There is a kind of social, emotional abandonment of childhood itself, which I see as a growing phenomenon of our “modernity”. Recently, I had argued on a group forum about the lack of really good children’s films, and children’s talent shows having children perform dances to very adult themes including emotions they are unlikely to have experienced in any way that does justice to the performance as art. Sexual attraction, betrayal, for example. A parent was very angry with me for calling this an example of neglect and said that her child LIKED and CHOSE to dance to those songs.
I beg to differ. Increasingly, busy parents have no time for childish things. Many will put on a cartoon on TV for kids to watch, but not sit with them to enjoy it. Many parents want to do intelligent things with children and ask them to play childish games with friends. Spending time together inherently has started requiring children to understand adult tastes to hold interest or be abandoned to their own devices. Choices influenced by these should not be seen as an interest in the content so much as an interest in holding the interest of loved adults.
Another way of looking at it is that sex repressed adults find unconscious enjoyment in sexual freedom being enacted publicly and freely. At the same time, their sexuality is so repressed, that they see nothing wrong with children dancing pelvic thrusts, because their own pelvic thrusts aren’t sexual either, in their awareness.
A friend recently shared an outrageous situation. She said that the children being role modeled “sexy” all the time with few examples of self-respect or asserting personal boundaries, may have led many children to act in a seductive manner, which can give mixed messages to others – in the sense of implying consent.
She gave the example of her daughter’s friend who was 11 years old, had not hit puberty and showed little sexual awareness, but wore, clingy, feminine clothes that were designed along the lines for more adult women in the sense of drawing attention to the body in a sexual manner – clothing many adult women would hesitate to wear too – she described strategic transparency, frills that would have framed a cleavage if she had one, but flopped meaninglessly on a flat chest, short skirts that flashed knickers all the time – while the girl herself was a tomboy and very friendly, but not necessarily in a sexual way – she was simply too young yet.
My friend said she constantly worried that a hormonal teenager or lecherous adult would read or choose to label the mixed messages wrong and lead to undesirable sexual consequences. The surprise is that the girl’s mother, who wears salwar kameez and saris almost like a uniform is making these purchases for her daughter, saying that “she’s a kid, let her enjoy now while she can wear exposing clothes”. This is so warped on so many levels…. Freud would have a party with this. Many parents seem to live their desires of sexual freedoms through what they get their kids to do. Which, in my view is plain sick.
She is no prude, I am no prude, but I understood her to be saying that while there is nothing wrong about sexual attraction, children are rarely very self aware, and the friendly inputs from an adult can help them understand how they present themselves. It is a part of growing up. I agree with my friend that if the girl chose to wear clothes that flaunted sexuality, it was her choice, but if it was an unintended thing, then she was likely to be caught unaware by its impact on people and in either case, an adult ought to have been keeping a protective eye over her to ensure that her desire (if she chose) for freedom was not exploited. This, in my view is neglect on the part of a parent. The lack of that guiding into the world by showing meanings to things that may not have been noticed or intended. Children don’t need to learn the hard way.
I call openly for sexual liberalization and acceptance of sexuality as a natural part of growth. However, what this girl’s mother is doing isn’t freedom, this is abandonment and possibly endangerment. When you set children free, as a responsible parent, your job multiplies exponentially, because the idea isn’t to let them run wild and fall over cliffs, but for them to spread their wings safely with loving adults watching out for them, partnering them in their discovery of the world.
I brought this example up, because victimization of children gets spoken of a lot, but there is little talk about abdication of protective responsibilities of parents. We choose to ignore these things. This sexualization of children that is a social phenomenon, unless there is a rape, then we protest it. There is also little talk of the sexualization of children overall – for example, the mother may have purchased those clothes, but they are available in kids sizes in shops everywhere. Black net stockings for a girl to play in the garden? Gimme a break!