The mass demoralisation of youth

Author: Mirosław Rucki

Public areas are steeped in erotic content - billboards and advertising posters at bus stops contain demoralising sexual undertones, while television and the internet bring pornography into our homes. Is it possible to somehow resist the wave of demoralisation?

We, as parents, should have started to become concerned a long time ago; also those people who have been chosen by the nation and who govern the state, should be concerned about the young people who are the future of our country. The reality of this demoralisation is in fact frightening, and it is confirmed by the impartial and merciless numbers from the report of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Sexualisation by the media

The APA work force have found with horror that the content of all media investigated by them encouraged underage children, particularly girls, to sexual activity. An average American child uses a variety of media for 6 hours and 32 minutes a day, of which about three hours are dedicated to the television. The report states: “Frequent use of media by young people potentially exposes them to contact with images that sexualise women and girls, as well as teach girls that women are sexual objects.”

I leave out entirely such situations as when my grandmother bought a package of satellite TV channels, in which there were two emitting pornography. She had no possibility to eliminate them and she had to pay for the whole package... Unfortunately, public and widely available free television also contains content that demoralises. In the television programs that were audited by APA, during prime time the researchers noted a huge amount of comments and remarks that had sexual undertones, portraying women as objects of desire, and not as human beings with their own dignity and value. In 84% of the analyzed episodes of popular TV serials there was at least one case of sexual harassment. In 74% of the analyzed episodes at least one immoral joke referring to women occurred, and most of them were accompanied by laughter from the audience.

Music videos viewed en masse by young people contain sexual images in 81% of their content. The researchers have found that 57% of music videos show a woman only as a sexual decorative object: undressed or half-naked women performed erotic dances or represented an object of desire. Lyrics mostly correspond to these images: 70% of the surveyed tracks contained sexual content and 15% of them were profane and degrading to women.

Frequent use of media by young people potentially exposes them to contact with images that sexualise women and girls, as well as teach girls that women are sexual objects.

I wonder if mothers really realize and understand these things, after all they know that their child is watching these images and listening to these texts. Do none of these mothers feel struck by the fact that their child is being fed with content that abuses the dignity of every woman, including herself as a mother and wife? It can be most disheartening, because demoralising content also appears in cinema films for all ages, and especially in the adverts shown before such films. Even in cartoons, researchers have noted a tendency to sexualisation: the heroines of animated films from several decades ago were much more modestly dressed and behaved less provocatively than characters in today’s productions.

Youth magazines are permeated with eroticism and young women tend to think of themselves as sexual objects whose life is incomplete without sexual contact. One of the main themes in the analyzed magazines was that being a sexual object, and drawing men’s attention to oneself, should be the main goal of every woman.

27% of computer games in the United States designated as “Teen” (i.e. intended for children 13 years and older) include sexual topics. The internet contains a lot of demoralizing images, placed on the main websites and accessible for every internet user. In addition, the internet is a source of easily accessible pornography, exposed even in cases when the user is not looking for it and does not want to watch it. 70% of teens aged 15-17 accidentally encountered pornography on the internet, and 23% said that it happens to them “quite often.”

Adverts gladly show women as “decorative” elements, attracting attention with their sexuality. They are merely “additions” to the product rather than real people. Most interesting, however, is that according to the latest figures, attracting attention does not always translate into product sales. In the surveyed group aged 18-54 years it turned out that most participants did not remember what was advertised, they only paid attention to the sexual content. It seems that the real aim of the pervasive demoralisation in advertising is to create an environment in which a woman is only a sexual object. The message from advert makers and mass media to girls (as future women) is that they should be always sexually available, should be always thinking about sex, and that they will be looked at as objects of desire.

Demoralising fashion

The report of the American Psychological Association notes that producers sell girls a unique personality through clothes. Younger and younger girls are encouraged to try on and wear clothes designed to highlight female sexuality. Thongs modelled on strippers’ costumes are now available in stores for children and teenagers. I once pointed out to one of the students that it is not on to come to lecture with a deep neckline, bare belly and in hip-huggers that reveal half her bottom when she sits down. She answered that there were no other clothes in the shops and that she did not see anything wrong with her outfit. I knew it was not true, because I have wife who can dress normally, buying clothes in the same stores as everyone else. But I want to emphasize that the problem is actually quite serious: due to the ever present provocative outfits for women and girls, a lot of them start to think these are normal and even that they are the only really correct clothes to wear. Of course, I told the student that mutual respect requires from both of us that we come to class dressed decently. Just as I, when going to meet students, show them my respect by putting on a suit and a tie, and I do not turn up in short pants and a T-shirt, so I have the right to expect from students decent clothes. Let us not be ashamed to remark to people who are inappropriately dressed and demonstrate their sexuality in a public location. Let us not be ashamed to hint to ladies that one does not come to church in miniskirts or with a bare belly – it is pure decency and respect for all those who have come to this place to meet God (not to mention respect for God himself, present in this place). It may turn out that they simply are unaware that they are taking part in this process of demoralization ...

The influence of parents

I will not be saying anything new when I say that parents, through their attitudes and behaviour have a significant impact on how their child perceives herself or himself and their gender. Of course, it is the parents that buy their children toys, colour magazines and clothes, it is them who decide if the child has their own computer with unlimited access to the internet or television in their bedroom. It is the parents who allow 56% of teens (12-15 years old) to use the internet on their own, while more than 20% of them admit that in the past 12 months they have had contact with sexual images. The worst part is that 41% of parents of children who reported that they saw such images on the internet, are convinced that this is not the case. In contrast, 29% of parents said they did not know whether their children had seen something like this (from the report by the team under the direction of R. Bailey “Let children be children”).

But apart from this, the study has shown that if there are sexualised ideas about girls in the parents’ thinking patterns, their children will take on the same way of thinking. It seems that the efforts of mothers to maintain a slim figure, and especially criticizing the weight of their daughters, are related to eating disorders in girls. Sometimes parents more or less consciously contribute to the sexualisation of their daughters, by – for example – enrolling a five-year old girl to a beauty contest. Of course, they expose her to a situation in which, along with the other candidates, she will be behaving in a “sexy” way: she will wear heavy make-up, high heels, low-cut dresses, etc. Other girls watch this and it does affect their perception of sexuality. In my opinion, the number of plastic surgeries performed on teenage girls is frightening. In 2005 alone in the U.S. 77 thousand girls under 18 years of age underwent plastic surgery – of course – with the knowledge and consent of the parents, who usually pay for it.

Mothers’ Union put forward a proposition to the government of 14 actions. Nine of them were immediately put into practice, including severe restrictions which were imposed on advertising, which from now on cannot have sexually explicit content nor can it present a woman as an object of sexual desire.

What is the problem with sexualisation?

Someone might say, “Well, what of it? Let there be a sexualised society.” However, every Christian knows that it is not by coincidence that God warns us of problems, giving the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” St. Paul teaches: “Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Debauchery, immorality destroys us from within, therefore God tries to help us avoid such problems and encourages us towards purity and sanctification.

That God is right, is also shown by the research conducted in Poland by the Institute of Integrated Prevention. In these studies an association has been found between the problems of youth and the degree of sexualisation. For example, less sexualised young people rarely have thoughts of suicide; the highest proportion (as many as 57%) of people who have had suicidal thoughts in the past year, concerns a group of girls with the highest degree of sexualisation. 91% of not sexualised young people say that in the last month, they had not once got drunk, while among sexualised boys this percentage was 56% (while 13.7% did so more than three times). Early sexual initiation occurred only in 1.4% of not sexualised girls and 35% of sexualised girls. It was found that if two teenagers did not differ in terms of gender, age, family status, level of religiousness, the use of alcohol and sources of knowledge about sexuality, but one of them had about two points higher rate on the scale of sexualisation (1 corresponds to the lowest, and 5 – the highest degree of sexualisation), this person then has a four times greater chance of having gone through sexual initiation. A relation has also been discovered between sexualisation and the use of drugs and peer violence. (The above data comes from Dr. Szymon Grzelak’s lecture in Warsaw, March 2013).

The Russians have a saying: a child’s mouth speaks the truth. So let’s hear the voice of the child who cries out: “Sexualisation will not teach us real life!!!”. With this opinion, Michal Starnawski, a Radom secondary school student and a participant in the prevention program “Archipelago of treasures” (www.archipelagskarbow. eu) concluded his presentation.

Can you fight it?

Of course, apart from the fact that parents must be real parents, caring about the proper development and for the authentic good of the child, in democratic societies there are many ways to influence what is happening in the public sphere. If the rights of different minorities are being talked about, the rights of the majority also cannot be ignored by our governments.

In Great Britain, 18.5 thousand people signed a petition to the government to take action to counter the commercialisation of childhood, which is usually combined with demoralisation. The idea was for images and verbal content in the public arena, as well as on the internet, television and in magazines, to become more acceptable for parents and more family friendly. After examining the problems, the British Association of Mothers (Mothers’ Union) put forward a proposition to the government of 14 actions promoting positive changes in this area. Nine of them were immediately put into practice, including severe restrictions which were imposed on advertising on trams, billboards, bus stops, etc., which from now on cannot have sexually explicit content nor can it present a woman as an object of sexual desire. Similar restrictions were imposed on the production and sale of sexualising clothes, especially underwear for children and adolescents. A website was established through which children and parents can report cases of the violation of decency and express their opinions on these subjects, which will then be analyzed by the appropriate people. Changes have been made to facilitate parental control of web pages viewed by children; also work is being continued to make age control stricter. Four other recommendations have been partially implemented, and only one was not accepted at all.

In the U.S., when one of the companies was about to let out a series of dolls for girls aged 4-8 years, modelled on members of a girls music band known for its skimpy outfits and very demoralizing lyrics, citizens organized a protest. They just did not want their daughters playing with dolls with full lips, huge hairdos, in miniskirts and with bare bellies. As a result of the protest the company withdrew this series. In Poland recommendations have also been developed for the Integrated Prevention Institute for Polish education, which recommend portraying “the man above all in the context of all aspects of humanity: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual. Sexual relationship should be presented in the context of love, respect and responsibility” (guoted from conference materials “Innocence taken away”, p. 110).

The Association “Your Case” also works in our country. It helps create citizens’ society by organizing consumer actions. Anyone who is not indifferent to the problem of vulgarization of public space, can join in on the Association’s actions by using their website www. twojasprawa.org.pl. The Association has already carried out several actions, effective in most cases, which have lead to the removal of obscene and vulgar adverts from bus stops and billboards, and have influenced the way demoralising magazines covers are exposed at newsstands. We can speak up and our voice will be heard.

But above all, I am convinced that the most effective means to combat sexualisation of children and youth is our prayer for purity. Making sure we ourselves keep in a state of sanctifying grace, and cutting ourselves off from everything which leads to debauchery and sins of impurity, we should pray for the purity of our children and youth. Trusting Jesus and asking Him for support for our efforts, we allow Him to begin to work in our hearts, in our families, in our country and around the globe.

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