Why do people feel they have to excuse themselves for standing up for morality and decency? That is just what Lawrence Downes did in the opening line of his excellent opinion piece that ran in the Dec. 29th edition of The New York Times.
Yes, The New York Times. Not a paper known for its right-leaning tendencies, which makes finding Downes' column all the more refreshing. But the opening line hangs like a millstone: “It's hard to write this without sounding like a prig.”
“Middle School Girls Gone Wild” is the title of the column in which Downes describes the shock he felt when he attended a talent show put on by a public middle school in Long Island. He describes the antics of some of the pre-pubescent girls' performances as little more than pint-sized sex shows. One of the numbers to which these middle school girls performed was a Janet Jackson song with the whispery lyrics, “Don't stop don't stop. Jerk it like you're making it choke. ...Ohh. I'm so stimulated. Feel so X-rated.”
And Downes reports, the parents of these performers whistled and applauded. Well, of course they did. And they probably let their children watch copious amounts of MTV, where the kids learn the lurid dance moves so eagerly rehearsed and performed. Do parents actually watch what their kids watch on MTV? Or, in the effort to be “un-priggish,” have they completely abdicated responsibility to turn the garbage off? What parent really thinks it's appropriate for a 10-year old to wear a micro-mini skirt and writhe on the dance floor, legs splayed, or thrusting her chest and pelvis out in time to a driving, demanding beat?
Being a supportive parent is important. Cheering on a child's performance helps them build self-esteem. And parents today have been programmed to believe that self-esteem is the key to success. But at what cost? It's sad that some parents seem more worried about seeming like a “prig” than they are about telling their kids “no” when the choices they are making are, at the very least, questionable. What lesson might have been learned had one of the parents of the dancing Lolitas insisted to her daughter – and the talent show organizers – that dancing suggestively to lyrics about driving men to orgasm is actually inappropriate? Surely, parents who worry about their daughter's self-esteem wouldn't want it derived from how she performs sexually for other children.
MTV celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. It is not a stretch to suggest that MTV has done more to contribute to the early sexualization of children than any other media outlet. Study after study shows that children are affected by what they see on television. This past summer, the journal Pediatrics reported on research that linked listening to degrading sexual lyrics to increased sexual activity in teenagers.
With MTV you get a double bang for the buck – hearing degrading sexual lyrics and seeing erotic dance moves that accompany them. And it's targeted directly to children. Is it any wonder that schools around the country are debating whether or how much pelvic thrusting between boys and girls on the dance floor is appropriate?
Today's sex-obsessed culture forces children into roles they are not mentally, physically or emotionally ready to handle. Innocence is dying in our children. When will parents act like adults and stand up to say, ENOUGH?!”
Ms. Kristen Fyfe is a Senior Writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.