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Brianne Johnson: Sexual awakening through PG-13

By Brianne Johnson, Daily Film Columnist
Published October 9, 2012

Warning: This column may contain language, sexual content and cheeky puns unsuitable for children.

Let it be known: “Bring It On” is the gateway drug of PG-13 films. By 11 years old, I was addicted — I thrived on the thinly veiled, homoerotic innuendo (Hello, Sexy Leslie and Jan-Jan the Cheerleading Man!); I cheered along to the chorus of “B-E AGGRESSIVE” and I coasted on the high of my growing vocabulary of expletives, none of which I put to use (or even understood).

Stepping into junior high school, I had expected to achieve juvenile delinquency before trading in my retainer for big-girl braces. Suffer no misunderstanding; I wasn’t the steal-your-neighbor’s-GameBoy bully, nor the Head Bitch of the Big Wheel gang. While I had been known to don an orange jumpsuit (albeit as a life-size jack-o-lantern for my ninth Halloween), my life of crime began with a slip of the remote control and an ABC Family “Bring It On” special.

Charged with third-degree underage viewing of a PG-13 movie (The boner jokes, the blasphemy!), and sentenced to years of shame, I am a hardened ex-cinema criminal, with nothing to show for it but memories of Kirsten Dunst in a scrunchie chanting about a gas pump.

What mesmerized me most was not scenes of bitter cheer rivals, nor the snappy one-liners and signature ’00s belly shirts that drew my spirit fingers to the VCR’s pause-and-rewind.

It was the sex. Obviously.

“But, Brianne,” you argue, “There’s about as much sex in ‘Bring It On’ as in the twin bunks of a Betsy Barbour double.”

Perhaps, but instead I speak of the essence of sex: the raw, hair-slinging, back-arching crawls across audition room tables as Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” growls from a background boom box. Thrilled (and a bit terrified) by the seconds-long clip, I felt like a preteen boy discovering his dad’s stash of Hustler mags, feeling things (figuratively, mind you) that I, maybe, shouldn’t have been feeling.

As most great tales of sexual discovery say, ‘it all went downhill from there’. My infatuation flooded the dustier shelves of my parents’ movie collection, unearthing R-rated gems like “American Pie” and “Bad Santa” (more coal than gem). Sneaking 10 minutes of “Old School” per week paved my road to Hell, a street on which no after-school crossing guard could lead me to safety. Soon I would scramble from the bus stop to my bedroom, DVD case smuggled against my belly button. I strained to hear floorboards creaking down the hall as my finger hovered over the small “Off” dotting my TV.

I learned what it truly meant to live “life on the edge:” Starring wide-eyed at a muted “American Pie 2” scene as your mother cooks dinner rooms away.

At this point, reader, you expect me to indulge you in stories of my downward spiral into sexual addiction, an unaired MTV documentary and an insatiable libido comparable to well-endowed men with well-endowed mustaches.

Close, but no cigar (do I sense a phallic symbol?).

Have I proven the over-zealous censorship councils right in their tirades against the no-good, perverted clutches of the media, providing them with a shining example of a good girl-gone-bad seed? Am I made rotten by graphic afternoons, by leaving “Barney & Friends” behind for what some may deem soft-core porn?

Nah. I prefer the term “biased-social-psychology-experiment-gone-awry” for — take a seat, you may want to sit down for this one — I turned out just fine.

Ask me if the media was my go-to source of sexual education, and I won’t hesitate to nod fiercely; “You bet your ass it was.” When schools distribute sex-ed pamphlets explaining no more than abstinence and “Hair in Funny Places” and when adults underestimate a child’s ability to comprehend the concept of sex, where else could I have turned for the taboo topic but Hollywood?

It’s easy to forget one’s mentality as a child, to dismiss the immature mind as innocent and oblivious chaos. Denying that sex could have invaded your naïve thoughts at 11 years old — too simple. But my mother could clasp a hand over my eyes for only so long; I began to wonder what I’d been missing. Sex, it’s not something I considered doing — I was still batting at negative third base, flirting with a creased Aaron Carter poster and making Barbies kiss. But to deny that I was aware of sex would be a lie, proven by my fourth grade punishment for disrupting the class for a good laugh at the dictionary’s most interesting word: “breast.”

Maybe my mind was a sponge at 11 years old, but does that make me a submissive audience, my brain soaking up the sexual imagery like Little Bobby’s post-Playboy Kleenex? No. Sex in the media: It sells (heck, it excites), but it doesn’t corrupt. Bring it on.