||Reluctant Hero Inc.
||January 31, 2009
This book and documentary film by Sharlene Azam, are about the recent emergence of teenage prostitution rings in affluent Canadian suburbs. Attractive, white, high school girls - 13, 14 and 15 years old - are having sex with up to 7 men a night, several times a week, so they can go shopping. Other girls are selling their virginity for $1000. These are not street prostitutes. "They are the prettiest girls from the most successful families," explains one expert. "Your daughter's best friend is recruiting her right out of your house, right under your nose," says Detective Randy Wickins of the Edmonton Vice Unit. Oral Sex Is The New Goodnight Kiss is a wake up call for parents, showing them girls who have been recruited, their mothers, their "friends" who recruited them (the new pimps), and the vice cops and experts who are trying to make sense of this new middle-class phenomenon.
The New Goodnight Kiss
The New Goodnight Kiss
Toronto Star, Oral Sex No Longer A Big Deal
Author/filmmaker finds Canadian teens casually trading favours for cash
Apr 24, 2009 Trish Crawford - Living Reporter
Middle-class Canadian girls are giving oral sex after school to pay for sweaters and handbags.
Worlds away from the poverty, neglect and drug abuse that are the hallmarks of prostitution, teenagers who appear bright and well- adjusted are prostituting themselves without batting an eyelash.
According to independent filmmaker Sharlene Azam's documentary and book, Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss, the normalization of oral sex as an acceptable teenage activity has led vulnerable girls to use it as a way of becoming socially accepted.
For some in Azam's film, this ultimately leads to payment for sex because, after all, if they are doing it anyway, why not get paid for it?
Azam, 38, a former columnist for the Toronto Star, interviewed Canadian girls (and their parents) who had been discovered by school officials to be involved in sexual activity with groups of boys, as well as girls charged by police. This includes a prostitution ring at an Edmonton high school.
Parents, she says, were not paying close enough attention to their daughters.
Azam is married, with a 3-year-old daughter, and splits her time between Los Angeles and Vancouver.
Q: What sparked this documentary and book?
A: I was at a high school in Burnaby, B.C., researching sexual attitudes for a film I was working on when I was asked to talk to the students in the Flex Program. The Flex kids have been out of school for various problems. In that class, I met a lovely blond girl with perfect makeup and a Louis Vuitton bag who seemed completely out of place. I asked the teacher about her and was told that she had been recruited by a girl at school and trafficked to a small town where she was kept in a motel. That was the beginning of my research into teenage recruiters and the middle-class girls they target. This was a new kind of predator.
Q: You were able to get parental permission to film the girls who were under age. How?
A: Getting the releases was not difficult because the parents wanted to talk about this. There is no forum for them. There is no counselling. There is no social group for a mother whose teenage daughter is having sex with five men a night. The difficulty ... is for the mothers to finally take responsibility for what has happened to their daughters.
The girls were okay talking about giving oral sex to a number of boys – they didn't stumble with the words or appear shy or ashamed. The reason they speak about it unflinchingly is because it has become as benign and as acceptable as kissing. This is what our culture has become. Think back to the '80s when girls would blush when talking about their first kiss. We are way past that point with blowjobs. The real question is, "What's next?"
Q: A lot has been written about rainbow oral sex parties. What do the girls get out of it sexually?
A: I think Heather, 16, explains it best. "I began to associate my own personal power with giving a man pleasure. I liked hearing them make noises because it made me feel powerful to be able to affect someone in that way. I didn't know I had so much power."
Q: Has feminism failed young girls?
A: We failed our girls. What's happened to our girls? We have let Girls Gone Wild and the media culture define them.
Q: What is the boys' role in all of this? Did any of them have to deal with the consequences?
A: It is important to remember that the responsibility lies with parents, teachers and adults. Your question suggests that another adolescent should take responsibility for what is happening. Boys are downloading pornography on their cellphones. This is how they are learning how they are supposed to treat girls.
Q: What are the lessons learned?
A: It is not as much a lesson as it is a warning. Who is going to save our girls? You asked me about feminism. I interviewed Gloria Steinem, who was a voice for women. Who is the voice for our girls? Is it the media? Is it boys' opinions of them? Is it the negative images of themselves that they've created from advertising imagery?
Globe and Mail, Teen Girls Are Swapping Sex For Just About Anything
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
April 23, 2009 at 8:40 AM EDT
Heather spent her teen years on Protection Island in Nanaimo, B.C. Blond and sun-kissed, the daughter of a geologist father and biologist mother grew up on Narnia books. But at 16, Heather was recounting another story. By 14, she was routinely blacking out on drugs, having sex with multiple partners at her house and partying with "Navy guys." At the start of Grade 9, she was sleeping with a 21-year-old drug dealer and heroin addict. Soon after, she was recruited to trade sex for clothes and drugs.
It sounds like an overblown cautionary tale for parents, but teen prostitution is an emerging middle-class phenomenon in Canada, says journalist and documentary filmmaker Sharlene Azam in her new book Oral Sex Is the New Goodnight Kiss (which is accompanied by a DVD).
One prostitution ring saw more than 15 girls aged 12 to 16 from several Edmonton middle and high schools offering their bodies to older men who gambled in a townhouse; another involved 15-year-old high-school girls charging college guys $20 for oral sex in Kelowna, B.C. In Surrey, B.C., pimps recruited 12-year-olds at their local mall.
Over four years, Ms. Azam tracked her subjects down through news stories, reaching them through school principals, counsellors and their arresting officers. The book is a series of interviews with the girls, their mothers, vice cops and pimps, as well as brazen teenaged women who recruit more inexperienced girls into prostitution from their communities.
The author argues that father absenteeism, ineffectual sexual education classes, Internet porn and a hypersexual, "poisonous culture" that promises status through the accumulation of luxury goods are to blame.
Ms. Azam, who splits her time between Vancouver and Los Angeles, spoke to The Globe and Mail about the book.
How did you gain such access to these girls?
Typically I would meet a girl at school, at her [guidance] counsellor's office. I would tell her what I was doing and give her my number. It depended on where she was in her story. I always got parents involved early. Once I found one girl at a school who was maybe trading sex or having oral sex at school in the bathroom, she then would introduce me to a couple of friends who were doing the same thing.
How does it go from some oral sex in a high-school bathroom stall to joining a prostitution ring?
It snowballs very quickly after being bullied or disappointed in love. Some of the girls I met just thought they were being sweet, generous girls by giving a blowjob to a guy, and then they're the go-to girls for anything sexual. And then a recruiter will say to them, "You can make $50." Once she gets $50 for something that in her mind only took two or three minutes, even if she was disgusted by the guy, she is addicted to that money.
You describe "luxury fever" as something that compels these girls to prostitute themselves.
They all feel this pressure to be able to go to the mall and buy something. Brands are so important now. It matters that you have money to burn.
Nearly all of the girls were living with single moms. What role do absent fathers play?
They're completely absent. And in a way, so are their mothers. What I saw a lot of was poor judgment. The mothers were so busy with their own lives. A lot of them were involved in their own romances. They just bury their heads because they don't know what to do.
You also point to the Web, teen dating sites like Nextopia, guys quietly setting up late night dates through MSN chat, and Yahoo.com and Craigslist.com linking to underage "cam girls" who advertise their services and then link to online gift registries like Wishlist, Amazon and Felicite.
Once a girl sees something like sending a couple of nude photos [in exchange for] a CD as benign, it snowballs very quickly for them. [For instance] with sexting, young boys are becoming the new pornographers, but the girls are also taking photos of themselves.
All of the girls talk about feeling 'empowered' by male attention, however dubious or short-lived it was. For example, Heather talks about experiencing 'personal power' when she made men 'make noises' during oral sex.
She really began to believe that being a sexual object was her identity. She became divorced from her body. Anything she could do to get attention made her feel good and powerful, even if she didn't know the guys' names.
You write that none of the girls, not even the recruiters, are willing to call what they do prostitution, even when cash is exchanged. They say 'hooking up' and 'one-night stands.'
It's become so twisted in their minds. [There was the] notion of 'I can be any kind of woman I want to be, including a prostitute.'
Is sex education failing?
Sex ed can't always do the job it's intended to because it just isn't current enough. If you don't know where to start you should probably start by talking to a public health nurse. They're informed and a little more progressive around what kids are doing because they see the diseases and statistics and they talk to kids, as opposed to a teacher doing a sex ed class who may be more uncomfortable. I guess you can learn by these parents' example, learn what not to do. It's not something you can recover from: Your family is destroyed.
How do the guys fit in?
Parents have a responsibility to teach boys not to use girls. But how do you do that? If you're just starting to look at what your kids are watching and trying to make them media literate at 12, it's kind of too late. Parents [can't] really keep up with the amount of sexual content their kids are seeing, and they don't really understand how deeply their kids are affected. You actually have to talk about sex. You have to clarify values and know what healthy sexuality is, versus porn sex. They need some way to critique their own experience against what people are telling them. They see something and mimic it at a party. [The boys] have this idea of what sexy is and it's a total fabrication. It has nothing to do with the girls that they know, but it's really influencing how they treat girls. They will have an inability to relate to a girl in a normal, healthy relationship. Girls have no expectations for their relationships — there's no 'the ideal relationship would include trust, friendship and not being coerced or manipulated.'
You write that Heather, now 19, emerged after seeing a therapist. But she told you, 'I still shift between not really valuing my body, not minding if I'm with more than one guy and freaking out if a guy even touches me.' How is it affecting intimacy later on in their lives?
This is going to be a huge problem. Right now, they're just too young to reflect on what it means to be in a bathroom giving oral sex to four or five boys. The girls always felt they could also have sex without any consequences or hook up without caring, the way they feel boys do. It's a badge for them but they always regret it. There's always a feeling of emptiness.
What's next for these girls?
Heather will probably be okay and will be one of those few lucky girls who can chalk this up to a wild youth. Her parents had enough money that they could try many treatment [options]. But for the girls whose one parent isn't very involved, like a father, and whose mother is very busy, after the interview with the cops and a little bit of intervention by a social worker, that's it. You just have to be okay, because there's nothing else.
Edmonton Sun, Child Sex Parties
Andrew Hanon Wed, April 1, 2009
Child-sex parties are very real, frighteningly common and taking place in a neighbourhood like yours
By ANDREW HANON
Somewhere in the city, children as young as 11 and 12 are gathering in basements and playing intricate, graphic sex games.
I first heard about these parties a few years ago from my 12-year-old daughter, who said kids at her school played games where each girl had to perform oral sex on several boys.
Naively, I dismissed the story as another urban myth, like Pop Rocks causing heart attacks and maggots in milk-shake machines.
Turns out, these parties are very real and frighteningly commonplace.
Edmonton is featured in a new book and documentary DVD called Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss by Sharlene Azam, where she explores "the growing phenomenon of middle-class girls trading sex for money, drugs and luxury goods."
Azam says hyper-sexualized popular culture and romanticizing gangsterism, combined with AWOL parenting, have created an atmosphere in which young teens view oral sex as nonchalantly as necking was seen a generation ago.
"It's in every school, even more in the suburbs," Azam said yesterday. And from there, they're just a small step away from prostitution.
One girl said that if she's already fellating two or three boys every weekend at parties, she might as well have sex with five or six and get paid for it.
Azam quotes one Edmonton 15-year-old who says, "I can work at KFC and make $100 a week, or I can make $400 a night for sex."
Often girls will agree to sex with older men in exchange for drugs or designer shoes, clothes and handbags, convincing themselves that because there's no money involved, it's not prostitution.
Azam recounts a case a few years ago where Edmonton police broke up a ring of up to 50 girls all from the same Edmonton high school, which she declined to name.
Police were horrified to realize many of the girls were angry with them for shutting off the cash flow.
One girl told Azam, "We told the police that they never forced us to have sex. They didn't need to because they could always find other girls to do it. There are also way more guys doing this than anyone can imagine."
None of the girls Azam interviewed said they were forced to do anything they didn't want to.
If the girls wanted money, they'd call a man named Luu Chi Dang and tell him that they wanted to work.
He'd pick them up and take them to one of three homes, where a dozen or so middle-aged men were waiting.
For each man the girls had sex with, they'd be paid $60. Dang got $40.
Said one girl: "I just had to lie there. The lights would always be off, and the few times it bothered me I would think that I could go get Boston Pizza after or something. The best part was getting paid. I did it for the money. It took 15 minutes and I would have $500."
Azam described Dang as a "really nice guy, very polite and deferential." He never recruited anyone. The girls took care of that.
"Most of the girls said they wanted to make money to go shopping. When their friends saw them shopping they would tell them, 'If you want to make money contact Luu' and I would hook it up," he told her.
Azam offers advice for parents who fear their girls are being sucked in. It's all common-sense stuff, like communicating, spending time with them and building up their esteem. She also reminds adults that they have a job to do.
"Don't be afraid to assert your authority... your daughter might not thank you for keeping track of her whereabouts, but it does not matter," she says. Azam adds: "The biggest problem is that parents aren't worried enough."
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!