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Prom

"DO NOT GET MY DRESS!!!!!" Facebook Prom Groups and other Stupid Things about the 'Big Night'

Pretty-in-Pink

As high school winds down, my newsfeed is overwhelmed by pictures of everyone all dolled-up for their big prom nights. Seeing all of these (seemingly) happy couples in their matching prom attire makes me think of my own encounters with the weird "prom culture" that erupts from all of the hoo-rah surrounding the event.

Now that I'm a college junior, that prom courting ritual that seemed so dramatic and overwhelming feels absurd and even funny. Instead of seeing a crystalized moment in time where a couple looks pristine and happy, I think of all the drama that leads up to this single photo.

Prom really isn't just one night. It is an entire process. I was a member of a private Facebook group for both my junior and senior proms called something along the lines of "PROM DRESSES 2012," a place where high school girls posted pictures of what they planned to wear so that no two people would (god-forbid!) show up in the same dress.

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But these groups have an underlying hostility simmering beneath each post with teens calling each other out for having the same dresses as them. On a friend's prom dress Facebook page, one group member posted an image of her dress with the caption "DO NOT GET MY DRESS!!!!!" Another person commented on someone else's image, "That is an easy access dress!" And some minor fights even erupted. "Just wanna let you know I have that dress in a different color i posted it on here like a month ago” one angry member of the group wrote when she saw that her classmate posted the same dress as hers.

These posts are benign compared to other Facebook prom dress groups. One group goes by the name of, "Bitch don't steal my dress!" And in the same ilk, "If YOU steal MY prom dress, bitch I'ma cut you."  If you google the now deleted Facebook group "steal my prom dress and i'll knock you the fuck out" you can find abounding remnants of the threats that were once posted.

In my own group, people commented as early as the beginning of January (5 months before prom!) with what dresses they will wear. Some changed their dresses as many as 3-4 times. Most people put up all of their "maybes” (that is, what they might be wearing) so that they could lay claim to all of their potential options.

The posts are territorial, passive aggressive, and some just straight up cruel– and they reveal how prom means different things for different people. For guys it may be a last chance to lose their virginity before college, but for girls it is about the pressure to look flawless, about losing weight for their dresses, and getting the perfect tan.

Aside from the community of hostility these groups create—similar to (or perhaps a result of) the hostility created by a society that constantly pits women against each other— they also reveal a culture’s obsession with what is (typically) a heteronormative event that excludes anyone who veers from the “ideal” couple. What about queer people, trans* people, aromantic people? What someone is wearing is among the least of worries for a gay couple restricted from taking one another to prom. A trans* girl who wants to wear a dress has bigger problems to face than someone showing up in the same outfit as her.

At the end of it all, prom is really just a night of false norms and unmet expectations.

Hollywood, social media, and most importantly, 80s teen flicks, have turned prom into what is supposed to be one of the most important nights of a young person's life. It is a rite of passage into college where we tie up all those loose ends, fit in all that awkward teen stuff before we diverge on our separate paths of adulthood. And perhaps this fixation on hooking up and “maturation” by means of the prom is why it is such a big deal for people. Perhaps this is why teens are purchasing dresses months and months in advance and assuring they are the only person on the entire face of the Earth to ever wear it. And I don’t mean to critique just the women but instead use this group as a firsthand example of all the prom drama ("proma"). We treat this night as if it will change our lives forever.

Thinking about my own dreadful junior prom experience now makes me laugh. Between my breakup at the time and fear of having no date for the prom (because how could one possibly go to the prom–gasp–alone?!), and ending up with a date who I barely spoke to the entire time, my own experiences were nothing like what the movies told me it would be. The prom itself consisted of some gross food, little dancing, and an anti-climactic (no pun-intended) after party that I did not attend. But despite all the trauma, I now realize how insignificant all of it really was.

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In one of the very first posts on my prom dress group, its creator ironically writes (after dictating a number of rules about posting dresses), “It’s going to be okay. Seriously.”  Though she meant it passive aggressively, it’s true. Prom will be okay. You will survive it even if you are wearing the same dress as someone else. You will survive it even if you go without a date.

Instead of focusing so much on the socially constructed “rules” of prom, we should be fighting against them. Next year, instead of wearing dresses, all the girls should wear tuxes. Next year, instead of caring about who is going with who, we should fight against the fact that some schools still don’t allow same-sex couples into prom. Next year, instead of worrying about the perfect prom couple photo, let’s rebel against the binaristic gender norms that underlie the event. Next year, instead of getting involved with the after party hook up gossip, let’s worry about how the fixation on  partying and “losing one’s virginity” on this big night can cultivate unsafe environments for sex.

Starting right now, let’s focus on what really matters, instead of if two people are wearing the same dress.

Alexa is a student at Emory University and a summer intern at Trixie Films. You can read more about her here.

Just The Tip: Virginity In The News with Pervy prom dads, more Purity TV, Sex lies for guys,and 7 penises in my soda

   IMG_20140510_190019-768x1024 You may have already seen this amazing post from a teenager named Clare popping up everywhere online. It's powerful not just because the story she tells is so hideously sexist, but because more and more, young people are standing up and calling bullshit on Purity Police attacks on their bodies, freedom and moral value.

Fabulous home-schooled teen Clare tells the world about getting kicked out of her prom for wearing a too-short dress (at left, even though it adhered to the prom's dress code) and dancing provocatively (even though she wasn't even dancing). And she is pretty clear on what the problem really was.

"We were also a little grossed out by all the dads on the balcony above the dance floor, ogling and talking amongst themselves. We weren’t dancing, but swaying with the music and talking and enjoying ourselves, when Mrs. D again approached me, and gestured me off the dance floor...and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative, and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts."

How many times have we heard this same old bullshit song: Girls are responsible for keeping guys from thinking impure thoughts. And guys are so 'visual' that they get driven mad by the sight of a girl's knees and just can't control themselves. And it's a girl's fault if guys are driven so mad by whatever the girl is supposedly doing or wearing, they rape them in a fit of clothing-induced sexual frenzy. We hear it every fucking day, when a woman is blamed for causing herself to get raped. Instead of policing everything women do because boys just can't control themselves, why don't we just blindfold the boys, or better yet lock them up at home. They're the ones who have control issues, not the girls.

Or as Clare so succinctly puts it:

"Goddamn I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 year old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on and a big ass for a teenager."

Seriously, read the whole thing here!

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Ah, Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs, spreading bad logic and shame since 1996.

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Actual Craig’s List ad from this week.

Are you Pure? Are you attending a Purity Ball?

Major television company is looking for families who are attending an upcoming Purity Ball. Whether it's your first or tenth time, we would love to hear your story and how you became involved in this powerful and life changing event.

Purity Balls certainly can be a life-changing event. At least according to the young women I meet at college screenings who are coping with being told how dirty and unlovable they are since they had sex. Ever been to a purity ball? Did it change your life?

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16 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Boys about Sex is the follow-up to Policy Mic’s post on the lies we teach girls. Both posts are good for all genders. This one covers penis size, virginity loss, circumcision, sex drives, who comes first and more.

V-Card Diaries: Taylor "I always thought I'd lose my virginity on Prom Night, because it seemed the most cliché thing"

Today we're highlighting Taylor in California, who thinks she should lose her virginity on prom night, but doesn't really feel ready. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here Tell us about yourself:

I am an 18-year-old female living in California and I'm going off to college in the fall. I always thought that I would lose my virginity on Prom night, because it seemed like the most "normal" and "cliché" thing to do. But Prom is next Saturday, and even though I have a boyfriend, and I like him a lot, I'm not ready to have sex. I wish there was some sort of dial built into your body that tells you if you're "ready" or not. I'm a very logical person and I don't like not having clear-cut answers. Unfortunately, no one can actually tell me if I'm ready or not.

How do you define virginity?

I define virginity as penetrative sex. But only because it "breaks" the hymen and there is physical proof that you are no longer a virgin. I realize that this sounds incredibly ignorant, but that's just what I've been taught by the Christian church.

Tell us your story

My parents always taught my brother and I that we wait until marriage to have sex. When I was young and my parents taught me how babies were made, they explained it as if it was a scientific procedure that can only be done in a sterile environment. I had no idea that sex was supposed to be "fun" until high school.

Yet I still did not understand that pleasure can be brought from your Yoni until I stole my Mom's back massager and went to town. Which she later discovered and shamed me for.

I think that my parents unknowingly placed a lot of guilt and shame around anything sexual, and then as I approached 18, my Mom realized that I was afraid of anything sexual and rephrased it to "No sweetie, sex is great! You just have to wait until marriage to enjoy it." I am still in therapy today, and I'm working on not thinking about my parents whenever I'm making out with my boyfriend.

Note from the editors: We don't usually chime in on V-Card Diaries, but sometimes we want to point you to further reading. If you were taught that the hymen is physical proof that you're no longer a virgin, take a spin through our Hymenology stories, which will give you lots of good info to the contrary.

V-Card Diaries: Scarlett "I learned to stick up for myself and then learned how wonderful sex can be."

Today we're highlighting Scarlett, who eased into sex with a caring partner, while managing a difficult past that included sexual molestation by a family member. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:

I'm nearly 18, a college freshman majoring in Interior Architecture and living in the US

How do you define virginity?

Haha, as my first relationship developed, so did my definition of this word, just so I would still be able to call myself a virgin. The last thing I labeled it as was when a vagina is fully penetrated by a penis. I do believe homosexuals can lose their virginity to each other, however I haven't developed my own definition for that yet.

Tell us your story

I remember being 15 and knowing, just knowing I would be a virgin until a time after my wedding. Honestly I planned to hide out in the bathroom on the wedding night until the groom was asleep.

Then I met him. Somehow I knew I could trust him and within the first few weeks I told him everything about my darkest secret: I was molested by a family member several times when I was younger. I really think this affected the way he treated me in our relationship when we started dating five months later. He was insistent that sexual doings weren't necessarily bad or scary, and of course that we should do them (horny teenagers right?). That was the full extent of the pressure he put on me to have sex.

Shortly before we started dating we went to prom together, but he didn't dance "on" me. He was worried about scaring me away if I felt a certain part of him. Six months after we started dating, we explored each other's bodies. Though we had talked about it earlier and I agreed to it, he still asked to touch me, and asked again when things went lower. Because of all the stuff out there about girls' first times being unpleasant, he asked me to at least try masturbation.

A year after we began dating we decided on partial penetration. It didn't work out too well. I started going a bit too far but he held back, unwilling to violate our earlier agreement. The next day he did go farther, but still not enough. I said we had already passed our earlier agreement anyway, so why hold off? He wholeheartedly agreed, and it was nice (with a condom, of course).

I did not orgasm then, to his credit he did try to make me after he did. But I only began to get sore. I did cry afterwards; not because I wasn't a virgin anymore, but because I didn't want him to go. So he held me. There weren't any huge sparks and I still didn't orgasm for quite awhile after that, but I loved each time. Plus it only got better, and better, and better.

To this day, he's still careful about hurting me emotionally during sex. I could tell him to stop at ANY point and he would.

But don't think of him as a sweet wuss with no backbone. He looks at me like he's going to eat me and has no qualms about pushing me onto the bed and various other things of that nature.

It occurred to me while reading other first-time articles that mine seems unusually good. I can't believe the unfeeling way some people were treated. It's especially saddening/angering to see that it was/is thought to be normal. I wish more people could have had better first times, more caring partners. He helped heal the scars left from when I was younger and aided my education about safe-sex. I was his first everything. While I'm thankful he was my first kiss and lover, I wish so much that he could have been my first everything as well.

I honestly believe first times are important, not just for sex but for anything we do. Anybody remember a first plane ride? first pet? Sometimes first times suck, but we learn from them. I learned to stick up for myself and then learned how wonderful sex can be.

What did you do on Prom Night? Leave us a comment!

Face it: Love it or hate it, do it or skip it, Prom is an American rite of passage (like that other thing we write about a lot).

Do you have a Prom Night story to share? Tell us!

Did you make your own pretty pink dress? Did you decide to go at the last minute with a big group of friends? Did the school give you a hard time because your date was the same gender as you? Did you lose your virginity to the captain of the football team? Did you go with your cousin? Did you go with your gay boyfriend like Trixie did? Did you trash the gym after someone dumped pig's blood on you?

We want to hear all about it! Leave us a comment below and we'll incorporate your answers into a video of what really happens on prom night. If you want inspiration or aggravation, read this story about a high school that canceled prom rather than let a lesbian couple attend!

We've written about prom garters here and prom movies here, and check out this list of most unrealistic Movie Proms ever.

You can leave text, photos or a video - use your real name or stay anonymous. We're looking forward to hearing from you! (And tell your friends).

UPDATE: Thanks to our Vancouver correspondent (the one in the fetching midnight blue number) for this awesome Prom portrait, circa 1986. Email us a your photo!

Prom: It's Time to Get...A New Hook

Trixie intern Aggie probes further into the mysterious Bart Got A Room video:

Watching Bill Macy strumming and singing in this earlier Trixie post, I was for a second lulled into thinking the whole bit was satirical, maybe even a catchy PSA to help students realize the absurdity of the prom sex cliché. Then I saw the trailer for the film that Macy and co-star, Kate Micucci, are advertising in their little ditty:

According to this trailer, Bart Got A Room could also be called American Pie 19. And as such, it teaches us the following age-old lessons:

1) Women are simply an amalgamation of fragmentary body parts which exist only to be judged (by men) along a scale of certain qualities, including: ampleness, shakiness, ability to be "limber," and how tightly a dress can address their curves.

2) Sex is something men do to women. Among the litter of available female bodies listlessly hoping to be discovered while in math class, men are burdened to choose the one woman who can appropriately serve as the receptacle to their rites of passage.

3) If you are in a male-identified body and you have not found such a receptacle, it is not because you are not kind enough nor respectful enough nor intelligent enough. After all, even Bart can get a room and he is, apparently, an off-screen loser. No, you lack a willing vessel simply because you're a little shy and/or a momma's boy. You must remember that women are just waiting to serve you in this way, regardless of how you treat them (even your mom approves)! So if you just push yourself a bit harder, you too can enter the halls of manhood.

4) If you are in a female-identified body and you play any sport which requires that you stretch your body to new and powerful limits, then what you're really saying is that you are ready, willing, and wide open for insertion. So, don't be surprised if men seek you out for sex. It's only natural.

Now, perhaps the film itself does actually dispel some stereotypes. But the trailer, which may be many people's only experience with the film, simply recycles tired gender expectations and double standards. At this point, after far too many American Pie remakes, too many irresponsible displays of women's bodies, and too many reasons to be filled with anxiety and dread about sex, there is only one person with enough chutzpah to kick our asses out of this trite muck. Maybe even scare some of us into foregoing prom and choosing a nice, relaxing dinner and a (thought-provoking, innovative) movie date instead:

Prom Garters: Blatant Objectification...in Your School Colors

Thanks to Jezebel for disturbing us with highlights from Seventeen's Prom issue. The dresses were bad enough (I know, we all wore them but must we get this awful flashback) but I almost lost my dinner when I heard about this: The Prom Garter!!

Jezebel turned to eHow for an explanation:

Much like a bride's garter, a prom garter is worn around the leg of a girl attending prom. The garter is traditionally worn on the right leg just above the knee. The girl may choose to give her garter to her date, removing it herself, as a souvenir of the night.

Some schools hold a "garter dance" in which a girl removes her garter, throws it to an awaiting group of guys and dances with the one who catches the garter...

...One prominent and traditional place for the guy to display the garter is on his car's rear-view mirror.

Also...speaking of sex, here's the thing, young people:

The "prom-night-as-virginity-losing time" is really overrated and also kind of boring. Do you really want to be like every stupid teen movie ever made? Also, it builds it up into an even bigger deal than usual and not to mention, puts a whole lot of pressure on you and your partner if you decide you don't want to do it after all.

Take it from me, all the cool girls go to the prom with their gay boyfriend dates - they're sharp dressers and great dancers. And it prepares you for all the great gay men you're going to unrequited-ly crush on all through your 20s. Downside? They tend to flirt a lot with the other girls' gay dates. (In fact, my date ended up having a long-term relationship with another girls date. Way to go, Mel)

So this prom if you want to go with a guy, pass on the garters, maybe cover your midriff, and seriously consider a boy who likes other boys as the perfect date - as long as his boyfriend doesn't ask him first.

Of course if you're a guy, the message is 'it's time to get laid' (according to this little ditty sung by Bill Macy and Kate Micucci):

Dear Abby: Ever heard of contraception?

This question recently ran in Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend "Adam" and I are high school seniors. We have been serious for only three months, but we've been dating for more than a year. He is sexually experienced, but I am not - I'm still the "Big V."

On prom night, I want Adam to be my "first," but because I have been disappointed in the past, I don't want to be left heartbroken. I love Adam with all my heart - he's all I want in a guy. But I feel torn about what to do. Should I go ahead and "seize the day"? Or should I make him wait? Please help! - TEEN GIRL IN THE GAMBLING STATE

DEAR TEEN GIRL: Your boyfriend may be a wonderful person, but to lose your virginity simply to celebrate prom night is not a mature decision. Sex carries with it responsibilities - and can result in unplanned "surprises," as the following letter shows. Read on...

I'll spare you having to read the whole the letter which is about a young woman who gets pregnant in high school, marries the father, has the baby, gives up an education at a prestigious university, basically feels she threw away her life. This cautionary Afterschool Special tale is, I guess, meant to impress upon TGITGS the utter irresponsibility of having sex with her boyfriend. See what happened to that other girl when she had sex??

OK. There are many reasons not to have sex, especially if it's because of pressure from someone else. And lots of people have less than magical first times, although it does get a whole lot better. But Abby's answer is right out of 1950s.

Dear, dear Abby: I hear there are things out there called contraceptives. I'm not exactly sure what they are since our school won't teach us about them, and advice columns won't talk about them either. But rumor has it that I can have sex and not get pregnant if I use them properly. Not only that, there are also some pretty good ways to protect me from STDs. Why are you keeping them a secret? When did you join the abstinence lobby?

If TGITGS loves and trusts her boyfriend and wants to see what all the fuss is about sex-wise, the advice Abby should give is "If you're going to have sex, protect yourself from pregnancy and STDs, so you don't end up forced into a life, any life, you didn't choose."

[Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.]