While watching “Sext Up Kids” -a short documentary depicting the sexualization of children and the long-lasting effects that follow- I was reminded of my own childhood and began to make comparisons. Growing up, I had limited access to tv, the internet, phones, and even music. While I was the most sheltered child I know, I was still vulnerable to the sexualization that young people experience, and I did experience it. Now, as a young adult, I have realized just how similar my younger self was to the girls in the film.
From Disney Princesses to Bratz Dolls
Like the young girls in the film, I too yearned to be a princess. I dreamed of being that girl; the girl that everyone loved and who was the most beautiful. I played with Barbies- a lot- and at 9 years old I would get up extra early every morning to make a failing attempt at giving myself a Barbie-inspired hairdo. When Bratz dolls became popular, I played with them too. Unlike Barbies, who portrayed a “pretty” self-image, Bratz were “cool” and “hot”. In grade seven -my last year in elementary school- I became more focussed on being “cool”. At only 12 years old, I was tired of being a kid. With my long legs and crazy high metabolism, I struggled to find clothes that fit me. Pants were either too short or too loose and when your idols are Hilary Duff and Rihanna, you think that tighter is better. According to “Sext Up Kids”, my high expectations of my appearance were linked to playing princess:
“Playing princess is priming them for sexualization.”
In other words, it is all about being the fairest of them and when we realize we aren’t the fairest, we go for the sexiest. This is why kids are looking older, earlier.
High School Years
Looking back through my years of high school is like looking at a story plot line. As I continued to set my alarm an hour earlier to make time for hair doing and picking out my “outfit of the day”, my grade 8 and 9 years became the rising actions of the plot line. I made my early high schools years WAY harder than they should have been by stressing about my appearance. I was so worried about what boys or kids from older grades thought of me that I would take extra trips to the bathroom just to look in the mirror. I was obsessed!
This obsession followed me into grade ten where I was called out by other girls in gym class for wearing “granny panties”. I didn’t take the comment too hard and found myself joking about it too but from that point -which would be the climax in the plot line- I had several paths that I could have taken and some of them may have been fairly unpleasant. Fortunately, as I got older and became closer to being a senior, I began to worry less about what people thought of me and spent more time working to get good grades (The fact that I had hit puberty also helped). I didn’t have to get up an hour earlier just to do my hair as I had lots of practice by then; not to mention I loved to sleep way too much. These were the falling actions, leading to the denouement.
By grade 12, I was completely ok with wearing sweatpants to school and not wearing makeup in public. I cared about myself but in a different way. Instead of stressing my appearance, I focused on who I was inside.
No Longer A Princess
Unlike some teen girls, I didn’t take extreme lengths to be noticed. Though I was very self-conscious I was raised to have good morals. Fortunately, my only regret is spending so much time worrying about my appearance. As for some girls -as seen in “Sext Up Kids”- growing up isn’t an easy process. Some girls are called profound names and some girls have naked pictures of themselves circulating through their school, both of which are devastating to a girl’s self-esteem. So why do “girls look at themselves as objects of someone else’s needs and desires”?
From Media to Market
Forever 21, American Eagle, Pac Sun… ring a bell? These are only a few of the stores that “Sext Up Kids” used as examples of stores that sell sexualised clothes and as long as these clothes are being sold, they will continue to be put on the market. Young people buy these clothes because it is what they see in the media. “When pop stars are looking more and more like porn stars, sexualized clothing is no longer a shock but the norm.” I was brought back to when I was 12 and watching Miley Cyrus’s new music video for her single “Can’t Be Tamed“-also used as an example in “Sext Up Kids”. I remember my jaw dropping as I watched one of my innocent childhood idols strut her stuff in a giant bird cage. I couldn’t believe my eyes but my friend, on the other hand, thought I was overreacting and that Miley was only acting her age. I find that funny now seeing as I am around the age Miley was when she made that video and have to disagree with my friend. As we all know, Miley has moved on from dancing in bird cages and is now grinding and twerking it out and we are left wondering, why do pop stars act like porn stars?
Porn Or Hypnosis?
According to “Sext Up Kids”, the porn industry is the cause of these problems. An estimated “70-80%” of teen boys watch porn and this porn watching can begin at a very young age. Porn depicts false ideas of female sexuality wich distorts boy’s idea of what sex actually is. These ideas shape girl’s sexuality into being nothing but performance and that is so, so sad. What is also sad, is how negatively these false ideas affect the boys too. Dr. Ralph Diclemente, one of the speakers who made an appearance in “Sext Up Kids”, explained an incident where a man claimed being unable to have a real relationship because he watched porn so much that real sex didn’t excite him.
Stopping The Cycle
Little girls are going to play princess, and boys are going to watch porn -or vice versa. What parents need to do to help slow the cycle is allow sex to be an open topic and not judge. Sex is not a bad thing. Wanting to have sex is not a bad thing, but kids will make mistakes and it is important for them to understand that mistakes make for great learning opportunities. Education is key. Youth, no matter what they are wearing or watching, need to understand what sexuality is and it’s significance it has on themselves and others.