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April 25, 2005

Children in a World of Adult Sexuality (EDITED TO CORRECT ERRORS) « Social Issues »

There is a perspective you get from being a parent that it is very hard for a single person to understand. It's the understanding that you have a child whose prime motivation is to learn about life. Everything is new to a child, and perspective and context make a huge difference in how incidents and information impact.

The parent, the adult, can try to give the child the proper context in which to interpret what they see and hear. But a parent cannot put the child in a box and filter everything. And the world is far more obscene, profane, and carnal than it was even just 15 years ago.

All you adults reading this, especially South Park Republicans and Deadwood Democrats, do you realize you can watch your movies with adult situations, sexuality, and foul language without it affecting you because you were more protected when you were a child. And by insisting that no one touch or regulate your entertainment on "pay" TV (which is now the default in most homes, reaching more households than broadcast TV ever did in the 70s), you are eliminating that protection for your kids.

Michelle Malkin points to an excerpt from a book by a former writer for the sex industry who finally realizes this point.

Excerpt of the excerpt:

In today's media climate, whether we want it or not, we are inundated, saturated, beaten over the head with sex. Television, our national public commons, has an ever-mounting percentage of explicit sexual content on cable, shading down to the mere leering double entrendre and snickering innuendo of broadcast sitcoms. It's difficult to find a program that doesn't reference sex. It's egregious, it's out of control, it's too much. Media, advertising art, and entertainment constantly shove images at me that I am just not interested in seeing.

The average child in America puts in a full workweek, forty hours, consuming media. That means our kids are getting a snootful of this stuff, all day every day, week in and week out.

The creators of South Park find it hypocritical that we are so concerned about children being exposed to sex and bad language but don't care about kids being exposed to violent themes in movies.

Well, that's a gross oversimplification. First, parents do object to gratuitous violence, like that in, say, Grand Theft Auto. Then people say being exposed to violence doesn't necessarily make kids violent.

In all fairness, I think there is a point there. Context does make a difference. I was a little worried when my son started watching the Power Rangers, because so many parents have expressed concern that it teaches kids to hit. But I watched it a few times with them and grew less concerned. Violence in that show is always used to help, protect, and defend; not to hurt, manipulate, or destroy. And so we actually use the Power Rangers quite a bit as object lessons in having courage and persistence in dealing with difficulties, i.e., "Okay, so you fell down on your bike. Don't you think it hurts when the White Power Ranger gets kicked in the face? But he gets up and tries again, right?" This actually is working quite well, by the way. The Power Rangers aren't lessons in violence, but in courage.

And violence can, and is portrayed in different ways. Saving Private Ryan is violent, yes. So are Jackie Chan movies. So is the movie The Magnificent Seven. But violence is portrayed differently in all three, and really not glorified as violence itself, but violence in relation to something important. Defense, protection, saving.

Sexual themes, however, are nearly universally about one thing: titillation. Sexual themes are, by definition, attempts to arouse and incite desire. There is one simple message in our Sexually-Oriented culture today, and it's not the one I want my children internalizing as a Way to Live.

I am convinced that pursuing sexual satisfaction as an end-goal itself is the antithesis of peace, happiness, and stability in life. I wish the world wasn't working so hard to drown me out when I try to teach my children that philosophy of life.

Posted by Nathan at 11:01 AM | Comments (2)

"Sexual themes, however, are nearly universally about one thing: titillation."

Maybe if you're watching porn. But in general, sexual themes are not attempts to arouse and incide desire, but attempts to portray characters who experience desire. Some of those characters handle that desire responsibly, while other handle that desire irresponsibly and make fools of themselves. Laughing at people making fools of themselves is a universal human behavior and seems to be an important part of the learning process.

And I'm not even convinced that enjoying a bit of tittilation is such a horrible thing for anyone equipped to respond to it. We're stalling their education, stretching out their childhoods, and putting them in a situation where anything but complete celibacy for the first 8-10 of their prime childbearing years can derail their entire lives - do we really need to forbid them every form of release while they're going through that?

Posted by: Ken at April 27, 2005 01:17 PM

You're right, I spoke hastily and imprecisely.

Let me modify. Not all sexual themes are attempts to arouse and incite desire, but most are. From sports cheerleaders to scantily clad girls in beer commercials to suggestive themes in advertising, sex sells. And so marketers who want to sell something use it.

Sure, some sexual situations are about people dealing with desire and choices...but few of those are handled in an appropriate manner.

"Equipped to respond to it" indeed. Pubescent teenagers aren't emotionally equipped to deal with the amount of sexuality they are exposed to on MTV and VH1 and daily life; there is good reason to believe that even people in their early 20s aren't emotionally equipped to deal with it. And one of the main purveyors of sexuality is Hollywood, where adults who should know better seem permanently stuck in Junior High School levels of you think they know how to handle the subject subtly and capably for pre-teen kids?

You talk about "forbidding from a form of release". I see it as "enticing into a temporarily pleasurable form of self-destruction." We probably have a different viewpoint of the role of sex in a relationship, I'd wager.

Before anyone slaps me of the ultra-trendy "Theocrat" label, I'm not advocating passing any laws to change things. I'd just like to persuade people that encouraging society to voluntarily scale back the sex-meter a little might be a good idea.

Posted by: Nathan at April 27, 2005 05:43 PM
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