For years pro-family and pro-faith groups have been complaining about the hyper-sexualisation of society and the stealing of our young peoples’ innocence. There exists a callous industry that is happy to get rich by sexualising our kids. Young girls have especially been targeted.
Yet our concerns have been dismissed by the intelligentsia and the mainstream media as being puritanical, intolerant and censorious. We have been told we are wowsers and kill joys, and we are hung up on sexuality. Kids are not damaged by such sexual images and marketing, so just back off.
Well, it seems others are beginning to be concerned as well. In 2005 the decidedly non-conservative writer Ariel Levy penned her Female Chauvinist Pigs in which she described the rise of “raunch culture” and decried the way women and girls are being sexualised and trivialised.
Last October the left-of centre Australia Institute issued its report “Corporate Paedophilia: Sexualising Children By Advertising and Marketing,” attacking the corporate world for aiming at our kids, seeking to turn them into young stylish tarts.
This month another group has issued a stern warning about the same subject: the American Psychological Association. It has just released a report entitled “The Sexualization of Girls” in which it condemns pop culture for the way it is denying young girls their innocence and childhood.
Most aspects of pop culture, be it television, music videos, magazines, advertising, merchandising, or the Internet, are blamed in this study. The popular Bratz dolls are especially singled out, with their fishnet stocking and bikini outfits. In fact, there are also “Bratz babies” aimed at three-year-olds featuring leather and lingerie outfits.
The clothing industry is also doing its bit to sexualise young girls. G-string underwear and lacy camisoles are marketed to pre-teen girls, while five-year-olds are encouraged to buy T-shirts with the word “flirt” on it.
The report says that this tidal wave of sexually explicit material and advertising aimed at young girls has a dangerous impact. Problems such as poor self-image, shame and anxiety, and eating disorders can be attributed to the way our daughters are being targeted by the exploitative marketeers.
And various pop stars such as Christina Aguilera, the Pussy-Cat Dolls, and 50 Cent are also adding to the problem, with near-pornographic music videos and outrageously sexual performances.
Thus this issue is now becoming a concern of broad sections of the community, not just the so-called Religious Right.
Writing in today’s Washington Times, columnist Mona Charen assesses the report. The APA report, she says, focuses “on the increasing rates of eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem among younger and younger girls. Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for example, is now seeing patients as young as 6 with eating disorders. Girls are worrying about their weight and expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies at younger ages.”
She cites one reporter on the state reporter of preteen fashion: “Ten-year-old girls can slide their low cut jeans over ‘eye-candy’ panties. French maid costumes, garter belt included, are available in preteen sizes. … And it’s not unusual for girls under 12 to sing, ‘Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me’.”
Of course girls have always been interested in looking good. But the desire to be attractive to others is starting at younger and younger ages, with girls as young as four now wanting to get the “look”. Says Charen, “There’s a world of difference between simply wanting to look good – little girls like dresses and ribbons and even nail polish at extremely young ages – and dressing like a little tart. Sadly, little tart clothes are out there in abundance, whereas parents of girls tell me it’s a struggle to find simple, age-appropriate attire for the under-16 set.”
She continues, “When girls barely out of diapers are encouraged to wear makeup, skin-tight miniskirts and push-up bras, we’ve left the realm of wanting to look pretty and gone into something sick and tawdry. Whatever we may think of immodesty in grown women, there is little doubt it is disgusting, demeaning and depraved in little girls.”
So what’s a concerned parent to do? “Fathers and mothers, protect your girls’ innocence. Take the TV out of their rooms. Monitor what they watch. Don’t purchase the racy clothes or music or movies. And try a dose of what Bill Bennett and Joe Lieberman attempted to do more than a decade ago – shame the purveyors of smut.”
Quite so. It is time parents took back their daughters (and sons) from the corporate pedophiles, and the immoral marketeers at Hollywood, Madison Avenue and MTV. Of course resisting and challenging popular culture is not easy. Parents need the help of sympathetic governments who will work to regulate or remove some of the more perverse aspects of raunch culture.
But it is good to know that it is not just the “wowsers” who are concerned. When groups like the APA and others get into the act, then perhaps it can be said that we really do have a serious problem on our hands.