A couple of days ago, everyone was up in arms because of Elizabeth Hurley‘s sexy swimwear line for young girls. And before that, people started taking notice at all of the Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired clothing for babies. The writing has been on the wall for years now that sex sells, and that babies and toddlers are not exempt from the marketing ploys cast unto the retail world. But the reason for that isn’t because babies and toddlers are drawn to onesies that say “9 Months Ago My Mommy Read 50 Shades Of Grey”; it’s because well, parents like sexualizing their kids. Sex has become a punchline that carries over into parenting in an almost-seamlessly creepy way, and a lot of parents are happy to play along. So what if it’s weird to “joke” that your baby boy has a large penis? Or that your unborn daughter is a “little hussy”? Parents sexualize their children to get attention, and if that attention is negative, so be it!
I’m also guessing most parents would probably say that their joking is utterly harmless. But based on what we see in stores, and on our televisions, and read in magazines, it’s not. This sexualization of babies and kids is pervasive, and while I don’t personally go about my day shaking my head at every 8-year-old who walks by wearing something age inappropriate, I do feel like we should draw the line somewhere. And for me, a good place to start is on social media.
I’ve been keeping a “sexualization of kids” folder in my Questionable Parenting folder for some time, and the results are downright scary. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to think about my friend’s baby’s genitals, or see her daughter made up like Trashy Barbie at the ripe old age of five. I don’t even want to read clever puns relating to sex (which can occasionally be funny) if the “sexy” person in question is under the age of 18. I understand why parents might do this at home, in private, but online and out in the public it feels very…careless, like a cheap way to get a laugh. I believe that children learn from example, and the example some parents seem to be setting is, “Flaunt that body! Work it! Ha ha ha, you little hussy!” or, “My boy is so sexy! Check out his swagger!” Before we start blaming another company for manufacturing certain articles of clothing, shouldn’t we take a closer look at the parents who are buying into this mentality? Let’s take a look at some examples.
1. Sonogram Captions
Usually nurses are the culprits behind those genital arrows (as they’re formally called, I’m sure), and there’s certainly nothing wrong with pointing out what makes a developing fetus a boy or a girl. But it would behoove parents to stop adding wording other than, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”, because everything else just sounds wrong. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this particular example, but “opened those legs” doesn’t sit right with me. Then again, it could be because it sounds like a precursor for the next example.