But a couple of recent releases take teensploitation to new extremes. The crude hormonal antics in "American Pie" come off as sweetly naive next to the casually raunchy "Cruel Intentions" and the heavily sexualized horrors of "The Rage: Carrie 2". No one likes a titillating teen-age flick more than I do. In my 20s I was still sneaking into John Hughes comedies. I'll see anything starring Hollywood's "thumb-sucking Lolitas with three names," as Rex Reed recently called Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt and the rest.
But is it just me, or have some of these movies become so sexually explicit (in language, if not nudity), so slutty (in male and female promiscuity), that they're like soft-core porn, without the clever dialogue?
Both "Cruel Intentions" and "The Rage" hinge on the cold, calculated destruction of innocent virgins, a handy metaphor for the moviemakers' designs on their audience.
"Cruel Intentions" is "Dangerous Liaisons" with bratty rich kids on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Its Valmontian lothario (played by Ryan Phillippe) is named Sebastian and bets his stepsister, Kathryn (Ms. Gellar), that he can deflower a transfer student (Reese Witherspoon) who has written an essay in defense of chastity published in Seventeen magazine. Meanwhile, the scheming Kathryn, intent on revenge against some guy who dumped her, vows to ruin another virginal new kid (Selma Blair) at their exclusive private school. A double deflowering! But that's not all. The condition of the wager is that if Sebastian wins, he can have his way with the only spoiled little rich girl in New York yet to elude his grope: his stepsister.
The specifics of this near-incestuous bet are too kinky to describe and the dialogue is too obscene to quote. Suffice it to say that these mischievous teeny-boppers touch on sodomy and oral sex with such bored familiarity you'd think they were talking about a trip to the Gap. Sebastian's romantic skills are formidable enough to make a nymphomaniac of Ms. Blair and to seduce Ms. Witherspoon's proud virgin into surrendering her eccentric principles.
Apparently, the real-life Ms. Witherspoon, who is 22 and engaged to Phillippe, wrestled with her motivation for the part. "One of the hardest things for me about my chaste character was to find a modern way to make a teen-ager a virgin," she said in the Suzy column by Aileen Mehle in Women's Wear Daily on Feb. 17. "Not to say that all teen-agers are sex-starved, but it actually was difficult to find a reason that wasn't self-righteous or obnoxious."
It is possible that a hot Hollywood ingenue's understanding of adolescence might be a tad more sophisticated than the average mall rat in braces.
The difference between "Carrie" (1976) and its new sequel, "The Rage", is more than generational. In the original, Sissy Spacek's telekinetic high school wallflower burns down the school and kills all the popular kids for humiliating her at the prom. Same premise in the sequel, but with a bunch of gratuitous sex thrown in.
The high school in "The Rage" appears to have some unspoken rule barring female students from wearing bras. The football team has a contest going to see who can have sex with the most girls: more points for harder-to-get girls. When one shy, obscure girl commits suicide because one of the football goons dumps her after she gave up her virginity to him, her friend Rachel (Emily Bergl) gets mad. You don't want to make Rachel mad. She is compelled to use her own telekinetic powers when the popular kids humiliate her by secretly videotaping the loss of her virginity to the one nonjerk football player, then playing the tape at a party.
What struck me about the climactic scene was not the bloodbath of beheadings and impalings, but the video clip that sets it off. This was supposed to be Rachel's first time, but she could give pointers to Sharon Stone. The footage had the slick, slow-motion production values of an episode of "Red Shoe Diaries".
The adult sex these under-age movie characters are having is being presented and styled like adult entertainment. Has sex between teen-agers really become this much better since I was was one, back when the first "Carrie" came out?
In "Clueless", the worst thing you could be was "a virgin who can't drive." But advanced degrees in carnal knowledge are being attributed to teen-agers still on their learner's permit. Some of these young women might take up a new pro-virginity book by Wendy Shalit, "A Return to Modesty" (The Free Press, $24) out of sheer performance anxiety.
Since the 1950s, Hollywood has been titillating adolescent moviegoers. I became obsessed with a shameless beach-blanket romp called "Girls on the Beach" (1965) in heavy rotation on American Movie Classics a couple of months ago. But even in the milder PG-13 "She's All That", Rachel Leigh Cook -- the best of the thumb-sucking Lolitas -- becomes "all that" by trading her modest outgeek clothes for slutty ones and making herself look as tasty as freshly baked apple pie.