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Sexual Excitement Shared By Females (case: The Beatles)

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Published on Jan 22, 2013

THE TEEN scream has a short but shrill history. It began with the young Frank Sinatra and the bobbysoxers in what US papers dubbed the 'National Teenage Love Affair'. It came to a messy climax in October 1944 at New York's Paramount Theater where there was an all-day film and Sinatra show. The rule was that you could hold your seat as long as you stayed in it. Only 250 out of 3,600 girls left, inspiring the 30,000 queuing outside to begin the defenestration of Times Square. Inside, the rest hollered and defied the increasingly hoarse calls of nature: there was not a dry eye, or indeed seat, in the house.

This frenzy was inexplicable to adults, not least because of its object. The young Sinatra looked like Bambi on a stick: huge beseeching eyes set in a gaunt face perched on a glad-rag-and-bone frame. Social critics queued up to offer explanations: 'Escapism and substitution for love', said one; 'primordial mothering instinct,' opined another. They all noted that Frankie 'sent the girls wild', but that was a mistake: it presumed that the girls were tame in the first place.

The same went for the Beatles. Cherubic Paul McCartney was the universal darling, while the sulky and dangerous John Lennon attracted the boys and the more daring girls. Irma Kurtz, Cosmopolitan's agony aunt, feels that the ambivalent sexuality of many of the teen idols suits both sides: 'Some of the boys would probably prefer to turn on girls who can only scream'

Wholesome, almost neutered, the teen hero makes screaming feel safe, but it's being in a crowd that gives you the confidence to macerate your vocal chords. Manwatcher Desmond Morris recalls being at a party in the Sixties with a young Beatles fan when John Lennon walked in: 'She was completely silent and showed no emotion - it just wasn't an appropriate context.' In fact, Morris believes that the teen scream has little to do with the love object at all: 'Essentially they scream for each other, to share the emotion. The ritual of screaming is to signal that they are sharing the sexual excitement. It says, 'Like you, I have become sexually interested'. It's a sort of coming of age.'

The 1960s was a decade marked not only by the Beatles' global conquest but also by the stirrings and eventual advent of radical feminism. Particularly in the United States, women began searching for liberation in various areas of life, such as freedom from traditional domestic roles imposed by the historical patriarchy of society. According to Marcy Lanza, an early American fan of the Beatles, the women's movement "didn't just happen. It was an awareness that came over you -- that you could be your own person. For many of us, that began with the Beatles. They told us we could do anything."The Beatles provided the opportunity for women to break free from expected gender norms through a movement that the press called "Beatlemania," a new kind of fanaticism that seized the 1960s with unprecedented ferocity. Beatlemania was the first widespread outburst during the sixties to feature women -- in this case, teen aged girls -- in a radical context.

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