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I read a rather interesting article this morning, and it really started me thinking. The article was in “Reason” and it was titled “Defending Prostitots.” Yes, that word is “prostitots” and it is not a misspelling of “prostitutes.” I read, a lot, and we get a variety of different magazines here at work. Most I just flip through to catalogue what our competition is doing, others to see what is being said on both sides of the gun-control debate. I usually ignore the rest, and aside from work interests, I rarely find anything of personal value in them. This article was different.

The article was discussing a recent study by the American Psychological Association on the sexualization of our children – specifically young girls – and it posited some interesting opinions on that report. Now, not having read the entire 72-page report, I’ve skimmed a synopsis, and that’s about all I can manage, I can form no opinions on it from first-hand knowledge.

The bottom line on both sides here: The APA’s report suggests that this sexualization and “dumbing down” of our girls has resulted in greater levels of depression, addiction and teen pregnancy rates. It also suggests increasing incidents of rape, molestation and other violence are the fault of this same trend. Meanwhile, “Reason” maintains that the rates of teenage abortion has declined (between 1998 and 2002 – where are the more recent numbers?), the number of girls engaging in sexual relations before age 15 has decreased, and that rape statistics have gone down by nearly 80 percent (hmmm – I want to see those numbers, please).

Aside from being interesting albeit not very informative, all of the above means precisely nothing to me as a parent. And quite honestly, I don’t know too many parents who give a hoot what the APA thinks, or what the editors of “Reason” or any other magazine think. Most parents I know care about what they see with their own eyes, what they experience in their own lives, and the trends they see affecting their own children. So, collectively to the above: Shove it. Here’s how I see it.

When I was a kid, kids were kids, dammit. Little girls didn’t have tiny thongs. Yes. Thongs. In little girl sizes. Troll dolls were so ugly they were cute and they were rather asexual. Now, there are Trollz, which are scarily similar and even more scarily very different. Barbie was slutty enough for us; now there are Bratz dolls. American Girl, once the paradigm of perfect, porcelain purity, has now joined with Bath & Body Works resulting in a new line of hair and skin care products. OK, so I’m looking back with rose-colored glasses firmly in place, waxing nostalgic for those days of comparative innocence. Sure. I admit that. What mother (especially one who has a girl who has gone past toddler) doesn’t?

Kids mimic what their role models and idols do. So, when their “idols” are essentially nothing more than Pop-Tarts, what should we expect? It’s easy to point fingers and cast shadows of blame and doubt. Are these newer, more confident, more powerful Disney heroines actually oversexed little harlots out to subvert our daughters? Or are they simply presenting a more modern view of femininity and “girl power”? We’re no longer relegated to the role of helpless damsel in distress fellas. Today’s Cinderella wouldn’t rely on a Fairy Godmother, she’d pull a Scarlet and make her own dress all over again. Perhaps it’s the fault of the tarted up images our girls see. No longer are tweens allowed to look awkward and, well, like tweens. Now they are expected to wear makeup, be body and fashion conscious and to be basically miniature versions of their older siblings.

Though I too abhor the continued sexualization of our kids, I take even greater exception to those who paint the picture that rape and violence are the fault of these images. Whoa. Did anyone catch that statement, the one way back in the beginning? Yep. That one. The one where the APA suggests that rape, molestation and acts of violence against girls are the result of this sexualized image? Now we know why this whole thing bugs me so much. Instead of moving forward, we’ve moved backward. That attitude is taking a step backward to the “blame the victim” days. When you can start saying that girls looking and dressing like tarts, or prostitots, is what is causing them to be raped, molested and victimized, you are shifting blame from the perpetrators of the violence back onto the victims.

No, I’m not about to let my barely teenage daughter dress like a little tart, and fortunately, she has no desire to do so. Yes, I’m disgusted by the very idea of thongs for little kids; there is just something dreadfully, horribly wrong with that image, OK? But I am not about to start shouting about this all being the reason are girls are getting pregnant at earlier ages, having more abortions, being raped more often, being molested more often, etc. The images girls present and the sexualization of our culture, as well as the dumbing-down effect, can certainly be part of the reason behind teen pregnancy rates and some of the other issues – but there are other factors at play there as well. But, in no real world, in no stretch of any imagination, in no just life can any amount of sexualization, any amount of slutty appearance be the cause of rape, molestation and violence.

Can you imagine that case?
Well, son. You’re off the hook for molesting that 5-year-old girl. She was wearing thong panties, and obviously asking for it.