“Where the Boys Are”

Nordin Boys report coverDownload the PDF. Connie Francis might not conjure up an image to today’s young men and women, and it’s not often that I hear her name, yet when I was growing up in the sixties, the name Connie Francis was parcel to everyday conversation and, for many, produced awe. She was one of the stars of the MGM film Where the Boys Are, which depicted four high school coeds who journeyed from the Midwest to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in pursuit of fun, fancy and romance. Connie Francis, already a singing sensation, recorded the movie’s title song by the same name, which quickly earned a spot at the top of the Billboards and was #1 in fifteen countries. Where the Boys Are was an era-defining film: it was about what “good girls would or would not do.” It explored adolescent sexuality and the changing sexual morals and attitudes among America’s youth. My parents considered it racy.

I wouldn’t reference this movie now save for the quizzical comment posed to me roughly one year ago when Mitch Pearlstein and I reflected on an earlier piece I had written for the Center about MTV’s Teen Mom Franchise.

I had spent nearly a year corralling teenage girls from a variety of walks of life to watch episodes of this wildly popular cable offering and had conducted focus groups and collected randomly administered surveys from additional young women – all in my quest to learn as much as I could about their views on single motherhood and the messages viewers took away from the Teen Mom franchise. They shared willingly and enthusiastically about the shows and the characters that express a current pop cultural take on the topics that raised eyebrows in Where the Boys Are several decades earlier.

We talked about birth control, risk-taking choices, parental responsibilities, and public assistance – and why they would or would not have a baby. Only once did marriage come up. And other than yearning for the romantic relationships they considered “constants” to the MTV stars, fathers (for the most part) were considered “silent bystanders” to their stories. In fact, fathers were so often altogether absent from the equation or from our discussions about parenthood that I didn’t realize I had shamefully neglected to include the voices of young men, teen fathers, and 20-something fathers in my research until long after my focus groups had ended.

Enter Mitch months later to the tune Where The Boys Are and his challenge to revisit the topic of teen and unplanned pregnancy and to capture the hearts and minds of the men involved as fathers as well as those who someday may become parents. I readily set out to learn as much as I could about the world of single fathers – or what might be more precisely termed, in my opinion, “nonmarital” fathers.