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‘A Confusion Within Ourselves’: On the Sexualization of Youth, by Ian Dunt

26 June, 2009

Ian Dunt of politics.co.uk asks, “Why Does Britain Sexualise Its Young?” — a very interesting article on contemporary (Western) society’s obsession with the seemingly contradictory notions of absolute childhood innocence, and the deep-seated and growing sexualization of youth. Here’s an excerpt:

‘British primary school children are becoming increasingly sexualised, while our over-emotional response to paedophilia grows by the day. When did we get so confused?

Ofsted issued a warning today about the level of sexualisation among primary school children. It found recently suspended pupils as young as four were guilty of touching other children inappropriately and using sexually graphic language.

The watchdog’s concerns are entirely justified, but there is a certain irony to the fact they were reported on the same day Rebecca Wade was promoted to the head of News International from her former position as editor of the Sun. Wade’s career hit its first political storm in 2001, when, as editor of the News of the World, she named and shamed convicted paedophiles, resulting in mob attacks and the hospitalisation of a paediatrician. The chief constable of Gloucestershire called it “grossly irresponsible journalism” – which is exactly what it was – but she earned herself 95,000 new readers a week.

These twin stories highlight something malign and twisted in our relationship with children. Wade’s decision to publish the list of paedophiles is a product of something I have written about before – our cultural habit of treating childhood as an unrealistically innocent and angelic time. This sentiment leads us to adopt a borderline psychotic approach to the problem of paedophilia.

But on the flip side of the coin, we have also pushed the point of a child’s sexualisation ever downward. The evidence is all around us, even if much of it is anecdotal. Having coffee with a friend the other day, we were both horrified to see a pre-pubescent girl, walking with her mother, wearing a T-shirt saying ‘porn star in training’.

This is not just a UK problem. It’s a western problem….’

Read the rest here.

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