What is it like to be a child in America’s hyper-sexualized culture today? There are almost no limits to the graphic sexual content that is displayed everywhere they look
From the age of two, little girls are thrown into the “princess obsession.” They are urged by music videos, clothing ads, songs and all kinds of social media to believe that what matters most is how they look and how “hot” they are (from a review of Maureen Palmer’s film: “Sext Up Kids.” By Dr. Anita Gurian, Cliinical Assistant professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine.)
Three-year olds and preschoolers are displayed in a beauty pageant called “Toddlers & Tiaras” where little girls wear fake teeth, teased and sprayed hair and fancy, sometimes revealing, thousand dollar outfits. They prance across the stage or perform a “sexy” dance as they compete for the grand prize.
TV shows for tweens and teens, even on Nikelodian, focus on teenage crushes and girls chasing boys. Teen clothing, especially for girls, is becoming more and more revealing.
Role model and teen idol Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) becomes a “twerking” 20-year old in her performance on the 2013 MTV Awards. Is that what we want our little girls to aspire to? What about Britany Spears, Lindsey Lohan and Mary Kate Olsen who all crashed into drug use, alcohol or eating disorders.
I am trying to think of one healthy role model in pop culture for girls or boys, and I confess I can’t think of even one. Even the “clean-cut” Taylor Swift has had multiple sex partners and writes songs that reflect her latest break-up, or the beginning of a new one.
Children today are bombarded daily with commercials for Viagra and Cialis. What are they to understand from that?
As I sit here right now during prime-time TV, I’m scrolling through my cable TV guide, and these are the shows I see currently playing:
- My Teen is Pregnant, And So Am I!!
- Bad Girls Club: Miami
- I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant!
- Teen Mom 3
- Sex and the City: Secret Sex
- Secret Sex Lives: Swingers
- 11 Tales of Sex Gone Weird
The truth is that in our society, girls willingly participate in their own objectification, and boys are given the message that they need to become “studmuffins” who objectify girls and see them only from the outside.
I believe the solution is to have enough parental influence in our children’s lives including grandparents, cousins, aunts and other adults who see children as whole, and not just an object to have sex with. When children feel safely connected, they are much more likely to resist objectification and the devastating heartbreak associated with it.
TWELVE STEPS TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM AMERICA’S HYPER-SEXUALIZED SOCIETY:
- Model self-respect and modesty by the way you dress, your language and your kind and loving ways.
- Both parents should be actively involved in the care of their baby. This includes participating in diapering bathing, putting the child to bed, talking and playing with your baby.
- Stay actively involved in your child’s life. Talk to your children and understand them well. This will help you to know when your child is ready to understand about men, women and marriage. Most children become curious about these things between ages 5 – 8, but if your child doesn’t seem ready yet, don’t push it.
- Teach your children about love by showing them lots of affection and discipline them in a firm but kind way. Teach them what a good marriage looks like by frequent displays of affection between you and your spouse, and show them how you resolve differences in a respectful way and treat each other with kindness, humor and respect.
- Read them Dr. Richard Panzer’s wonderful children’s book: Mommy, Daddy, Where Do Babies Come From? It does not contain any graphic descriptions of how babies are made, but instead focuses on the meaning of love in the family.
- Monitor what your children watch on TV, what websites they are viewing, their video games and movies. Teach them how to mute the commercials while watching their favorite (parent approved) shows. Talk to them about the positive and negative role models they see in pop culture.
- When you know your child is ready (and you will), both parents should have a talk with their child about intimacy and how saving sex for marriage is a chance to really get to know your boyfriend or girlfriend without having sex. It’s also the way to avoid teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- When he or she comes home and tells you their sex-ed teacher said it’s okay to have sex as long as you use a condom, let your child know that “condoms don’t protect your heart,” and that it makes much more sense to get to know their partner on a mind, heart and soul level and wait for true intimacy before marriage and physical intimacy. This way they can avoid devastating heartbreak, depression and anxiety. Ask your daughter if she wouldn’t rather encourage a potential partner to relate to her mind, heart and soul rather than just her body? This requires dressing modestly.
- Let your children know that you and your spouse believe that sex is something sacred and private, and well worth waiting for. (This is true even if you didn’t wait for marriage yourselves. You are allowed to evolve in these matters).
- When your kids are in high school, explain to them that all the sex they see in the media is uncommitted and meaningless. It’s being used to sell things to our hyper-sexualized society. Impress upon them that you think it’s disgraceful to use sex like this when sex should be private and meaningful.
- Teach your teens how important it is to explain on their first date that they believe in saving sex for marriage. That way their potential date can decide to wait or laugh at them and walk away. In that case, he or she wasn’t the right one for them anyway. Teach your daughter (and in these days probably your son too) “refusal skills.” Role play with them about what to say when their date says “If you really loved me, you would…..”
- Teach your older teens that there are many things they need to discover about their potential partner before getting engaged or making wedding plans. They need to discuss whether or not they want children. They should talk about where they want to live and where they want to spend holidays. They should meet and get to know their potential in-laws. In what religion, if any, will they raise their children? Will they both continue working after marriage? They need to agree on practical things like whether to commingle their $ or keep separate accounts and how to share household chores. And if they uncover any “deal breakers,” they can walk away from the relationship with their self-respect intact – not to mention no early pregnancy or STDs. This is the way that marriage and physical intimacy become the most wonderful and sacred experience in life. And their marriage is far more likely to last a lifetime.