You'll want to lock away your daughters

March 2, 2008
Toronto Sun
By Rachel Sa

Little girls have been dressing like sluts for too long. So long, in fact, that it now seems like we're accepting a girl in a woman's provocative clothing as the norm.

A new Canadian documentary finally explains why it has happened and, more importantly, what we should do about it.

We should start by screening Sexy Inc., Children Under the Influence in every school across the country -- but under supervision. The documentary is the work of award-winning Quebec filmmaker Sophie Bissonnette. In French and English with subtitles, the film is available from the National Film Board of Canada (www.nfb.ca/store).

Sexy Inc. explores the hyper-sexualization and early sexualization of today's young girls. It will shock you.

Little girls have always wanted to dress up like grown women. But Sexy Inc.
shows that girls today are going far beyond playing at being grown up -- they are enveloped by a culture that has taught them that their sexuality, their bodies, are their sole power.

What's sad is not just that girls are represented this way, but that many believe the message.

One sexual educator in the doc describes young girls who have no idea how to have platonic relationships with boys. Holding hands? Talking on the phone?
Some girls don't even recognize these could be part of the equation.
Instead, they're naively asking if they must have, ahem, every kind of sex, even if they don't want to.

That's not promiscuity. That's ignorance and it's heartbreaking.

So how did this happen? How does it become acceptable for pre-pubescent girls to bare their navels and wear shirts embossed with "Sexy," "Hottie" or other inanities? A quick dip back to my own high school and elementary school experiences reminds me things were entirely different. Sure, girls have always wanted to look pretty. This is different.

Quick access to porn

"To be popular now, you have to be hot, to give off sexual energy," says sexologist Francine Duquet. "But, when you're 14 years old, that's easier said than done." Another sexual educator in the film puts it best when she describes the influence of the Internet on how young people -- boys and girls -- perceive sexual relationships. The Internet provides quick access to pornography, giving children a skewed image of sex. Whether you're pro or con on pornography, it should never be a child's first introduction to sexuality, especially without context or explanation.

You argue that many children had furtive first exposures to sexuality -- from sneaking a look at an adult magazine to skimming a sex manual at the local bookstore. But, through the Internet and the media, the demeaning of women's sexuality is a constant, a pervasive bombardment. And, sadly, not enough of the right, healthy messages about sex counter it.

Everything has gotten mixed up, says Sexy Inc. In this hyper sexualized world, porn is trivialized as the norm, but healthy sexual relationships are difficult to talk about because they're too embarassing.

Sexy Inc. is not a prudish film. It starts with a warning of explicit scenes and sexual content. Sexy Inc. does not promote chastity, nor does it decry sexual relations or characterize the human body as dirty. Instead, we see how sexuality, something natural and integral to our beings, has become warped and twisted. And girls are lost on the battlefield.

It's enough to make you not want to have children or, if you already have them, to lock away your daughters until the big bad world has changed. But the call to action in Sexy Inc. is not so naive.

What can you do? Teach your children -- boys and girls -- to be critical of the images and ideas of sexuality being fed to them. Send them out into the world with a questioning mind.

Follow the advice of psychologist Sharon Lamb:

"Keep reminding your daughters who they are, as a whole person, and not just as a figure to be looked at."