The Superman Boys of 1978

Photo by Uillian Vargas on Unsplash

We were young girls. The older men called us ‘kittens’. We checked our compact mirrors hourly. Wearing skin-tight jeans, tiny tops, and frosty pink lip-gloss, we were soft-skinned, wide-eyed and thrill-seeking.

Foreigner’s ‘Hot Blooded’ blasted from eight-track tapes as the men in cars circled. Teri and I walked, with an air of cool disinterest, weaving between the cars as the drivers offered us their weed, alcohol, and mature company from their car windows. We sought good looking, older men in muscle cars. They would flatter us, grope at us and affirm our desirability — our value.


Sometimes these encounters would result in brief, not-quite-love affairs, lasting only a week or two; more often, just a night or a weekend. Inevitably, our firm-skinned charm wore off as our sixteen-year-old temperaments entered the frame. Maybe they returned to wives or girlfriends. Perhaps they just weren’t that into us. We dusted off our egos and our Calvins, then returned to the parking lot to renew our quest.

I sought excitement, sexual fulfilment, and a coveted sense of validation from being ‘claimed’ by a man.

I had spent my entire childhood practising for this mirror-mirror on the wall moment, chosen as the fairest, most drool-worthy bundle of jiggling young flesh no prince could pass up. My fantasy lover would ferry me off in his Dodge Charger to a fairytale replete with record-breaking orgasms, mountains of cocaine, designer clothes, and bags of money.

Then we met the Superman Boys.

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They were not boys, but young men in their mid-twenties. Superman the Movie had just been released in cinemas. The film enthralled them. They spoke of little else, excitedly breaking it down scene by scene for us girls, as we — or at least I — feigned a suitable level of rapt attention, following their narrations and role play with perfect girlfriend enthusiasm.

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Their enthusiasm for me was comparably tepid. Also, these guys were assholes. The sex was awful, either dull or painful, or a combination of the two. But I kept coming back for more. It seemed the more they rejected my youthful charm, the more I felt compelled to win their favour. In six months, I hooked up with each of them for a short time; fresh face, same bullshit. Still, I practically crawled to them, begging to get noticed, desired and validated. Instead, they serially abused and dismissed me.

It took a while for the penny to drop, but when it did, I quietly moved on and never went back.

The Superman boys impacted me, leaving me damaged and unclean. Shame settled around my shoulders like a shawl. I imagined everyone could see it draped over me, wearing me down. I never returned to the muscle-car scene.

Yes, older men hurt me, used me, and no doubt today, they do not remember my name or my face — even as after all these years; I remember them. The Superman Boys were not the first, nor the only. They were simply participants in a predictable progression that only I could halt. But at sixteen, I lacked the power and maturity to do so.

They had the power and the maturity. What these men lacked was the decency.

Previously Published by Elizabeth O’Nuanain at

#exploitation #triggerwarning #vulnerability #musclecars #Metoo #1970s

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