I Think We Might Have A Problem…

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“They turned Fox into a soft core porn channel so gradually I hardly even noticed!”  – Homer Simpson

“In a hypersexualized society, you only have two choices: you’re either fuckable or invisible.” – Dr. Gail Dines, ‘Sext Up KIDS’

After watching a fascinating documentary on CBC’s Doc Zone called Sext Up KIDS, I feel even more sorry for young people, especially girls growing up in today’s hypersexualized culture.

Turn on the TV and you’ve got TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, a reality show about the kiddie beauty pageant scene where mothers get their 6-year olds hopped up on a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull ever so eloquently dubbed by the tot as “Gogo Juice” and parade them around tarted up to look like Julia Roberts as the whore from Pretty Woman. Seriously, you can’t make this up…. one woman actually chose to outfit her daughter as a prostitute, priming her for a lifetime of cat-calling, hooting and hollering.

Flip open a magazine and you could spot a 10-year old Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau decked out in gold lame and sprawled seductively across a leopard print rug, trying to sell you something that costs more than your rent for an entire year. Youtube is full of pre-teen wannabe sensations shaking, well, what they haven’t even developed yet.

It comes as no big surprise that kids are getting older younger, especially as we casually hand them grown-up toys like smart phones. Marketers have leeched on to this trend like salivating hounds and tapped into the 150 billon dollar pre-teen clothing cash cow with racy fashion these girls can sport to emulate their idols like Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry.

According to Sext up KIDS, a recent survey of 15 major pre-teen clothing sites found that one third of the apparel was deemed “sexualized.” The French company Jours Après Lunes recently came under fire for developing a line of lingerie for 4-12 year olds. While some argue that it’s merely an instance of little girls wanting to play dress-up, you have to wonder what effect it has on these kids who are being blatantly primed to portray themselves as sex objects.

What happened to letting kids being kids?

Just as young girls are taught to project themselves as sex objects to be rewarded with popularity and the seemingly all-important male gaze, boys are being taught to view and even consume them in that way, perpetuating the cycle. And as tweens become teens, the pressure to look sexy can increase the pressure to act sexy. Furthermore, as noted in the documentary, the more young women focus on “performing for the boys,” the less they think about themselves. For an age group that already has a tangled relationship with self-worth and value, is this really the right path to be sending them down?

To complicate matters even more, today’s teenagers have unbridled access to the gamut of pornographic images. It used to be that a boy’s introduction to porn was finding his dad’s stash of Playboys or Hustlers, or borrowing a video cassette off an older cousin. Nowadays, accessing porn is as easy as clicking a button with little to no censorship or explanation of the content. At this point, no one really knows the direct effect that consuming hardcore pornographic images has on the still-growing teenage brain, but psychologists speculate that it leaves them with a distorted view of what sex is all about, leading to difficulty in fostering and maintaining healthy sexual relationships later on in life.

Not only are teenagers consuming pornography, some are ostensibly creating it by snapping pictures with their cell phone cameras and distributing those images as carelessly as text messages. The documentary illustrates just how pervasive this behavior is among teenagers. Approximately one third of those surveyed admitted to sending a scantily clad or nude photo to a crush or boyfriend. Three teenage girls bravely give their personal stories of times when they sent an intimate photo to someone they trusted, only to have it blow up in their faces when those pictures circulated around their social circles, even ending up in the hands of their family members.

Now some may argue that teenagers will be teenagers – experiencing new sensations, learning about your body and that of the opposite sex is commonplace and has existed since adolescence first came into mainstream culture. However, it seems that in today’s hypersexualized world, the deck is stacked against today’s teenagers towards growing up healthy, confident and respectful of themselves and others.

You can stream the documentary ‘Sext up KIDS’ on the CBC Doc Zone site.

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