Here we go.
Remember when I said I was going to open my blog to new topics? Well, here’s something that has nothing at all to do with clutter.
It was shocking, but not surprising to any parent with even one eye on the landscape. It was painful listening to the teen girls in this documentary talk about the one dimensional way they’re experiencing sexuality in our culture. From that point of view, not much has changed since my youth, but the ante. And oh, how the ante has been upped in our culture of instant technological gratification.
The reality is that in a world where nine-year olds have phone plans and unlimited access to the internet, there’s nothing standing in between my nine-year old son and hard-core porn.
And the saddest thing of all is that it’s completely normal to be curious about bodies and sexuality in the pre teen years. But when the technology satisfies that curiosity with exploitive, manufactured, sometimes violent sexual images – it is definitely a case of curiosity killing the cat, or at least the cat’s ability to form meaningful relationships.
As the mother of boys (aged 5 and 9), I found myself wishing the film had more interviews with pre teen and teen boys. But, I get it – try getting a teen boy to talk about sex! However, I believe we really should get them talking and that the only way to do that is to initiate the conversation at a much younger age. Our boys need to know how hypersexualization hurts them and how it’s really a profit-making proposition. It’s been on my mind since Jaunty Dame posted the video Guys and Dolls many months ago – how can I prepare my sons for relationships with real women?
Sext Up Kids filmmaker, Maureen Palmer suggests getting the conversation started early:
Since, I’m a few years too late, I’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Here’s what I plan on saying to my nine year-old son. Please leave me your tips and suggestions in the comments. Like most parents, I’m just making this stuff as I go along and I’m open to the suggestions, experiences, and advice of others.
How To Talk To Your Kids About Hypersexualization
There’s something I want you to know about how big companies take advantage of kids and how you can stop it.
At your age, some kids wonder about their bodies and the bodies of other people. What do real bodies look like? How does my body compare to other kids my age. What will I look like when I’m older? Some kids start to compare their body parts to other kids and worry that there is something wrong with them if their body looks different. Often they don’t even know what they are comparing themselves to since we don’t all walk around naked, do we?
So where do you think kids your age get their ideas about what bodies should look like?
I have a couple of ideas.
When I’m walking with you in the mall I see pictures of bodies everywhere. But they’re not real live bodies, are they? They’re photographs of men and women wearing certain clothes, posed a certain way, taken from a certain angle with a special camera and then photoshopped to make them look even better than real. And, everywhere I look on the internet there are the same pictures – some of them even more unreal. I think some of them look great and some of them look pretty weird.
What you probably didn’t know is that these pictures are carefully chosen to take advantage of what people are naturally attracted to. Scientists have shown us that people are actually measurably attracted to certain things like contrast and symmetry and energy. You probably like certain things about the way someone looks without even knowing why, but some big companies make a point of studying why. And they take all that information and use it to produce images that exaggerate the things we’re naturally drawn to.
The problem with that is that everyone ends up confused. Girls don’t know what real boys are supposed to look like and act like and boys don’t know what real girls are supposed to look like and act like. (Sometimes they even start thinking that they need to look and act like adults when they’re still kids.) That’s how big companies take advantage of kids. If we’re confused about how we’re supposed to look and act maybe we’ll believe that we need the clothes or shoes they’re selling to fit in.
But kids don’t need to be told what they should act like or look like or be attracted to, right? Everyone is born with something much more powerful inside themselves, something that big companies don’t want us to use. And that’s our instincts! If we use them by checking in with ourselves about whether something really looks or feels right to us, we can break the spell that big companies are trying to cast on us.
Let’s really look at the pictures we see the next time we’re in the mall or surfing the internet together. Maybe we can make a game of finding images that look like real kids and real adults. I don’t want you to start thinking that you or anyone else has to be better than real or that you or anyone else has to say or do things that don’t make them feel good.
The internet is full of that too – videos of people doing and saying all kinds of things that are made to look real, but are actually people acting for the camera. If you see something confusing like that you can turn it off, or look away, and/or ask me about it later. Chances are a lot of what you see isn’t the way people interact with each other in real life anyway.
I actually ran this by my son last night and while I got some blank looks, it opened a discussion about how some kids in his class “think they’re teenagers” and about how some kids are already worried about their bodies.
Is the hypersexualization of children affecting you or your family?