There is an audible groan from two mothers pushing their little children in strollers through the mall, as they are passed by a scantily clad group of teenage girls. “What parent would let her daughter leave the house like that?” she says referring to the group of girls in matching short shorts and tight, midriff baring shirts.
Girls dressing in “Ho” costumes on Halloween, little girl t-shirts with sexual innuendo emblazoned across the chests, reality television that shows little girls expertly utilizing a stripper pole, musical lyrics that are sexually explicit and degrading to women, the demise of dating and the rise of “hooking up” are all appalling topics to parents of underage children.
Books like Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!) and Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture discuss in detail the detrimental effect that the highly sexual content on television, in music lyrics, in books, and on the internet has on today’s youth. Sadly, girls are buying the false bill of goods that the media is selling them; that boys only want them for sex and their promiscuity leads to raised social status. They have also been led to believe that the only way to empowerment and equality is to be sexually aggressive like men (what men?). Their role models are “stars” like Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and porn star Jenna Jameson. Not exactly the women parents would hand pick to shape their innocent little girls.
Although the findings in the above mentioned books are disappointing and depressing it is probably not shocking to parents to learn that pornography has gone mainstream. One need just turn on the television to bare witness. Eighty three year old Hugh Hefner has a popular reality show glorifying his bizarre sexual relationship with three women, the youngest of whom celebrated her twenty first birthday while taping and wishes she were a pimp. MTV glorifies bawdy dress and behavior on shows like The Real World.
Lewd behavior and exposure to overtly sexual stuff is not what parents want for their kids. Parents know that objectifying little girls is not good for their moral, emotional, physical or spiritual welfare. Putting aside the frightening risk of pregnancy or catching an STD, moms and dads don’t want their girls getting used and degraded and they don’t want their boys to view the female half of the population as sexual objects begging them for sex.
A very loving and conservative mother recounts a story that horrified her. “I look hot!” her four year old said modeling a little two-piece bathing suit. “Over my dead body!” mumbled the mother to herself as she gently removed the suit from her little one and chucked it in the trash. “No way am I letting her go down that road!” the mother adamantly declared. She proudly continued, “I had the first of many talks that I will have with my daughter about dignity, self-respect and real power.”
Acts like this simple one the above mother displayed, exemplify the kind of guidance that parents must give to their children starting when the children are very young. As the many media outlets bombard kids with inappropriate sexual content it is important that parents stand strong, be positive role models and enforce the standards of conduct and dress that they know is correct.
Another simple act parents can take is to stop giving hard earned money over to stores that sell sexually explicit material and clothing targeted to children. On page 244, of her insightful book Prude, Carol Platt Liebau notes, “Every time anyone makes it clear that over-the-top sexual dialogue or images aren’t acceptable for public consumption, she strikes a small but meaningful blow for a cleaner, more wholesome culture.”
It is not only girls that are being affected by today’s highly charged sexual climate, boys suffer too. Boys shouldn’t be seen as sexual troglodytes incapable of being kind and caring and only out for their own selfish needs. Like girls they are complex, sensitive and loving and need to be taught that being a man means having honor and decency.
“Eliminate dating and replace it with ‘friends with benefits?’” scoffs a dedicated husband and father of two little boys. “I would never want to raise boys who treat girls like that. How are they going to learn to relate to the opposite sex if they use them like that?” He continues, “I want my boys to experience the kind of deep love and happiness that I have with my wife.”
For some reason it is difficult for some parents of underage children to fully embrace the role of parent. They are under the misconception that they can be buddies with their children, or “parenting partners”. It has become almost a cliché now, “children don’t need their parents to be their friends, they have enough friends, parents need to parent.” It is not necessary or prudent to be the “cool mom” or the “cool dad”. Level headed, thinking grown ups know and celebrate the fact that they are not on the same level playing field with their underage children. Let the kids have their turn at being kids; parents: it is time to let go of childhood and delight in the role of parent.
As sophisticated as children today seem, they are not miniature adults. Children desperately need and wish for their parents to guide them through the tough stages of childhood. Using wisdom, intellect, established values and adult problem solving skills parents can help lead the way to a bright and terrific future. If parents abdicate their authority in the hopes of being their children’s friend, parents shouldn’t be surprised when Jenna Jameson takes over their role.