The Sexual Revolution Wars: Cuties, Epstein, Conspiracies and a Real Problem
Whenever the news cycle becomes just a little silent, underneath all the talk of elections, the Black Lives Matter movement, dead supreme court justices, COVID-19, and fears of fascism or communism, faint murmurings begin about another monstrous issue of our time. Like a whale swimming just under the surface of the ocean, we can only see the vague outline of its massive and terrifying form. It has never given us a full Shamu-style jump, but on the occasions it has reared part of its horrifying head above water, we can’t help but stare in shock.
The doom-whale and mega-issue in question is the sexualization of the young and vulnerable, and the latest whale sighting was brought to through the big screen via the movie Cuties, a coming of age story about an 11-year-old, Muslim, Sengalese-French girl who joins a twerking dance competition. But Cuties is far from being the catalyst of outrage over child sexual exploitation. The Internet has changed the expression of sexuality, and our society has not reckoned with the mess of tangled, commodified, and often evil, passions that have been born in the internet’s wake. A new sexual revolution has begun, but this time it born out of desperation, not liberation. But beyond the bigger revolution, the Cuties controversy marks a key, and early battle in a cultural war that is highly politicized, universally salient and doomed.
COVID-19 and Tik Tok Teens
Thanks to COVID-19, the great accelerator of all trends, Tik Tok burst into the mainstream during lockdown. Already popular with teens, the short video social media platform received a massive boost thanks to lockdown (TikTok surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide in April), and Hype House teens (most notably then 15-year-old Charli D’Amelio) broke out as the new celebrities of our era. Watching families join together for fun 15-second dance routine videos was a relief from the new, startling reality of the coronavirus. But the platform quickly became overrun by its main audience — Gen Z teens. Dances quickly became less about the novelty of synchronized dancing with grandma and more about the age-old game of flirting and thirsting. To be fair, Tik Tok had been all about teen flirting and thirsting before the rest of the world joined in on the Tik Tok hype, but post lockdown, teen dances became even more…