In recent months there has been growing outrage about the sexualisation of children. Psychologists have been shocked by the rapid increase in the numbers of teenage girls in recent years coming through their doors with a wide range of problems from depression, self-harm, eating disorders and anxiety. The experts are beginning to believe the cause is the sexual pressure girls are now under.
In 2009 a Florida teen, Hope Witsell aged 13, committed suicide after sending a topless photo of herself to a boy, which he then shared with his friends. In a similar story Chevonea Kendall-Bryan, also aged 13 from London, fell to her death from a balcony where she was perched, threatening to jump if her boyfriend did not delete topless pictures of her on his phone.
In the UK the children’s charity, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) conducted a study in 2010. The study revealed how “normal” hard core pornography is, in the lives of teenagers. The study concluded that the access of sexually explicit material is creating a generation of teenage boys who believe that is what relationships are like.
One teenage girl interviewed said, “If they [the boys] want oral sex, they will ask every single day until you say yes.”
A boy the same age said, “Say I got a girlfriend, I would ask her to write my name on her breast and then send it to me and then I would upload it on to Facebook or Bebo or something like that.”
The study discovered it was common place for boys as young as 13 to have dozens of images of girls on their smartphones. The boys would share the photos of these topless girls with their friends, in the same way boys once swapped soccer cards.
The teenagers said that sexting was the new flirting. With boys taking pictures of their genitalia and sending them to a girl they fancied, she then replies with an image of her breasts.
Teachers speak of children unable to sleep without watching porn. Boys “learning” about sex and women from watching porn, and being normalised to sexual violence.
The problem crosses social demographics, it is as commonplace in the most affluent of areas as well as the socially deprived areas.
In this new world where hard core porn is readily available, parents are left feeling bewildered that the world has changed so much. They fear for their daughters, not wanting them to be the target of such high pressure advances; they fear for their sons, not wanting them to access the violent and depraved pornography so easy to find on the internet.
But should parents be surprised? With media teaching that pornography is normal? With children and teenagers listening to pop stars like Rihanna singing “Come on rude boy, boy, can you get it up? Come on rude boy, boy, is you big enough?”, as she looks like a dominatrix simulating sex moves on stage?
With parents frightened and ill prepared they are asking: “what can we do?”