By Lucy Hunter
The sexualisation of young girls has hit the headlines again. After thong-wearing Bratz dolls, Playboy-themed stationery and pole-dancing kits for children, now we have High School Musical knickers on sale in Asda emblazoned with the words ‘Dive in’.
– Oversexualisation of young girls: Asda has created branded knickers saying ‘Dive In’ –
Depressing stuff. However, as the mother of two little boys, aged five and seven, I note these uproars are always centered on girls. Boys are subject to relentless ‘grooming’ to accept sex as a product just as strongly, but more insidiously than girls.
I’m hardly a prude – I used to be features editor on a teenage magazine which was largely read by girls, and I regularly defended the magazine’s coverage of sex issues.
Ten years later, the debate has moved on. I used to argue that it’s appropriate for teenagers to want to know about sex. But now it’s not teenagers we’re talking about. It’s children. Both girls and boys.
While boys are not being encouraged to wear smutty underwear, they are being groomed by the drip-drip effect of the cheapening of sexuality in music, magazines, and, yes, in our own attitudes as adults.
It’s no surprise that this diet of coarsened sexuality is beginning to affect our very young. How young are we talking about? Well, teachers have reported a rise in sexualised behaviour in children aged seven. Birmingham City Council even set up an Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour Unit to tackle this problem.
Over the top? Perhaps not, judging from the experience of a friend who had her eight-year-old son’s friend over for tea. This angel-faced boy, stared at her chest, and exclaimed, ‘Haven’t you got big t**s?’
I had to take a child to task for repeating obscene rap lyrics to my sons, and teaching them dance moves that involved groin-thrusting and grabbing their crotches.
Was it an over-reaction to tell them off for wiggling around in a way I knew was designed to be sexual, or was I making too much of a childish game? My children had no idea of the connotations – except at the most general level. But the rap singers and their record companies certainly do. My gut instinct was that I didn’t want my children doing it.
But it’s the way children are ‘sold’ sex now that turns my stomach. Sociologist Frank Furedi has a term for it: pornographication.
He argues that children have always imitated adult forms of behaviour. The problem is, what is being reflected back to us, such as in my children’s dancing, is coarse and ugly.
We’re all far too caught up in this culture to realise what’s happening until it’s too late.
When our children started chanting some of the lyrics back at us – ‘Outrageous in my sexy jeans / Outrageous my sex drive’ – we realised that there are perils everywhere these days.
Seeing my infant school-aged children transfixed by the gyrations of Britney was horrible – and we had unwittingly introduced them to this world.
But even if we manage to hold back the tide at home, what about the semi- pornographic billboards you see now on every town centre road? Whether it’s David Beckham in his tight pants, Calum Best wearing nothing but a metal chastity belt, or yet another Wonderbra ad, coarseness is everywhere.
[…]bring up a generation of men who view sex as a cheap commodity, devoid of love, we will ultimately deny them happiness and good relationships.