John Hayward Posted: 6 December 2010
Keywords: Sex & Families,
Parent groups have welcomed news of a government inquiry to explore whether new rules should prevent the marketing of sexualised products aimed at children, such as 'Porn star' T-shirts or padded bras.
What many appear to be forgetting is that just ten months ago the Home Office published its Sexualisation of young people review, by Dr Linda Papadopoulos. This noted:
'Sexualisation is the imposition of adult sexuality on to children and young people before they are capable of dealing with it, mentally, emotionally or physically. ... Increasingly, too, children are being portrayed in 'adultified' ways while adult women are 'infantilised'. This leads to a blurring of the lines between sexual maturity and immaturity and, effectively, legitimises the notion that children can be related to as sexual objects. ... Core cognitive learning and developmental theories demonstrate that children learn vicariously from what they see, and that exposure to themes which a child is not developmentally ready to cope with can have a detrimental effect. ... Indeed, there is a significant amount of evidence that attests to the negative effects of sexualisation on young people in terms of mental and physical health, attitudes and beliefs.'
Just last week, in a textbook example of sexting, I learnt of a case locally of a teenage girl who has attempted to commit suicide three times as a direct consequence of feeling humiliated after a former boyfriend made public a 'revealing' photo that she had given to him. As the Papadopoulos review observed, 'With proliferation comes normalisation. It is no surprise therefore that when researchers examine the content of young people's web pages they find that young teens are posting sexually explicit images of themselves on social networking sites, and self-regulating each other with sexist, derogatory and demeaning language.'
One of the review's 36 recommendations was for 'The government to support the NSPCC in its work with manufacturers and retailers to encourage corporate responsibility with regard to sexualised merchandise. Guidelines should be issued for retailers following consultation with major clothing retailers and parents' groups.' Now is the time for action, not yet another inquiry.