Adolescent Love Evolves: From Yearning To Exploration

For many teenagers today, the rules and taboos of love have disappeared. They see it as territory for sexual — and bisexual — discoveries, not a quest for a partner.

A sticker on the back of a marcher's jeans reads 'live under your own rules' and he carries a condom in his back pocket during the 17th annual gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual pride festival and march in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina
A sticker on the back of a marcher's jeans reads 'live under your own rules' and he carries a condom in his back pocket during the 17th annual gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual pride festival and march in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina
María Florencia Pérez

BUENOS AIRES — Spontaneous, open and diverse: This is how today's teenagers could describe their sexual relations. Their grandparents' unending, chaste courtships seem implausible, while their parents' "boy-meets-girl" format is just an option. They reject gender stereotypes, defend the right to follow their desires and freely experiment with intimate relationships outside the heterosexual norm. Spontaneity prevails over forced commitments.

Fifteen-year-old Jean Paul Rimbaud uses inclusive language and is perfectly at ease with gender theory jargon. He has no qualms donning a skirt or wearing makeup, even if adults around him react in "aggressive" or "inappropriate" ways. This secondary-school pupil realizes there is an abyss between the adolescence that his parents lived almost four decades ago and his present experience, in which he can openly declare himself bisexual. It is "another world today. Their ideas were set in stone. They didn't question many issues that now are no longer taken for granted."

Jean Paul's awareness about his sexuality began at his secondary school. It was a private school, he says, "which did not give me the tools to see life from a different perspective. Sex-ed classes were limited to teaching boys to put on a condom and taking girls to the other room to talk about menstruation. In that context, it was difficult for me to think my feelings for someone of the same sex were alright." This changed when he switched to a public school with participatory sessions, which helped him change his views: "I can feel attracted by a woman, a male or a non-binary person, and you're not heterosexual just for being a boy. Sexuality changes and is built over time."

Mara, 15, says she began to like her girl friend at the age of 12, but found it difficult within her "closed surroundings' to consider that normal. "Later, I realized I do not like boys... last year I changed school and found that my new classmates were much more open about the issue. I reckon that at least 20% of our class identifies itself as bisexual, including people I would never have guessed might be interested in someone of the same sex."

A growing number of teenagers identify themselves as bisexual.

There are a growing number of teenagers identifying themselves as bisexual in public, private, secular and religious schools. Such changes may be in part due to the current feminist discourse, which says gender is not biological but a socio-cultural construction. Joaquín Linne, an academic at the public research body Conicet, says Women's Day and Gay Pride marches, "among others have contributed to creating greater awareness and connections among diverse groups, with an exchange of information, advice and strategies." Moreover, as a result of a 2006 law that makes sexual education compulsory in schools, such topics are being discussed more widely.

But psychoanalyst and author Luciano Lutereau believes that teenage bisexuality is no novelty. "Homoeroticism was treated in other ways in the past, for example through relations with "best friends'," which he says included physical sex of differing intensity. Today's sexual stance among teenagers should not be considered "conclusive," he says.

Men kissing at the annual Gay Pride parade in Buenos Aires, Argentina Photo: Gay Travel 4u via Twitter

Till A Moment Do Us Part...

Most teenagers are questioning ideas of permanent or "eternal" love, exclusivity or the dramatic "first love" at school. Many prefer multiple and simultaneous experiences, not one that implies loss of personal freedom. Last year, 14-year-old Daiana Ormachea began going out with a girl from her religious school in the Almagro district of Buenos Aires. "She came home and even met my parents. But we just went out for two months as there were problems almost immediately," she says. Infidelity appeared to be the cause. "It's so difficult to find someone who wants a serious relationship, and it doesn't matter if they identify as hetero, homo or bisexual," she says. "Everyone wants to have fun, go out and in one night make out with various girls and boys."

There is jealousy, competition, calls for attention and exclusivity or the need or desire to create a couple.

Open, fleeting relationships appear to be models that transcend sexual identity — as do tensions. "There is jealousy, competition, calls for attention and exclusivity or the need or desire to create a couple," says Linne, from Conicet. What one can observe in many youngsters, he says, is "this ambivalence between the traditional vision of enduring, romantic love (the love of their parents and grandparents) and the post-modern vision of "liquid" relations, untied to any contract, label or commitment, since these are associated with losing personal autonomy or freedom."

Parents are always concerned by their children's first sexual or intimate encounters. Jean Paul says he had to sit down with his parents to explain several things to them. "Now they know how to name me for example, because adults are quite basic when it comes to talking. Some even ask the most condescending questions like, "so what are you?". So you have to help them to learn. Dialogue is very important because they grew up in a culture that was very different to ours."

Lara also believes adults have "misconceptions." She began talking to her family members about her experiences last year, after seeing the soap opera 100 Days to Fall in Love, which showed a transgender teenager's transition in a surprisingly understanding family. Mass media, including social networks, have undoubtedly brought the broad public closer to non-hegemonic gender themes.

But this broadening of personal problems into the public sphere has also undermined the authority of parents, and their ability to help, says psychoanalyst Lutereau. "Accompanying a young person means recovering the transformative and creative dimension of adolescence, without judging it, letting us change ourselves as parents," he says. "That is if we can give up being parents of a child, and we can accept being the parents of a child who is no longer a child."

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The Olympic torch is lit at the Archaeological site of Olympia in Greece.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Asham!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Pyongyang test fires a suspected submarine-launched missile, Colin Powell is remembered, Poland-EU tensions rise, and yay (or yeesh): it's officially Ye. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the new professional demands in a recovering economy.

[*Oromo - Ethiopia and Kenya]


• North Korea fires missile off Japan coast: South Korea military reports that North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the waters off the coast of Japan. The rocket, thought to have been launched from a submarine, is the latest test in a series of provocations in recent weeks.

• Poland/EU tensions: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of "blackmail" and said the European Union is overstepping its powers, in a heated debate with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the rule of law. The escalation comes in the wake of a controversial ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal that puts national laws over EU principles.

• Colin Powell remembered: Tributes are pouring for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after his death yesterday at age 84. Although fully vaccinated, Powell died from complications from COVID-19 as he was battling blood cancer. A trailblazing soldier, he then helped shape U.S. foreign policy, as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and served as the nation's top diplomat for George W. Bush. Powell's legacy is, by his own admission, "blotted" by his faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify the U.S. war in Iraq.

• Russia to suspend NATO diplomatic mission amid tension: Russia is suspending its diplomatic mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices in Moscow as relations with the Western military block have plunged to a new low. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the move after NATO expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission for alleged spying. Relations between NATO and Russia have been strained since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

• Ecuador state of emergency to battle drug crime: President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency amid Ecuador's surge in drug-related violence. He announced the mobilization of police and the military to patrol the streets, provide security, and confront drug trafficking and other crimes.

• Taliban agrees to house-to-house polio vaccine drive: The WHO and Unicef campaign will resume nationwide polio vaccinations after more than three years, as the new Taliban government agreed to support the campaign and to allow women to participate as frontline health workers. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world with endemic polio, an incurable and infectious disease

• Kanye West officially changes name: Some say yay, some say yeesh, but it's official: The-artist-formerly-known-as-Kanye-West has legally changed his name to Ye, citing "personal reasons."


The Washington Post pays tribute to Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, who died at 84 years old from complications from COVID-19.


Jashn-e Riwaaz

Indian retailer Fabindia's naming its new collection Jashn-e Riwaaz, an Urdu term meaning "celebration of tradition," has been met with severe backlash and calls for boycott from right-wing Hindu groups. They are accusing the brand of false appropriation by promoting a collection of clothes designed for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, but giving it a name in Urdu, a language spoken by many Muslims.


Work → In Progress: Where have all the workers gone?

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback. This edition of Work → In Progress looks not only at the coming changes in our post-COVID economy, but also the ways our world is re-evaluating professional obligations.

🗓️ Hail the 4-day week Across the planet, the shorter work week trend is spreading like wildfire. Four is the new five. Spain began experimenting with the concept earlier this year. New Zealand launched a similar trial run in 2020. And in Iceland, efforts to curb working hours date all the way back to 2015, with significant results: 86% of the country's workforce gained the right to reduce work hours with no change in pay.

🚚 Empty seats In the United States, meanwhile, a severe lack of truck drivers has the country's transportation industry looking to hire from abroad. The only problem is … the shortage is happening worldwide, in part because of the e-commerce boom in the wake of worldwide quarantines. The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that companies will be scrambling to fill the jobs of 17,000 truck drivers in the next two years. The article blames low wages and the dangerous nature of the job, stating that Italian companies are making moves to employ foreign workers.

💼 Key help wanted It's all well and good to question current working conditions. But what about 20 years from now? Will we be working at all? A recent article in the French daily Les Echos posed just that question, and posits that by 2041 — and with the exception of a few select jobs — automation and digitalization will decimate employment. The piece refers to the lucky few as "essential workers," a concept that originated with COVID lockdowns when almost all labor halted and only a minority of workers capable of performing society's most crucial in-person tasks were allowed to carry on.

➡️


I'm worried for my Afghan sisters.

— Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize tells the BBC that despite the Taliban's announcement that they would soon lift the ban on girls' education in Afghanistan, she worries it "might last for years."

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more yay or yeesh about the artist currently known as Ye? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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