I’m excited to continue to advocate for dance in everyone’s life. It’s creative, physical, beautiful, and visual. Even more importantly, if it’s done as an expression of faith, it presents the Gospel in embodied form. However, like so many things in life, it can be misused and distorted.
I remember dancing as a young girl. I felt safe and I trusted the adults around me. They didn’t misuse my budding sexuality. I danced to beautiful music with age appropriate costumes. I remember a recital on toe with music by Rachmaninov and later, a celebration of choreography with John Philip Sousa. One year I was even Mary Poppins. Movement connected with my heart. Today, it’s a different story (of course that depends on the philosophy of individual dance studio owners). All around the land, many dance studios feel the need to embrace adult costumes, choreography, and music that objectifies and sexualizes young children.
That’s why I attended the National Conference on the Coalition of Sexual Exploitation in Orlando Florida from September 10-13, 2015. Many of you know that I started an online petition to ‘Stop Adult Costumes and Choreography for children under 12’. Initially, I started the petition on change.org but I am pleased to tell you that the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has taken it over. It’s a good thing! Their sponsorship has greatly increased the signature support of this issue. Please keep asking your friends to sign the petition. And don’t forget to download the tool kit on my website so that you can talk to a dance studio owner about your practical concerns in this area. The toolkit also allows anyone to download a logo(Dance Studios Against the Sexualization of Children) so that parents can know that a particular dance studio is a safe place for their children to take a dance class.
There is mounting research showing the harmful effects of a hypersexualized culture that interfaces inappropriately with the internet, TV and other media forms. Experts understand that the earlier children are exposed to adult sexuality, the sooner they are groomed to believe that it is normal to be objectified for how they look and what they do rather than who they are. In many instances, what the culture identified as soft core pornography 25 years ago has become an everyday part of our culture today. This is especially true for young children. It’s time to say ‘no’ to this perspective.
“The term ‘normalization of sexual harm’ refers to the process by which a harmful idea or behavior goes from clearly problematic to an accepted part of societal culture. Once accepted, it becomes ‘just the way it is’ or ‘just what people do.’ With further indoctrination and barriers removed, it can even be viewed as beneficial or preferential.” [Anderson, C.(2011). The Impact of Pornography on Children, Youth and Culture. Nean Press.]
Here are some facts that should concern you: Children are educated by what they see. [Ann Marie Barry. “Mirror Neurons: How We Become What We See.” Visual Communication Quarterly 16, no 2(2009):79-89]
By the time children turn 17, they spend 60,000 hours on media. Music has continual references to unhealthy sexual standards and encourages sexual activities that influence younger and younger children. The context of many lyrics DIVORCES relational intimacy from sex. The American Psychological Association report concluded that young boys and girls are growing up to view themselves as sex objects and are more likely to experience poor self-image, eating disorders, depression, academic failure in school, low self-confidence, with increased likelihood of engaging in sexual activity at a very young age, due to the fact that girls who look older tend to attract more attention from boys.” [www.tellinitlikeitis.net/ 2009/03/the-sexualization-of-children-and-adolescents-epidemic.html” target=”] As I mentioned above, child education experts are calling this trend an early exposure to soft core pornography. Unfortunately, the pattern goes even goes deeper. With their defenses desensitized, many children are being trafficked into prostitution and misused sexually in their homes.
Because of this epic cultural exposure and desensitization to inappropriate sexual images and content for children that includes the victimization of men and women in a myriad of cultural ways, NCOSE has wisely created a coalition of child education specialists, doctors, attorneys, social workers, artists, and concerned citizens to speak out and identify sexual exploitation as a public health issue.
“Public health is a societal strategy to assure the conditions are in place so that people can be healthy. [Institute of Medicine.(2001).Promoting health:Intervention Strategies from Social and Behavior Research(B.D.Smedley & L.S.,Syme.Eds). Washington, DC: National Academics Press.] Therefore, strategies to counter the harm of pornography need to target the whole population. Public health approaches have worked with many other social issues that, at the time, seemed too entrenched to change including tobacco control versus an individual’s right to smoke; use of car seats and seat belts versus individual freedoms; concern for shaken baby syndrome versus a parental right to discipline; mandated vaccines versus individual parental rights to choose health treatments for their child. But over time, when it was society’s decision to step into the debate, the public health of our society has been improved. As George Albee, a public health leader in 1983 said, ‘No mass disorder afflicting mankind is ever brought under control or eliminated by attempts at treating the affected individual.” [Cohen,L., Chavez,V., & Chehimi,S. (2007).Prevention is Primary. Josey-Bass. p.4.]
I hope that all of you will join me to speak out and to take action on this very important public health issue. Of course, my heart particularly breaks for children to be misused in so many ways. If we love dance and if we love children, let’s protect them from harms that they cannot know and that they cannot make choices about.
Please educate your friends about this concern, sign the petition, download the toolkit, and share it with others.
It is appalling how sex is a physical act rather than an act to connect human beings in a unique way. Children of all ages are exposed and people don’t take this consequences seriously.Thanks Mary for making this issue so real so that we can all get involved.
Great comments Kristin. I appreciate your support!
It is an abuse of children to teach dance with sexuality.
Yes, John. Sexualized and objectified dance for children kills self-esteem and distorts a child’s pathway to adulthood. On the other hand, age-appropriate dance for children allows for healthy physical and emotional growth that includes thinking skills, integration of mind, body and spirit, a wonderful awareness of the beauty of each individual body along with creativity and expression.
Let’s make sure that we provide children with the tools they need to grow into the adults that God wants them to be.
It is appalling how we dress little girls to be sexy. They are little girls and need to look like little pretty, smart girls.
I agree. Children have their own special needs because they are children. Our culture is putting pressure on young children to be adults, talk like adults, move like adults, and dress like adults. That perspective doesn’t allow for the time children need to mature and make age-appropriate choices. I don’t understand why children are allowed to be put in the position to be objectified when they are so young. It is my goal to unify adults with awareness and education to protect our youngest citizens!