by Kristen A. Jenson, M.A.
“The girls come to the set ‘porn-ready’” remarked one pornographer, as he commented on the changes he saw in the performers. Thanks to so much sexual objectification in the media and in dance, his new female “porn stars” needed little coaching.
How tragic. But how understandable. Especially when you acknowledge the powerful messages young girls get from performers like Jennifer Lopez who say they want to be their role models.
To raise girls who are empowered to value themselves as more than decorations, let’s be intentional about what they watch, wear and play with.
What they watch–avoiding sexualized entertainment
Ask yourselves, what messages are my daughters (and sons) getting from the shows they watch? Are the girls or women scantily clad while the boys or men are fully clothed? Do the female characters exhibit qualities that you want your daughters to emulate?
Earlier this year, there was a lot of talk about the Super Bowl halftime show where Jennifer Lopez and Shakira shook their booties and everything else in a hyper-sexualized dance routine. In the fallout, J.Lo insisted that she wants to be a role model for younger girls.
“The message of standing up for yourself, being a woman – that’s what I want to pass on to little girls – everything about you – be proud of it.”
So what exactly was the message being sent to these “little girls”?
Madeleine Kearns of the National Review said, “the performance buckled under the weight of its own hypocrisy.” She goes on to quote Ariel Levy: “How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish good for women? How is imitating a stripper or a porn star…going to render us sexually liberated?”
Here’s a statement on how the National Center on Sexual Exploitation viewed the matter:
“The NFL’s Super Bowl halftime show was wholly disappointing for the millions of families watching. When did stripper poles, pimp canes and S&M become family entertainment?” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
“The halftime show – promoted as ‘empowering’ by the performers themselves – was the opposite of empowering for women and girls. America suffers from systemic sexual exploitation, and this halftime strip show is evidence that the problem is significant.”
While others said that the show was a big win for Latina women, one mom emailed us with this response:
“As a Latina, I am disgusted by J.Lo and Shakira and their vulgar display. It isn’t ‘white men’ keeping us down. It’s women like them who create the idea that women, especially Latinas, must be ‘sexy’. They lower the bar, they don’t raise it. ..There is no basis at all for them to claim Latina Pride for what they do. They shame all of us women, especially Latinas.”
The takeaway is that our mainstream entertainment is very conflicted when it comes to women. Women can be powerful, but only if they’re “sexy” as well.
Let’s make it clear to our daughters that they can grow up to be more than sexy decorations–they have hearts and brains and they can be happier and contribute more when they value their whole selves.
I worry about the message J.Lo and Shakira sent to millions of little girls who may have seen the halftime show. A better world would promote dance that feeds the soul instead of commodifying the body.
Let’s teach our kids to recognize and reject sexual exploitation in what they watch for entertainment.
What they wear–sexy clothing for girls
Children’s brains are not naturally programmed for sexuality, but you wouldn’t know that by some of the clothes produced for young children to wear. I believe it’s a part of a broader cultural trend that is sexualizing our young children, especially our girls.
Cultural trends can be so incremental, that we may not recognize them. We may adopt them without thinking. And our girls may internalize the message that they must be sexy to be acceptable. So sad.
Unfortunately, there’s another problem with dressing girls in “sexy” clothes:
Sexy kid’s clothing may also invite unwanted attention from a pedophile.
I know that sounds extreme, but not to expert criminal profiler, police trainer and author Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, Ph.D. who makes this case in a Psychology Today article entitled “Porn for Pedophiles: ‘Sexy Children’ on Parade.” She begins by describing the child beauty pageant shows which feature very young children dressed up “in bikinis, mini dresses, and other revealing clothing. The girls are then prodded to dance around like mini-strippers. Both moms and dads call to their girls to shake their hips and strike sexy poses.”
But it gets worse. Dr. Schurman-Kauflin asserts that child molesters watch these shows to get sexually aroused and explains that the typical pedophile studies a child from a distance before they strike. She goes on to advise parents:
“Unfortunately, we live in a time where we have to be watchful. It is not a good idea to sexualize your children. If you do it, don’t be surprised when others see your child as a sex object. To the predator, this is an invitation…Monsters are out there…Wouldn’t it be better to allow your child to be a child than to turn her into a target?”
Sexualized Toys for Girls
Children spend hours and hours playing with toys. And all of that time has an effect on them. As you purchase toys for girls, consider the messages they teach about what they should wear and value.
I admit that I didn’t allow my daughters to play with Barbie dolls. The dolls’ bodies were so out of proportion and they promoted a life devoted to vanity. Thankfully, they now have better options in the Inspired Women and American Girl dolls.
But the sexualizing messages still continue with fashion dolls such as Bratz. We can do better for our girls. They deserve to play with dolls that don’t teach them to objectify their bodies.
Preparing Children to Reject Pornography Protects Them from Grooming
Pornography is a powerful tool pedophiles use to groom children. When you prepare and empower your child to reject pornography, you’re giving them an added layer of protection from grooming!
At Protect Young Minds, our mission is to equip parents and professionals with powerful tools to
help them teach children to reject pornography. In addition to the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of books, we also offer many free resources and helpful blog posts.
No child deserves to to face the predatory porn industry alone! Preparing children to recognize and reject pornography protects them from many dangers, including grooming by sexual predators.
Children are not sexual beings. If we want to avoid priming our children for pornography or making them a target for a pedophile, we need to carefully and intentionally consider what they watch, wear and play with AND prepare them to reject pornography to give them a childhood free from sexual exploitation.
Kristen A. Jenson, M.A. – Author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds, Founder of ProtectYoungMinds.org, owner and
CEO of Glen Cove Press.