Child Sexualization

Last week, I posted an entry concerning child abuse and sexual predators. I said that I had more thoughts on the subject, and I would like to address those now. One of my commenters, Rabid Alien, says the following:

I think that there may be extenuating circumstances in some rare cases (“That pretty college co-ed over there with the valid-looking ID that says she’s 20 is actually HOW OLD????”), but on this topic, I prefer to assume maximum guilt until proven conclusively otherwise.

He brings up a very valid point that brings up many more questions. One of the big problems facing our society today is the oversexualizaion of children. From toys to clothing to television to the very educational system, our children have sexuality shoved down their throats from the time they learn how to speak. People will say things like, “Children today are trying to grow up so fast,” or “Children today are more mature than we were at their age,” but I call BS on that. It does not originate from them. They are simply reflecting everything that they unfortunately see around them. The big difference is that they are being pushed by media and industry to grow up too fast and they are under pressures that we never were at their age.

Ms. Blog Magazine, and Beauty Redefined among many others have illustrated over and over again how little girl’s toys specifically have changed over the years to show imagery of sexuality that they completely lacked when I was a child. For example:

On the left is the Strawberry Shortcake that my cousins played with when I was growing up. She’s largely shapeless with Raggedy Ann hair and poofy clothing. On the right is her current incarnation. She’s got long hair, fuller lips and big, sparkling, green eyes. Her clothing is form-fitting and she is not only more human-like, she’s also way more feminine. Am I the only one who finds this a little creepy? My cousins didn’t seem to have a problem with their old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake toys. I never once heard them complain about how blobby and unfeminine she was. In fact, I remember my cousin complaining about her Hawaii-themed troll doll being ‘gross’ because they had filled her top with ‘busoms’. Yes, she did actually use the word ‘busoms’. It is my opinion that these new toy sexy makeovers are not targeting children today, but their parents, the kids of the ’80s that played with the originals. Because, this and this are obviously not intended for kids and are NSFW, in fact. I believe the marketing strategy is to appeal to parents in their twenties and thirties though nostalgia and to give a hat-tip to the fact that they’re all grown up now. If you can get Mom to pay for your POS toy, you’ve succeeded. The kid doesn’t have control over the purse strings anyway. Remember how the commercials made you want all the toys in 1984? They’re still trying to manipulate you. A quick google search will reveal that pretty much every major ’80s girl toy you can think of has a modern, sexed-up counterpart. I remember people complaining about the possibility of Barbie causing body image issues twenty years ago. I think those same people have died from shock by this point.

My full time doctor aunt hand sews quite a bit of clothing for my little twelve-year-old cousin because of the abysmal availability of tasteful girls’ clothing. Booty shorts, midriff tops, and fitted pants with text across the butt may have their place, but it is not on our daughters and neices. I’ve been through the department stores and I know that it can be hard, but there is still a lot of cute clothing out there that isn’t suggestive. When you are shopping clothing for your kids, try to think about how bad people might react to the clothing. When I see that my son’s clothing gets outgrown, it goes away. He doesn’t wear it because he’s trying to be sexy but because he’s too much in a hurry to dig in his drawer for another clean pair of jeans. We get rid of his outgrown clothing because he looks goofy in his high waters. Perfectly modest fitting clothing turns into skimpy outgrown clothing. The little girls are under a lot of pressure to look certain ways to get attention. They don’t necessarily yet understand that not all attention is positive. All children should be taught to express themselves, but in ways that are self-respectful. I hate the way my son’s hair looks right now, but I remember that my parents wouldn’t let me wear my hair the way I wanted to because they hated what I wanted. Jennifer and I have told Wee Bot that he can wear it however he likes as long as he does it on purpose. She keeps saying to me that it just looks terrible, and I have to remind her that it looks like the other boys’ hair. He can wear it how he likes it = self expression. He will style it and not wear bed head = self respect. My lovely wife recently discussed looking like a victim versus not. Just as the bruise on her cheek and the cut on her chin made her look to some like a victim, if your pre-teen daughter is wearing a halter top with a pair of yoga pants that say ‘sweet pink’ on the rear, she’ll get noticed by people that you don’t want her to. There are predators out there and they bear full responsibility of their deeds, but don’t bait them for goodness sakes. You can find articles on dressing your kids chic and modestly here or here. A quick Google search will return hundreds of other examples.

I honestly don’t watch a whole lot of television. My son similarly doesn’t watch much TV. This is not to say that none of us ever watches the screen. Conversely, we watch a lot of media streaming on the internet, and we watch quite a few DVDs. I’ve seen entirely too many parents send their kids off to watch whatever they want on their own. Believe it or not, there is stuff being broadcast that depicts situations that are too mature for your kid to process on their own. When Wee Bot and I take our lunch break, we watched the entire contents of Homestar Runner. Now that we have finished that, we are watching the Pinky and The Brain series streaming online. The three of us have been working our way through the Gunslinger Girl series. Not everything that we watch with him is strictly intended for his age. We try to stick to stories that are enjoyable that he can follow along with, and certainly nothing that gets way out of his age range. If the story heads into a theme that is a little more mature in nature, we take a moment to explain it to him, make it a learning experience, and ask him if he understands and how it makes him feel. We’re down to the last episode of Gunslinger Girl. Without spoiling it too much, it’s a bit of a tear-jerker. I wonder how that is going to go over with him. But, I’m sure we’ll be fine. If your kid starts quoting Montel Williams or Jersey Shore, you haven’t been doing your job. I guarantee you that your kid will grow up just fine with absolutely no broadcast television whatsoever. Failing that, I won’t judge you for responsibily monitering what your kids watch in moderation.

In an attempt to skirt the controversial issue of sex education, suffice it to say that our children should be educated about sexuality before they actually have sexuality. Some will say that abstinence-only is the only way for school to teach and others will scoff and say that abstinence has no place being taught in the classroom. I personally do not believe that it should be left to public education or any kind of school to teach sexuality. I think that it is a far more personal matter that should be discussed within the family and that children should largely direct the discussion. That is to say, when Johnny is ready to learn about birds and bees, if he’s given a safe and comfortable place, he’ll ask when he’s ready to know about it. When he asks why the zebras at the zoo were giving piggy-back rides, it’s your duty as a parent to answer with honesty and age appropriateness. Tall order, right? Um yeah. That’s why formalized sex education is necessary. You may be a good enough parent and Johnny will never ask because he feels too embarrassed. Johnny may ask and catch you off guard and you may choke. Would you trust an institution that returns an 86% literacy rate to teach your kids how their bodies work? Somewhere in this debate on education and sex, they started handing out condoms in schools. So the philosophy is that since kids will be having sex anyway, let’s give them condoms and teach them how to use them. Congratulations, you have just invited children to have sex. So, it’s okay for them to have sex with each other, but it may or may not be okay to mix ages, depending on some string of formulas and arbitrary lines in the sand, depending on what state you are in… Oh s#!+.

What I’ve just laid out is a total and complete recipe for disaster that is guaranteed to produce adults that are victims of childhood sexual abuse. We as parents are given entirely too many opportunities to fail to protect our children and it seems like the world is trying to trip us from all sides. There are parents who through neglect or ignorance, will have children who are the perfect victims. Those children interact with our children and it puts pressure on our children to dress certain ways, watch certain television shows, play with certain toys, and to learn things that they may not yet be ready to know. The bad guys now have perfect little victims walking around, most likely with inattentive parents, and they will at one time or another play out their sick fantasies. When they are successful they will do it again. And again. Some will make a career out of it. Even if you are an exemplary parent who does everything exactly right, these evil people out there have been given confidence and will be more bold. The adult victims of childhood sexual abuse tend toward more abnormal sexual behavior and desires, sometimes including pedophilia. And so the cycle accelerates. I’m not at all offering excuses for anyone who acts upon their desires with evil intent, which brings us full-circle back to the original topic of Peter’s post that started my whole rant on this subject.

So, there are underage girls out there who dress sexier than is appropriate for their youth, and through unmonitored television, school, and society as a whole are taught that they are expected to be sexual. If they were victimized before, they may be showing an inappropriate knowledge of sexuality and even a desire for it, as was pointed out in the aforementioned blog post. If they are one of the girls affected by the ‘hormones in the chicken’ or whatever, then we have the situation that commenter Rabid Alien mentions. Someone like Rabid Alien is smart enough to check age somehow to stay above reproach. If the girl turns out to be twenty-nine, she’ll likely be quite flattered. If it was someone like me, the girl wouldn’t have the mental or emotional maturity to keep me interested. She may have a mature appearance, but it takes more time and experience to gain the mental and emotional maturity that many men require for anything beyond head-turning attraction. But here’s where it gets really ugly.

The scumbags that would deliberately take advantage of young girls deserve the worst of punishment, even to the point of cruel and unusual. As OldNFO said on my preceding entry, they don’t deserve to live. I used to think that I was singular in the amount of rage that they generated, but this seems to be a fairly universal attitude from what I’ve seen. That’s in part why the police departments set up sting operations. An officer pretends to be a kid online in hopes of catching the internet pedophile. The problem is that unlike a young girl who may not have the mental or emotional maturity to pull it off; a mature, experienced police officer likely does know which buttons to push. A police officer with the tools of their maturity, posing as a nearly legal girl on the internet to seduce a lonely young man is nothing short of entrapment. They will even cross state lines to make an arrest and will justify it by saying that although you are in State X, you committed the crime in State Y via the internet. As emotionally charged as the issue is, there will be no such thing as a fair trial by jury as it will be impossible to draw a jury who will not be emotionally reactive to the situation. If you were to have to fight in court against false charges, you would be better off with murder or drug trafficking.

Morals of the story? Raise your kids right. Be open and honest with them. Don’t let the world teach them how to respect themselves first or you will lose. Protect them from all the dangers of the world, influencary and predatory. Teach them how to protect themselves. Also, if you are a young man, don’t be stupid. Even if you are a good guy, you can be framed and grilled to appease public anger. I have yet more thoughts relating to this subject, but I managed to comfortably cross that two thousand word mark this time. So, the rest will have to wait for another time.

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2 thoughts on “Child Sexualization

  1. Agreed….I think the problem lies with the parents, mostly. Yes, kids have a choice in what they wear and how they act…but the parents have the overall decision on what role models to let influence their kids. When I was growing up, Madonna was “taboo” and “a bad person” (still not a big fan of her music, even though I’m old enough to decide for myself now….I think…), so very few girls tried to dress or act like her. Nowadays, its easier for parents to plop their kids in front of Lady Gaga or Britney Spears in the afternoons than to take responsibility and actually screen their TV shows (or, worse yet, figure out how the parental controls work on their TV), get involved in their kids’ activities, or just spend time with them. I blame the “me generation” mindset. Its too much work to be a good parent (yeah…its difficult…and mine’s only 2.75 years old!), it takes too much time away from _____ that I HAVE to do, etc etc blah blah blah. I’ve actually heard those excuses from parents. I’ll admit to spending a lot of time on the PC when I get home (hey…never said I was perfect, and there’s only so much “Wizards of Waverly Place” that one man can stand), but I’m workin on it, and have no problems stopping when the kiddo comes screaming into my room wanting to wear my range ear protection or show me something she found (usually squirmy and possessing of antennas and exoskeleton). Bottom line…if kids had better role models, ie their PARENTS, the world would probably be a better place.

    Tune in next week to hear “if the world had less politicians…”

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