Saturday, September 20, 2008

Teen girls and sex: Whose to blame?

A friend recently shared this article with me, The Truth About Teen Girls, released by The article focuses on the presence of sex in the lives of teenage girls today. But unlike many recent publications, the article addresses the appearance of sexiness put on by many young women as opposed to the actual sexiness of these young women. In other words, are our teenage girls overtly sexual or do they just want to appear that way?
The article points out that since 1991, the rate of pregnancies among teen girls is trending downward. This doesn't mean that sex isn't a problem among our young women, but it does force researchers to approach this issue from different angles and perspectives. One report by the American Psychological Association (2007) suggests that are youngest adolescents are not experiencing sexiness when they dress sexy, rather they experience a desire to look older. In other words, a nine-year-old girl might see certain actresses dressing sexy and think, "I want to look like her because she is older than me and she is cool." So rather than slapping on a mini-skirt because it is "sexy," the young girl dresses provacatively because she thinks that it makes her look older and cooler.
Unfortunately, the sexy images portrayed in the media are about the only images that our young girls are seeing. With the exception of a few positive media campaigns such as Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty and Girls Inc., most of our young girls are digesting media images that hinder a girl's self-confidence
Time's article highlights one suggestion made by Gigi Durham, author of The Lolita Effect: provide children as early as kindergarten with media-literacy classes to teach them how to dissect and understand the pervasive aspects of their environment. This is especially important because our children are raised in a "sex sells" culture. Imagine if our children were exposed to a media that wasn't trying to sell anything. And imagine what such media-literacy education could do for our girls by the time they are facing adolescence.
The article ends by challenging its readers to think about the not-so-pleasant reality that WE are at fault for this "sexual epidemic" and our children are merely the victims (like in Nabokov's book Lolita, Lolita was the victim). With child-pornography on the rise (and it's not the teens using it), adults are to blame for this sex-obsessed culture. We are the ones that freaked out when Miley Cyrus posed half-nude on a magazine cover, not our children. As the article points out, "when tweens see a picture of Cyrus with her back bare and her hair tousled, they don't see her as postcoital. That's an adult interpretation."
Maybe if we discovered how to contain our obsession with sex, we could stop the cycle of actual sexiness and perceived sexiness among our young people. Because let's face it, we can't expect our young girls to behave any differently if we continue to behave so much worse.

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