Too Sexy Too Soon
by Marissa Cohen, Redbook
While it may seem cute when a 5-year-old copies the hip-shaking dance moves she sees on TV, it's also one of the first signs of how the adult concept of "sexiness" is being sold to younger and younger kids today, say Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. In their new book, So Sexy So Soon, the authors explore a culture where grade-schoolers want to dress like go-go dancers, 10-year-old boys have seen Internet porn, and 13-year-olds talk casually about oral sex. Here, Kilbourne discusses how childhood is changing, and what parents can do to protect their kids:
What's different about how little girls are acting and dressing today?
We used to dress up in our mother's clothes. Now little girls are dressing up as sexy teenagers, and there are clothes being marketed to them that look like they are from Victoria's Secret. I see little girls wearing strapless black numbers to the school dance! As a result, girls are getting the message that not only is it important to be pretty but it is also important to be hot and sexy. Research clearly shows that this pressure is damaging to girls' self-esteem.
How does this affect their relationships with boys?
Girls have always gotten the message that it's important to attract boys, but we used to get it a little later, when we were 12 or 13; now they're getting it as early as 6 or 7. Girls in grade school are competing with each other to see who's the hottest, and then boys are learning that's how they should look at girls. It sets up a dynamic that does an enormous amount of harm. Little boys learn to look at girls as objects rather than as friends.
What happens as kids get older?
When a girl has learned early on that what matters most is how sexy she is, then by the time she hits the tween years, the message is already deep in her psyche and it just becomes louder and more harmful. Sex gets speeded up — 12- and 13-year-olds are doing what 16-year-olds used to do, and by the time they're 16, many are already blasé about casual sex. That's when you hear about "friends with benefits" and kids thinking about sex as being separate from a relationship. This not only puts them at physical risk for STDs, unwanted pregnancy, or even date rape, but they also lose the chance to develop the empathy and compassion that are necessary to make intimate relationships work later on.
What can moms do?
When your children are younger, you can limit their exposure to certain media. As kids get older, stay familiar with what they are listening to and watching. Ask them why they like certain songs or clothes so you can open up a dialogue about it. It's so important to start talking to your kids about sexuality and relationships as early as possible, in an age-appropriate way. If they know they can ask you anything and they will not be punished or shamed for it, that will pay off in incredible dividends when they hit their teenage years. When kids feel like they can talk to you, they will.
This ain't yo momma's pre-teen years, that's for sure. And if that article didn't curl your toes, this one surely will: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/27706917/?GT1=43001
My point with all this is not to depress you or get us all bogged down with worry. I'm actually bringing up this reality to ask for prayer. You see, there's something I haven't really "gone public" with that these articles--and all the scary facts they contain--are now prompting me to share.
This past spring, I felt God's leading to create a fiction series for tweens that is based on the beatitudes. A few basic problems surfaced right away. One, I don't write fiction; and two, I don't write for tweens. But I jumped on board and cranked out several chapters right away just running on the excitement and fun of the mission. That wore away quickly. Adrenaline only takes you so far.
But I still felt this huge burden that our kids just don't stand a chance of being pure in this culture, but for the grace of God. I wanted desperately to show them what being a Christian could look like as my characters held each other accountable and tried to walk in Christ's path. I wanted to show them that being Christian does NOT equal being a snob or a prude or a nut. But as I said, it was getting really hard to write in a genre that I've never really done before.
So I prayed. "God?" I asked. "Are you absolutely sure that THIS is what I'm supposed to be doing? I mean, fiction's not my gift, obviously." My faithful God replied with this: "Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation" (Proverbs 27:23-24, NLT).
Wow. I took that to mean that I need to be aware of what my kids are exposed to and pour myself into looking after their spiritual well-being. Just because I've chosen to follow Christ doesn't mean they necessarily will. And then I felt like God was showing me this truth not only for my kids, but for kids in general. I felt like He was saying, "Yes, Kathy, this is what you're supposed to be working on."
Well, given that answer, how could I NOT obey? I plugged away, hard as it was. At She Speaks in June, a publisher expressed a genuine interest in the idea of the series. She emailed me a proposal template which I completed and sent to her a few weeks ago. The first book isn't quite finished yet (though it's getting close!), but the proposal only required the first several chapters. I haven't heard back from her yet, but I know the reality. The chances of publication are very slim from a human standpoint.
You all, I am boldy asking for prayer. I don't for a red-handed second think that anything I've done on my own can make a difference in this "crooked and perverse generation." I certainly don't anticipate starting a revolution. But since God's been the instigator here--and I believe that with all my heart--then I'm humbly asking you to pray that God would use this work to touch young lives according to His will. If that's only a small circle of kids here locally, fine. If it's many more than that, great.
I remember one time reading in the OT about child sacrifices and being appalled. I thought, "How could people actually condone sacrificing their children?" and the text noted how detestable it was to God too. But you know what? Our culture isn't so different. We don't throw them into a volcano, but to an extent we have thrown them to the wolves in this hyper-sexed society that tells kids their value is in their hotness. Please join me in unleashing God's power to show kids, whatever the means, that they are loved, worthy of respect, and are precious in God's sight. If they value themselves by Christ's standards, maybe one day we won't be reading articles like the ones above.