Is there ever a day when “kids and sex” aren’t in the news? Sheesh. I recently wrote about our increasingly “pornified” culture, as radio host Laura Ingraham puts it. But really — that’s just part of the larger issue of an increasingly sexualized culture that, well, defines sexuality down, to borrow a term, particularly for our children.
And so, when a Maine middle school announced last week it would start making birth-control pills available to girls ages 11-13, there seemed to be something of a national shrug of resignation. As in, “Of course, it’s come to this.”
But news flash: The romantic, even sensual fantasies of girls this age do not revolve around having full sexual intercourse. If they are engaging in it, it’s typically not something they really want to do, and it’s probably not even with boys their age. But, our culture seems ready, sometimes eager, to sexually debase our youngest children. (And, it seems, our girls in particular. But that’s a column for another day.)
Meanwhile — and maybe the flip side to my recent column — I see many parents in denial that their children could ever be enticed by, say, online pornography. In fact, Cris Clapp of Enough is Enough, which focuses on Internet pornography and especially keeping it from kids, told me that a big problem her organization encounters is the naivete of parents who don’t think their kids ever would be, could be, drawn into such things.
They are wrong.
Moreover, such parents may send the message to their children that these images are “dirty” — instead of degrading.
It seems our cultural orientation toward our kids and sex seems to be either “they are animals so we have to give birth control to these rapacious 11-year-old girls” or “my kids are good kids — they wouldn’t get drawn into this stuff, online or anywhere else, and if they do find it enticing there’s something wrong with that desire anyway.”
But whatever is going on around us, we parents can’t let our culture redefine, and define down, sexuality for our kids. We can’t let the culture dictate our terms.
Responsible parents understand, and then communicate to their children, a right message. That starting with the sexuality our kids see and hear about — whether it creeps onto the Internet in spite of our filters or our kids just come across these images on a billboard or in a magazine or on TV (no matter how careful we are) — that our children might well be enticed by these things precisely because, in a sense, they were created to be. These sexual images are powerful because they elicit the very response our kids were “built” to have. It’s just that the goal behind such depictions is to direct that response to a degrading end zone.
Seduction and sensuality aren’t “bad,” just the opposite — they are wonderful things that were meant for marriage. So, our children’s response to such things is not something for our kids to feel “guilty” about, but to orient rightly.
What a gift we give our kids when we communicate that to them.
And so, when my children do come across that garbage, I don’t want them to just turn away and say, “I can’t look; it’s wrong.” I want to help them to think: “How sad that God’s gift of sensuality would be used in such a cheap way.”
At the same time, our kids have to understand — we have to tell them — that they are in a culture that pushes them, particularly our girls, to be hyper-sexualized — and it’s all part of the same, empty continuum. A dangerous continuum that will never recognize that sensuality outside of marriage is just not, well, good enough for them.
Now, as a mom to four young kids, I’m not naive to think this orientation offers any magical protection for anyone. But I do think we parents have to parent boldly, and in countless ways stand up against the culture and for our kids. This is one of them.
Betsy Hart hosts the “It Takes a Parent” radio show on WYLL-AM 1160 in Chicago. This column was distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.