Child sexualisation shrouded in weasel words

The Age (Australia) June 29, 2008

IN A store one Saturday morning early in 2006, I became aware of a bank of television screens tuned to a music video showing a rap singer engaged in simulated sex with several barely clad dancers. The women were bent over while the rap singer rhythmically thrust his genitals at their backsides. There were quite a few children in the store with parents. I looked around to see if anyone was shocked that soft porn should be shown in a “family environment”, in public on a Saturday. No one seemed to be taking any notice and I thought maybe it was just me. I considered complaining, but wondered whether I was so out of touch I would be regarded as weird.

So instead, a few day later I asked two of my researchers at the Australia Institute, both young women with progressive social attitudes, to carry out a study of the sexualisation of children. When our report, titled “Corporate Paedophilia”, was released in October 2006 it set off a tsunami of public concern, especially from parents and parent groups. Psychologists, criminologists and child development experts soon joined the fray with expert commentary about the damage being done as children are exposed to erotic imagery and behaviours. It quickly became apparent to me that my feelings of dismay in the Harvey Norman store were not weird but common in the community.

Messages of support poured in to the Australia Institute. Mothers rang to say they were shocked when their eight-year-old daughters began doing sexy dances in public and asking for frilly underwear. Others expressed disgust at T-shirts for six-year-olds reading: “And all daddy wanted was a blow-job.” Many objected to department store ads showing 10-year-olds pouting at the camera. The report examined the content of three new magazines aimed at five-to-12-year-old girls and found them full of stories about make-up, catwalk models, sexy celebrities, “crushes” and how to look like Paris Hilton.

…Community groups such as Kids Free 2B Kids have uncovered more and more alarming examples. Director Julie Gale found that Dolly magazine, with 50% of its readership under 14, tells girls that anal sex is a “personal choice”.