Can we ‘sex-proof’ our children?

24th Oct

A very good article in the changing tomes of parents, and our sexualised culture


Can we ‘sex-proof’ our children?


  • We are drifting, unthinkingly, towards an increasingly sexualised society but parents have the power to say stop
  • It’s a simple, tight, white t-shirt and the model is really good looking. The slogan across her chest proclaims ‘hot as fcuk’. Another ad from the same manufacturer shows a different figure-hugging t-shirt with the slogan ‘possibly . . . the best fcuk ever’.

Just clever advertising or a good example of how sexualised our world has become?

  • The trouble is that children don’t have the same coping mechanisms or intellectual sophistication to filter the sexual messages that exude through our culture.
  • Not only are they exposed to sexual themes, they are also targeted by some manufacturers, advertisers and media outlets to become sexualised in their own dress and expression.



  • There is no doubt that our culture and our society has become more sexualised. We need only to think about the content of most music videos to see sexual themes paraded for our consumption.
  • rise in so-called ‘porno chic’ in advertising
  • There are innumerable sexualised representations of women in the media
  •  There is clothing and accessories, for adults and children, that promote sexual themes, from t-shirts with suggestive slogans to the playboy bunny logo.
  • Recently shag bands, to signal availability for particular sexual acts, were hugely popular amongst teenagers and younger children, who may or may not have been aware of the significance of the coloured wrist-band they were wearing.
  •  So sex is everywhere. Our culture has become more commercialised and since sex sells, sexualised themes are widely used in all forms of commercialism.


“There is a growing tide of concern up and down the country among parents who, like me, are concerned about our children being exposed to inappropriate advertising and sexual imagery and growing up too early,”

Cameron said

  • At the same time he launched a new website, ParentPort, aimed at facilitating parents to understand the standards expected of the media and to make it easier for parents to report inappropriate material.



  • One of the difficulties is that we are not even sure what those potential harms are. We mostly have a feeling that it can’t be good for children to be exposed to lots of sexual imagery and themes but research into this area isn’t conclusive about what the impact of that exposure actually is.
  •  One agreed line of research does suggest that being exposed to media that sexualises girls and women is linked with greater acceptance of stereotyped and sexist notions about gender and sexual roles, including notions of women as sexual objects. It is tempting, therefore, to blame the media and the big commercial interests for dehumanising women by promoting them as little more than sexual objects.
  • What is more difficult, however, is to accept that media, manufacturers and advertisers are primarily responding to what people seem to want.


  • I think that mum is right and I believe the role of parents in mediating, translating and filtering the information received by children is central. We need to have a clear sense of our own values and moral viewpoints in deciding what we are happy to buy for our children and what we are happy to let them watch and read.
  • This is not about keeping them entirely naïve, rather it is about making choices about what they will be exposed to and when.
  • Choosing to limit their exposure to certain TV programmes or to certain sites on the internet seems to me to be wise parenting.
  • It is always easier to loosen-up our control of children’s behaviour after it has been restricted than to try to restrict it when it has been very loose
  • Our job is then to help them make sense of what they are seeing and hearing.
  • We need to contextualise these images and utterances, according to our beliefs and our understanding about what is good and bad, right and wrong. Sometimes we may forget that children are sexual beings from birth. The trouble is that we don’t expect them to express that sexuality until their teenage years.
  • There is a reason that we call the ages from six to 12 years the latency period for children; we expect and have become accustomed to their sexual drives and urges being largely hidden and unexpressed at this time.
  •  Part of the concern of most parents is that the increasingly sexual nature of society might lead children to early expression of their sexuality. We do want to try to protect some of their innocence and we assume that a sexualised culture will corrupt them and lead them to grow up too soon.
  • Physiologically, though, children are growing up sooner, whether we like it or not.
  • Even though children are coming into their physical sexual maturity earlier, it is not a guarantee that their emotional sexual maturity will keep pace


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