Brave New World (1931), shows there’s nothing new in panics about the sexualisation of the young. Huxley had a vision of a government kept in power because people were so sated with drugs, sex and sport that they hadn’t the energy to care how they were being governed. I wonder if Reg Bailey’s a fan?
Is banning kids’ clothes just protecting parents?
I sympathise with the Mothers’ Union report fronted by Bailey, criticising the sexualisation of children through the sale of inappropriate clothing and remorselessly sexual advertising. But I have a sneaking feeling that I oppose these things because they make me uncomfortable rather than because of the effect they have on children (which is in any case unproven).
I remember an anxious wait on a packed bus in a traffic jam praying that my son, aged 6 or 7, wouldn’t notice the billboard we were waiting next to and ask what Want to get it up and keep it up all night? meant. I’m sure the ad man who draped a naked Sophie Dahl over a velvet couch to advertise perfume never had to explain to a child on the tube why she didn’t have any clothes on.
I’ve come to accept, though, that me not liking things – baseball caps, black tights with white shoes, reality TV – isn’t, sadly, enough for them to be banned. Not everyone looking at adverts is a child (or a parent). The world can’t be shaped just to protect the young. I’d like popular culture not to be so boringly obsessed with sex, but no-one’s forcing me to watch. My children, raised amidst the sexualised culture, seem pretty well adjusted. Padded bras for 8-year olds are weird, but if no-one bought them they’d stop making them. Parents should take responsibility for their children and protect them from this stuff if they’re worried about it. Manufacturers and advertisers are just following the money.
Sluts and Bunnies
So while I’m uncomfortable but not outraged by 8-year olds in bikinis – wish they didn’t exist, don’t want to ban them – I’m more torn about the sexual politics of clothing as the 8-year olds grow up. That’s the problem with being trained to see both sides of an argument, you can see both sides of the argument.
Things I am both for and against…
- I support the principle behind the Slut Walk – a woman has an absolute right to wear what the hell she wants when she’s out on the streets.
- I would rather my daughter covered up when she went out, because I know that she’ll attract less unwanted attention that way.
- I back the eff off Hef campaign to stop the opening of a new Playboy Club, believing that bunny costumes insult and degrade women.
- I back the rights of women to earn a living however they want.
- I’d rather young people put off having sex until they are emotionally as well as physically able to cope with it.
- I’m definitely not in favour of the Nadine Dorries school of abstinence (for girls). In this subject more than any other openness is important, ignorance is not bliss. It can be dangerous.Oh, and
- Openness about sexual issues includes the right of men to have information about erectile dysfunction.
- I really don’t want to see the ads.
I got a text from my daughter as I was writing this. There is going to be a slut walk on sat can i go? I said yes. And restrained the impulse to add but let’s talk about what you’re going to wear.