We are writing to express our support for current efforts in Iceland to develop and implement legal limits on violent Internet pornography. As scholars, medical and public health professionals, social service providers, and community activists, we commend your government’s determination to confront the harms of pornography. As part of a comprehensive approach to violence prevention, sex education, and public health, legally limiting Internet pornography will reduce the power of this multi-billion dollar global industry to distort and diminish the lives, opportunities, and relationships of Icelandic citizens.
Especially commendable is your government’s commitment to protect children from the harms of pornography. We recognize in other contexts (e.g., advertising) that children’s unique developmental needs mandate protecting them from predatory corporate interests. As pornography invades children’s lives and psyches at ever earlier ages and with ever more distressing effects, this recognition must be applied to pornography. It is naïve and unrealistic to expect parents and schools to counter effectively the influence of this powerful and pervasive industry. Rather, society must act on its compelling interest in providing a safe and nourishing environment for children. We applaud your government’s effort to exercise collective responsibility for children’s well-being by placing limits on a toxic media environment from which they cannot otherwise be sufficiently shielded.
We are inspired by your boldness and innovation in protecting children, honoring women’s rights to safety and equality, and maintaining the integrity of Icelandic culture against the onslaught of an unrestrained industry of sexual exploitation.
We understand that your deliberations remain at an early stage and that many important aspects of the proposed legislation remain to be worked out. That said, we commend your government’s stated intention to define pornography narrowly (as sexual material involving violence and degradation), thus ensuring Icelandic citizens’ access to the fullest possible range of online information onsistent with the protection of children and of women’s civil right to equality. As your efforts continue to develop, we would urge you not to be dissuaded by dark invocations of totalitarianism or of an unregulated black market in pornography. The pornography industry could hardly be any less regulated than it is currently, nor could the motivations and methods of the Icelandic initiative differ more starkly from those of authoritarian governments.
From adopting the so-called “Nordic” approach to prostitution in 2009 to banning strip clubs in 2010, and having stood virtually alone among nations in holding banks to account in the wake of the global financial crisis, Iceland is a global leader both in gender equality and in confronting corporate power. We are inspired by your boldness and innovation in protecting children, honoring women’s rights to safety and equality, and maintaining the integrity of Icelandic culture against the onslaught of an unrestrained industry of sexual exploitation. As a group of similarly committed scholars, activists, and professionals across the globe, we stand with you and look forward to seeing the final result of your efforts.
There’s been a ton of media coverage on the adultification and sexualisation of children lately. This program aired on Channel 7’s Today Tonight Monday. Click picture below to view clip.
And just a clarification re the KMart campaign. It wasn’t actually me who was instrumental in getting KMart to pull certain items – that win was the result of grassroots protests by a number of individuals and it happened pretty quickly. However I was encouraged to receive a call from KMart CEO Guy Russo personally apologising and a short time after, with Julie Gale of Kids Free 2B Kids, to meet Guy and his staff at the company’s Melbourne headquarters. KMart was invited to sign Collective Shout’s Corporate Social Responsibility Pledge which asks corporates to sign a statement of intention not to objectify women and sexualise girls in products and services. We hope to make an announcement soon.
And great to see this issue get Page 1 treatment in the Daily Telegraph this week.
“There really is a global backlash” – MTR
Netmums website finds parents believe modern life steals kids’ childhood
PARENTS believe childhood ends at 12 and blame pressure from friends, celebrity culture and social media for rushing kids into adulthood.
Almost 90 per cent of parents think modern children grow up faster than previous generations, while one in two parents admit their daughters worry about their Facebook popularity, a survey by the Netmums website has found.
Modern tweens prefer to play alone on iPads, with 83 per cent of their parents saying their favourite activity was playing outdoors.
Boys are under pressure to be “macho” and “good at everything” while girls are under “immense strain to be thin” and sexy before being mature enough to cope.
Do you agree? Tell us below.
The British survey found 54 per cent of parents were angry with retailers, saying clothing for girls was too sexual, provocative and short.
The anger against retailers who foster the “pornification of culture” was growing, said Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of campaign group Collective Shout. “There really is a global backlash about forcing children to grow up too fast and telling little girls they have to be thin, hot and sexy to be acceptable,” she said. Read more here.
ON Bookworld’s website, you can find My first cupcake decorating book, Children’s book of art and Children’s book of mythical beasts. But until recently, other beasts lurked among the titles hosted by the online book seller, the rebranded version of Borders.
Hundreds of titles appeared under the heading, Incest, titles far too explicit, not to mention disturbing, to be mentioned here.
Incest is a criminal act of abuse against children. About one-in-four is a victim of child sexual abuse. Yet companies are profiting from selling incest-themed fiction, supporting the views of abusers or potential abusers that it is acceptable to have sex with (i.e. rape) children.
Bookworld says it is working on solutions to monitor content more closely.
‘‘We agree with you that these titles should not be on sale and are very grateful that we have been made aware of them so that we can remove them from the site and ensure none like them will be available on Bookworld in the future,’’ said Bookworld’s Kim Noble.
While their prompt response is welcome, didn’t one staffer notice the titles and ask questions? And while Bookworld says it didn’t market the titles, surely carrying them at all achieves the same thing?
Why no audit checks of the data feeds they were channeling through their site? Why effectively traffick contraband materials without checking they weren’t breaching Australian laws?
It is just the latest example of the mainstreaming of child sexual assault material.
The Federal Government has established a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. There are various other state and internal inquiries. Rightly so. The issue is a blight on our nation and everything must be done to stop it. But while millions are spent on these inquiries, we live in a culture which sends messages that child abuse is sexy. There’s no inquiry into the permission-giving drivers which encourage and enable the sexual abuse of children.
Like teen-themed sex toys which eroticised sex with girls advertised through Condom Kingdom; or a Melbourne sex store advertising a ‘‘back to school’’ sale complete with school uniforms, blackboards and apples for the teacher.
Amazon also lists incest titles. Last year, a global campaign forced a recall of A paedophile’s guide to love and pleasure.
Then there’s porn in the corner store. Pictures include one of a girl (allegedly over 18 but posed as a child, which is illegal) on a bed in bobby sox and pigtails, holding a hand puppet.
For years, child development advocates have called for action, sending multiple copies of illegal titles to the Classification Board. Board chief Donald McDonald has written hundreds of ‘‘please explain’’ letters to porn distributors but none bother replying. The board’s annual reports bear that out, documenting ‘‘no reply received’’.
The system is broken. Jeff Sparrow’s new book, Money Shot, reveals the contempt porn profiteers have for the system. Those in the industry say the risks of getting caught aren’t that great. Sparrow writes: ‘‘The adult industry of Australia was almost entirely outside the legal system . . . the remote possibility of a fine was like the spectre of shoplifting, an annoyance that just went with the trade.’’
Why haven’t state and federal attorneys-general, who are responsible for classifications, done anything to intervene?
Melbourne author Jayneen Saunders wrote Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept about helping children stay safe from child sexual abuse, but she has struggled to get a publisher and has been prevented from reading from the book at public places such as libraries, because of the nature of the content.
Yet, mainstream companies can profit from trading in products encouraging child sexual assault.
All these permission-giving examples undermine child protection. The idea it is acceptable to fantasise about children is given the tick by those who profit from trading in such fantasies.
If we are serious about addressing child sexual assault, when are governments going to address the culture which fuels and feeds it?
Despite the fact the system is stuffed, the Australian Law Reform Commission has endorsed selfregulation.
There are endless complaints about all the above and more, but the system doesn’t change.
I’ll vote for whoever decides to take this seriously.
FOR a long time it was said the ‘‘jury was out’’ on the impact of media violence. Not any more. A special commission set up by the International Society for Research on Aggression comprising 12 international authors and endorsed by 250 of the world’s leading researchers has concluded that exposure to a range of violent media can act as triggers for aggressive thoughts and feelings, influencing behaviour. To put it simply, exposing kids to images of killing, maiming, dismembering, and sexual assault over and over again has real consequences.
You can’t expose kids to these things in the name of entertainment and expect them to be unaffected.
Australian academic Dr Wayne Warburton is one of the authors of the report, published in the journal Aggressive Behaviour. He’s also the editor (along with Danya Braunstein) of a new book Growing up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the impacts of violent and sexualised media on children.
‘‘We have failed to grasp the danger to society posed by the explosion of violent and sexualised media,’’ Dr Warburton says.
‘‘While scientific literature demonstrating and explaining the harmful effects has skyrocketed, public opinion has not followed.’’
Exposure to violent media contributes to an increase in beliefs normalising aggressive behaviour, that you can solve conflict with aggression, desensitisation to violence and a greater willingness to tolerate more in society. As well, children see that aggression isn’t punished — it’s often rewarded by points, money, status, elevation to higher game levels. This can encourage imitation. Dr Warburton points out that in violent video games, the player strongly identifies with and usually take the role of the aggressor, who is usually portrayed as heroic.
An 18-year-old in Thailand stabbed a taxi driver to death trying to ‘‘find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game’’. In 2003 two brothers, 16 and 14, killed a man and wounded a woman shooting at cars in Tennessee. They said they were acting out Grand Theft Auto III.
Anders Behring Breivik prepped himself for his killing spree by playing Modern Warfare 2 and World of Warcraft. They helped him with ‘‘target practice,’’ he said.
Violent gaming provides ‘‘immersive environments’’ used by US military forces for training, where acts of violence are carried out in the first person to desensitise soldiers to real-life combat. Of course, it’s not just games. The young see violence glorified and even eroticised in advertising and music. Many rap lyrics and videos depict women as subservient and enjoying aggression.
Adolescent males with high levels of music video exposure are more accepting of rape.
Researchers looked at the effect of removing MTV from a maximum security forensic hospital. The aggression levels of 222 patients dropped by almost half.
Kids are seeing more violent pornography than ever, including sadism, rape and torture porn.
With all this exposure to pornography, violence and crime content, are we surprised by newly released Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that show sexual assaults and related offences committed by school-aged children have almost quadrupled in four years? They leapt from 450 to 1709.
Dr Warburton says exposure to anti-social, violent, frightening and age-inappropriate media can have a range of negative effects on young people.
A recent Australian study of 925 adolescents found that high video game use was associated with poor global health, depression and anxiety.
‘‘Violent and frightening media have been linked with anxiety, fears, sleep disturbances, PTSD, long-term phobias and avoidant behaviours, and occasionally with effects so strong they have resulted in hospitalisation,’’ Dr Warburton says.
Ninety-eight per cent of US paediatricians believe excessive exposure to violent media has a negative effect on childhood aggression.
John Murray, research fellow at the Department of Psychology, Washington College, and a researcher on children’s social development for almost 40 years, says violent media poses a ‘‘clear threat to the social and intellectual development of children and youth.’’ The research is solid. The profits that motivate vested interests to deny it are significant. But just because people want to make money out of violent and sexually degrading media products doesn’t mean we have to let them.
The erosion of childhood is becoming a social and cultural trend of great concern to child development experts as well as the broader community. Commercialisation, sexualisation, body image dissatisfaction and over exposure to violent imagery are some of the key factors. A growing body of scientific evidence and expert opinion has transformed the debate about this trend into an important issue with major implications for mental health, public health, education and policy. We look forward to meeting you at this unique event.
Amanda Rishworth moves Notice of Motion in House of Representatives
Earlier this month Federal Member for Kingston (S.A), Amanda Rishworth, moved a Private Members Motion acknowledging the findings of the UK Government’s review Letting the Children be Children on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.
It is heartening for those of us involved in this issue to see MPs like Rishworth take the lead on speaking out in Parliament and recognising the harm of sexualizing children. Rishworth urged governments, industries, regulators and the wider community to act.
Supporting Rishworth’s motion were: Jill Hall, Shortland NSW; Kirsten Livermore, Capricornia Qld; Sophie Mirabella, Indi Vic, Lib; Kelly O’Dwyer, Higgins Vic, Lib; Laura Smyth, Latrobe Vic; Luke Simpkins, Cowan, WA, Lib; Deborah O’Neill, Robertson, NSW, ALP; Jane Prentice, Ryan, Qld Lib.
I am pleased to rise to move this motion, because the increasing sexualisation of our children is a trend that concerns me greatly, as it does you, Madam Deputy Speaker Burke.
I have raised this issue publicly before, both in national debates and in this House, and I have received extensive support from people in the Australian community who share my deep concern about this important issue. One mother from Brisbane, Bridgette, was among many parents and teachers who contacted me to express their support for action on this matter. In expressing her concern about driving past inappropriate billboard advertising with her children in the car, Bridgette said, ‘I feel powerless to control these kinds of images.’ It was a common theme in the correspondence I received on this matter. While many parents want to be the ones who control their children’s exposure to adult content, they feel it is almost impossible to do so. While I understand that this is a complex and difficult issue to address, I believe it is high time that we as a society start to take stock of these significant concerns and work together as a group to ensure that our children can grow and develop in a positive and healthy way.
The motion before us today acknowledges the findings of the Letting children be children: the report of an independent review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood commissioned by the government of the United Kingdom and released in June last year. This review draws on evidence collected from the survey of a sample group of 1,198 parents as part of a wider evidence-gathering process. It revealed significant public concern about the sexualisation of young girls and boys through the media and the commercial world.
The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls defines the process of sexualisation as one where a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal to the exclusion of all other characteristics; a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy; a person is sexually objectified or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. The Letting children be children review found that children are growing up against the backdrop of a culture that is increasingly commercialised and sexualised. The evidence pointed to widespread public concern in the United Kingdom about children’s almost constant exposure to sexualised imagery through billboards, magazines, pre-watershed television programs containing adult themes, music videos depicting sexually explicit dance routines or provocative lyrics, and adult material available on demand through the internet and through the commercial world in the form of advertising and marketing. Images of this kind convey to children a clear message that suggests that women and girls are nothing more than sexual objects.
The report found that many parents felt that these images were becoming increasingly sexualised and gendered and they expressed concern about the influence from exposure to these images on the development and attitudes of their children. As this motion states, the review also found that parents are very concerned about the clothing, services and products being specifically marketed to children, which often reinforce gender stereotypes and portray children as being more sexually mature than their age would suggest. Parents were particularly concerned about the sexualisation of clothes designed for young girls, listing items like padded bras, bikini swimwear, clothing made from fabrics like animal prints and black lace, high-heeled shoes and clothing incorporating suggestive slogans.
Lastly, the review noted that parents often feel their concerns are not taken into account and that little effort is made to assist parents to control what their children are exposed to, despite the fact that they feel they are in the best position to say what is or is not appropriate for their child. As I stated earlier, many parents want to take charge and limit their children’s exposure to what they see as adult content but feel powerless to do so.
As stated in the motion, I believe, along with many Australian parents, that the sexualisation of children is a growing issue not just in the United Kingdom but also here, in Australia. A number of reports into this issue conducted by both the Australia Institute and the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications and the Arts found a high level of public concern about the premature advancement of the sexuality of children caused by their frequent exposure to highly sexualised images of adults as well as pressure to consume products designed to directly sexualise them.
The motion recognises that the sexualisation of children and, in particular, of girls has been associated with a wide range of negative consequences, including body image issues, eating disorders, low self-esteem and mental illness. We all know that viewing images that depict an unrealistic standard of beauty can make us all feel bad. I often feel bad when I open up a magazine and see unrealistic images of women. However, the important point is this: unlike adults, children have not yet developed the cognitive ability to objectively analyse these kinds of images, and so they are particularly vulnerable to this kind of content. While adults are able to determine whether something has been airbrushed or is unrealistic or a person has had their body altered, children are unable to do this.
The report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls presents a summary of the significant body of evidence linking exposure to highly sexualised content with a process of selfobjectification, whereby young girls internalise the sexualising images of the culture in which they are developing and start to criticise their own physical selves for failing to conform—which is often impossible—with what is a narrow concept of attractiveness. The report notes that constant attention to one’s physical appearance caused by self-objectification can often have a disruptive effect on performance in a range of areas, including schooling, because less time and energy is available for these other tasks. I saw some reports that showed that young girls were unable to attend to their school work because they were obsessing about their bodies.
The report highlights studies showing that young girls exposed to sexualised and gender stereotyped content in magazines and through television can experience low self-esteem and become extremely dissatisfied with and anxious about their bodies. These feelings of inadequacy can then lead to serious health concerns, such as disordered eating.
In addition, research shows that the sexualisation and objectification of girls in society can have significant adverse effects on the attitudes that boys have and on the ways that they perceive and interact with females throughout their lives. Not only can this lead to men struggling to maintain intimate relationships because they have unrealistic expectations of women but it can also teach young boys negative messages about how it is appropriate to treat and interact with girls. Worst of all, it can cause young boys treat women purely as sexual objects. There is little doubt that the frequent exposure of young children to sexualised content leads to a whole range of negative consequences.
The motion before us today urges governments, industries, regulators and the wider community in Australia to take note of this report. But it is also time for action. I believe that as a community, we in Australia, including industry and government, need to work together to address the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood in Australia. We are living in an increasingly sexualised and commercial world. While adults have developed the skills to navigate this—not always successfully, but a lot of the time we are able to navigate, analyse and critically evaluate this material—children can be extremely vulnerable to these influences. As a result, these influences can affect how they develop and determine what kinds of adults they grow up to be. I do not think that it is any one group’s responsibility, and that has been the trouble—one group of people has not been responsible, because it is complex issue. But I believe that we need to raise awareness of this issue.
We need to work together. Industry, government, parents and the community need to work together to ensure that as a society we deal effectively with this important issue so that future generations of Australian boys and girls can grow and develop in an environment that promotes positive and healthy messages. Unfortunately, I feel that we are going the other way. I strongly believe that we need to prevent the increased sexualisation and commercialisation of our children.
That is why I am moving this important motion. I notice that there are quite a few speakers on the list. I hope for their support on this motion. I commend the motion to the House.
Deb O’Neill, Member for Robertson (NSW), also recognised the importance of corporate social responsibility, making these comments:
I really do want to speak about the importance of the industry coming to some sort of understanding of their responsibility as important corporate and social citizens. Businesses do not exist outside and beyond the ethical practices; businesses sit within communities and they rely on communities to succeed. We need an ethical response to what we can see is an increase in eating disorders, an increase in challenges to a sense of body image, increases in students’ and young people’s sense of identity, at a particular time they are growing in their understanding of sexualisation. These are pressures that should not be brought to bear on young people unnecessarily. Some businesses are very much responsible for pushing the envelope way too far.
Of course, we are still waiting for the review of the Senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment, which was meant to have happened by December 2009. It seems to have disappeared.
Dr Emma Rush summed up the issues in an earlier piece I published here, titled ‘The market is eating our children’. It’s a must read for anyone interested in understanding and advancing this issue. Dr Rush writes:
But what can government do?
• It could start by conducting the now overdue December 2009 review of industry’s response to the Senate Inquiry recommendations, which would put clearly on the public record the failure of industry self-regulation to promote children’s interests.
• It needs to recognise that what is happening today is sexualisation ‘by a thousand cuts’. One sexualised billboard, one television show or advertisement, one internet site, one toy, one child’s magazine: none of these alone cause the problem of child sexualisation. It is the combination of many sexualised billboards, television shows, advertisements, internet sites, toys, magazines, and so on that cause child sexualisation.
The ‘case-by-case’ approach to regulation which is currently used by both government regulation and industry self-regulation will not work for this issue. We need an integrated regulatory approach covering all relevant industries, with the expertise of child health and welfare professionals structured into the regulation process, and regulation enforceable by law. Read full article here
‘Corporate paedophilia’ is a worrying global trend on the rise.
For those who might have missed it, Witchery has just launched a new clothing range for eight- to 14-year-old girls called “8fourteen”. In a brilliant stroke of imagination, the launch occurred on Valentine’s Day – because, of course, girls from the age of eight need to understand that male romantic approval, and attracting it through your physical appearance (euphemistically termed “personal style”), is what really matters in life.
The advertising campaign presents two girls from Sydney, aged 11 and 12, as “little sisters” to Australia’s Next Top Model Montana Cox, aged 18. Leaving aside some leopard print, the clothing range itself appears to be mainly age-appropriate (although, curiously, this isn’t well indicated in the campaign). The list of “facts” presented about each girl appears unobjectionable enough (about which, more later). The accompanying films of the girls, however, artistically shot in black and white with acoustic music, made us gasp. Read more>
Today a guest post from Jane Hollier. Jane, 23, is nearing the end of her Media degree at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, and describes herself as “passionate about communicating with teenagers and young women about the importance of self-respect and a healthy body image”. I’m thinking you’ll see more from Jane on the MTR blog in future.
Why the words children and lingerie should never go together
The sartorial world has never been one to shy away from making a statement. Controversy and clothing seem go hand-in-hand; even your “Average Joe” would be familiar with the name, Thylane Blondeau. But while fashionistas shut their eyes, cover their ears and cry out “Its irony! Its satire! It’s a statement,” a fashion line for children that’s more disturbing than Blondeau’s portfolio has managed to slip through the cracks.
Jours Aprés Lunes’ “loungerie” is a collection of sexy underwear for kids; specifically for 4 to 12 year old girls. The designer of the collection, Sophie Morin, has been in the lingerie industry for over 15 years and has worked for a handful of adult-aimed underwear fashion giants, including Victoria’s Secret. You don’t need more than a quick glance at the range to see how Morin’s experience with lingerie has greatly influenced her collection for kids. According to the French label’s website (if you dare to look), the range is based on the “codes of lingerie, such as ribbons, croquet, giant knot, lace, frills, flounces.” Or in other words, the fashion industry has found yet another way to portray children as sexualised play-things.
The label goes on to describe itself as “an innovative brand and unexpected in the current landscape of teenage and children’s fashion.”
“Unexpected” is one way to describe it. “Sinister” is probably more accurate.
But it’s not just the lace and adult nature of the underwear that gets you. It’s seeing little girls sprawled across lounge chairs with their hair made up in bouffants, makeup heavily done and wearing lacy underwear, that really makes you sick to your stomach. One girl kneels on a lounge, hugs a giant teddy bear, and wears nothing but Bridget Bardot hair, nude-coloured underwear and a “come hither” look on her face. Another girl is sprawled on a recliner, her midriff bare and arms behind her back in a pose way beyond her years. To remind you: these girls are no older than 12-years-old, some looking as young as five.
The purposeful adult styling of the shoot is so obvious and so disconcerting that if the fashion world cries “irony” this time no one will listen. The industry has been unmonitored and allowed to do whatever they like for too long. Blondeau was evidence enough of that, push-up bikinis aimed at primary school kids exemplifies it further , while a bra that promises to increase your teenage daughter’s breasts by at least two cup sizes proves that the objectification and sexualisation of girls is not just issue we’ve made up in our heads. But Jours Aprés Lunes has taken it ten steps too far.
We can tut and tisk and shake our heads in disbelief, but for how long are we going to let the fashion industry get away with it? Exactly how far will we let them go before they will be held accountable for the negative implications that stem directly from their wildly inappropriate sartorial spreads? Because if there were ever two words that should never be seen next to – or anywhere near – each other, its children and lingerie.
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