« banzai!! | Main | understanding Led Zeppelin »

sex sells, are your kids buying?

Much ado about sex and the young ones these days.

Over at the Guardian, we have this:

Compulsory sex education for five-year-olds will be demanded today by government advisers on teenage pregnancy, as an essential step towards halving the under-18 concep tion rate by 2010.

The advisory group will ask ministers to give statutory force to sex education guidelines prepared by Ofsted. They say pupils by the age of seven should be able to compare the external parts of the human body, share their feelings and use simple rules for resisting pressure from strangers.

By 11 they should be able to express opinions about relationships and bullying, recognise their changing emotions, discuss moral questions and know how to resist unwanted physical contact.

They should understand the physical changes that take place in puberty, the need for love in stable relationships and the safe routines needed to avoid the spread of viruses including HIV.

It's one thing to teach kids the whole "stranger danger" deal, an unfortunate necessity. However, sex education and discussion of relationships, body parts, safe sex and the like should not be taught to kids who are not yet ready to even understand the concept of sex.

Witness the conversations I've had with my own kids about sex. This conversation with DJ took place when he was nine:

DJ: "So, how does the stuff a guy has down there get into the woman?"

Me: "Ummm, the guy puts it in there."

DJ contemplates my answer for a minute. Then his face scrunches up in a look of horror and appallment.

"IN HER MOUTH?? HE PUTS IT IN HER MOUTH??" The color has drained from his face.

And the one with Natalie, when she was 12:

What does it mean when they say that two people are umm....you know.....
No, I don't know. Spell it.
(sound of brakes squealing as the sound of that word coming out of my daughter's mouth makes me almost miss a red a light)
I said spell it!!!
Whatever. What does it mean?
It means they are having sex, but not in a nice, loving sex way.
Ok, so when one of the girls today said "I want to fuck him..."
(I swerve into other lane while I choke on Gatorade)
Do you really need to know this stuff, Natalie?
You said I could talk to you about anything, anytime, Mom. Remember?
Yea, you're right. So when she says that, that means she ummm..wants to have sex with him. But she might not really mean it, what she probably means is she has the hots for him.
Oh. She also said she wants to paddle his buttocks.

This is after she had the requisite sex education/health classes in fifth grade.

See, I don't think my children need to be schooled in things that aren't appropriate to their age and lifestyle at the moment. I also think that discussing blowjobs and the emotions of sex and love are best left to parents.

A five year old is not ready to learn about the feelings involved in relationships. They barely know how to share toys yet at that age without a fight breaking out.

When Natalie took the sex ed class in school (which has continued into junior high school) she was left with more questions than answers. To the school's credit, they did not delve into the morality issues involved with sex - that also is something that should be left to the parents. But their curriculum was not as complete as it could have been. Teaching a child to "just say no" is all well and good, and that experiment where they carry a sack of flour around to get the feel of having a baby is lame at best. It becomes more of a joke to see who can do the most damage to someone else's baby.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where sex is prevelant and advertisers and clothing manufacterers of the world do nothing but push sex on young children, even if subliminally.

Have you seen the clothing out there for young girls? My daughter is constantly wearing sweat pants and t-shirts from Old Navy because I can't find anything appropriate for her to wear. The shorts are all way too short, the t-shirts are too cut-off and have rude and bold sayings on them, the pants are too low-slung. When the look of sex is pushed on them, and the videos and magazines are all showing young girls looking like hookers, they accept it as the norm.

Which leads me to my favorite whipping-boy, Mark Morford.

As usual, it's hard to get a grasp on just what Mark is saying but if I read this correctly, he thinks selling sex to kids is ok. They need it for future reference:

What we do have, however, is a BushCo that actually has the appalling gall to set aside $135 mil to force kids to learn all about the joys of repressing all sexual desire and bliss and bodily exploration and sensual spiritual power in favor of abstinence until they get married and then half of them get divorced because they were so goddamn lousy in bed.

So, teens should have sex so they don't get divorced later. Genius! It's all so very clear now. Forget the other aspects of marriage and relationships in general. Forget learning about love and trust and mutual respect. You have to have pre-marital sex in order to make your future marriage(s) work. Doh! What the hell was I thinking all this time?

We are terrified of our sexuality and horrified and/or weirdly shocked when presidents do it or teenagers do it or anyone at all does it unless it's us and then it's a fun little dirty secret but we don't talk about it shhh.

Why yes, I am horrified when teeangers do it. They don't have the mental capacity or ability to see the consequences of their actions when the engage in sexual relations. They are all about the here and now, the feeling good and being able to say they did it.

That is why I am for sex ed, but certainly not before the kids can grasp the concept of sex itself.

Morford also thinks the world needs another sex idol now that Britney has become nothing but a has-been whore.

Does he not see the lesson therein? Dress like a tramp, tease like a slut, show your stuff and strut it around all day and night long in front of millions and just a few years later you'll be nothing but a trivia question or a Hustler centerfold. That's the real lesson.

It's a hormonally charged atmosphere out there. The least we can do is arm our children with some morality, not send them off into the wilderness of puberty armed with nothing more than a condom and the idea that dressing like a mini version of Christina Aguilera makes you popular. Popular, in the jargon of junior high school, means you put out. And these days, putting out is ok as long as it's just a blow job because that isn't really sex. Wonder where they got that idea from?

Let the schools teach the basics of sex education, from the physical, health and scientific point of views. But don't start it until fifth grade, when the basic concepts of sex and relationships can be understood.

Leave the morality issues to the parents. And for heaven's sake people, put some decent clothes on your daughter.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference sex sells, are your kids buying?:

» Banzai! from Inoperable Terran
Michele Fisks sex ed. No, really.... [Read More]

» Oversexing our kids from .:/One Little Victory\:.
Michele over at A Small Victory (no relation) has a great piece on sex ed. here.... [Read More]

» Sex sells, and sells, and sells from O'DonnellWeb
Michele over at A Small Victory has penned a screed on the way sex is infiltrating the lives of even... [Read More]


"sound of brakes squealing " Heh, sounds like the time my daughter asked me what a blow job was....she was in kindergarten and one of her classmates had asked her for one. She was horrified when I explained, and agreed that little boy needed smacked upside the head.

All things considered, age-appropriate sex ed is a pretty good thing....makes parenting so interesting.

I agree with you too about little girls clothes. I can't believe the things I see in stores these days. I'm sure the pedophiles love the new fashions.

Great post Michele. I have had several rants about childrens clothing - especially for young girls. I refuse to purchase clothing with writing on the backside for my 7 year old daughter. Halter tops for 2 year olds? Belly shirts? Lo riders for girls with no hips? WTF is all that??? Damn sickos.

Well said! Neither of mine (7 & 9) have dropped an interesting sex question on us....yet. I'm sure its coming though. I'm already having nightmares about the dating years.

i was at target yesterday, and saw this kid in a tank top, with bra straps showing. i stifled a laugh, thinking she was barely old enough to wear a bra. when i walked past her, i could see her year-old baby in the shelf of her shopping cart.

scary shit. kids are having sex before they're old enough to understand it - they need to learn about it before they're potty trained!

seriously, tho: i think five is too young, but it's important that they learn the truth, because their friends are going to be telling them about sex at five years old, but they're going to tell it wrong. lots of girls are starting their periods at age nine, now. they need to know "babies come from sex" and "you can get pregnant the first time" while they're still young enough to listen to an adult about it. and before they start experimenting.

y'know, when I read about the horror of teen sex, and about all the parents who cringe, I ask myself how old I was when I first had sex. How old my wife was. My friends. Are we all screwed up Jerry Springer addicts?

No we're not.

Sex--even teen sex--is not the end of the world. For most people the loss of virginity is simply part of growing up--a special part, to be sure, but just one factor among many.

It's scary when you realise that it's YOUR kids who are contemplating the old in-out, but it's normal and natural--and it's natural for them to want to do it as soon as their hormones start screaming at them--whether society is focused on sex or not.

Ask your grandparents.....

I was five when my brother was born, which meant that I was four and a half when I started asking how babies were made. My mother gave me a detailed answer (the simplified ones wouldn't do - I just asked more questions), and I had the same reaction most little kids have: "Yuck, what an ordeal." Little kids don't get the sex-for-fun idea, and I have yet to hear any compelling argument for telling them about it when they're five years away from puberty.

Now, Brenda & I both know a fabulous book for teaching kids about the birds & the bees: Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle. It's got these great illustrations, in particular, a cute, chubby middle-aged couple. Completely naked. And, at one point, having sex. I remember reading it when I was 5, and was the perfect level for that age.

It's just the basics -- nothing about condoms, STDs, sexual abuse, etc. However, this was handled in my family: sex ed classes have a tendency to get out of hand when allowing open Q&A. Especially when kids have watched shows that responsible adults should be barring them from, or listened to the crude talk of people on the subway.

But back to the preventing teen sex -- there is really only one way to do that: never let them be alone. My Ma being home every day pretty much cut down on my sex opportunities, I can tell you that.

Hopefully I can make this short and non-controversial.

Michele, I think you and Mark Morford are to some extent, on the same page. You ridiculed the "Just Say No" position, and I think Mark simply took it another step and added a great deal of sarcasm.

Bush and his administration are pushing an abstinence only platform. You can't get funding for your program unless it teaches abstinence and nothing but. That is idiotic in my view as kids having sex is all but a foregone conclusion and pretending otherwise is a huge mistake.

Additionally, as far as sex, marriage, and divorce, obviously trust, commitment and mutual respect are huge factors in the success of a marriage, but let's face it, sex is right up there, too. Unless two people are going to supress the sexual beings they are and have a relationship that is devoid of sex, then sex is a major factor, and avoiding it before marriage is another huge mistake. My wife actually feels stronger in this position than I.

I'm not sure what to say about girls clothing. My daughter turns 4 in a month and frankly, what she wears is what she wears. There is a point when it can cause a problem, but until proven otherwise, I am confident in her, and in our parental capabilities that she is inside who she is, and nothing she wears on the outside are going to change that. So it's a moot point. Maybe I'm naive, but that's my position and I'm sticking to it.

sherard, nothing personal, but yes - you are naive.

michele this rant said just about everything I want to say about the oversexualization of young girls. I am graduating from college and I can't even find clothes that are appropriate for me, let alone my 13 year old sister!

I am a gym rat with a great body, but I refuse to look like some 75 cent whore.... so my options are insanely limited. I can either dress in frumpy suits designed for fat old women or.... pretty much nothing!

i refuse to wear shorts because they are either knee-length or nonexistent(neither of which appeal to me). i have to buy jeans a couple sizes too big and just roll them up since everything is made out of this wonderful "stretch" fabric designed to show every curve that it is really noone's business to see unless I specifically grant them that priviledge.

but we are supposedly respecting ourselves by dressing like this. sure..... tell that to my anorexic friends. females today are pressured to dress and present themselves in a way that makes them weak.

what man in his right mind is going to respect a half-dressed female in the office or anywhere else? she is begging him to see her as a cheap commodity to be used.

When we were on vacation last month, we went to a "big" mall. (we don't have one here) I could not believe the clothes that they were seliing for young teenage girls! I told my friend that it must be damn hard to dress a daughter these days.

My experience was relatively tame. Our 5 year old asked what 'french kissing' was. I asked her if she knew how to eskimo kiss, and she said 'yes'. I asked her if she knew how to 'fish' kiss (major pucker up), and she said 'yes'. I asked if she knew how to 'pirate' kiss (don't ask), and she giggled and said 'yes'. I told her that she knew enough ways to kiss for now.

Thank goodness she was satisfied with that answer.

Ted - what is a pirate kiss? Is that when you have a patch over one eye, and call out "Arrrgh, ye saucy wench, ye be the finest specimin of womenhood in all the seven seas, Arrrch." (then brush parrot shit off shoulders before locking lips)

Amanda: Thank you for your attitude.

Dressing modestly is not only about treating yourself and your sexuality with dignity and respect, but it also shows respect and consideration for men and their sexuality, too.

It sounds way more like you are unprepared to deal with the idea of your kids thinking about sex than that they are unprepared to learn about it. For instance, the example with your son...? Look how unspecific you were. And so of course he made a mistake. And you left it at that. You didn't explain what a vagina is, how ti works, anything like that, so how could you expect him to understand? Your lack of explanation in no way reflects on his ability to comprehend.

And for the record, one can say fucking and still mean having sex in a nice, loving way. Your usage is not mine.

And finally, you seem to feel that 12 is way too early to deal with sex. You seem to forget that there was a VERY long time in human history when that was a perfectly reasonable age to be HAVING sex, let alone understanding it. For much of human history 13 year old mothers were normal, and the age at which it is now socially acceptable to start having sex would be considered old.

You impose your discomfort with talking about sex on us. You underestimate your children and leave things purposely vague so that OF COURSE they don't understand. That you aren't being clear does not mean they can't get it. Grow up. Countries in Europe where they have these younger sex ed programs have extremely low teenage pregnancy rates.


Malputoid: Mon Dieu (excuse my French). What seriously is there to argue about Michele's post?

Michele's not trying to impose anything on you, she's trying to raise her kids in a situation where she has to make tough decisions, most of which come down to "judgment call" anyway.

And isn't a bit, well, presumptuous to tell other people how to raise their kids?

Yes, it IS presumptuous. I don't mind making the presumption, and neither does anyone here, clearly. You are all criticizing people for how they raise their kids, what clothes they let them wear, how they let them behave, and even the age at which a person becomes a parent. We all make presumptions, I am just not foolish enough to pretend that I don't.

And yeah, I really do think there is something worth arguing, else I'd not have posted.

Ken, a pirate kiss is where you both grimace fiercely, get your face in there, and growl 'AARRRRRRR' at each other. Closing one-eye helps too, but I think a parrot would just get in the way.

LOL, it's amazing what amuses toddlers (and their parents).

Unfortunately, you are as much a slave to fashion as everyone else, and today's popular fashion tends to trashy. Your only choices are to do what you're doing, which is improvise, keep looking for the rare items that meet your personal criteria, or learn to make your own clothing. I'm assuming you won't compromise your principles, and you shouldn't!

Woooo, it'd be a scary world if kilts and tank tops were the only things sold in the men's dept. Where's my copy of 'Sewing for Dummies"?


Thanks for enlightening me on a pirate kiss. I will try it with my wife tonight. Does it help to stand with one leg bend up, as it you had a wooden leg?

"Arrrgh, I be a pirate's pirate. Even me parrot has a wooden leg."

Trollking, for what are comments? Just for clapping hysterically your hands and tell michele how great she is? I doubt that's what she expects. I second Ben in what he said, I, too, think michele is kinda "strange" in what she tells her childen about sex. But I assume that's part of her being what she is, living in the USA with Italian roots, I mean, just use all prejudieces you have - what else do you expect than a "strange" sight on sex?

"Just Say No" is obviously a joke where sex and teenagers are concerned. You have to arm kids with as much wisdom as you possess and a healthy dose of self-esteem, and hope that they will think before acting rashly. A parent doesn't have to approve of teen sex, but sending a message that having sex makes their teen a bad person is a really awful idea, in addition to being ineffective. Acting rashly in the teen years isn't exactly an uncommon thing, and most people do survive their youthful indiscretions.

However, parents who are afraid to define permissible behavior and clothing for their young children even more egregious than the ostrich-like Just Say No crowd. Setting appropriate standards for one's children is clearly the job of a parent, and I have a really hard time understanding why so many parents seem unable to fulfill that responsibility. Obviously the issues do get more complicated as a child approaches adulthood, but grade-schoolers dressing suggestively is NOT a gray area.

I may be terribly wrong-headed here, but I think that sex ed is something you bring in when puberty starts. Just like you start specific driving instruction when your kid is getting old enough to drive.

Of course, puberty is coming earlier and earlier. Still, five years old is too young, I think.


National Lampoon, probably around 1975, had a magazine cover ``Piddle: the Child's Sex Magazine.'' The point would be that children are not fascinated by the right invisible thing yet. Some neuron still has to start firing.

They do like to imitate grown-ups though (that being oh sixteen and up).

And these days, putting out is ok as long as it's just a blow job because that isn't really sex. Wonder where they got that idea from?

They sure as hell didn't get it from Bill Clinton, if that's what you're getting at. That attitude was already old news in the 1980s. I mean, I'd love to blame it on Bill (because, well, I hate his guts), but he reflected the attitude -- he didn't originate it. And it is certainly true that oral sex doesn't have anywhere near the emotional or physical consequences of intercourse.

Regarding Britney -- whether or not you dress like a whore has nothing to do with enduring popularity. Madonna's still around, the relatively chaste Tiffany and Cyndi Lauper are virtually forgotten. It comes down to talent and marketing skill, not morals.

Crap. Half of what I meant to say was just blown right out of my skull with the whole pirate kiss concept and wondering if you'd have to smooch the parrot too.

Ok, I don't have a kid. I'm as up as anyone for the kids' right to dress in silly ways to piss off the squares and look cool however they define it - more power to em, even if I have to giggle as their pants fall off. But I'm thinking high school age when I say that. Because, er, I am really uncomfortable with some of the clothes they're selling for little girls - under 10, not that 12 is some age of instant maturity. It's not little boys that they're selling hot pants for, it's sexy clothes for little girls. Gives me the same creepy feeling that some of the tiny tot beauty pagent photos with 5 year olds dolled up in makeup do - little girls made up to look like sexually mature women, Vegas showgirl costumes. It's one thing to see the sexy clothes on a 15 year old (not that the 15 year old's mom is any happier about it), another thing on a 10 year old. And it freaks me out. Maybe I'm just becoming an old fart - I can accept that at the ripe old age of 37 I suppose. I mean, there's a difference between a standard tank top or a halter top - and one that's low cut to show cleavage, or unlined sheer fabric - I don't want to know why these are good clothing choices for a little kid. Or why little kids need to look like they're going out to a nightclub. It'd certainly make it hard to play on the jungle gym in that kinda garb. But mahybe no one does that anymore. I'm such a dinosaur... Can't they just wear the Madonna 80s underwear on the outside look? That seems so tame now.

Sex education - I always feel sorry for the teacher who gets drafted to teach that. Damned whatever you do, the parents will be preparing to complain before you've said a single word in front of the kids - it's a punishment in my mind.

Line that made me run screaming wanting to rip out my own eyes:

"I also think that discussing blowjobs and the emotions of sex and love are best left to parents."

Because this hopped right out of the entire post and whapped me between the eyes with this thought - my mother sitting down with me to define and explain a blowjob. At any age, past or present. Now take that thought and put you and your own mother in there. Are you screaming "no no no!" Or is this just me and my mom and my own continued immaturity?

Excuse me, my brain is attempting to chew its way out of my own skull. I have to go think about other things...

Hey Dan, don't forget that Lauper sang that song about masturbation - She Bop - had my midwestern community that I lived in at the time all huffy and het up at the outrage of it all.

My neighbor used to dress her 4-year-old daughter in miniskirts and skin tight leopard-print leotards, made her look like a walking advert for pedophilia. Clothing selections suck (see the shorts rant above) but so do some parents.

There are modest fashions that look nice on young, slender women out there, and if you can't find them , try looking in different stores. (Ann Taylor if you have money, Ross if you don't.) Not all women's jeans are made of stretch fabric, either. (Though that whole stupid women's size thing does make it harder to find jeans.)

A discussion list I was on was discussing self-esteem and peer pressure, and one woman mentioned a workshop she'd been to:
In a workshop I attended recently, we did an exercise in which we all (roughly 30 women) just wandered randomly around the room. When you came up to another woman, you propositioned her -- anything from "Wanna have coffee?" to "Wanna move in with me?" She got to practice either saying a clear unambiguous "yes" or a clear unambiguous "no." Many of the women there found it both illuminating and healing.
I suggested that a similar workshop, perhaps with predetermined propositions to avoid trouble, and with the emphasis being on saying "no" clearly and unambiguously, be included as part of the middle school sex-ed curriculum.

I'm a 15 year old, and I personaly disagre with 90% of the clothing out there available to kids my age. I have been known to call the so-called "Girls" section at certain stores (just to name a few, Koles, Hecks, among others) Whore Clothes. Because they are indecent. I wont even where shorts anymore, unless they come from the boys section because they are too short. I'd rather ware Jeans and sweat then wear half the clothes available now-a-days. I have such a hard time finding clothes both me and my mom, find acceptable (our tastes differ greatly) that pretty much the only thing I wore last year were Black t-shirts and Jeans. And when my school had our infamous "Wacky Wensday" Everyone freaked because i wore a yellow shirt. Now i may go overboard with the black t-shirts, but i'd rather do that then wear half the clothes in the Girls Section.

I know I got to this post a little late, but if you keep posting stuff like this I'll be forced to add you to my list of daily reads :-)

Rachael, I entirely agree with what you said about the "gir's department". my God, what are they trying to do to us? those of us who are TRYING to be ourselves and wear decent clothing can't find it in any good-quality store anymore, unless we'd rather look like our mothers... personally I shop Hot Topic and go to second-hand shops to find things that I can "punk up" and stay original. I can't stand shopping anywhere anymore because of the styles I see and the girls I end up running into. teenage girls that follow all the trends really DO end up looking (and unfortunately ACTING to a certain extent) like whores. what ever happened to regular jeans, without all the glitter and jewels and bleach and CRAP....

especially with what they're trying to sell little girls these days, it's just plain DISGUSTING. those cases of young girls being taken into bathrooms and such and raped, do you see any connections yet? dressing your kids the way they try to get you to is a situation that in my opinion parallels just sitting your kids on a street corner naked and a sign around their necks saying "READY FOR THE TAKING". I cannot BELIEVE what they're trying to sell our youth into.

about the issue of sexual education, it's my opinion that the younger we teach kids about the actual act, the younger the ideas will start creeping into their minds. before sex ed entered the schools it seems that there was much less teen pregnancy and such going on. (I'm talking Leave It To Beaver days, here) some of it might not be the school's fault, but I think it's much better for the children to be taught about such things by their parents, or at least adults that will take the responsibility and show the kids every aspect of it. the perversion of our world is widespread, we need to prepare!

I love HotTopic. Problem is, my mom. Shes the one with the check book, and she's the one that makes the ultimate decision shudders. Also the closest hot topic is about 40 miles away, and not much good (small, not real great) and then theres one in Springfield, but i'm not braving the Mixing Bowel for pants. Laughs What can i say? I did notice that the boys section in Koles, once you get past all the "Male Fasion" (Hate to use this term, but the Gangster Clothes) has some good T-shirts and decent jeans.

I am so sick of hearing about how it was once normal for girls to marry at age 12.

That was a product of a different time and a different culture.

When the average lifespan was 40-50, marrying at 12 made sense. Gotta have plenty of time to have babies and raise them. (Though starting that young tended to help with the mortality rate.)

There was also a big cultural concern about ensuring that children born in a marriage were the husband's. Marrying a girl who was too young to really be much interested in sex was a good way to ensure both that she was a virgin and that she would have enough distaste for the act by the time she was old enough that she wouldn't stray.

It was also great for the pedophiles. They could just keep marrying children when the first wife got too old or died. (There wasn't the current concern about age-difference or exploitation.)

This culture is not that culture. We extend childhood a great deal longer. All the education necessary to function in this culture requires 12 years of schooling. It's only during the last 2 or 3 years of high school that we begin to introduce kids to the adult world by letting them drive, work, and have romantic relationships.

Sex by children is considered wrong the world over. In this culture people are children until 15 or 16. Sometimes people are children into their 20s.

you gay

gay bugger