Junior Lost His Virginity On ‘black-ish’ & Dre’s Reaction Stemmed From A Pervasive Double Standard
Here's an awkward reality: kids grow up, and one of the things parents are responsible for teaching them is the whole story of the birds and the bees. And the Johnsons get a double dose of responsibility when both Junior & Zoey become sexually active on black-ish. The March 13 episode exposes just how hypocritical American culture can be when it comes to the differences between young men and women taking that life step.
When Dre finds out that Junior and his girlfriend Megan are having sex, he's thrilled. Without communicating much in terms of advice, Dre congratulates Junior; calls a vague comment about using condoms "the best conversation" he's ever had with his son; and even uses the incredibly cliché phrase "boys will be boys" as justification for why he doesn't need to be careful about how he teaches Junior about sex.
It takes the usual chastising from Bow and a woman coworker for Dre to realize that any sex his son may have equally affects his female partner — and that realization comes with a trip to the Sunken Place when Bow reveals that Zoey has also become sexually active while away at college. For a multitude of reasons, Dre is horrified by this development, even though he was high-fiving his son just moments earlier. Part of this is because he's always had a closer, more protective relationship with Zoey than Junior. But a huge aspect of Dre's reaction is clearly motivated by sexism — even the soft sexism of wanting to make sure no one is taking advantage of Zoey. The women around Dre call him out, but he still struggles to overcome his assumptions. And that leads to some badly mixes messages for Junior.
Even Bow, the ever-rational parent, falls into a bit of hysteria over this issue. Rather than being a doctor about the whole thing and focusing on the risks of gonorrhea and super-gonorrhea, she instead becomes worried about Megan's "reputation," recalling her memories of young women being judged in high school and college for having sex. And even after his "women are people" awakening, Dre overcorrects. But at least he does wind up in the general neighborhood of the correct answer, which is: both of his teenaged children are in need of good, solid advice about safe sex, and are both at the age when a lots of teens explore their sexuality. So as long as they're in consensual relationships with people their own age, this is a positive, if scary development to navigate as parents.
Dre, even at his worst, never claims he should be able to control whether or not Zoey has sex, even if the idea is unsettling to him. And he also confronts the ways in which he's responsible for shaping Junior into a more respectful, giving, and feminist person — "wrap it up" isn't going to cut it, since Junior is growing up in a patriarchal society.
The show doesn't really break new ground on this issue, but it also doesn't fall back on the same tired stereotypes that so many others have before it. And black-ish, as it often does, points out that you can't unlearn toxic societal myths over the course of a single half-hour of television. One disappointing element is that because of grown-ish, Zoey can't appear in this episode, so we miss out on her reaction to Dre and Bow reconsidering their puritanical attitudes and embracing that both of their kids are growing up.
These characters are growing up right along with the show, so this episode was inevitable. Fortunately, black-ish handled Zoey and Junior's choices with a grace that their parents initially didn't.