The average age at which young people first have sex is 17 years old. This is usually before they even graduate high school. In our hyper-sexualized American society, kids are being exposed to objectification of sex and the body through a number of outlets, such as advertising, pop culture, and even the clothes and toys being marketed to young children. By the time they reach middle school, a lot of them are desensitized to the sexualization all around them. Kids who are still young enough to require parental permission to go on a school field trip are considering themselves old enough to have sex.
This whole scenario isn’t new, though. It didn’t pop up all of a sudden as the 21st century moved in. Rather, it is the result of gradual societal change over the last 50 years. In this article from The Wall Street Journal, writer Jennifer Moses looks at the way girls and young women dress as a reflection of larger social and moral values. Perhaps most interesting, though, is the way she discusses how this is all a product of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Parents who had the freedom to engage in what they considered to be sex without consequences are raising children who eagerly partake in that lifestyle, encouraged by their peers and the media. Even if parents regret their own choices, and want their children to be free from that suffering, feel they have no place to correct their kids and establish moral guidelines that they need. As a result, young privileged women who can have whatever they want are nonetheless growing up with the idea that their femininity and even their personhood only go so far as their sexuality.
As Ms. Moses points out, this doesn’t signal a call to restore antiquated standards of femininity or to make sex taboo. Rather, it should signal a call to parents, and all those who are hoping to become parents, to break this cycle of the hook-up culture. They have the responsibility to guard their children, especially their daughters, from the mindset that women are only worth as much as their body. Parents have the ability to instill in their children a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, starting at a young age. By providing a strong alternative to mainstream values of sexuality and forming a network of support as their children grow up, they have the chance to create a change in the way society values sex.