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Thursday, October 21, 2010

SPARKing Up A Conversation


 When my sister's second son was born, she commented to me that she was so thankful that she'd had only sons, for she wouldn't need to buy breast implants for a high school graduation gift. While there was some laughter at the time, the statement left an impression on me that I cannot deny. It made me think and question exactly what we are doing to this generation of girls.

  Girls today are bombarded with sex. The magazines that once suggested ways to improve one's complexion are now telling teens how to be better at sending sexually-charged text messages. While our generation was taught to shoot for a PhD, our children are praying not to get an STD.  The line between little princess and porn queen has become so blurred that the most common procedure for girls 12-14 is laser hair removal. Angels like this 10 year old are modelling sexy bikinis alongside adults and stripper pole kits are being sold as toys. Earlier this week I profiled a girl who had been put on a near-starvation diet since the age of two and readers were shocked, but the sad thing is that this is becoming quite common. Girls are learning mathematics by counting calories.

  A lot of people are making comments memorializing Bob Guccione without taking a second to think about the fact that, intentionally or not, he was responsible for the largest dissemination of child pornography in the history of humankind. Mr. Guccione capitalized on curiosity to be sure, but also on an increasing appetite for images of women being degraded. The facial cumshot is not an image of sex so much as it is one of ownership, of dominion of the muscle-bound stud over his helpless prey. 70% of the content on the World Wide Web is of a sexual nature, and child sexual abuse images are becoming popular as a new form of "extreme" pornography because Two Girls, One Cup is just not enough anymore.

  But it's not just girls who are affected by this perverse culture. Through the media, boys are also ingrained with a hypermasculinity; one that states that if he is thoughtful and treats women with respect, he's a "fag" or pussy-whipped. Boys are not only being taught to desire increasingly younger girls, but also to hate them and themselves. Young men are becoming part of the consumer culture in ways never before thought of. From growth supplements to equipment solely designed to clean genitals, boys are also taught to believe that muscles are more useful than merit. It's FAR cooler to be a pimp or Guido than an English professor, don't you watch television?

  Conferences like the SPARK Summit are indeed important, but it's just not enough that we recognize the exploitation of girls. We must also acknowledge the part of this sexualized culture that affects boys as well. Boys are being sent the message that they must victimize others to get ahead, to treat girls as objects and orifices, not equals. Girls and boys need to stop being continuously peppered with unrealistic physical images and expectations.

  The self-esteem of girls is important. They need to be educated on their true beauty and wholistic attributes. But it cannot be one-sided; telling girls to say no means nothing if boys are told that they're pussies if they don't take it anyway. Instruct kids to love themselves and others regardless of which body they were born into.

Be well.

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