The truth about what happened at Lakewood High School may never be known.
But the claim that some members of the "Spur Posse" slept with dozens of girls--and used points to tally their sexual encounters--has provoked amazement, outrage and fear.
It's not that "scoring" sex is something new, but it seems to have taken on new dimensions. Getting to "first base," "second base" or "going all the way" has apparently given way to the faster pace of basketball--or even Nintendo. The leading Don Juan of the Spur Posse claims almost 70 points--meaning sex with 70 different girls.
Is Lakewood just an isolated case, or are adults oblivious to the realities of teen-age sex?
Experts (read: grown-ups) and teen-agers from other schools say both answers are correct. The Spurs, although atypical, aren't alone.
"Seventy points--I think they exaggerated on that," says Anthony Sanford, 18, a student at the Metropolitan Skills Center, a Los Angeles high school. "That's not average."
But Sanford's estimate of what is average might still surprise the average parent. In his case, he says, it's "about 30."
Sex, Sanford says, has become "one of the main things in how we're growing up. It's just an everyday thing."
To be sure, many teens don't have dozens of sexual partners--and many don't engage in sex at all--but for a sizable number of others, sex has become commonplace.
According to a study released last year by the national Centers for Disease Control, 54% of U.S. students in grades nine through 12 have had sex--and seven out of 10 high school seniors. The stereotype about men and sexual conquests has always been around. And there is precedent for a "point" system--at least if one believes the reported sexual exploits of public figures such as Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain.
But the Lakewood episode has left many wondering about the level of sexual involvement among teen-agers and their attitude toward it. A 1988 survey of sexually active males, age 15 to 19, found that 27% had had six or more partners.
Los Angeles psychiatrist Mark Goulston says part of the problem is an "escalation of everything that plays to the senses": Roller coasters of the 1990s dwarf the roller coasters of the 1950s, scary movies are far more gory than their predecessors and "what was kinky in the 1950s or '60s is now on prime-time television."
The 1990s, he adds, are "more of a time of urgency than the 1950s or '60s. (Teens) are more concerned with grabbing onto something than holding on because you can't hold on to anything. Parents can't hold on to their marriages or their jobs . . . so (youngsters) grab for the quick score instead of holding on for the longer-lasting ride."
Or, as Sanford's classmate Tony Ramirez puts it: "While you're young, have fun."
For Ramirez, 18, that means sleeping with a girl a maximum of two times before moving on. After that, he and some other boys agree, it gets "boring" or the girl starts to get jealous or nag.
And they seem to have no regrets about using a girl for sex.
"We're just not sentimental," says Christian Urbina, 17. "That's why we're men. . . . We like girls, we don't love them. . . . You see a girl and you just think, yeah, she's really pretty and the first thing that comes to mind is you want to have sex."
Once that happens, Urbina says, many boys dump the girl.
Says Goulston: "A lot of boys don't know how they really feel about a girl until they have sex with her. There's so much sexual tension that they can't (analyze the situation or) think about anything else." After the liaison, "they often don't respect the girl because of (the old maxim): Why belong to a club that would have me as a member."
Girls, of course, are often wise to the routine--so boys have devised any number of methods to win--and later lose--their prey.
"Get them drunk," one teen says.
Sweet-talk them, offers another. "Keep them laughing . . . (and) be a gentleman."
Urbina suggests playing on the girls' own sexual desires: "You start kissing her and hugging her and little by little you start touching her." Adds Sanford: "They want it just the same as we do. All it takes is a little conversation."
After the deed, some dump the girl immediately. Others spend a few weeks "making up excuses" or ignoring the girl to "let her off easy," Urbina says.
Sanford sometimes creates "a false argument" and then uses it to justify breaking off the relationship.
"Girls get mad, but they don't take it hard," Urbina says. "They live with it."
And they can't really complain to others, Ramirez adds, or they'll be viewed as "sluts."
Goulston says the sexual conquests allow the boys to feel manly--to compare themselves favorably with men in their 20s and older. The teens seem to agree, although they express it in less sophisticated terminology: "It gives you confidence," Sanford says.
"It makes you feel good," adds Urbina.
And point systems like the one used at Lakewood High aren't even necessary.
"You're not racing against nobody," Urbina says. "It's not like a competition to see who can get the most. It's just get it if you can."