By Alan McKee & Emmy-Lou Quirke
Kids are being sexualized these days. And, wouldn’t you know it, popular culture is to blame:
RAUNCHY pop stars, including Kylie Minogue, have been blasted by their own industry for going too far with sexual imagery. Kylie’s former producer, Mike Stock, has slammed saucy film clips as “sexualising” children, saying modern pop stars are going “too far”
You might think this is just another example of knee jerk prejudice against the culture of the masses .… But is it? Research shows that boys as young as two are displaying sexual behaviour such as masturbating, touching their genitals in public, and undressing in front of others. Similar research found alarming results revealing 20% of boys had had intercourse with a prostitute by the age of 18.
These are alarming statistics. What’s happening to children today? ‘The X-rated generation’, some call them, are out of control and the media MUST be to blame.
Except, of course, that the statistics in question come from 1943. Young people are not suddenly becoming ‘sexualised’. Sexual development is a normal, healthy part of childhood, and for as long as sexology has been examining it, sexual exploration has been a part of children’s development.
Research on the sexual development of children makes for fascinating reading. A 1928 study of infant boys reports that 55% of the cohort had masturbated before the age of 36 months. In 1933 ‘games involving undressing or sexual exploration (often under the guise of “mothers and fathers” or “doctors” [were] common by age 4 years’. As noted above, in 1943 more than 20% of boys had visited a prostitute by age 18. In 1957 about half of pre-school children exhibited ‘sex play’ or ‘genital handling’.
Not only has this been going on for at least 90 years, the research suggests that it’s perfectly healthy. In a 1993 retrospective study, 85% of women described ‘a childhood sexual game experience … [and] statistical analysis showed that these subjects did not differ from those who did not remember any childhood sexual games’.
A common phrase in the Australian media when discussing this topic is ‘let kids be kids’. ‘Kids Free 2B Kids’ is even the name of a local lobby group protesting about child sexualisation. We agree – kids should be free to be kids. And part of being a kid is sexual development. That is what kids do – what they have always done. It’s normal, and it’s healthy. Some people don’t like it, and would like it to stop. But let’s take it seriously – let kids be kids – and do what kids have always done.