That old joke about oral sex and lobster thermidor? Simply not funny any more. Tim Harford explains why giving head is now the dish de jour among certain groups of teenage girls. It seems to have little to do with the reasons advanced by a slightly overwrought Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic Monthly. Flanagan overwrote:

The moms in my set are convinced -- they're certain; they know for a fact -- that all over the city, in the very best schools, in the nicest families, in the leafiest neighborhoods, twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls are performing oral sex on as many boys as they can. They're ducking into janitors' closets between classes to do it; they're doing it on school buses, and in bathrooms, libraries, and stairwells. They're making bar mitzvah presents of the act, and performing it at "train parties": boys lined up on one side of the room, girls working their way down the row.

But while she touched on a whole bunch of reasons that she thought behind the trend, Flanagan missed the one reason isolated by the economists whose work Harford reports: It's safer. (She also missed the fact that it might also be as much fun to give as to receive, but that's a whole 'nother godbotherin' story.) 1


  1. 16 February 2020: Wouldn't you know it; while I was able, with some effort, to track down links that worked for the two substantive pieces I wrote about, this final one is nowhere to be found. And I cannot dredge up what it might have said. 

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