Payton: When it comes to adolescents and sexuality i believe they are growing up way too fast. I think the media has a huge influence on this. In an article about girls growing up too fast, Deborah Swaney talks about how shows that are aimed toward her daughter feature kids that are twice her age and going on dates. TV shows for kids are pushing them to identify with more mature and older girls. Since young girls look up to these TV stars they are exposed to behaviors that otherwise they would not know about.
Billy: I agree that part of the problem is that most “children” shows showcase role models who are not age appropriate. It isn’t so much a matter of content as much as it is that kids are expected to identify with a character that is significantly different from them. Not only would a 16 year old have varying interests from a 10 year old, but the age difference also sets an unrealistic body standard. I feel that the problem is twofold. Partially the media is sending the wrong message, but I also believe that the education system shares some of the blame. We are reliant primarily on abstinence-only sex education, which can tend to preach ignorance about the topic of sexuality. Sexuality is a part of growing up, and when students are not properly taught facts they will seek them out elsewhere, leaving the media as their sole source of information. I believe it is not media we need to reform, but our abstinence only sex education program.
Payton: I think they are both equally to blame. I believe another problem is parenting styles. In an article titled Teaching Children Healthy Sexuality, Rob Jackson said “family is where young males can be mentored into responsible men who know how to safeguard sexuality and young females can be fashioned to cherish fidelity.” Since the media seems to have a stronger influence on children then parents do, this is not as simple anymore. Another thing that affects children’s sexuality is divorce and growing up seeing their parents dating different people. This can be confusing to children. The way their parents dress also influences children greatly.
Billy: The divorce rate is an interesting point and I’m glad you brought that up. I would stipulate that divorce rate is not what contributes to the sexualization of our culture, but rather that the stigma surrounding divorce has eroded in recent years. Whereas once divorce was considered an altogether ugly process that was taboo, it has become more socially acceptable. As a result, children do not view monogamy as a strict principle to adhere to anymore. The idea of “waiting until marriage” seems rather arbitrary when some people are getting married 3 or 4 times. Once again I believe we must turn our attention to the media. Some celebrity marriages are incredibly short lived, almost to an embarrassing degree. I will not preach about the “sanctity of marriage” but obviously it is not the symbol of monogamy it once was. This leads to problems in Abstinence-Only Sex Ed, as Marriage is the proverbial cutoff point for sex in that curriculum. Obviously we cannot teach perpetual abstinence, as that would lead to extinction, but marriage is no longer a guarantee of monogamy. The inherent issue here is that we are encouraging children to wait for what is becoming an increasingly arbitrary benchmark, leaving the actual education about venereal diseases and pregnancy in the dark. This leads to a twofold problem: married people who are sexually ignorant as well as unmarried couples who decide that waiting for marriage is unrealistic, but have no information with which to keep themselves safe.
Payton: I think it is very true that waiting until marriage is becoming extinct especially it is more common than not be married multiple times. Ultimately, I believe safe sex needs to be taught instead of no sex. It is a great moral to have to wait for “the one” but it is very rapidly becoming unrealistic in our culture. Since our culture is more focused on body image and sexuality there are not that many people who wait until marriage to have sex. When people, like Miley Cyrus, who used to be teen role models are turning into sex symbols it is confusing for adolescents to decipher what is socially acceptable and what isn’t in the real world as opposed to the celebrity world. I think it is more important to teach children how to be safe if they do decide to be sexually active and how to prevent things like pregnancy and diseases.
Billy: Very good point! Though we have many places to lay the blame, only one thing is certain. We need to instill knowledge of basic sexual disease and pregnancy prevention into our children and teens. Though the media and our own culture may teach kids lessons contrary to our current sex ed curriculum, it is easiest for us to amend our curriculum as opposed to trying to amend our entire culture.