As a parent I find few pop culture and societal trends more disturbing than the sexualisation of our children. From temporary lower back tattoos, padded bras and thongs for 7 year olds, “virgin waxing” and stripper poles, you can easily put together your very own “Sesame Street walker” or “prostitot”. This trend has been referred to as the “Lolita Effect” after the protagonist in the Nabokov novel.
Back in February, the CBC program “Doc Zone” produced “Sex’t Up Kids”, a program to explore the impact growing up in a hyper-sexualized culture has on children. Among others, the program provided the following statistics:We’ve long been aware of the marketing mantra “Sex sells” but the problem is that we’re selling to younger and younger consumers. Marketers have an acronym on which to build campaigns: KAGOY, or, Kids Are Getting Older Younger. Madison Avenue may be targeting the younger demographic but the children aren’t the ones laying down their hard earned cash – we are. It’s parents who are buying these products for their children.
- “The Pre-teen clothing market is worth an estimated 150 billion dollars a year.
- A survey of 15 major pre-teen clothing sites found that 1/3 of apparel was considered ‘sexualized’.
- It’s estimated that 70-80% of teenage boys watch pornography.
- Another survey showed that 1/3 of admits to sending a naked or near naked picture to their ‘crush’”
Often we focus on the impact on girls growing up in a hyper-sexualized culture and we overlook the influence on boys. Consider the accessibility of pornography for boys and the gender roles it presents. Sex is often misogynistic & aggressive. With his as the model, it makes sense that young men will develop an unhealthy attitude toward women. “It distorts their view of what they’re supposed to want and what they’re supposed to look for in a girl.” says Peggy Orenstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”.
Dr. Ralph DiClemente is conducting a National Institutes of Health study to determine the long range impact of exposure to pornography on boys. Early indications are that the excessive exposure can be linked to difficulty in forming healthy, romantic relationships even when they’ve found the “girl of their dreams.”
As parents, we need a wake-up call. Our children are moving from toddlerhood to teens with little transition in between. But being the one who calls out the obvious can feel like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” shouting “He’s not wearing any clothes!” We all want our children to fit in, to be accepted by their peers. But when the trend is leading in the wrong direction, we as parents have an obligation to take a stand.
“Remember two very important facts: One, your voice as a parent IS more powerful than your child’s peers and the media; and two, talking about sex and sexuality with your child will NOT increase their interest in sex; only help them act more responsibly. It really is this simple,” says Fred Kaeser, Ed.D., former director of health for the NYC Department of Education.
By the way, those are all real products or services. Playboy has a line of school supplies – pencil cases, pens, binders, folders – all designed to help your “Future Porn Star” (actual t-shirt from Slick & Twisted Clothing) stay organized. Mainstream retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch & Tesco roll out these products with the full intent of marketing to your children.