior in the oval office.

    Then compounding it by blatantly lying to the public. In fact, during grand jury testimony under oath Clinton’s responses were carefully worded, and he argued, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”. Then perjured himself by testifying that “there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship.” Clinton suffered no lasting censure.

    That gave societal approval to casual sex. Besides oral sex wasn’t ‘real’ sex, remember? And, if the President can commit adultery in the oval office and get away with it, what moral judgement can be laid upon kids for doing it?

  13. Lizzy Says:

    I think outlets like MTV definitely contributed to the coarsening of music, with music videos pretty quickly turning into an endless parade of hot women. A song that was not overtly sexual became so in video form (Addicted to Love, Wicked Game), and then songs that were sexual became thinly veiled soft porn (and 80′s metal or rap ‘love song’ video). On the few occasions that I’ve checked out music channels recently (other than Country music) I’ve also caught some artsy, nihilistic videos that would fit right in with horror movies (i.e. pretty disturbing when you consider their target audience). It’s a shame because not only has it in coarsened the cultural image of relationships, but it has tainted the beauty of listening to a song and having it conjure up your own images and interpretation.

  14. parker Says:

    Young love/lust is a potent concoction:

  15. dicentra Says:

    If you “don’t”, if you’re a virgin, or a virgin for too long, the humiliation you can expect from your peers (even just the ones on TV) is extreme.

    It’s not just “if it feels good, do it,” it’s “if you don’t, there’s something horribly wrong with you, and you will be ridiculed mercilessly until you come in from beyond the pale.”

    It would be less humiliating to admit that you have a colostomy bag than to being a virgin.

    It’s similar to the “social pressure” that comes from sitcom characters lamenting how long they’ve gone between dates (a whole month!) or the horror of facing a weekend night alone. Something must be done!

    The feeling that you’re not “getting enough” romance — and therefore are a luuuuser first class — is at least as bad on one’s self-esteem as glamor magazines and other images of perfection.

  16. sdferr Says:

    A teenager from a little further back — Felix Mendelssohn wrote this Octet when he was 16 years old. Enjoy.

  17. chatroulette Says:

    It’s genuinely very complicated in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, so I just use web for that purpose, and get the latest news.

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