Sexed up life of the 'American Teenager'

Published On:
Friday, November 20, 2009
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In a world where sex sells, young girls are increasingly being influenced by sexualized images — and it’s getting worse each day.

Young girls are constantly being surrounded by sex. Their 16-year-old idol Miley Cyrus pole dances at the Teen Choice Awards, Abercrombie and Fitch sells thong underwear to little girls with the phrases “wink wink” and “eye candy” attached, and shops in Britain recently had Peekaboo Pole-Dancing Kits on toy-store shelves.

I’m so sick of seeing 13- and 14-year-old girls walking around in short-short skirts and pants that have more holes in them than actual fabric.

Obviously, boys and girls in middle school will think about sex, but whispering about it with friends at a sleepover is completely different than what seems to be happening to this generation of young teenagers.
Early this year, Oprah Winfrey hosted a show in which a 14-year-old girl said she and her boyfriend of three months wanted to have sex.

She said they’d “done pretty much everything besides sex,” and their main reason for doing so was because they didn’t think their relationship had an expiration date.

Despite the high probability that their relationship does have an expiration date, statistics seem to mean nothing to teenagers compared to their emotions.

But worse, these relationships aren’t limited to high school peers.

Girls as young as 15 are attending college parties and going into rooms with guys 20 years old and above, and shutting the door behind them.

A 2005 Durex survey on sex (one that surveyed over 317,000 people in 41 different countries) showed that 35 percent of people claim to have lost their virginity at the age of 16 or below.

According to a 2003 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 45 percent of girls had had sex by the time they graduated high school.
Is this really what the world has come to for the fairer sex? And if so, what’s the cause?

Look at your nearest television and you’ll see the answer.

When I look at what kind of television shows I grew up watching, and then I compare them to today’s shows, it’s no wonder young girls feel more pressure to have sex, especially when they see their favorite same-age actors and actresses promoting it.

In my childhood, it was all about “Boy Meets World.” That show helped me grow up. It showed me the companionship you can find in a best friend and the bliss of having your first crush. It never pushed me into growing up too fast.

I recall only one episode about sex, when English teacher Mr. Turner tells the students to videotape each other talking about their views on love and sex in a responsible way. In fact, Disney decided to not even air an episode in which two of the characters plan to have sex on prom night, even though the characters eventually decide to wait.

But shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” are all about sex.

One of the many quotations from the show is when a girl says, “He had a horrible death because I had incredible sex,” adding, “If I hadn’t had sex, and if I hadn’t enjoyed having sex so much, then Dad would still be alive.”

No wonder teenagers are confused about sex.

Lois Goldblatt, who instructs an ASU class in human sexuality, said, “I would like to see more programming with a focus on self-esteem and self-value issues so that both girls and boys could recognize the importance of making positive decisions about sexuality.”
I agree with that completely.

“It’s also important to provide age-appropriate information,” Goldblatt said.

Multiple episodes in “Secret Life,” in which the majority of characters (and viewers) are students in high school, include discussions about and scenes portraying oral sex, which doesn’t constitute for age-appropriate information.

We need to get back to that time when childhood wasn’t taken for granted and we didn’t exploit children in order to profit. The idea of being a father when I’m older scares the hell out of me — especially if I have a girl.

When I see how these young girls are treated on a day-to-day basis by society and how they’re so influenced by the sex-craved media, it disgusts me. I don’t want to live in a world where, as William Butler Yeats so gracefully put it, “the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”

If I had one message for the young girls in America, it would be the same message that Mr. Feeny left me with nearly 10 years ago:
“Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”

Reach Brian at brian.p.anderson@asu.edu