Music, magazines or merchandise? Tell us who you think bears most responsibility for exposing children to sexualised images
Are children too exposed to overtly sexualised images? Flesh and flirting are cheap but ever more common currencies with which to try to flog anything from push-up bras to magazines. It’s an easy decision to make a quick buck, but far harder to question the ethics of feeding children’s natural curiosity for things that make them feel grown up, a curiosity that is instinctively moderated by attentive parents.
Celebrity and entertainment arguably have more responsibility than retailers for desensitising parents to the sexualisation of music, magazines, television and merchandise, and perhaps our own benchmarks have shifted as a consequence.
There is an understandable tendency to reject any attempt to restrict or impede our access to content, or even our experience of access to that content. But it is not about prudishness, English sexual inhibition orcensorship. It’s about sensitivity, restoring some level of dignity, of rationality, and a space where the images of women that children see every day are not semi-naked or prone.
In Hamley’s not so long ago I was horrified to see the role-playing toyssection: the boys’ shelf has a doctor’s kit and a builder’s kit while the girls’ shelf had what I can best describe as a Paris Hilton kit, with a tiara, mobile phone and stilettos. If we set our children up with such shallow expectations, can we really be surprised when they follow them?
The July edition of GQ is the latest of the mainstream men’s magazines to push the boundaries of acceptability with its choice of cover photo, showing a reclining Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in a slit dress that just about covers her crotch, though not without revealing the inner curve of her buttock. For adult males, that kind of titillation is so commonplace it probably doesn’t even feel like titillation anymore. But it’s not just men’s magazines; I still boycott T3 gadget magazine, which insists on putting a chick in a bikini on the cover with some token gadget. Or is that a token chick? Once when I described Page 3 as “soft porn”, a Sun editor phoned to complain.
Are magazines the biggest culprit or is it the popstars? Have you found bizarrely inappropriate clothing in children’s stores? And what about mainstream TV? Tell us all your horror stories…