Sex &Self-Worth

Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, I just wanna be your girl
I do, I do, I do
Johnny, Johnny all you gotta do is say the word
I’ll do, I’ll do, do anything for you
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny wants me always wearing heels
So I do, I do, I do
‘Cause Johnny’s gonna be the one who finally makes me real
It’s you, it’s you, it’s you
Oh, Johnny
I think I love you

-“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny” by Underscores

Ever since I heard this song, I haven’t been able to unstick it from my brain; a cacophony of preteen feels bouncing around my brain. This is typically my cue that I need to write about it. 

This song is bubblegum pop on the surface, with layers of harsh reality lurking beneath its lightness. 

This song has transported me through time; to an age where I was at peak superficiality and insecurity with self. At 11 I was already wrestling with hormonal changes, and inundated with male attention due to my changing body. This time of life seemed so carefree, yet so insidiously dangerous.

It may also be worth noting that at this time I was growing up in the Bible Belt south. If you’re unfamiliar with purity culture, I am wholeheartedly happy to hear this. Also, here’s a primer: 

You exist as a woman to be “whole” in the eyes of the lord and the only way to achieve this is to remain “pure” i.e. virginal, until a man chooses you and you are bound to him by marriage. This is the first and only time those primal and sexual urges of lust shall be explored, as they are now considered in service to your man and by extension, God. 

Simultaneously while you are learning all of this in the halls of church, you are thrust into the wild throes of preteen existence in this developing body where you crave attention and acceptance like nothing else you’ve ever known. At this age we are sandwiched between leaving a fantasy view of our world behind while integrating real-world experiences of living amongst others.

What a fucking confusing paradigm to exist in. 

This song presents “Johnny” as the object the narrator is yearning for. If only they could have Johnny’s attention, they could feel like they were enough. 

Not unlike this narrator, this is about the age I turned to boys to seek validation. My sexuality and identity were so newly formed in this progressively changing body, and all I wanted was to be loved and accepted. Sitting 20 years removed from this age, I can point to this and say “girl, you need to love yourself and make peace within before latching onto anyone externally” but have you ever known a preteen to talk to themselves this way? I have yet to meet one. 

Although we tend to form our attachment patterns earlier in childhood, I could be convinced this is the time where attachments get real field experience. As someone who works intimately with attachment trauma, I could go on and on, but for simplicity’s sake let’s view attachment as this:

“How we learn to love and be loved.”

If you are an adult who likely by now has had their fair share of attachment practice, you can see how wrought with instability this path could take. When our attachments are rooted in insecurity, we will never feel like enough. 

To base our entire sense of meaning and worthiness on another’s perception of us, is a surefire way to build a volatile relationship with yourself. This pattern breeds a way of thinking incompatible with stable self-worth. When the only re-enforcement of worth you are receiving is based on your looks, or what you can do for someone sexually, your internal existence becomes meaningless.

I worry about younger generations. I worry that if we continue to perpetuate these conditioned attachment patterns as a culture, we will continue to propagate unrealistic views of self and others that will in turn dissociate us from the human experience. 

To love and be loved is a hallmark of being human, period. When we don’t have this foundation we live meandering existences, and question our worth. Does this sound like a society you want to be a part of?

I don’t know what exactly to advocate for. I can of course point to inconsistent caregiving, shitty sex education, and so many other factors contributing to a sense of weaponized sexuality that exists within our society; but I do know what I want my focus to be going forward when I interact with future generations. 

I want to emphasize and model a culture where relationship with self is the foundation of resiliency and well-being. There is so little we have control over in our external world. Let us emphasize the richness of internal resources for our fellow humans. When environments and attachments are built on the bedrock of this, we have a much better chance at withstanding the winds of circumstance wreaking havoc on our sense of worth. 

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