Sexy Costumes for KidsKids are inundated with sexy content from media of all forms. Younger and younger kids are “sexualized” by TV, games, videos, clothing and even the toys they play with.

But why?

I mean, what’s the point of marketing glamour make-up kits for 5 year old girls or T-shirts that say “Chick Magnet” for toddler boys? Why all this “age compression” (“kids getting older younger”) that has younger and younger kids acting like teens long before they reach their teen years?

Well, you’ve heard the truism, “Sex sells”, right? In the past, marketers used sex to sell adults everything from cars to toothpaste. But now marketers know that if they can create the need to be sexy and then satisfy that need by selling consumers endless products, they’ve got profits!

And if they can get younger and younger kids pursuing the “hottest” looks, the money rolls in even faster!

So Sexy So SoonHow do they do this? The authors of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect their Kids by Diane E. Levin, PH.D., and Jean Kilbourne, ED.D. explain the tactics in this must-read book for parents.

First, marketers use media to disassociate sex from intimacy and love. (Pornography does the same thing. Sexy marketing tactics lay a foundation for accepting this tenant of porn: sex is about entertainment and exploitation, not about building caring relationships.)

“Both boys and girls are routinely exposed to images of sexual behavior devoid of emotions, attachment, or consequences. They learn that sex is the defining activity in relationships, to the exclusion of love and friendship. They learn that sex is often linked to violence.” (So Sexy So Soon, p. 5)

dollar symbolSecond, kids are programmed to become consumers.

“[T]hey learn to associate physical appearance and buying the right products not only with being sexy but also with being successful as a person.” (So Sexy So Soon, p. 5)

Note: Sexualization is not about teaching kids about sex. Children will always be curious about sex from an early age and they need age-appropriate information. Sexualization (as defined by the Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls published by the American Psychological Association in 2007) means treating others and even oneself as “objects of sexual desire…as things rather than as people with legitimate sexual feelings of their own.” (So Sexy So Soon p. 7) Again, another tie-in with porn: people, especially girls and women, are only valuable for their physical appearance. They are objects to behold and use.

And why is this bad for kids? (I know, “duh!”)

Because their “sex appeal” and physical attractiveness becomes the primary way they value themselves. Not for their kindness, their cleverness, their musical ability or any number of amazing abilities. Nope. They’ve gotta be hot and that means they need to buy something to help them attain “hotness.” And both boys and girls get this message loud and clear.

That’s the bottom line.

child teddy bear billboardSexualized  images and products “are not intended to sell children on sex—they are intended to sell them on shopping.” But sadly, while they’re selling products, they prime kids for porn.

Authors Levin and Kilbourne make this important point:

“There’s an emotional health issue at stake when children view pornography. They are exposed to content well beyond their ability to comprehend…Pornography objectifies people (especially women) and takes sex out of the context of even the pretense of a caring relationship. It is difficult for children to unlearn these attitudes.” (So Sexy So Soon, p. 47)

And now for a true confession. bpbarbie

I never let my daughters play with Barbie dolls. When they received them for gifts, the dolls mysteriously got lost. Or re-gifted. I didn’t want my girls to think that Barbie’s body was “normal” in any way. And as Barbie dolls became increasingly materialistic, I didn’t want my daughters learning that happiness comes from buying more and more stuff.

I know; I’m a crazy fanatic.

I could go on and on, but the point is this: the way to help your child enjoy their childhood (and reject the dangerous messages shared with pornography) is to delay their rush toward sexiness and consumerism.

Have you seen sexiness creep into your young child’s life? Through clothing, games or media? What are you doing to let your kids be kids? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature (mostly because she had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up), and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, cooking those vegetables in new and delicious ways, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.

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