“So Sexy So Soon” by Diane E. Levin, Ph.D. and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D.
I don’t think the blurb on the book jacket—which uses examples straight out of the 1970s and 1980s for parent strategies to counteract the assault of a sexualized society—does justice to this book. So Sexy So Soon really is up-to-date and helpful. It doesn’t mince words, but shows immediately how deeply sexualized America society is and just how young are the children affected by popular media. For example, these are selections from the first paragraphs of the introduction:
“A four-year-old girl, in the dramatic play area of her preschool, begins swaying her hips and singing, “Baby, I’m your slave. I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave.’ When her teacher goes over to talk to her about it, she volunteers that she learned the song from her eight-year-old sister. After doing a bit of research, the teacher discovers that the words are from a highly popular Justin Timberlake song.”
“A six-year-old casually asks at dinner, ‘What’s a blow job?’ Before his parents can respond, his ten-year-old sister knowingly screeches, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe he asked that!’”
“An eight-year-old boy comes home and reports to his father that he didn’t know what to do when his friend showed him pornography on the Internet during a playdate at the friend’s house.”
“A furor erupts at a bar mitzvah when two girls are caught performing oral sex on the thirteen-year-old bar mitzvah boy in a ladies’ room stall.”
So Sexy So Soon discusses why children are so sexualized in American society. One of the big reasons is that it sells—it’s a marketing tool, which has always been true for adult products. (I’m getting pretty darn old, and can remember a commercial from my childhood for Noxzema shaving cream that had a beautifully voluptuous girl saying, “Take it off. Take it all off!” with strip-tease music in the background.) However, children’s products were advertised to appeal to kids’ fantasies. Ironically (for the kids at least—not the sellers), “Products are not intended to sell children on sex—they are intended to sell them on shopping.”
“’Teach seven-year-olds that sexual expression is a matter of accessorizing and you’ve secured a lifetime of purchases in the lingerie department. Disassociate sex from non-market feelings (pleasure, desire, intimacy) and associate it instead with consumable superficialities, and you’ll not only keep the rabble in line, you’ll have them lined up at the mall.’” (Cynthia Peters, commentator for ZMag.com)
So Sexy So Soon discusses how parents can work through the onslaught. There are a few chapters on teens as well, and these could (should?) appeal to high school students. And if any of you, as high school students, are going to approach the topic of advertising or of sexualizing children as part of a controversial issues report, don’t pass this book up! If you are a teacher or parent of young children, this is a good read.