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How Do You Define ‘Child Sexualization?’

Defining Child SexualizationBefore we can have a discussion about whether the sexualization of children is damaging to their development, we need to be able to recognize it when we see it.

Why do some people see the inappropriateness of thrusting children into adult sexuality and others don’t see it at all?  It’s unfortunate that the issue is so controversial but therein lies much of the problem.

I began thinking about this over fifteen years ago when I searched for a co-writer to help me write my book.  I located an established writer who seemed interested in my story and I traveled to Vermont in the dead of winter to meet her.  She looked at a few of the more disturbing pictures from my personal album (they are not in the book) of me at about the age of six, draped across a stone ledge, one leg up in a Marilyn Monroe-like pose and a grown-up pout on my face.

The writer’s response was,  “I don’t see a problem with these.”  Maybe she expected to see something more like kiddie porn.  Needless to say, she wasn’t destined to help me with my book. Ultimately, I had to write it myself with the help of a terrific editor, Jessica Swift.

We often project adult sensibilities onto children and forget that they haven’t reached those sensibilities yet.  Or, we have been sensitized to a parade of overly-precocious children in sitcoms and elsewhere who are usually smarter and more sympathetic characters than their parents.

There has always been a healthy debate about exposing children to sexual material in movies and entertainment.  Isn’t that why we have a film ratings system which is constantly revamped every decade or so?  There are laws protecting minors from all manner of adult activity including drinking, gambling and marriage licenses. Yet, child sexualization is hard for some people to recognize and it is controversial.

Here’s a working definition of child sexualization: 1) Displaying or exposing a child in an age-inappropriate manner or in sexual situations. 2) Using a child for the titilation or glorification of an adult.

What would you add or change?

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