Controversial t-shirts for high school girls.

I am not a fan of censorship, especially at the highschool level. I think young people should be allowed to express themselves how they feel. Repression is problematic, but what if how you are expressing yourself is detrimental to yourself or the people around you?
How do we feel about young girls wearing suggestive sexual slang on their shirts in highschool?

They’re blatantly sexual, occasionally clever and often loaded with double meanings, forcing school administrators and other students to read provocations stripped across the chest, such as “yes, but not with u!,” “Your Boyfriend Is a Good Kisser” and “two boys for every girl.” Such T-shirts also are emblematic of the kind of sleazy-chic culture some teenagers now inhabit, in which status can be defined by images of sexual promiscuity that previous generations might have considered unhip.
At Potomac Senior High School in Prince William, a girl recently wore a black T-shirt parodying the “Got Milk?” ad, with sexual slang replacing the word “milk.” Steve Bryson, the school’s administrative assistant, brought the girl into his office. “I asked her, ‘Why would you wear something like that?’ And she said: ‘I don’t know. My dad knows that I have it,'” he recalled. “So I called the dad, and, of course, he had no idea. He said, ‘Throw it away.’
One popular merchant of suggestive shirts is Hollister Co., a chain owned by Abercrombie & Fitch. Its shirts say such things as “two boys for every girl” and “FLIRTING MY WAY TO THE TOP.”
Asked about the messages his company markets to teenagers, Thomas D. Lennox, Abercrombie & Fitch’s vice president of corporate communications, said, “Our T-shirts are sometimes controversial, which we’re fine with.” He declined to elaborate.

Yuck, I hate Hollister and Co. We can’t really ignore the corporate motivation behind this notion of “controversial.” I mean is it really still student self-expression if everyone is wearing the same shirts and an entire company dedicated to marketing to young people is endorsing it?
I don’t necessarily know if the shirts themselves are so bad, as is the lack of sex education in most public schools. Are most young women getting the education they need around self-esteem and sex? Furthermore, an analysis of how corporate enterprise supports these shirts is impossible to ignore. How do companies like Hollister benefit from the “slutification” of young women?

Join the Conversation

  • Renee

    When I started teaching college this year, I was less struck by the girls’ shirts than by the boys': “If you lick them, they will come,” “Tell your breasts to stop staring at my eyes,” and I think my all time fave “Hey virgins, thanks for nothing!”
    I understand that censorship is wrong, but why should I be sexually harassed every time I stand up to teach a class?

  • Sailorman
  • marta5

    I think it’s sad that young girls sexual self esteem is only dependent on the attention of boys.
    And as for the “controversy”? America seems to be full of rebels without a cause. How boring.

  • B.D.

    I was a tad disturbed to see a young woman come into my store this week wearing a t shirt that read “These are my back stage passes” in words that circled her breasts. I’m not normally bothered by slogans or clothes, but the message sent by that shirt was a bad one.

  • Mikey

    “Two boys for every girl” at least is a parody of that Beach Boys song, so I think I can let that one off the hook.
    marta5: I think calling them rebels without a cause sells the James Dean movie a little bit short. I’m thinking more of Lisa Simpson’s “How rebellious! In a conformist sort of way.”

  • norbizness

    I never would have said it when I was confidently expressed my individuality in late 80s high school, but it’s time to uniform all their asses.

  • Vervain

    I just can’t get too worked up about dodgy tshirt slogans, personally. I think that most of the time the tone of these sorts of shirts is sarcastic or satirical, and I don’t think anyone would buy the “But her shirt said…!” defense from a sexual harasser or rapist, because it’s usually understood that those sorts of slogans are meant to be ironic or hyperbolic.
    Are they distracting, especially in high schools? Yeah, probably.
    It’s also not a new thing–I distinctly remember seeing a tshirt on a girl when I was in high school over a decade ago that said “Unbutton My Fly” (a parody of the Levis “Button Your Fly” ads) and no one took that literally, or even commented on it, as I recall.
    Anyway, it’s not as if the schools that object to these types of shirts can’t just ban them, just like they banned Bart Simpson shirts that “glorified” being an “underachiever” back in the 80s.

  • frabjabulous

    I had the “Yes, but not with you…” shirt in high school (and that was 5 years ago)… personally I still think it’s a hilarious comeback to any stupid pickup line. And what’s so dangerous about that?
    I remember the vice principal asking me why everyone was wearing “porn star” shirts… I just explained to him that it was a brand that people seemed to think was cool.
    Still, it surprises me that these usually-lame slogan shirts are still going strong after 5 years…

  • Jessica

    You know, while these shirts are def more…provocative, I guess, than the ones I wore in high school–we still wore shit that alluded to sex. I used to have this shirt that said pervert in front and “practice what you preach” on the back. Though it was a boy’s shirt from a skater company and was super baggy (as was the style back then). I don’t think I gave the sexual connotation much thought. Like the girl who said she liked her shirt cause she had shoes to match–I remember liking the shirt because of the color and because the words were graffiti style…now I’m just rambling.

  • Jami

    i was weirded out when my 13-year-old sister liked to wear pants with “juicy” written on the butt and the slogan t-shirts she could get past my mom. those were tame compared to these.
    it’s nice of frabjabulous to tell all us oldies why they do that. much as it gives the adults in their lives a really bad impression of them, it’s not primarily sexual advertising — it’s because the popular/pretty girls are doing it.
    to stop this, we need dorky old folks to start wearing them. my boss would just love that “got cum?” t-shirt.

  • Happy Feminist

    OMG — this such a breastblog. You’re showing females with breasts, yet again. What’s with the obsession?
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
    I am not into telling kids what to wear on their own time — but schools should be able to require a certain degree of decorum. I don’t think administrators should ever be allowed to measure girls’ skirt lengths or necklines, but I think slangy words on shirts are fair game. It’s supposed to be a learning environment after all and it’s never to early to learn that you can’t totally express your innermost thoughts with your clothing on every occasion in every context.

  • Trixie

    Actually the “Two Guys for Every Girl” shirt is a reference to a song by Peaches from her album “Impeach my Bush”. It’s a play on how guys get all hot and bothered by chicks making out with each other. Instead she is saying she wants to see two guys making out, which flies in the face of our cultural norm of what it sexually arousing….”I wanna see you do it with your nasty little brother, I wanna see you work it guy on guy”. Peaches rocks. By turning the stereotypes around she exposes just how demeaning the stereotypes really are.

  • Vervain

    Instead she is saying she wants to see two guys making out, which flies in the face of our cultural norm of what it sexually arousing…
    I take it you’re not familiar with the yaoi subculture. ;)

  • UltraMagnus

    Vervain, I’m happy you acknowldge the culture of yaoi but let’s put an emphasis on the “sub” as I’m a card carrying member (complete with paddle) and Trixie is right, two guys making out still flies in the face of the “norm.”
    Begin rant:
    Whenever I discuss my enjoyment of yaoi people, including women, can’t get it. They think it’s “gross” and “unnatural” and that two women together is fine because that’s “hot” and “women are *all* bi-sexual by nature anyway” etc. etc.
    There’s also the excuse that women’s bodies were “designed by nature” to be enjoyable to look at because we have “curves” and those “curves” make our bodies more beautiful to look at than mens bodies therefor two men on each other is “gross” no matter how hot they are.
    Yaoi is out there, true but people, i.e. men, are still made extrememly uncomfortable my male homosexuality and to have women enjoy it like men enjoy watching *lesbians* freaks people out to no end. Two women kissing is used to get ratings all the time, most people don’t even pay it any attention. Having two guys kiss? I have yet to see something like the O.C. have their normally hetro main character decide he wants to test out those waters for the pleasure and titlation of women like me.
    End rant. :)

  • trueblue_ethel

    This article pissed me off. Boys have been wearing shit like this for years (lame ass things like “BJ’s weiner stand” or “Mike’s Taxidermy: Stuffing Beavers since 1955″)and that’s not worth writing about, but when girls wear shirts (which in some cases, you could argue are merely sex positive and/or empowered) with sexual suggestion, it’s a big deal.
    Granted, some of these girls are really young. I don’t actually like any of these shirts, and I’d prefer for the whole lot of them to just go away, but I’m cringing at the double standard here.

  • Raging Moderate

    This is one of the reasons why most schools around here now have uniform policies. I have a friend who is a high school principal and she got sick of parents arguing that she was repressing little Johnny’s / Suzie’s creativity when she sent them home for being dressed innappropriately.

  • Kaethe

    Eh, I had a t-shirt in high school that said “Make it with a Lowe’s stud.” Teens enjoy wearing clothes with sexual plays on words because they are distancing themselves from younger people who don’t get it. Even if they choose not to be sexually active with other people, they are relishing all this new information that has recently coalesced in their minds.
    Are these t-shirts really a problem? It seems to me that a good-sized rack seemed to attract a lot of attention regardless of the slogan or lack thereof printed across it.
    I’m much more bothered that once again, it’s all about the girls being controlled by the men: Steve Bryson, the school’s admin assist calls the girl into his office (seriously, the secretary has his own office and is dragging students in there?) so that he can grill her on her shirt. Then he calls her dad. Yeah, and how many guys has he called into his office, about their clothes?
    It’s still slut shaming.

  • Jane Minty

    Yay for yaoi!
    The days have all been blending in here, but I recall seeing a decent man-on-man makeout session recently on TV.
    Ultra: I don’t know if you have a Myspace account, but there are some fun “emo boys kissing boys” and “suicide boys” type groups with LOTS of photos. Also you can type in “boys kissing boys” on Flickr and get some absolutely beautiful results. :)
    I’ve found that a lot of the younger girls (early 20s) are more open about digging this kind of thing because kids of that generation aren’t as likely to have been told NOT to enjoy it. It’s the old timers who have been told throughout the years that this is “wrong.”

  • Vervain

    UltraMagnus & Jane Minty
    (for everyone else, sorry for the OT) –
    Just to be clear, I wasn’t bashing yaoi–I have some distinctly yaoi leanings myself–and I agree with everything you said on the subject.
    I was making a playful joke about it because while it’s definitely a subculture, it seems to be a large and growing one. It’s definitely not something everyone’s heard of, but based on how frequently I stumble across references to it on the ‘net, it’s not exactly obscure, either.
    I’d speculate that it might be related to the greater acceptance/ “out”ness of gays in the media in the 90s generation, vs. the 80s generation where they still had one foot in the closet–you saw gay characters in movies and on TV, but only as supporting roles and usually solely for comedic effect (never mentioning teh sex) and while most poeple were aware there was something “funny” about Boy George and Elton John, no one ever really talked about why they were so, ah…festive. ;)
    Oh, and I’ll add Livejournal to Jane’s list, too.

  • UltraMagnus

    Yes, yaoi rocks. I will be sure to check out those links. Usually I just frequent the Manga sites and buy stuff. I was at Comic-Con this year and they actually had a booth for yaoi, which was surprising and nice.
    Vervain, I wasn’t taking it as you were bashing, sorry if you thought I was, I just wanted to empasize it is something that’s still up and coming.
    Jane Minty, were they already gay or hetro? Not that it even matters and I know I’m being nitpicky, but what I was saying was that with stuff like the O.C.,(which I keep using b/c it’s one of the most recent) where they had the main girl start “dating” another girl (there was that kiss during sweeps!!!) it would rarely happen for a second banana male character who was already established as hetro to all of a sudden decide or be tempted to explore the other side of the fence, even for a ratings stunt. I understand that’s because if a man were to ever have sex with, or even just make out with another man, he will be labeled as officailly “gay” and there’s no turning back from that label like there is for a woman.
    And to keep with the subject, I remember all kinds of kids in my class wearing various slogans and there was no problem with it because mostly the adults had no idea what was really being said. What we had banned was Confederate Flag memrobelia (i.e. shirts, belt buckles, car flags).

  • The Law Fairy

    Ultra, preach it!!
    This is one of my PET PEEVES. Lesbianism being socially acceptable (and note then, it’s only “hot” lesbians who are okay; the nasty old butch dykes are still nasty, natch) is NOT in this case evidence of empowerment or progressivism. It’s simply another way for men to objectify women. You’re one hundred percent right about thinking that “all” women are bisexual — that’s why it’s okay for women to kiss women, because they’d just as happily kiss men. So of course we’re not talking about *actual* lesbianism here. We’re talking about pretend lesbianism as yet another way to play into heterosexual male fantasies.
    Some of my girlfriends and I *love* the idea of two hot guys kissing — I mean, what’s not to like? I can think of PLENTY of guys whose bodies I would consider better than mine, and mine is nothing to sneeze at. I despise the notion there’s something “inherently” more beautiful about women’s bodies. Anyone who thinks that, I invite you to the women’s locker room at my gym. There are some UGLY, out of shape female bodies there. We can be JUST as ugly as men; people need to stop putting women’s bodies on a pedestal. Attractive bodies take work, not a particular combination of chromosomes.
    But you’re right — I do know lots of girls who think there’s something “gross” about two men kissing. I just hate how much even *women* have bought into this myth. Some of them even think this somehow benefits them. Sure, if being an object in the eyes of most men (and thereby at greater risk for rape and less respected in your job) is a “benefit,” then I guess they’re right…
    I think shows like Queer as Folk have been an absolute positive — now let’s have more mainstream shows where you have two men kiss, and it’s not reduced to mere comedic effect.

  • The Law Fairy

    Oh, also, Ultra, a great show that is really pushing the boundaries on these issues is Nip/Tuck. The son, a main character, had a much older girlfriend whom his parents didn’t approve of. Then they come to find out she’s a transsexual. He goes through a period of existential angst and beats up a transsexual, then kind of opens his mind to the possibility that sex and gender aren’t so black and white. And Nip/Tuck is pretty mainstream, I think — it gets more flack for its barely-allowed-on-cable borderline nudity and similarly borderline language (they throw around the word “shit” with impunity. Yay for FX!) than it does for its envelope-pushing counter-culture notions.

  • Jane Minty

    Ultra: I know mainstream tv is waaay behind in terms of featuring hetero/bi guys making out just for the hell of it. As far as the recent instance, I honestly cannot remember, though I got the impression one of them was also into women?
    Fairy: LOVE love love Nip/Tuck!
    This reminds me of a recent encounter with my inappropriate-humored yet conservative uncle; my female cousins and I always like to test his limits, so when he ventures into dirty joke territory we just strike back (and he LOVES it). I was showing him nude photo shoots of a few guys from my portfilio, some with huge erections. He actually found them amusing, and talked about that “guy with his dick in his hand.” When I continued with a few shots of a particular fully-clothed one, my uncle recoiled in horror and screamed, “I’m going to PUKE!!” The photos in question? A hetero cross-dressing friend of mine. It’s really strange what some men find so threatening.
    When one of the cousins was at the house later on, she squealed, “those cross dressing photos made us (her and the bf) want to go have sex immediately!”
    Educating the old timers can be mighty entertaining.

  • UltraMagnus

    Law Fairy,
    I knew there was a reason I always enjoyed your posts;)
    I love Nip/Tuck, I’m a super fan from episode one and I remember the transexual arch but sadly I do not like the Matt character, the writers can never find anything good to do with him. I’m enjoying the lack of him this season, truth be told. And also this season they will be looking into exploring Christian’s sexuality a little more, though we’ll see if they actually go that far with him. Though I am emensly enjoying this season as opposed to last.
    And yes, I completely agree with you about the gym locker room. Sometimes I look around and go, “It’s nice that we really are all different and there really isn’t that one perfect model” and other’s it’s, “Dear god put your clothes back on.”
    Then I realize that I don’t have to look and avert my eyes:)
    Story for you:
    Once, at work, we were talking about films and “Kinsey” came up and some guy went, “I could have done with a little less of Peter Sarsgaard (who did full frontal) and I was like, “Had it been a woman you would have been hooping and hollering. UNLESS it had been an unattractive woman, only then would you have said, “no thanks.” He looked at me as if I couldn’t have possibly appreciated Peter’s bravery (I did, though not because his body was asthetically pleasing but because it very rarely happens in mainstream film)and said, “Well, all of MY female friends would rather look at naked women than men” (notice how he had to bring women into the debate to back him up, happens every single time male nudity/yoai comes up)
    My reply to this is, “Well, 1) they’re probaly not telling you the truth in order to spare your feelings ’cause you’re a guy and women are taught that men are easily threatenend by other men so women often don’t admit to men that they do like to look at naked male bodies ‘lest you feel like you’re being judged, (as we often are) and 2)whenever we do get full frontal it’s often Harvery Keitel, or Peter, or Geoffry Roush who aren’t the prettiest of the bunch. YOU get women like Charlize Theron and up and coming young starlets who go nude to shed their good girl images so OF COURSE you enjoy nudity aimed at you. Were it Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt/Denzel Washington or that super awesome hunk from Battlestar Galactica doing the nudity for the female gaze you might hear a very different story. ;)
    And I apologize if I hijacked the postings.

  • lilcollegegirl

    Hee, definitely with everyone on the yaoi. I remember I went to ACEN for the first time and they had a yaoi booth with guys shouting “Get your hot guy-on-guy action here!” And a massive crowd in front, of course.
    But on the topic, I honestly have always read shirts like that as ironic, without even thinking about it much. Although I’m not totally sure how many people do the same.

  • lilcollegegirl

    Hee, definitely with everyone on the yaoi. I remember I went to ACEN for the first time and they had a yaoi booth with guys shouting “Get your hot guy-on-guy action here!” And a massive crowd in front, of course.
    But on the topic, I honestly have always read shirts like that as ironic, without even thinking about it much. Although I’m not totally sure how many people do the same.

  • Dave

    Ultra, your post reminded me of something. I was at a party with my wife and a number of her friends. I mentioned a traveling male stripper show would be coming to town and I volunteered to drop them off when it arrived. Most of the ladies said they would rather watch women strip and declined my offer.
    Then again, my wife was hooting and hollering when Jackie Chan showed off his bare butt in one of his movies. I laughed.

  • The Law Fairy

    Dave, interesting.
    I recently went to a bachelorette party in Las Vegas. We went to Thunder Down Under which was lots of fun but incredibly tame compared to what I understand happens at strip clubs, especially during bachelor parties. There were about 11 of us there, but I got the sense that only 3 or 4 of us really enjoyed the show… the rest kept saying things like, eh, I don’t really like men’s bodies, women’s bodies are so much more attractive, etc. I was astonished. If they like women’s bodies so much more, why are they straight?
    Ultra, *exactly*. For a change, I would like to see an issue of Vanity Fair with, say, tastefully nude Christian Bale and Roseanne Barr on the cover. Let’s have an ugly (according to society, anyway) girl with a hot guy for once. I’m sick of seeing Jack Nicholson get Amanda Peet and Helen Hunt, or Hugh Hefner get a gaggle of young, beautiful women he’d be arrested for sleeping with two years ago, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes hot women get hot guys — but you never, EVER see an ugly girl get the hot guy.
    Note, I’m not saying this because I think physical attractiveness is so overarchingly important, but as far as I’m concerned, what’s good for the goose is what’s good for the gander. It’s not right that only WOMEN are judged based so disproportionately on looks. If we have to worry that much about our appearance, so should men. And if men don’t like that, well then how about for once and for all we end this silly notion that looks are all that important in ANYONE, and let us women live our lives in peace???

  • Vervain

    Man, did I ever derail this thread! *feels oddly proud*
    This has nothing to do with tshirt slogans either, but regarding lack of male full-frontal in movies, which someone brought up–I’ve often wondered if it’s due in part to the actor’s willingness to appear that way. Most of the older ones seem to use “stunt butts” even for the non-frontal scenes, and avoid the full frontal altogether. Ewan MacGregor seems to be the rare exception–he’s got a LOT of full frontal on his resume. (not that I’m complaining–heehee!)
    I suspect it’s the “size” issue–if you’re a man who’s insecure about your size, you probably wouldn’t want to commit your naked image to film for people to pause…and judge…and compare…
    Also, erect penises are strictly porn territory, so if a guy is a “grower, not a shower” then he doesn’t get the chance to, ah, “redeem” himself to the audience after a less-than-impressive full-frontal nude shot.
    Food for thought, eh?

  • The Law Fairy

    verv, I HEART Ewan McGregor. He’s one that occurred to me who does nudity and is pretty easy on the eyes as well. Yay for Ewan!

  • DAS

    Regarding straight women finding naked men un-attractive, anyone else remember Berke Breathed’s explanation of this sort of thing: it’s one of those things cockroaches whisper to us while we sleep. D’ya think Berke Breathed anticipated the concept of the “meme”?

  • UltraMagnus

    Yeah, this thread is derailed but good:)
    Dave, I wasn’t suggesting that all women are like that, sorry if I forgot to clarify. I know women who too tell me women’s bodies are better to look at which, like Law Fairy, I have no idea how a woman who honestly doesn’t find men’s bodies physically attractive can have sex with them. This came up in a message board for the HBO show ROME, after an episode where there was full frontal nudity a guy was on the boards insisting that *real* women don’t like looking at men’s naked bodies and the women on the boards who did were actually gay men posing as women (I have no idea how he came to this conclusion) his wife was proof because she had more women’s magazines that had photos of women on them (go figure). I had the question of “Well, what does that say that your wife is repulsed by the sight of your penis?” but someone else beat me to it.
    Though as far as male nudity, fear of ridicule is a main factor for men not doing it, however it actresses who have done nudity don’t seem to have a problem putting herself out there for riducule for the size of her breasts, shape/amount of pubic hair, and how round her ass is. That’s three for one and that seems more than fair and if women are strong enough to take the hits why can’t the guys? If you don’t believe me take a trip over to the celeb nude data base ( and check out the “reviews” of the nudity in various films. As a woman it’s dang near disheartening.
    As for Ewen McGregor, “Pillow Book” anyone?:)

  • sojourner

    Male nudity in movies (in the U. S.- I have seen plenty of dicks in French movies) is bad for the movie and is bad for the actor’s carrier. (Straight) guys are not gonna like it because they think it makes them gay if God forbid they should see a penis! And a lot of girls are not gonna like it either because the same reasons mentioned by previous posters. I have heard that a lot too from women that they don’t find men’s bodies attractive. I think we are just brought up to think of ourselves and other women as objects of beauty/desire, pretty dolls. I mean think about all the instances that women’s bodies are used as decoration, a lot of women internalize that.

  • nonwhiteperson

    *real* women don’t like looking at men’s naked bodies and his wife was proof because she had more women’s magazines that had photos of women on them. as far as male nudity, fear of ridicule is a main factor for men not doing it
    first of all, the t-shirts are a no-no. bad for girls’ self-esteem, etc. as far as women not liking men’s bodies i think it has to do with the male gaze. we’re bombarded with images of women that men deem attractive because of the straight male-run marketplace. women look at women in magazines because we’re used to it. if images of nude or almost nude men were all over the place we’d start looking at that too. the marketplace doesn’t give us many options. i also don’t understand why erections are strictly porn territory. i think it’s the male gaze again and men do not want to look vulnerable or open to ridicule. women are also used to studying and analyzing the images of women’s bodies because so much of our relative worth is wrapped up in it.

  • Dave

    Straight male-run marketplace? Certainly not in the fashion industry.
    “Well, what does that say that your wife is repulsed by the sight of your penis?”
    No, just everyone else’s. That’s a joke.
    None of the above reasons as to why women would rather look at other women’s bodies really add up in my mind. We need some research on this.

  • nonwhiteperson

    Straight male-run marketplace? Certainly not in the fashion industry.
    Looking beyond fashion, straight men determine which bodies are desirable in porn, movies, television, celebrities, even everyday life because art imitates life and vice versa.

  • Scarlet

    I’m personally not interested in the Chippendale type or the sort of bodies that male strippers traditionally have. I don’t think objectifying men is the solution. It would be so much better, like the Law Fairy said, to stop focusing EXCLUSIVELY on people’s looks (and especially standardizing them at all costs: too old, too fat, too thin, etc.). I don’t think having the equivalent of a place like Hooters, for instance, with men waiting tables in thongs would be such a progress for equality. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, for both genders. Now give me Jeremy Irons naked any time (got nothing against a dose of Ewan McGregor though). :-)

  • nonwhiteperson

    None of the above reasons as to why women would rather look at other women’s bodies really add up in my mind. We need some research on this.
    Women look at other women’s bodies because we’re bombarded with images everywhere. Perhaps women don’t care too much about looking at others bodies because it’s not a big priority for us. One of things I like about the web is the preponderance of reading material over images. On the other hand, I’ve heard men mainly use the web for porn.