Judy Blume on Porn, Petting and Life Before the Pill

Rookie just did a Q&A with Judy Blume about banned books, friendship, and whether Margaret will ever get that must-be-increased bust (“No!… Margaret’s just like me: an A-cup for life!”), and the author—whose unabashedly honest girl-world trailblazing can never be overstated—is just as delightful as ever.

I was drawn to the segment below, which made me think about a conversation I had over the long weekend with a gorgeous woman in her sixties; because I was in Martha’s Vineyard, I was already thinking about Judy Blume and the dirty confectionery of Summer Sisters every time I saw teenagers disappearing like beautiful deer into some hydrangea-laced greenery to fool around while no one was watching. Anyway, this woman and I were talking about sex before the pill, and how it was exciting to not do it, to move slow, to make out for hours. And of course, there’s nothing romantic about not having access to birth control, but the world Blume describes here is distant a little bit—a little heartachey bit—from the one I know:

You really tap into the heart of what teenage longing is and how it feels. I know you get a lot of letters from teenagers—what kinds of desires do they express to you?

There are so many kinds of longing. The longing to fit in, the longing to figure it out, the emotional longing for friendship and being accepted—these are all as important as physical longing. Before all the hormones start raging, it’s the emotional longing that is most important, and boy, you have to learn to figure it out. In my day, the rules were there for us. Back then there was no abortion and no pill, and my friends and I knew that what we called “going all the way” could ruin our lives. It is not that we didn’t have physical sexual longing, but we went out with guys who understood that there were ways to satisfy—and it wasn’t oral sex. We kind of could be satisfied through touching; we could be physically satisfied with what we called petting. I went out with a lot of guys, and there was an understanding. I was never pushed to go all the way.

I think today’s kids miss out on being sexual without having intercourse. There are a lot of sexual expectations today. Everyone is watching porn now. It turns you on, sure. I’m not saying don’t watch it. But what you see in porn is not what real love and sexuality within a long-term relationship are. Just like kids have to learn that the toy they see on TV is different from different from what it does in real life, I’d like to see the same thing taught about sex. I hate to see girls feeling like they have to emulate what they see in porn, with breast implants and pole dancing. I am actually glad that Amanda Bynes had her implants removed. This was a good development. What would I do if I was 16 now?

Judy! Here is the frank embrace of the vulnerability of early years that made her youngest characters so compelling, and the acknowledgment of the evolving components of personal hunger that allowed her to write dozens of characters, all at different stages of their sexuality, that all felt equally honest in their desire. My favorite book of hers was probably Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. What’s yours?

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