Sex with Justine, I (frequently) imagine, would be a very confusing, unsatisfying, and yet ultimately fulfilling experience
In the past few months, I've read an awful lot about something called Generation Y. An elastic term that fits any prejudice, its vague outline, I think, is that people under 25 are bewildered and lacking in civilised values. You can't get a straight answer out of them, runs the argument. They're idle hedonists who don't know what's going on in the world. Worse still, they don't give a shit.

Even supposing all this were true, for the life of me I can't see the problem. Let's get this straight: young people are confused, but are smart enough to know it. Their elders believe this just isn't good enough, and want them to be less ambivalent in their attitudes: better to have wrong convictions than none at all, it seems. Well, call me juvenile, but I know which pony I'd back in the existential sweepstake.

The fact that, against all odds, we have managed to breed a generation who are not compulsively dedicated to self-assertion and vacant ideologies should be cause for guarded optimism. This hesitation, this reluctance to assume prescribed patterns of consumption, displays a rare intelligence and sophistication.

Just as they refuse to enter into conventional discourse on politics, young people are toying with gender, refusing to specify their sexuality. This is nothing new; Little Richard was wearing mascara when Elvis was in short pants. But in our post-Aids, post-feminist, post-modern era, these gender games operate on altogether more subtle levels and denote different forms of resistance. I'm not talking about the panstick shenanigans of a Boy George, but the sleek, streamlined, mod-ish bisexuality of pop's new Girl-Boys and Boy-Girls.

Take, for example, Justine Frischmann, singer-songwriter and raison d'etre of Elastica. An astonishingly pretty cross-dressing Boy-Girl, she plays androgyny like a pinball machine, delicately shunting it this way and that. Even her name smacks of transexuality. Sex with Justine, I (frequently) imagine, would be a very confusing, unsatisfying, and yet ultimately fulfilling, experience. Like many of her age, she has compressed the external forms of sexuality and gender to the point of fusion: neither one sex nor the other, she appears to be both.

Compare this louche, loose-limbed attitude to sexual identity with the bizarre contortions of the so-called norm, found in the pages of men's magazines. At one end of the scale, in a space that it cleared for itself but now has to share with copyists, stands Loaded, the idiot bastard offspring of Fiesta and the Face. This is real stinky willies stuff, which rarely strays from its formula of birds, booze, blags and footie. In short, fun for geezers who need their nominal masculinity reinforced.

Further upmarket, muscle-bound Uber-Boys are used to sell beer, boots and notions of male bonding, as homo-erotic imagery is plundered and recycled for heterosexuals. What a scream - the power shift in favour of women has got straight men pumping and preening like Muscle Queens. Consequently, the male body is now objectified, subjected to garish ideals of beauty and perfection once imposed on women alone. Meanwhile, gays complain their identity is being eroded as every Tom, Dick and Tarquin gets in on the Pretty Boy act. Talk about irony overload.

The bottom line (ahem) is this. The more you assert your sexuality, the more strongly and fervently you identify with it, the more easily you are located inside an increasingly complex and fluid consumer system. And once located, you can be captured and exploited, skinned like a rabbit of this identity, which will be sold back to you, and used to bait others who aspire to your status. Seen from this perspective, masculine and feminine are meaningless unless describing deodorant, and Gay Pride is nothing but a marketing niche. Anyway, what's the point of coming out of the closet if you won't let go of the handle?

Back in 1990, the American slogan artist Jenny Holzer posed the defining question of our times when she asked: what urge will save us now that sex won't? But for under-25s, it simply isn't an issue. Unlike old fools (of whatever sexual persuasion) who demand they get themselves some grown- up attitudes and belief systems, they don't seem to regard sex as a refuge, sexuality as a way to define themselves, or orgasm as a means of salvation. How could they? For those who came of age in the Eighties, sex could never be anything but "safe".

For the rest of us, desire is commodified to the point of control, and our sexuality turned against us. Either we get some new labels or, at the very least, we stop discriminating in terms of the old ones. Far better, surely, to distinguish between controllers and enablers; between those who are happy to take it as it comes, and those who have to come, whatever it takes. This, and not some notional debate over convictions, is the real point of departure between the sharp end of Generation Y and the accusers