Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Boys and Sex

Our kids today live in an increasingly sexualized world. Disney darling Miley Cyrus morphs from Hannah Montana into a full-blown sexy singer, and while some of her young fans (and many of their parents) disprove of her new look and lyrics, she's traveling a well-worn path. Our stores and catalogs, after all, are filled with skimpy clothes aimed at pre-teen girls.

For the most part, I thought I'd been spared that angst. As a mother of four boys, I don't have to deal with Halloween costumes that barely cover their midriffs or short-shorts emblazoned with the word "Juicy." But as a recent blog post at Sociological Images pointed out, boys are not immune from sexualization.

Jayden Smith, the 11-year-old star of Karate Kid, is admired for his abs. Apparently, he's also a self-proclaimed "great kisser." More distubring than that, however, is the fact that almost no one seems disturbed by these facts. Would we accept and tolerate the same behavior and treatment of an 11-year-old girl?

I'll admit it: The fact that he had a girlfriend in the newest Karate Kid seemed a bit odd to me. In Karate Kid I, the protagonist was a high school student. Here, he's barely in middle school. But beyond that, I hadn't given any thought to the fact that maybe -- maybe -- we tolerate certain sexual images, behaviors and casting as OK for boys but not OK for girls.

Sociological Images also ran photos of 16-year-old Justin Bieber with 29-year-old Kim Kardashian. And while the photos don't seem particularly disturbing (at least not compared with the site of Miley Cyrus tramping around in next-to-nothing), the author brings up an excellent point: What if the roles were reversed? Would we accept such photos of a 16-year-old girl with a 29-year-old man? Why do we tolerate provocative photos of young boys with older women? Could it be that a double standard is still in place?

"We accept the idea of boys being sexual, or sexually interested, at younger ages than girls, and any interest they show in older girls or women is a sign of their sexual precocity..." writes gwen. Think about that. Sub-consciously, are our expecatations for our sons different from those for our daughters? Why?


  1. Yes! I don't know why, but I'm so guilty of it. With Abby I talk about body image, dressing appropriately, etc. And Nolan calls girls on tv hot. Now, don't get me wrong--I do NOT let him get away with it. But I can't believe that at 6, he's so spot on for what's considered "hot". Hmmm, I wonder if it has anything with his dad calling girls hot??

  2. There's a lot in this post I wasn't up on. I haven't seen Karate Kid or the photos you mentioned. Are our expectations different? Well, if they are, they shouldn't be, says this mom of boys!

  3. Great stuff to chew on and question. I watched the Miley video, oh my. I am no prude, but I do find myself fighting the urge to keep those images away from my boys for as long as I can. I certainly don't want them to be sheltered from the reality of what is out there, and they need to know about what to do with sexually explicit material when they do come upon it. I am going to just keep coming back to discussions with them, talk through it, be a strong woman, discuss some more.

  4. Having two boys and a girl, it's not a sub-conscious-expectation difference, it's a real difference. And even if someone had a dozen boys and no girls, the boys won't be all be the same. My boys are different.

    My plan was to prepare my children for the world as it is, and that has worked out well for our family.