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The Attack of the Sexual Revolution on Children

Mathias von Gersdorff
Frankfurt am Main

Presentation at the
World Congress of Families in
Sidney, Australia 2013

Present state of research
Role of the media and advertising
Pop music
TV serials as a source of moral degradation
Family and sexualization
Ultimate goal of sexualizing children
Conclusion: what must be done


Increasingly, younger children - especially girls – are now coming on stage in a sexualized manner. Makeup, fashionable clothes, high heels and glamorous style have become commonplace among children younger than ten. A few years ago, only girls aware of the sexual effects it produces would choose such attire. How does that happen? How are these girls oriented to choose their appearance when they know little or nothing about the effect that produces on the opposite sex?

Present state of research

Meanwhile, there is already a lot of literature dealing with this phenomenon from a critical standpoint. In 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a report by Eileen Zurbringen titled, “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.” The study sees the phenomenon with extremely critical eyes. According to the authors, girls lack enough mental stability to make free decisions regarding their sexuality. Needless to say, this is a critical judgment from the standpoint of science. From the Christian perspective, first and foremost for moral reasons, this behavior is wrong and dangerous. APA mentions especially the media among the causes for the sexualization of children, but also the very bad influence of friends and peer groups.

Patrice Oppliger (Girls Gone Skank: the Sexualization of Girls in American Culture, 2008) also sees the influence of the media as a cause of girls’ immoral behavior. But he goes further than APA in his criticism by observing that girls present themselves in public in a more and more promiscuous way, like “sluts.”

Authors outside the U.S. also deal with this issue. To mention a few: Daniele Mugnaini, Tonino Cantelmi et al: Erosi dai Media (2011, San Paolo, Italian); Martina Schuegraf und Angela Tillmann:  Pornografisierung von Gesellschaft (The Pornographization of Society) -- 2012, Konstanz, Germany) and Sarah Dangendorf: Kleine Mädchen und High Heels (Young Girls and High Heels (2012, Bielefeld, Germany). Dangendorf is not very critical of the phenomenon as such but provides objective information and research results.

Italian psychologist Daniele Mugnaini, from Florence, shows how media sexualization of the youths is leading them to change their attitude regarding their own bodies. The body is perceived more and more as a tool of sexual attraction and used to enhance one’s social status. They no longer see the body as part of their identity but as a foreign ‘thing’ which they appropriate to achieve a particular effect – more or less like someone would drive an expensive car to make an impression. The media convey to children and young people the idea that they must continually expose their bodies and shape all personal relations from the standpoint of sexual attraction; this sooner or later leads them to alienate their own personality.

Thus, the media subject children and young people to a kind of brainwashing whereby they become mere sexual objects without personality, “curriculum vitae,” or relationships outside of sexuality. The younger are the children, the more profound is the damage they sustain, since until a certain age they are unable to truly discern between reality and fantasy. The child adopts sexualized forms of behavior unable to classify them properly, not knowing precisely what they mean and where they lead.

I consider the book, So Sexy - So Soon: the New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can do to Protect Their Children (2008), by Diane K. Levin and Jean Kilbourne the most interesting contribution on this topic. This book is one of the most important foundations for the one I wrote on this subject, titled The Sexualization of Childhood: How Children Are Manipulated by Politics, Pop Culture, Propaganda and the Media (2011). The authors of So Sexy show with many examples how the continuous bombardment of children with sexual themes -- especially in advertising -- changes their personality, behavior, and their whole life. Children as young as four, five or six learn how to adopt a sexually attractive behavior, how to dress “sexy,” and how their status in society depends on having sex appeal and flaunting it.

Role of the media and the advertising industry

As authors Levin and Kilbourne tell us, young children learn this mainly through advertising, but also through the highly sexualized environment in which they live. Movies, television, music, the internet, music videos etc. give children the idea that sexuality is the determining factor in life, and they form their personality accordingly. They increasingly see themselves and others as sex objects, stripped of real personality. Even when children fail to realize they are being given this kind of formation and identity, they see their relationships with others almost solely from the perspective of sexual attraction.

Children are thus paying a horrible price for the sexual degradation of our society. They are placed every day before issues they do not understand or know how to classify, which nevertheless educate, influence, baffle, and may even scare them. They learn from an early age that sexual attraction determines their “market value” and therefore they must accept every sacrifice in order to be able to win in this sexualized world. And they must do this through signs, which they cannot understand, they absorb from the media, advertising, and music. All they know is that these signals that are the norm in our society. They learn that in the society in which we live, sexuality is the decisive factor for success or failure. And by learning this without a clear understanding, it becomes a huge stress factor. Through this fixation on sexuality, children perceive themselves and others almost as mere objects.

The ever present Bratz Dolls are a typical example of this negative influence. PAC already criticized these toys in its 2007 study. Presented as “the girls with a passion for fashion,” these dolls often wear makeup and very often, short mini-skirts and tank tops with bare mid rifts, always ready for wild parties. These extremely skinny dolls teach four year old girls how to dress “sexy” while playing. It must be said that many of these dolls look like prostitutes.

The authors of So Sexy, So Soon recount the desperation of parents reporting that their daughters have anorexia, neurosis about fashion, and dissatisfaction with their own bodies. Girls from the age of seven go on dates to imitate the Bratz Dolls’ fashion show, organize parties, go shopping and flirt with boys. The Bratz Dolls show girls still in doll-playing age how to dress, put on makeup, behave and even eat in a sexually attractive way. Some parents report their seven or eight year old daughters think themselves too fat and feel they need to go on a diet.

Naturally, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Children are being increasingly confronted with pornography, especially on the internet. Then begin to employ expressions from perverted sexual practices whose meaning they do not understand. They demand clothes that are not only immoral but dangerous such as tops or mini skirts. And this happens with children who still haven’t reached puberty. When they get older, they will almost inevitably plunge into complete sexual depravity.

I would also like to mention the concept – in my view very well chosen – of “objectification.” “Self-objectification” is advancing because of advertising, television programs, and pop-culture.

In its research work in the field of psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA) analyzed self-objectification as a key process in girls who learn how to consider and treat their own body as an object of lust for others.

Ingrid Strobl explains this concept in her essay, “How Girls Are Turned into Sex Objects” which appeared in the March 2012 issue of the German magazine Psychologie heute [Psychology Today]. She notes that girls are convinced that recognition, progress, and acceptance are attained above all through the quality of their external appearance. This “self-objectification” produces “serious effects on the physical and mental health of girls and young women and on their attitudes and behavior,” Strobl writes.

According to this author, girls and young women permanently retain on their minds, ideal sexualized figures from TV and fashion shows and believe they need to look like that in order to gain acceptance.

And all this starts very early. Television shows like “Germany's Next Top Model” give it to understand that German girls should present themselves nude or semi-nude in order to be accepted. End result: eleven year old girls become dissatisfied with their bodies; eighteen year old girls give up food to the point of starving to death...

Pop Music

However, the advertising industry is not the only source of negative influences. With its sexualized icons, pop culture also plays a catastrophic role. In music videos with explicit sexual lyrics, pop stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus and girl bands like the Sugarbabes, Pussycat Dolls and many others are to some extent the living version of the Bratz Dolls.

And even when pop music has no sexualized content (such as the one by producers like Kidz Bop, addressed to an audience of pre-school age children) it is a gateway to the pop world. Once the child is in, he will sooner or later begin to hear sexualized versions and especially see music videos on the internet or on television.

This can happen very early. Levin and Kilbourne report cases of six-year old girls that listened to and watched Britney Spears, and are entirely able to understand that the pop singer’s scant dress is “sexy” and they should imitate her dance moves if they wanted to make an impression, even though they could not fully grasp its sexual meaning.

Like the advertising industry, the pop industry has also determined that children are a target group. So they try to create ever younger “stars” to serve as models for young fans to identify with. These models often are singers and actors such as Lindsay Lohan, Ashley Tisdale, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) Mitchel Musso (Hannah Montana, Königsbrüder), Jonas Brothers etc.

These cases have a devastating effect because children follow their idols as they grow older. Most actors and singers present themselves more and more sexualized as years go by -- certainly a requirement of show-business which they cannot evade – and they often make magazine headlines because of sex scandals.

Miley Cyrus is a paradigmatic example of an artist who initially presented herself with a childlike face but extremely fashionable, with makeup etc., and yet became more and more scandalous as time went by.

Already at age 13 years she became a hugely successful pop-icon in the role of Hannah Montana on the program with the same name. Airing began in 2006 with the relatively child-looking actors who naturally grew until the last broadcast in the spring of 2011. Long before the end of the series, outside of Disney productions, Miley Cyrus adopted a distinctly more sexually provocative style, particularly in music videos such as “Can’t be tamed.” Thus, the girl who had become world famous through Disney Productions and an idol of countless girls (of preschool age for the most part) turned into a leather-clad temptress kissing other women in her videos. She gave her first scandal at age 16 with the song "Party in the USA". While that video was extremely libertine, in her live presentations in nightclubs she went beyond all limits of decorum and decency.

A particularly sad and tragic example is that of Lindsay Lohan. This actress, born in 1986, became famous for her role in the Disney comedy “A Twin Seldom Comes Alone,” a modern version of the work of Erich Kästner, Das doppelte Lottchen. She played the role of both twins and thus received many awards. She played teenager roles in Disney movies until 2004.

In late 2006, at twenty years of age and too old for juvenile movies she began to turn into a scandalous figure like so many other successful actors in their youthful careers who failed to attain success as adults. The actress who once had been the idol of many girls was now in the news for alcohol and drug abuse – including cocaine – sex scandals and homosexual liaisons. These excesses eventually earned her prison sentences and periods of compulsory hospitalization in specialized clinics for curing addiction.

Television series, a source of moral depravity

Television series are among the programs most appreciated by young people. The series, “Coming of Age,” which show the lives of young teens, are among the most watched programs and therefore most influential on youth development. This is unfortunate, for the role models it presents to young people are in most cases immoral and purely and simply misleading not only because of the extremely liberal sexual behavior of many of his actors but also because it presents an anti-Christian lifestyle par excellence. Young Christians, if and when they appear, are most often presented as comic figures.

Youths can identify with sitcom actors to such a point as to give rise to a relationship between viewers and actors commonly called “para-social interaction."

This concept comes from a 1956 study by Donald R. Horton and Richard Wohl, titled “Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction.” The authors state that users of the mass media – radio, television, movies – indulge in the illusion they actually are establishing social relations. Such "friendships" are thus integrated in their own fantasy and start to become part of the viewers’ emotional life. Even viewers, who have real friends and therefore do not suffer from isolation, may nurture such fictitious friendships. They are simply integrated into their circle of friends and may even play a greater role with regard to their orientation and personality training than real friends, since producers design these figures in a way they attract children and young people, are easily understood by them, and appear to them as a kind of older brother, someone more advanced on his way to becoming an adult.

Family and sexualization

It is interesting to note here that a solid family can strongly prevent the negative influences of the Internet, television, advertising etc. In its May 2011 issue, the magazine Psychologie heute [Psychology Today] addresses the growing problem of children’s premature sexualization.

Here, the finding is that there is little danger of early sexualization if children have strong ties to people whom they trust, especially their father and mother.

However: many children compensate for the little attention they receive with an early sexualization. They try to find and affirm their identity through sexual attraction. If they find that it works well in making them attractive to others, their sense of self-esteem increases.

The purpose of sexualizing childhood

Now then, one might think that children sexualization is a phenomenon of our times, in which the media penetrates life in its entirety. That is not so. The sexualization of society and that of children has been used for a long time as an instrument for the revolutionary transformation of society. Communists have long known how important the sexualization of children and young people is to help achieve their ideological goals.

Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), who worked for communism in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, recognized the need for a sexual revolution, especially among young people, in order to establish a Communist society. Here are some excerpts from his book, The Sexual Revolution: “Therefore, it is entirely clear: youth sexual freedom means the disappearance of marriage (in the sense of obligatory marriage); sexual oppression of youth should make it apt for marriage. In the final analysis, the well-known formulas of the ‘cultural’ meaning of marriage and juvenile ‘morality’ are reduced to this. These are the only reasons why we cannot discuss the issue of marriage without that of youth sexuality, and vice versa” (p. 113); and later: “The new order in the sexual life should begin with the re-education of the child” (p. 262).

Note also that the situation in the West as it is today was prepared over a long time. This revolution was already announced in many films of the 50s; and in the 60s, its signs were obvious. The contraceptive pill especially broke in many people’s mentality the connection between the sexual act and the propagation of the species and created the idea of ​​ “pleasure without the burden.” For ideological reasons, among the revolutionaries of May 1968, this complete debauchery would go so far as to completely liberalize homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism etc.


Despite a higher state of alert in public opinion, the phenomenon of the sexualization of childhood by the media, advertising, pop culture, and its destructive effect also in politics, is not properly evaluated.

Many in the general public, and especially politicians, pretend that the issue, “sexualization of society,” consists of many problems independent from one another. But that is not what happens. The “sexualization of society” phenomenon – uninhibited sexual power, dissolution of all moral barriers concerning sexuality and the continuing and intrusive presence of sexual topics in the media and especially among the general public – are one and the same phenomenon which manifests itself in different ways. And this sexualization of society as a whole – by attaining the goal of the sexual revolution – spreads more and more and now affects even children with a vengeance.

It is not possible to defend children from this phenomenon for long in a society which deals so freely with sexuality as is done just about everywhere in the Western world.

The sexualization of childhood should be a problem for us all; and its resolution should not be left to parents alone. Be it as it may, parents are already overburdened with the education of their children because the sexual revolution has been making circumstances increasingly difficult to raise children and lead a family life.

This is why we must strive to make the issue, “sexualization of society” to be seen as a whole and not just in one of its particular aspects. Solutions must be found for the problem as a whole. Of course it is good, for example, to adopt additional measures against child pornography and to favor juvenile protection against the media; however, one should not lose sight of the full panorama.

For many decades now we can actually observe that parents have less and less influence on children. As a consequence, they make less and less of a mark on their children’s mentality. This development can be explained in part by the fact that media have found their way into children's lives from their very early years. The Internet has greatly accelerated this phenomenon. For many young people the Internet is now more important than television.

Also, in many countries the right of parents to raise their children is not respected. Many Western countries, such as Germany, forbid parents to school their children at home – a real scandal.

With the advance of the sexual revolution, the family crisis becomes ever greater. Divorce numbers rise, artificially producing many orphans. Meanwhile, countless children are raised by single mothers with almost no contact with their fathers or even their own mother, who often has to work all day. The modern lifestyle, with its hustle and bustle, anonymity and lack of relationships is a hindrance to the formation of solid families. The end result is the small number of weddings and low birth rates.

The dissolution of family ties inevitable causes children to be much more marked then they used to be by influences outside the family.

This also concerns their sexuality. The sexualization of society increasingly causes children to be confronted with human sexuality sooner and more directly, usually at an age when they are either totally unprepared or ill prepared for it. This lack of preparation is somehow a consequence of the crisis in the family, as many parents are no longer able to explain and guide their children to have some degree of responsible sexuality and even less to give them Christian moral concepts. Since in the Western world the Christian faith is becoming increasingly weaker, many parents are no longer able to transmit Christian values, principles and attitudes. Thus, awareness and knowledge about Christian sexual morals disappears.

If we are to strive against the sexualization of children and of society in general, we should keep these correlations in mind.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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