Friday, August 12, 2011

The Secret Sex Lives of Teenagers circa 1975

The Terrible Love Life of Dudley Cornflower by Kin Platt. Bradbury Press, 1976.

Told in the first person this book is an exaggerated view of a fifteen year old with a frustrated sex drive indulging in flights of fancy. Dudley Cornflower seems to be the only teenage virgin left in the entire L.A. Area. His worrisome and compulsive personality leads him to seeking out every piece of advice that can help him achieve the goal of getting laid. His best friend Charley Dell, a self-proclaimed stud, gives him this simple, yet torrid advice: “find 'em, feel 'em, fuck 'em”.

After eliminating over 200 girls in his school as possible prey, Dudley is left with two options. First, there is Kelly Lake, a very sensible girl who also happens to be blind. Her only interest in Dudley seems to be of a psychological bent in order to uncover why he is such a weirdo. Then, there is Dolores Carter, an average looking girl with a mustache who grabs at Dudley's crotch and lets him feel her up in public. He does not do it with her for fear of the clap. Other encounters include sexual experiences in a decked out 70's love van and nymphomaniacs who hang out amongst library stacks.

Dudley's single mother is portrayed as a swinger who only feeds more fire to Dudley's insecurities. Her bluntness is in large part the major issue when it comes to Dudley's problems. She has been divorced three times and seems to think about sex as often as her son.

It is only through love that Dudley will be able to overcome his obsessions. However, the thin line between getting laid and having a relationship is distorted with hilarious cartoon precision. Like in many of his other books, Platt places his character against a backdrop of failed parenting and a world gone mad.

In 1977, librarian and teacher Dorothy M. Broderick wrote to Kin Platt wishing to discuss his book in her new magazine VOYA aimed at young adult librarians. She asked Kin, “...because there are so many women in our profession, books that speak to the male experience are having a particular hard time. Some very nice men in our profession are being made to feel rotten for identifying with Dudley. I'd be interested in your observations.”

Here is Kin's response:

“...To begin with, I knew the subject was risky. The taboo was there but I decided to go against it. I had hoped that the highest level I could write it at might ward off the do-gooders who seek to protect those who might want to learn about life. I also thought Dudley's fantasizing might make it acceptable, and nobody would suffer from the idea and situations inherent in a real boy trying to make it with a real girl. It's funny, of course, that they won't allow this but the puritan ethic is very strong, and almost everybody fears to come out and openly espouse Dudley, or any other boy in a determined sexual drive.

[However] nobody to my knowledge ever became pregnant from reading a book...Perhaps it might have been different if I had done Dudley seriously along the lines Judy Blume took with her most acceptable book Forever... (We're good friends and her kids love Dudley.) So the factors are that I dared to make fun of a serious situation, spoofed it, made motherhood common and spoiled everyone's notion of their own fantasy lives.”


So, for comparison purposes, here is a description of Blume's book, published only one year earlier by the same publisher. It has gone through multiple printings, sold millions of copies and remains in print to this day. Dudley, on the other hand, was never reprinted and never even appeared in paperback format.

Forever... by Judy Blume. Bradbury Press, 1975.

Katherine Danziger is an 18 year old girl growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey in the 1970's. She falls in love and comes to her own decision as to whether or not sex is right for her at this time in her life. Her friends and parents offer advice and pressures. Ultimately Katherine decides for herself, choosing to act cautiously and take the necessary precautions. Her caring parents warn her that relationships at this age should not last forever. While she disagrees with them, this ultimately turns out to be the case and “forever” turns out to be not that long.

What is interesting about this book is that Katherine does not regret the sex she had. She still looks fondly upon it, even after the relationship has ended. Katherine proves to be a strong woman capable of making intelligent decisions on her own. She is neither swayed or manipulated. Instead, she is in control and confident. Having sex before marriage in no way mars her; it does not make her a “slut”. Instead, the experience only seems to strengthen her as a free thinking woman of the future.


And just for kicks, here are two movie posters for teen flicks from 1976-1977 displaying some of the popular tastes and fashion from this time period. Could these raunchy sex comedies have been inspired by Dudley Cornflower?
and (below) cover from Newsweek, September 1, 1980

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