Do We Hyper-Sexualize Our Kids?

I read a really interesting article in the last week in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”  The author of the article, Jennifer Moses, asks why parents today encourage their girls to be slutty (in essence).  She says, “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”

Do parents merely want their girls to look good?  “There’s a difference between presenting ourselves in the world in an attractive light, and presenting ourselves to the world as a piece of meat,” Moses says.

Is there a movement within the secular United States away from the hyper-sexualization of our youth?  Is someone other than evangelical Christians concerned with the way our young women are dressing?

Moses has a theory: “It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret.  A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, ‘If I could do it again, I wouldn’t even have slept with my own husband before marriage.  Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?’”

Are people realizing that the feminist revolution—the sexual revolution—wasn’t all it was cracked up to be? 

Another aspect of the discussion (mentioned in the video below) is the value of fathers in the rearing of young girls.  Moses says that one of the key things that fathers can do is to teach their girls (and their wives) what dressing a certain way does.

What are your thoughts?  How do you deal with this in your family?  If you’re a father, how do you teach your daughters about modesty?

  • Broc

    Wow Bob this topic could get about as broad a response as any issues I could think of. You can go off in so many different directs just to list a few…culture/society, media (TV shows, magazines, movies, catalogs), peer pressure, role models, parenting, age of puberty, age that kids are being sexually active. All of these topics could create huge debate about what is appropriate and when it becomes “ok”. However you article and video clips seems to mainly be discussing the appearance or “how girls dress.”

    So let’s start with, where did it start? Did girls begin buying clothes that are sexier or did companies create these images as something to be desired SO that girls would want to wear them. Frankly I don’t think that matters from here going forward because the cycle has already started and it may not be possible to artificially create a “movement” to a more conservative movement. These things do however have a naturally ebb and flow. Now do I think women are going to go back to high neck lines and ankle length skirts of course not; but just as “free love “in 60’s died out and Generation X’s rebellious “I don’t care “culture has lead to a generation called the “millenniums” are much more politically and culturally conscience, this trend of more and more sexualization(real word?) will also have push back in the following generations. Plus moses did have a quote along of the lines of it has to stop at some point b/c we cant walk around naked all the time.

    I know that I didn’t begin to scratch the surface, but its a small two cents on the topic.

    • Bob

      Yeah, I agree this topic is huge… I think this article deals with it from a primarily parenting point of view… are parents afraid to teach their kids how to dress without being slutty? Are mothers who grew up in the era of birth control and free love coming to realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be? Are they wanting something better for their daughters, but don’t know how to give it to them?

      Or is this something that parent’s shouldn’t worry about, because it’s cyclical, and their kids will grow out of it?

  • jonapope

    Great post Bob, and it is a specially relevant post for me as I have a one year old daughter.But first I have to agree with your premise that our youth have been hyper sexualized, I mean just last week we had the story about Abercrombie and Fitch selling push up bras to pre pubescent girls. Go down the toy aisles at the stores or look at the young girls clothing section and tell if that our youth aren’t being hyper sexualized.

    Second off, to help my daughter as she grows older, we are strong in our church and hope that as she learns correct principles that she will respect herself enough to not wear those types of clothing. In addition, as parents we will set the example of respecting ourselves.

    • Bob

      Thanks! I think that father’s play a HUGE role in their daughter’s life in this realm. I’m glad that you’re taking initiative to set the stage for your daughter’s future.

  • Andrew

    I saw this article, and was surprised at the author’s conclusion. As I understand it, she basically concluded that this is a hold over of her generation’s participation in the sexual revolution, and wanting to impart a socially normalized aspect of that kind of sexual freedom on her daughters. Oddly, in doing so, she only seems to reinforce the negative stigma of hyper-sexual conduct that detracts from positive psycho-social development. Then she regrets doing it. It makes more sense that the net result of gender equality would not be to placate sexuality, but to reinforce personal freedom without the over-sexed social component. After all, by buying into the social concept of over-sexualizing the youth, isn’t she eroding the gains made for gender equality in the last century?

    • Bob

      I don’t think that advocating for less sexualizing of our kids leads to the erosion of gender equality. I think the author was primarily saying that, perhaps, there are some things associated with the “sexual revolution” that weren’t necessarily good, and I agree with her.

  • CharlesJ

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing!

  • CTHarper

    Part of this, I believe happens because we start with the wrong presuppositions and assume the wrong “mandatories”.    One of the questions, I have been asked is how something would fare in a desert island test.  In other words, if you had nothing but the Bible on a desert island what would you consider normative.  That may seem like Pollyanna, but if you start there; your practices may look weird to the world (and they WILL let you know it), but aren’t we supposed to?  

    It may mean we pay a little more and make our own or go to different vendors and stores, but it doesn’t mean that we start with what the world has available (in terms of dress) and then pick the lesser of all evils.