Sex and the Media

I came across an article on the wires a few days ago at the peak of the media’s frenzied calls for Pope Benedict to step down or be arrested. It was about bikinis with padded bras for little girls, which have now been recalled. 

It seemed ironic that the news was saturated with pedophilia scandals as a mainstream department store was marketing a product clearly designed to hyper-sexualize young girls. 

It strikes me that the media speaks out of both sides of its mouth. On the one hand, news media lambast Pope Benedict as if he’s responsible for all the sex abuse that’s taken place in the last 50 years. On the other hand, the marketing and entertainment industries increasingly turn children into sex objects for our consumption.

My point is not to dismiss scandal in the Church by saying that we live in a sex-saturated world, and therefore pedophiles should not be prosecuted. It is necessary to state the facts about abuse within the Church and make them clear. Equally important is to know that the Church does not harbor adults with prurient interests in children, male or female. 

But it’s also true that we are saturated with images that affect all of us –often unconsciously. Sex sells, arguably more now than ever before. A walk down almost any street in Rome starts or ends with an underwear store featuring the latest in sexy lingerie. Plastered on the the back of nearly every bus is the barely covered rear end of a girl or young woman. A drive to the outskirts of Rome, in the beautiful surroundings of the Castelli Romani, takes you down roads lined with Nigerian girls traded for sex — and on and on it goes.

The market seems driven almost predominantly by sex, peddling products that turn men and women — and now children — into sex objects. And we consumers condone all this, on some level, when we buy their products and services. 

These are just a few of the latest examples of what’s being advertised to children: kiddie stripper poles (now off the market, thanks to one mother’s campaign), primping parties, waxing for girls as young as eight, Bratz dolls …even children’s stuffed animals:

So, where do we draw the line? When do the images that saturate our brains erode our ability to treat people with respect and not as objects? At what point do we concede that we adults have sexualized children? Is there a connection between the marketing and entertainment media and pornography and sexual exploitation? 

 

By

Irene Lagan is the general manager of Guadalupe Radio in Washington, DC. She is a former collaborator for the English language section of Vatican Radio, has written for several publications, and holds a Masters degree in philosophy. She served as managing editor at the National Catholic Bioethics Center while in Boston, and has been published in Ethics & Medics, the National Catholic Register, Zenit, Franciscan Way, the Arlington Catholic Herald, and The Boston Globe. In addition, she has taught university students as an adjunct professor and has consulted in the area of communications and development for non-profit organizations.

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