"Hooking up is anything from kissing to second or third base or all the way home."
- Victoria, 18, senior
Teen Attitudes Toward Dating and Sexual Abuse
TEEN FOCUS GROUP
Victoria: High school senior, 18; plays volleyball and basketball; member high school year book committee and National Honor Society; plans to attend college in the fall.
Elizabeth: Junior, 17; participates in drama; works as a baby sitter.
Sue: Senior, 17; participates in sports and enjoys writing.
Ryan: Senior, 18; athlete.
Alan: Senior, 18; enjoys film directing.
Samantha: Junior, 16; likes drama, soccer and singing.
Mark: Sophomore, 16; writes for the school paper; member of the choir; working on a novel and several short stories.
Claire: Senior, 18; class treasurer; athlete; plans to attend college in the fall.
Jocelyn: Senior, 18; plays varsity soccer and basketball; loves music; plans to attend college in September and major in political science.
Joe: Junior, 16; member of theater guild, Asian club, African American club; former wrestling team member.
By Karen Eschbacher
The Patriot Ledger
They were nervous about coming, but showed up anyway.
Ten teenagers - most of whom had never met - sat quietly around a conference table.
Assured their real names would not be used, they brainstormed what to call themselves, scribbling romantic and sometimes uncommon names on stickers until they settled on choices like Victoria, Samantha and Mark.
One boy asked if he could adopt a friend’s name, but eventually crossed it out and went with “Joe.”
Some raised their hands when they wanted to talk. One asked politely if the Coke on the table was free.
The Patriot Ledger invited the students - six girls and four boys - for a four-hour conversation about sex, rape, dating violence and the teen social scene. All had their parents’ permission to attend.
The shyness and formalities didn’t last long.
Within minutes of the session, which was held one night in early April, the teens were interjecting, interrupting, talking over each other and holding side conversations.
Asked whether movie-inspired images of teens pairing off at raucous house parties to have sex were accurate, answers came in rapid-fire.
After an initial struggle to find polite ways to talk about topics like oral sex, they threw around slang terms, though sometimes with apologies for their crudeness.
The more they talked, the more they clicked.
When a late-comer arrived, the rest of the group bombarded her with questions about where she went to school, who she was friends with and the activities she participates in.
“This is like the Breakfast Club,” Victoria, an 18-year-old senior who plans to attend college in the fall, said afterward.
They swapped stories about social rules in their schools, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing.
“Hooking up is anything from kissing to second or third base or all the way home,” Victoria explained.
Conversation jumped to what percentage of classmates were having sex to tales about teens who were pregnant to questions about how frequently girls have abortions. All in a matter of minutes.
One girl’s voice grew forceful as she told the others how angry she was when classmates rallied around boys at a high school who were accused of raping a female student.
Another girl quietly shared a story about a friend who was raped by an ex-boyfriend. The rest of the group listened intently, then hit her with questions about whether other students knew, how they responded and whether the girl ever reported the crime.
Despite the weighty issues, the teens laughed a lot - and loudly.
Over pizza, the conversation veered off-track, and they reminisced about “Saved by the Bell,” a popular Saturday morning pre-teen sitcom.
When the focus group broke, the discussions continued in the elevator and into the parking lot.
“It’s kind of enjoyable to get some of that stuff off your mind if you hadn’t talked about it in a while,” said Ryan, an 18-year-old senior. “I didn’t want to leave.”
If you will be a high school student in a South Shore town in September, and wish to become a member of the 2002-03 Patriot Ledger Teen Focus Group, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name, address and phone number so we can contact you. The group will meet several times during the year to discuss issues of importance to teens. A parent’s permission will be required.