Sexually Exploiting our Youth
By Sophie Ares Pilon - December 2007.
As we watch the next generation blossom, we watch them grow surrounded by sexualized marketing targeting them with no shame. Most would agree, sex in itself is not wrong or bad, just as alcohol, voting, and driving aren’t. However would you let a 10 year old child drink or drive? Not likely.
As a society we have created laws protecting children from big tobacco and alcohol industries advertising campaigns for well thought-out legitimate reasons. For some reason however we are turning a blind eye when it comes to sexualized marketing and entertainment targeting kids, mostly girls.
In 2003 "Sex and the Media" reported 83% of the top twenty episodes among teen viewers contained sexual content, including 20% that depicted sexual intercourse. The Center for Media and Popular policy reported that on average music videos contain 93 sexual situations per hour, including 11 scenes depicting “hardcore” scenes such as intercourse and oral sex.
Studies don’t need to convince us, most would agree that sex is used to promote economic growth whether marketing Bratz to 7 year olds, mini-skirts and tops with cleavage to 12 years old or the “Six Mile” movie to teens. Sex is used to exploit the attention of our youth to make a buck for ourselves and we apparently aren’t acknowledging any harm being inflicted nor taking responsibility to protect them.
The American Psychological Association however has noticed and weighed in on the issue. Earlier in 2007 they sent out a press release to the media highlighting the negative effects of sexualizing our youth: “The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls' self-image and healthy development.”. They went on to say: “The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development,” says Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the APA Task Force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”
Many of us have witnessed the successes of anti-smoking campaigns. Whereas 15 years ago you could smoke in malls and now you’re lucking to find a space outside to smoke without feeling bad. Hopefully the majority of adults will wake up their consciousness to these issues and change the course of sexualizing youth in our everyday life and pop culture. If you wouldn’t ID them, perhaps you shouldn’t be sexualizing them and selling to them using forms of sexual imagery and entertainment.
Poor Taste and Poorer Judgement
By Suzanne MacNevin - December 2007.
The modern Lolita phenomenon is on a runaway train and there's not a lot we can do to stop it.
As a high school chemistry teacher I see the results every work day and I can hypothesize as to the causes: Young men and old perverts.
Young men have money to burn. They get summer jobs, part time work, allowances from their parents, etc. They spend it on video games, movies, clothes and of course girls.
Old perverts presumably are either not married or if they are married, are keeping their lust for very young women a secret from their wives. They are likely to be financially set and also have money to burn despite having a mortgage and bills to pay for.
Sex sells and these two demographics go ga-ga whenever they see a pair of young perky breasts. We can understand young men going after women their own age. That is normal.
And the advertising company (usually containing at least one old pervert) knows how to market to the intended demographics.
The problem is that it isn't just the young men viewing the advertisements for Axe cologne, etc. Young women see it too, and the advertising industry reacts like a balancing act. Within the past few decades the industry has swung back and forth and kept upping the ante on sexuality.
To the point that modern advertising borders on softcore porn AND pedophilia at the same time.
The problem seems to be that the people at the advertising companies (and the relative corporations they work for) forget that they have kids themselves. They are failing to ask themselves: Would I want my kid looking at these ads and dressing like that?
We could blame Britney Spears and the MTV culture, but they just follow the trends and rarely actually make them. I don't see a huge line up of girls shaving their heads just because Britney wigged out.
And frankly there is no end in sight for this. It is only going to get worse because now we have the internet.
There are no laws governing decency and standards on the internet. Ads targeting children and teenagers can be as sexually explicit as they want. There is no rules about advertising beyond international borders.
Another problem of the internet is that ads meant for adults will still be reaching the eyes of children. Whether it is advertising cars, cologne, clothes, vacations in the sun, whatever. Some of the ads are pretty raunchy and put the Sears Catalogue bra selection to shame.
Pent up young male hormones are going to chase after whatever is available. That is guaranteed. Young men are essentially hardwired to chasing after women and sex in whatever means necessary.
Which means sexually explicit advertising is guaranteed to work, but we have a strong tendency to forget who else is seeing it.
When you go in to a magazine shop and look around for a Maxim magazine, where is it? It isn't at the top shelf beside the PlayBoys and Penthouses. It's right there in front. The woman on the cover is scantily clad and women inside are just as naked as those inside Playboy. The problem is the location. It is at eye level for children, and section directly below it is quite likely to be all the magazines for teenage girls.
So the girls who go in there looking for something fun to read get a pretty good idea of what men want, and then its just a matter of morals. Is your daughter the kind of daughter who would change her dress to attract a man.
Probably yes, but you wouldn't want to admit it, and frankly I can't blame you. Everyone wants to think the best of their kids.
So when she goes to the fashion magazines what does she see? Well, depending on the magazine there is probably about 120 pages of advertising and only 30 pages of actual content. Fashion magazines are chock full of endless glossy ads all trying to sell a product that will make you either thinner, bustier, sexier, younger and give you softer skin.
Fortunately some companies like Dove have decided to stand up to this problem and create anti-advertising. So there is hope.
But don't think for an instant that it is going to revert back to the old days in an instant. This is going to takes years of complaints on the part of parents, activists and indeed children themselves standing up and saying "Grow a spine and learn to advertise properly!"
Because the problem is only going to continue as long as there is shameful examples like the one below. The naked model with a cute little cuddly sheep. Awww. Doesn't it just make you want to run out and buy CARE products right now?
Congratulations. they don't test their products on sheep. Lots of companies don't do that. That is no reason to stick a nude model on the ad.
Why did they put the model there? To attract your attention. A horrific image of a dead sheep would have attracted your attention even more but they don't really care. They just want your money.
And that is poor taste and poorer judgement.