It seems like it’s been ages since there was a public backlash against the Netflix movie called Cuties. Those who criticized the film rightly said that the mass distribution minors performing erotic dances is morally wrong, and those responsible should be held criminally responsible for what was essentially soft kiddie porn. Sadly, stories like this one fade all too quickly into the past, which makes it challenging to see some of the more disturbing, developing trends in modern American life— the sexualization of our children.
As with other forms of media and entertainment, Netflix is both a reflection of our times and a tool to push our culture further in a particular direction. This means that there is already some underlining demand for this content, and also companies like Netflix are creating more demand by producing this garbage. But as anyone who studies economics knows that morality does not play into supply and demand curves. Society, however, needs to factor morality into its social equations, which is why we must attend to the rapid erosion of our kids’ innocence.
We’re used to talking about the negative effects of media (TV, social media, YouTube, magazines, movies, the internet, etc.) on kids’ views of appropriate dress, self-image, and behavior as it relates to sex. And we need to address the messages we are sending to kids (and adults) on those platforms. What’s just as troubling (or even more so) is that the places we thought kids were safe, like public libraries and schools, are now part of the problem.
Here’s some of what’s been going:
Drag queen story hour: Men have been dressing in drag for to read children’s books to young audiences in public libraries. And they aren’t usually reading Winnie the Poohor Peter Rabbit. Instead, they include books that focus on gender fluidity and politics. And they also aren’t just about reading books. Check this out. Some public school libraries also have sexually explicit material grade school kids can access and check out.
The problem with this is twofold. As anyone who has children or has spent time around little kids knows, kids have a hard time understanding gender until they enter grade school because their minds aren’t capable of understanding things like just because most women wear dresses doesn’t mean dresses make someone a woman. Another problem is that any kind of gender or sexuality propaganda for children is just wrong.
Lessons on gender and sexuality: One of the latest accounts of this comes from a Kansas high school, in which sophomores received a “Gender Unicorn” so they could work through their gender, sexuality, and understand physical and emotional attraction. Now the school district is saying that students were never asked to complete the worksheet because doing so violates students’ privacy rights.
Another recent story includes a Florida teaching bragging on Twitter that she took her grade schoolers to a gay bar. Again, there are two problems with this. First, children should not be taken to bars on fieldtrips, and kids should not be exposed to any kind of hook-up culture, gay, straight, or otherwise, at such a tender age.
Sexual behavior and gender fluidity for children is encouraged: Sex-ed used to be about teaching kids about human reproductive biology and how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. These days some schools are teaching kids as young as 1stgrade how to masturbate. Some kindergarteners are being told that they can choose their gender. Teachers and school administrators have clearly crossed a line here. And a principal and other staff receiving lap dances from male students dressed in lingerie at high school event in Kentucky blows past several lines.
I am far from the first person to point out the negative consequences of sexualizing kids. Researchers have found that when young girls are exposed to sexual content they are more likely to become victims of sexual violence and experience mental health disorders like depression, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts.
Also, sexualizing kids increases chances for abuse. When it comes to physical intimacy and sexuality, kids really don’t know what they’re doing because they don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to understand the significance of their actions. The part of their brains that is responsible for logical thinking and determining long-term consequences won’t be fully developed until they are in their mid-twenties. Many kids make decisions based on peer pressure and the cues they take from adults.
So, if a kid’s peers, teachers, and the media are saying that sexual behavior is okay, that kid is more likely to engage in sexual acts way before that kid is ready, which can cause lasting emotional and psychological damage. Studies have revealed that girls in particular are engaging in unwanted sex, and it would seem that the premature sexualization of kids is to blame, at least in part.
Our youth are also more likely to depict sexuality in more damaging ways, like becoming or making someone else sexually objectified, which means being viewed and treated as less like a person and more like a thing. As a result of this and other things, sexualized children tend to have a more difficult time having healthy and appropriate sexual relationships as adults.
To be clear, I think that what consenting adults do in their bedrooms is their business (obviously with the exception of criminal behavior like watching illicit material that features minors). And what I have to say here should not be taken as being anti-LGBTQA+ because I would be saying the same thing if all we saw were the straight (one man, one woman) sexualization of children across America.
And none of this is to say that even a majority of American public school districts, schools, and teachers are actively participating in these programs, lessons, and activities that are prematurely stripping away our children’s innocence. To be honest, I’m not sure how widespread this problem is, and the fact that the instances explained above make the news indicates that these stories are out of the ordinary (“man bites dog” stories sell, “dog bites man” stories don’t). The question is are these stories out of the ordinary because they are rare in occurrence, rare in being reported, or a marked departure from the past?
In any case, we all need to be more active in protecting the innocence of our children. We can do this by staying in the know about their school’s curriculum, monitoring what they watch, supervising children when they surf the web, and encouraging kids to be kids. And especially when it comes to schools and children’s programs like camps, we need to be particularly vigilant.
If we don’t take this seriously, the next generations will pay a hefty price… and I’m not just talking about the national debt and inflation. Some things like a child’s innocence are priceless.
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