Sexualizing Britain’s Youth

Earlier this month, BBC Panorama ran a program titled “Too much too young.” The program explored whether Britain’s children are being encouraged to become prematurely sexualized.
Although the program tended to downplay the seriousness of the issue, there has been a string of reports in the newspapers recently highlighting the urgency of the matter. Music videos, displays in High Street shops, lap-dancing kits, padded bras for primary school girls, playboy-branded pencil cases and features in teen magazines are merely some of the tools which are helping to sexualize Britain’s youth at alarmingly young ages.
There have even been reports in the newspapers about a pajama set aimed at ten year olds with “Porn Star” written on it.
But it is not just parents who have been concerned. Government has weighed in with five initiatives in three years in an attempt to respond to the issue. Their latest plan, according to a BBC news report, is “to explore whether rules should prevent the marketing of items such as ‘Porn star’ T-shirts or padded bras…. A code of conduct on ‘age appropriate’ marketing and a new watchdog are among plans being considered by the review.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, himself a father of three, has made this issue a personal concern after discovering beds marketed towards six-year-olds with a “Lolita” branding (Lolita is a novel about a paedophile).
So far the debate over the sexualisation of children has centred primarily on quantitative questions. Are our young people being exposed to too much sex? Does this exposure happen at too young of an age?
Now certainly questions like these are important, especially when we ask who profits from the sexualisation of a 13 or 14 year-olds. I think few would doubt that the beneficiaries include the growing network of pedophiles in Britain.
What I find interesting, however, is that by framing the debate solely in terms of the above questions, the discussion has excluded crucial qualitative distinctions we need to be making. In an article I recently wrote for the Telegraph website, I have used the Panorama program as a springboard to explore what some of these qualitative distinctions are. I suggest that instead of being worried about our youth being sexualized too early, we should give attention to the way they are being sexualized, and in particular the way that they are being subtly influence to adopt a particular narrative about sex.
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