Sunday, 5 June 2011

Parents, stop Sexualising Your Children

So I'm sure everyone who reads the papers is aware of Cameron's big new initiative, halting the "sexualisation of children". On the surface, it's something we can all get behind. No one want to see eight-year-old girls in padded bras and Playboy knickers, under t-shirts reading "Daddy's Little Porn Star" - apart from, presumably, the people buying them. As Barbara Ellen beat me to saying this morning, they don't jump into little girls' underwear drawers all by themselves, do they? I'm a liberal, and as such am supposed, apparently, if you listen to Tories, to be all in favour of any and all governmental supervision of personal matters. And I'm not opposed to this plan per se, for the reasons stated above, but I can't help but thinking it's kind of pathetic for parents (the plans were drawn up by the head of the Mothers Union) to whine that the government needs to sort out a problem that is almost entirely of their own making. So henceforth, I offer you my handy print-out-and-keep, two part parenting guide to stop the sexualisation of children:

1.) When your daughter asks why she can't have a Playboy branded pencil case, choose the most appopriate of the following three answers:

*For the under 12's - "Because the man who makes them is a very bad man who wants to hurt women and little girls like you and we musn't let him."

*For the tricksy 12-16 demographic -" Because I bloody well said so, that's why. Now stop complaining or I'll make you start taking the Westlife one you had when you were 11 to school."

*For the over 16s (imagining you retain any shred of control over what they do) - Presuming you have been a responsible parent and already given them a grounding in the basics of feminism, start introducing them to statistics on the number of women working in the sex trade who were a.) trafficked, b.) victims of childhood abuse c.) drug or alcohol dependent d.) all of the above. Ask if they want to lend tacit support to an industry that preys on vulnerable young women and does nothing to offer them the support they actually need. Show them evidence demonstrating that rates of rapes and sexual assaults increases dramatically in areas with a preponderance of sex-encounter establishments (the new Playboy club, for all its claims, is nothing but). Explain to them, if they don't already know, that Playboy and its ilk objectifies women. Ask how they feel about being judged on their looks above anything else. Ask if our cult of beauty ever makes them feel bad about themselves; explain that this is a direct effect of our pornified, Playboy culture. If, after all this, she still wants Playboy branded anything, consider disowning her.

Take control over your daughter's underwear drawer. You buy her bras until she starts earning enough to buy them herself - don't buy a nine-year-old a bra except in the unlikely event that she needs one. If she complains of feeling immodest, buy her a vest. When she does need to start wearng a bra (not that anyone *needs* to, but you know what I mean), select non-wired, unpadded ones. Explain to her that breasts come in all shapes and sizes and small ones are just as nice as large ones. Instill her with self-confidence. Similarly with knickers - do not buy your child thongs. Do not buy your child lacy, see-through knickers. Do not buy your child knickers that have anything approaching a sexual slogan. If in doubt, avoid anything with a slogan at all.

Which brings me to t-shirts saying "So many boys, so little time", "Future porn star" etc. Ask if she understands what any of these slogans mean. If she doesn't, she's too young to be wearing it. Institue a no-lying-through-slogan-t shirts policy: only allow her to wear a t-shirt proclaiming her to be the next big thing in porn if she shows demonstrable desire and determination to forge a career in the adult film industry. Make her prove herself by sending her to meet with a few sleazy casting directors. If this does not scare her straight, you may wish to refer back to the advice on dealing with teenagers who wish to own Playboy branded products.

Re: the Christina Aguilira prime time X Factor performance and Rihanna's uncensored music videos (and music). Turn the television off. With older children there is only so much you can restrict their viewing if they spend time at friends houses, etc. But under your roof it's your rules; if Christina is writhing around in her underwear at 8pm, turn the television off or change the channel. If Rihanna is writhing around in her underwear moaning derivatively about how she likes to be spanked, turn the television off or change the channel.


2.) The slightly harder part. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself who's responsible for creating a culture in which the under-tens view Katie Price as a role model, tits and all. Got it yet? It's you, dumbass. Stop deliberately encouraging a porn culture. Turn the X Factor off when it showcases female or male artists sexually degrading themselves in a desperate bid at increased sales. Stop consuming pornography. Stop buying lads mags. Stop buying tabloid newspapers. Stop buying fashion magazines like Vogue and Elle that feature spreads using models unlikely to be above the age of sexual consent, pouting and half-naked and air-brushed to the extreme. Stop visiting strip clubs, stop buying music by recording artists who make promo videos that look like the Adult Channel's Midnight Teaser. Stop going to see films that treat women as sex objects. Stop treating women as sex objects. Just bloody stop it.

There, problem solved. You can thank me later.

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