gavelIt used to be illegal to make pornography with actors that looked like they were under 18. But thanks to the Free Speech Coalition (the porn industry’s lobby), that part of the 1996 Child Protection Act got overturned by a judge in 2002. This decision opened the door to using actors that look much younger than they are.

Pseudo Child Pornography

school girl with lollipopIn fact the genre is called Pseudo Child Pornography (PCP,) and it’s one way that pornographers keep things “fresh” for their viewers. Young-looking 18 year olds are dressed as children, often in school uniforms, holding lollypops and stuffed animals while they perform sexually in front of the camera. (In fact, when I searched for images of “girls with lollipops” on istock.com, most of the images were sexualized–much moreso than this one.)

I’ve already talked about the fact that porn viewers require new and more intense images to get the same level of arousal. (If you want to understand the brain science behind this, read my post Why Porn Escalates from Underwear Ads to Hard Core.)

Gail Dines, in her article The New Lolita: Pornography and the Sexualization of Childhood (included in the anthology Big Porn, Inc) explains how PCP is influencing our culture and chipping away at our society’s ban that protects children from sexual use and abuse.

Big Porn Inc coverDines provides evidence to back up her argument. She explains that we’ve become an “image-based culture” where images have trumped the spoken or written word as the major form of communication.  As we become desensitized to sexual imagery, the producers of TV shows, music videos, advertisements and porn “need to ramp up the degree to which the female body is sexualized as a way to get our attention.” This has led to an increasingly pornographic media landscape.

You’ve been to the mall recently?  Then you know what I mean.

Pseudo Child Pornography is one way of ramping up. But it’s led to actual changes in teen behavior. Here’s one example: nurses who administer rape kits on teens who are victims of sexual assault say they can no longer use pubic hair as an indicator of puberty because the girls are removing it as soon as it grows. Dines goes on to say, “In my interviews with college-age females, I hear repeatedly that pubic hair is considered unhygienic and a sexual turnoff by their boyfriends.” This is a very clear example of how a “porn-generated practice” has “slipped into the lives of real women.”

Dines goes on to describe various porn websites that specialize in “innocent”, “cute”, “first-timer” teens.

But what does this have to do with your kids?

Because people are influenced and changed by the media they consume, including your kids. And when we allow images of children (pseudo or not) to be sexually exploited,

“[W]e chip away at the norms that define children as off-limits to male sexual use. The more we undermine such cultural norms, the more we drag girls into the category of ‘woman’, and in a porn-saturated world, to be woman is to be a sexual object deserving of male contempt, use and abuse.”

So what’s a parent to do?

Here are four powerful ways to protect your kids:

  1. Actively teach your kids healthy attitudes about sex to counter what the media will feed them from a very young age. For example, kids are not ready for sex. It is not right for kids to be involved in sex. Sex is to bond two adults who are emotionally and in every other way committed to each other. Sex is to build a family. Kids don’t need to look hot. (I hate that term!)Kids-80s-pop-party
  2. Buy clothes that preserve their childhood. So much of kids’ clothing today is sexualized. Watch out for their toys, too. (See my post here for more info.)
  3. Be very careful about the media your kids consume. And talk to them when you see stuff that goes against the norms you want to establish. I refused to buy a copy of The Little Mermaid–and Disney’s sexualization of Arial’s character was only one reason. (Giving up one of your greatest natural gifts to catch a man is another…I never wanted my girls to get that message!)
  4. Teach media literacy…all the time! Look for sexualized images of women in your environment and comment on them to your kids. “I think that woman (girl) would feel better about herself is she were dressed more appropriately.” Or ask questions, “Why do you think that picture is being used to sell that product?” Don’t swallow the images you see everywhere whole. Chew them up and spit some of them out! And teach your kids to do the same.

Do you have any other ideas? Please leave a comment and share! Thanks!

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, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, 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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