Regarding her own sex symbol status, Megan Fox said, “I think all women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. That’s what our purpose is in this business. You’re merchandised; you’re a product. You’re sold and it’s based on sex. But that’s okay. I think women should be empowered by that, not degraded.”
A joint study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Children Now reported that young teens ranked entertainment media as their top source for information regarding sexuality and sexual health, meaning that media outranks parents, peers and mentors as the primary sexual education for kids today.[i] This is exacerbated by the sharp increase in media usage among teens. A recent report revealed that the average child spends more 75 hours a week consuming entertainment media – the equivalent of nearly two full-time jobs.[ii]
Unfortunately, most of this media is pushing our kids toward the sort of sexualization that Megan Fox seems to think is “okay. By definition, sexualization means making a person, group or thing to be sexual in nature. The American Psychological Association (APA) regards a person as being sexualized when:
- A person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or sexual behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
- A person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
- A person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; or
- Sexuality is inappropriately imposed on a person.[iii]
Many recent reports have focused on the sexualization of children and teenagers, particularly of girls. One study analyzed the top 25 most watched programs among kids aged 12-17. This study found that:
- When teenage girls are shown on screen, they are often depicted in a highly sexual or provocative manner;
- 98% of sexual incidents involving teenage female characters occur with partners with whom they do not have any form of committed relationship;
- Teenage girls initiate the vast majority of sexual interactions on screen and are more likely to depict or insinuate sexual acts or activities in programming than adult women; and
- 67% of episodes involving sexualized scenes with teenage girls were comedic in nature, and in about 73% of the depictions of sexual scenes, the sexual interactions were presented in a humorous manner, for instance as a punch line in a joke.[iv]
The media has been placing more and more of a premium on the way we look, especially girls. I once asked a group of seventh grade girls to write down what they thought an ideal woman should be like. Almost all of their answers focused on physical characteristics: blonde, thin, tan, skinny, full lips, big boobs, long legs, shiny hair, flat stomach, sexy, well-dressed. When I asked them whether they would rather be successful, happy, beautiful, sexy, smart or secure, the vast majority wanted to be sexy or beautiful. Given the “beautiful is better” message that our kids are bombarded with, it is unsurprising that the number of teenagers getting breast implants, rhinoplasties and botox is on the rise.
Frankly, I think Fox is wrong, and I think the increased focus on making all females sex symbols in Hollywood, regardless of age, is posing a danger to the healthy emotional, spiritual and sexual development of our kids. Additionally, when Fox endorses her status as a product “based on sex” that can be bought and sold, it just reminds me of all of the young women and girls that I have encountered in the sex industry who have been abused and degraded because so many men viewed them as merchandise.
In my opinion, the media is attacking our kids. Several studies report the negative impact that frequent exposure to sexualized media images can cause. Kids with increased exposure, whether male or female, have higher risks to their cognitive, emotional and physical development, and they are more likely to struggle with self-image. Further, research shows that girls and young women who consume more mainstream media content are more accepting of stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects, experience higher body dissatisfaction, depression and lower self-esteem and have inaccurate and unhealthy perceptions of virginity and their first sexual experience.[v]
As parents, we need to engage, rather than dismiss or ignore, the media messages our children and teenagers are consuming. We must lead from a place of understanding instead of a place of ignorance.
Discussion is vital. Initiate conversations to help your kids understand the marketing and commoditization behind the images, videos and movies they see. Try to keep up with the media content your kids are absorbing. Help your children think more about being in the world but not of the world. As Christians, we have God’s eyes to see and discern His truth from the world’s lies. Ask strategic questions, such as:
- What do you think of [a certain popular celebrity]?
- What do you think that song is about?
- What does that scene/movie/lyric say about sex and relationships?
- How do the messages in that show/movie/song about sex, love and relationships compare to God’s message about sex, love and relationship?
- What impact do you think the shows/movies/videos you watch have on you and your friends?
- Are the shows/movies/music you listen to beneficial to your walk with God?
Additionally, I would strongly encourage you to consider using parental controls on all Internet-connected devices along with blocks on your TV to prevent your kids from having easy access to content that is too mature for them. With God’s help, our children will be able to see past the charade and be thoughtful about the way they interact with the culture.
[i] Kaiser Family Foundation and Children Now. (2001). Talking with kids about tough issues: A national survey of parents and kids. Retrieved from < http://www.kff.org/mediapartnerships/upload/Talking-With-Kids-About-Tough-Issues-A-National-Survey-of-Parents-and-Kids-Chart-Pack-2.pdf>.
[ii] 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation Study: Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year-olds.
[iii] American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2010). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Retrieved from <http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf>.
[iv] Parents Television Council, Special Report. (2010). Sexualized Girls: Tinsel Town’s New Target, A Study of Teen Female Sexualization. Retrieved from <http://www.parentstv.org/FemaleSexualization/Study/Sexualized_Teen_Girls.pdf>.
[v] American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2010). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Retrieved from <http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf>.