8: Teenage Sex

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In 1996, Scream taught American teenagers the first rule to surviving a horror movie. Never, ever have sex. Classic slasher movies have their roots in an urban legend we all heard growing up: a guy and a girl are parked on a deserted lover’s lane making out while a hook-handed killer is on the loose. The 2000s gave us urban legends about dangerous teen sex games, Rainbow parties and sex bracelets, as well as bans on high school dances over grinding and twerking, and with the recent outrage over teen sexting, it seems that kids these days are out of control. But since the invention of the American teenager, rumor and outrage has swirled around this reckless developmental stage. Through looking at the start of teenage culture in the 1920s, when risqué dance trends and controversial make-out parties scandalized the nation, we’ll find the roots of these modern moral panics, and see how our battles around sex education have left them in an uneducated limbo, creating suburban legends to make sense of their parents’ utter horror at their private lives.

This episode is sponsored by Daily Harvest, the superfood subscription service. Head to daily-harvest.com and use our promo code American to get three cups free in your first box.

American Hysteria is written and produced by Chelsey Weber-Smith
Assistant produced by Derrick Smith
Produced and edited by Clear Commo Studios
Voice acting by Will Rogers and Lily Orrey
Show art by Roache

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59 episodes