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August 2, 2013

The intrusion of sexuality into childhood

Problem: Your 8-year-old daughter wants to act and dress like a teenager. She wants to wear makeup and nail polish and dress in bared-belly tops, tight jeans, short, short skirts and other suggestive clothing that is not appropriate for her age.

Young girls, unfortunately, are victims both of our unhealthy, deeply repressive puritanical and Victorian-era-influenced American cultural history, and our current overly explicit, crass and sexually permeated print and visual media. Traditionally, women have been raised to think of their self-worth and value in society in terms of physical attractiveness. As a result, at an early age, girls strive to replicate the current cultural ideal of “beauty.”

This attitude has been damaging enough, but today there is a new spin on this detrimental cultural influence. Young girls feel the pressure to be sexually alluring at an early age. Childhood is vanishing for girls today as they struggle to fit into a sexually irresponsible society.

The disturbing television reality show “Toddlers and Tiaras” is a prime and sickening example of sexualizing little girls. These female babies, from about ages 2 to 6 years old, are being visually exploited and feeding the deeply sick world of child pornography. They are taught to be sexually flirtatious and are rewarded for it. In my view, this is a form child abuse and should be stopped. The emotional damage to these children is enormous, and when these girls become teenagers, the idea that they are only valuable as sexual objects will permeate their self view, motivating them to make poor relationship and life choices.

As psychologist and author Mary Pipher writes, “In the last decades … children have access to the same information that adults have. The walls that protected children … are coming down. In our electronic global village everyone can watch MTV … play Nintendo and plug into the Internet. Children are not sheltered from what has been considered for hundreds of years to be adult material.

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