3 THINGS THIS WEEK
1. Cuomo Comes Out
What it is: Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo has revealed in an interview that she identifies as demisexual, which means she is only sexually attracted to people she has a close emotional bond with.
Why it’s worth understanding: Your teen and their peers probably don’t care too much about who the New York State Governor’s twenty-three-year-old daughter finds attractive. But the term “demisexual” has become accepted as part of the LGBTQ+ lexicon, so understanding what it means matters. Kennedy-Cuomo lists sexual identities she resonated with during her young years, including “bisexual” and “pansexual.” She was looking for a banner of belonging, “the flag for her.” She says that she hopes that someday, disclosing a sexual identity and “coming out” won’t be something anyone will need to do, but that doing so still feels necessary, even a moral obligation. Demisexuality implies that only being attracted to people you feel emotionally connected to is the exception, not the norm, and that that style of attraction can indicate a person with a lower sex drive. Demisexuality is also closely associated with asexuality, people who have little to no desire for sexual intimacy. As these sexual identities continue to fragment into increasingly specific subgroups, we can listen to understand while also pointing out to curious teens that the desire for emotional closeness in demisexuality sounds a lot like many traditional expectations for sex within a marriage context.
2. Catfish Camera
What it is: Catfishing on TikTok continues to become more and more prevalent as adults pretend to be minors on the app as a way to get followers and make money.
Why it’s more likely to trick you than your teenager: Let’s face it, there’s no group on Earth better at sniffing out a phony than teenagers. And since many teens are also informed up-to-the-moment with the very latest advancements in technology and photo-editing trickery, many in the twenty-and-under set are adept at identifying adults posing as teenagers on the app and simply scrolling on past those accounts. What’s concerning is that these adults who are pretending to be minors have found a target demographic willing and able to pay for content that sexualizes the idea of being underage. These “catfish” use TikTok and other social media as a way to market their paid channels, such as OnlyFans. Most of these content creators may not actually be sixteen, but they look like they could be (or edit themselves to look like they could be), and voyeurists watching them may very well believe that they are underage when they are performing explicit acts on camera. We don’t want to frighten our teens, but it’s our job to help them understand pornography that sexualizes teens and children is a horrifying evil that we should never ignore.
3. Do Try This at Home
What it is: A viral TikTok trend you might actually want to try at home: mustard on a slice of watermelon.
Why it’s surprisingly refreshing: We’ve lost count of the number of disturbing, confusing, and outright baffling trends that come from TikTok. Whether the app is encouraging thirteen-year-olds to eat raw protein powder or challenging them to mock people with disabilities, it seems there’s always something to be wary of on the app. But #WatermelonMustard is one of the more wholesome summer mainstays on the For You Page. Even singer Lizzo gave it a try. All you need is a couple slices of watermelon and your mustard of choice and for just a moment, you and your teen can brave the wilds of TikTok trend-dom together without being afraid something awful is about to happen. (We tried it, and survived.) So what if the user who started the trend was possibly trolling the internet. Bon appetit!
Slang of the Week:
Poggers: an expression of excitement that typically refers to something surprising, impressive, or delightful, usually during a video game (see also: Pog, PogChamp).
(Thanks to a few readers for this submission! Any slang words or phrases you’re hearing lately? Let us know here and we’ll spread the word.)
3 Big Questions
“While incredibly relevant for teenagers in this moment, there is eternal truth here that transcends all ages” — so says award-winning author and podcaster Skye Jethani regarding the Fuller Youth Institute’s new book, 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager. Based on interviews with 2,200 teenagers across the U.S., Dr. Kara Powell and her team uncovered these three questions at the core of today’s teens’ quest for meaning: Who am I, Where do I fit, and What difference can I make?
In some sense, these are questions that human beings have always asked, but with the internet and social media they have taken on new significance. Teenagers today live simultaneously in several spaces (some online, some offline) in ways that previous generations didn’t. They are connected to increasingly diverse groups of people, with increasingly diverse expectations of them. As a result, many teens feel pressured not only to be their best selves at all times, but to be who each category expects them to be.
“Young people struggle to find satisfying and life-giving answers to these questions on their own,” as Fuller’s research summary puts it. “They need caring adults willing to lean in with empathy, practice listening, and gently point them in the direction of better answers: that they are enough because of Jesus, they belong with God’s people, and they are invited into God’s greater story.” We heartily agree.
If you signed up for the Culture Translator in the last couple of months, you should have received a free copy of our Parent’s Guide to Teen Identity, which unpacks some of these same dynamics and offers tips for how to frame the Gospel and life in Christ as the deepest answers to these questions. 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager comes out in early August as well.
In the meantime, here are some questions we hope might spark discussion along these lines with your teens (and pre-teens):
- What’s one thing you really like about yourself?
- Where do you feel like it’s easiest to let your guard down?
- Do you feel passionate about making a difference? Have you found ways to do that?
Keep the Faith!
- The Axis Team