Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Sexualizing of Children

Here’s something that bugs me, and makes me pause. What are people doing to their children? Because, it seems to me, they are becoming sexualized at a young age. And I don’t just mean the whole JonBenet beauty pageant thing. That has been going on for a long, long time. I mean the clothes and other accouterments of childhood and how they have changed.

In my neighborhood, everyone wore hand-me downs so it was mainly a lifestyle of tee-shirts and ripped pants. But, even as I aged and could afford my own clothes it was mostly the same thing – with perhaps a skirt or two thrown in. Modesty was the key. Now I see these kids on the subways, even in the stroller wearing tube tops and mini-skirts. Why does a two year old need a tube top that bares her belly button (and, professes in silver studs that she is a ‘naughty girl’) and a mini-skirt that her diaper sticks out from?

I really don’t understand this. Sites like watchdog.us and others track sex offenders in America. We have the Amber alert because if we don’t find a child within twenty-four hours they probably aren’t alive. The children are our future and our worry, so why the hell do we dress them up as a pedophile’s dream?

But more troubling I suppose is what they know at a young age and the earlier onset of puberty. Working in the schools, I have heard of children as young as seven I think getting their periods. Can you imagine? The blame now is being laid on processed food, and I’m sure there is a link, but has to be more to it.

Plus, there is sexuality in a lot of children’s programming. Even some cartoons I’ve breezed through show the girls wearing little more than bikini’s (I’m thinking of The Winx Club with this one). I hear kids joking around about sex on the subways, sidewalks, and these are pre-teens and younger. It really is discouraging.

So my question is this – as more and more issues become prevalent in the news with regard to the sexual abuse of children- what is the root cause?

The media loves to blame figures such as Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears for this ‘slut chic’ clothing line and life style that’s out there. But the media only airs what makes them money, so if mothers weren’t buying their three year olds thongs then they wouldn’t be made and advertised on television.

Maybe I this is a chicken and egg question. If television didn’t advertise the glamour of sexualized children and stores didn’t sell baby g-strings that were made by a company, would they still be in style or do the stores make them because people want and do buy them enough that the news can see a moneymaking opportunity and runs with it? Is the media pushing the trend of the people? Which is the mirror at this point?


Amel's Realm said...

WHHAAAAAAAAAATTT?!?!?! Mothers buy thongs for their 3-year-olds? I can't believe what I'm hearing!!!

Having lived in Indo where they disputed over sexy clothes, I can say that back there it's still pretty okay when it comes to clothing lines. People daren't wear bikinis and all that at the beach, except perhaps in Bali.

I don't know how young people here wear clothes, but since Finland's a cold country and it has such a short summer, I think it's safe to assume that I won't find too revealing clothes here.

I don't know what's going on in the USA, though, but I also worry about TV programs if they're too full-chock of sexuality. And yeah, the girls nowadays do get their periods much earlier, don't they? I got my period "early" already compared to other girls my age (I got my first period at the age of 10).

I haven't checked out kids' TV programmes here, but thanks for the warning. When I do have kids later on, I have to beware what they watch (especially when they're still so young and impressionable).

Azhira said...

While I don't necessarily equate visible skin with sex (I think nudity is not innately sexual), my concern is how these things are styled and presented.

A couple of years ago I was breezing by the Disney channel and ran across a music video. The girls were maybe 11 or 12, with a boy a little older singing "I Want Candy." The line "But I like candy when it's wrapped in a sweater" just really struck me there. There were these preteen girls, dancing and giggling for this preteen boy...already objectified. On what was supposed to be a children's channel.

I am certainly no prude, but this just struck me as wrong on so many levels.

Victorya said...

Azhira- it's the sexuality, not necessarily the clothes, that are the problem as you stated. I was at a wedding a while ago and everyone was dancing when suddenly this child, maybe ten years old, gets on the floor on all fours and starts thrusting with the music - and we know she saw it in a rap music video but the music just stopped when that happened. They are being indoctrinated and objectified at such a young age.

And Amel - while I have seen thongs on children at quite young ages, I was being facetious about the baby thong - that was a saturday night live skit (baby diaper thong). And children's programming has changed a lot since our day. I watched Duck Tales and while they had no pants, they were all ducks ;P

redwriter42 said...

I thought this was an interesting post. I've seen some interesting trends. I'm a nurse and I've done a lot of volunteer work for Planned Parenthood, so I watch the trends closely. Overall, I see a trend toward girls and women becoming more comfortable with their bodies. Yes, they are revealing more, but I agree that sexuality and nudity are not the same thing. In fact, while I'm very comfortable with my sexuality, I'm not real comfortable wearing revealing clothing and I've been hard-pressed to find anything not cut down to my navel. But...overall, I like the trend toward greater comfort with bodies, in general. Americans are typically very repressed and unwilling to talk about sexuality in an open forum. I wonder if there would be fewer sexual predators if we talked more openly about sex. True...I certain don't like the trend of young girls wearing shorts that say delicious and trash like that..but in warm climates, I see nothing wrong with bare mid-drifts. I wish I could get to a point where I can be more comfortable with my body. I'm 42 and got my period at 11. My daughter is 8 and she hasn't gotten hers yet. I'm not sure about the theory on processed food making girls develop earlier...I still think there's lots of individual variation. I'm fortunate that the young girls in my family are comfortable with their bodies, but understand that sexuality is a sacred beautiful thing...not to be taken lightly. Sorry for rambling. Just thought I'd share my thoughts as this was a thought provoking post.

Victorya said...

Good distinction Red! There is a difference between sexuality and nudity and I think some things are fear and repression of the human body. There is nothing wrong with a belly button and I hate the idea that women shouldn't wear revealing clothes because of what it stirs in men. That says that men can't control their actions (and goes to the whole, "she was dressed for it" argument in legal cases).

I just don't like little kids being set up as objects of desire, you know? No shirts with 'sexy' across the front of a child. Allow them to be kids.

redwriter42 said...

Kids aren't allowed to be kids like they used to be...I've done a few posts on that whole subject. I used to explore the neighborhood for hours on my bike when I was a girl, but now I'd be considered a neglectful parent if I allowed the same with my kids. It's just not like it used to be. Still...I want to believe that people are mostly good, that the predators are few and far between, but that would be naive. I will absolutely forbid my daughter to wear clothing that sets her up as a sexual object, like the shorts with silver embellished "Juicy" on the rear. Why? There must be a balance here, right?

Victorya said...

Ah redwriter, I'd love a balance, and it does have to be out there somewhere. I too remember being a latchkey kid and biking all around town when I was younger - but it's just so scary nowadays it seems. And it's not even the predator's anymore, it's other kids who don't learn anger management skills, bullies, violence among children is either escalating or just getting more press coverage lately.