Warns against the sexualisation of society
Children are being increasingly exposed to sexual imagery, and parents have limited opportunities to prevent it, a new report warns.
by Rune H. Rasmussen
A report written on commission by the Home Office was released by the author, Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, last Friday. The report calls for tougher regulation of sexual imagery in the media, and makes a number of recommendations on how to prevent what is called the “pornofication” of society.
Causes distorted self-image
The report shows how sexual imagery and a body-fixated message can affect children and young people’s development and influence cultural norms. The report also establishes a clear link between sexualised imagery and violence towards females.
“Society pushes both girls and boys into gender stereotypes,” Dr. Papadopolous said to the Daily Mail. Different media, especially music videos, advertising, games and magazines, make girls believe that the most important of all is to be ‘hot”, that is, sexually available and permissive. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to be macho, buttoned-up and to objectify women.
Another outcome of the development is the increase of sexual bullying and ”sexting”. The report shows that an increasing number of girls feel pressured into posting pictures of themselves posing topless or naked on social networks.
”Both the images we consume and the way we consume them are lending credence to the idea that women are there to be used and that men are there to use them.” Dr. Papadopoulos said to BBC. ”Unless sexualisation is accepted as harmful, we will miss an important opportunity […] to broaden young people’s beliefs about where their values lie.”
Bodies as decorative objects
The music industry, amongst others, receives harsh criticism in the report. One of the worst examples emphasized by Dr. Papadopoulos is a music video in which the rapper Nelly swipes a credit card in a woman’s buttock.
“In music videos, 50% of women neither play an instrument nor sing. They are there purely for decoration,” Dr. Papadopolous said to Times Online. “The commodification of women and girls is now so ingrained in our culture that glamour modelling and lap-dancing are widely viewed not only as acceptable but in some cases aspirational.”
A number of recommendtations
The report make 36 recommendations intended to counteract the unfortunate development. Key recommendations include:
- Ensuring games consoles are sold with parental controls already switched on. Purchasers can then choose to unlock the console if they wish to allow access to adult and online content.
- A ban on music videos featuring sexual posing or sexually suggestive lyrics before the TV watershed.
- A ban on Jobcentres advertising positions in lap-dancing clubs and massage parlours.
- A ban on selling “lads’ mags” to children under the age of 16.
- Internet service providers to block access to pro-bulimia and pro-anorexia websites .
- The creation of a website where parents are allowed to voice their concerns regarding “irresponsible marketing” which sexualises young children.
Pay attention and impose good boundaries
Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, Sue Berelowitz, said the report was excellent, but also said responsibility does not only lie with the media.
”Parents need to be stepping in and taking control, they need to be imposing good boundaries, they need to know what their children are watching, people need to be really careful about children having private access to the internet in their bedrooms,” she told BBC.
Do we want this development?
Director of Kids and Media, Oystein Samnoen, expresses concern connected to the development described in the report.
”Children and young people are increasingly exposed to images and video clips that focus on looks, body and sexuality through the media, music and advertising industries. The number of available images increase and the images become stronger. A normal pop music video today would have been considered porn 15 years ago. We have to ask ourselves if we on behalf of our children want this development, especially in light of the fact that media are playing an increasingly central role in children and young people’s childhood and development. Media contributes in shaping children’s self image, as well as their views on people, values and norms of behaviour. I believe the stereotyping of gender and the increasing body-fixation is problematic, and I find it strange that we adults reflect on the development to such a little extent.”
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