Bodily Integrity: a core human right is the ability to have control over one’s own body. This means that people live free from fear that their bodies will in any way be harmed, judged, mocked, or violated.
One of the first casualties of a pornified culture is the loss of bodily integrity for girls and women. Because they are objectified, they are seen as lacking the right to bodily ownership, and this sets the stage for groping, harassment, uninvited touching in general, and, ultimately, rape.
Boys and men are also having their rights to bodily integrity diminished in a pornified culture. The porn industry, together with a hypersexualized culture, sends the message that to be a “real man” requires having lots of casual sexual encounters. Boys are rarely taught to respect their own bodies, to make sexual choices that are nourishing and emotionally healthy, and to understand that the sexual choices they make have an impact on the kind of adult they will grow up to be.
Human beings live within multisystem, interconnected bodies; this means that genitalia are part of their whole being. How people behave sexually impacts their emotional well-being and self-esteem. All too often, in a pornified culture, the genitals become a separate part of the body disconnected from the head and the heart. Healthy sexuality demands that we teach our children to resist the pornified messages that sex is a disembodied, transactional experience linked only to the genitals.
Objectification: to objectify a person means to turn them into an object, thing, or commodity, rather than to see them as unique, whole human beings with bodily integrity and boundaries.
While both males and females can be objectified, in this hypersexualized culture that bombards us with sexualized images of women, it is almost impossible not to see women and girls as sex objects. The objectification of women and girls is a result of our culture rather than a natural human trait.
When girls and women are objectified, they are not seen as people with their own thoughts, dreams, intellect, talents, aspirations, and desires. Rather, they are judged on their looks, sexual appeal, “hotness,” and size and shape of their body parts, especially breasts and butt. All of their other qualities as complex human beings become invisible, and they are reduced to just a series of body parts to be used with or without their consent.
Tweens often participate in what is known as “peer pleasure,” defined as the extreme desire to please their peers. While this is a very typical stage of adolescence, some tweens will begin to participate in risky and even hyper-sexualized behavior online in order to “gain the respect” and attention of their peers (even if it means disrespecting themselves). Sexting is an example of this type of risky behavior. Children want to believe that their peers would never betray them. However, ask any teen or tween and he or she will share with you a story of betrayal!
Peer-esteem is not necessarily an unhealthy part of adolescence. In fact, it is a large part of how young people derive their self-worth. When we see a balanced combination of self-esteem and peer-esteem, we usually see a happy, emotionally healthy child. However, if peer-esteem becomes excessively important, we end up with a “like”-obsessed generation that solely derives its self-worth from the number of “likes” received on an Instagram picture.
Here is an example of healthy attention or esteem. Imagine you play a sport, maybe soccer. Usually, you play a sport because you enjoy the camaraderie, the physical nature of competition, and how it gets your endorphins flowing. That is self-esteem. You feel good about yourself because you are doing something that challenges you in an enjoyable manner.
Peer-esteem is your friends and family who come out to cheer you on. You don’t play just because you want the fans to cheer for you. You do it because it’s for you. It’s how you develop your own self-worth. The fans and the cheering (peer-esteem) are just an added benefit.
Personal Safety: refers to keeping your body, information, and feelings safe, regardless of the category of person being communicated with (Stranger, Acquaintance, Friend, or Family Member).
In order to help achieve personal safety standards, children must learn some guidelines:
- Do not give people information they do not need to have or could possibly manipulate or use against you. (This includes personal information, likes and dislikes, photos and videos, or other items that are meant for a specific audience only.)
- Do not hide budding relationships from the trusted adult in your life (no matter where you meet this person –at school, playing sports, or even online). Children are often worried about telling parents about a person they have met in an online gaming environment or through social media. They feel safe when they think of this stranger or acquaintance as a child. Tweens have a difficult time imagining that another young person could possibly hurt them. They don’t think about reputations when it comes to online strangers. An online stranger to most tweens means “an adult bad person they have never met before.” This is a dangerously limited definition, as it does not account for trolls, cyber-bullies, or identity thieves. Also, considering that more than 95% of children who are abducted are abducted by someone they know, the conversation around “stranger danger” is just not adequate. Parents must frequently ask children about the people they interact with online and work with them to determine whether or not the child understands how to interact with this person in this specific environment.
- Always tell a trusted adult if someone asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. This is a necessary step even if the child is reporting language that makes him or her uncomfortable.
It is important that we (parents) listen, don’t over-react, look at the situation in its entirety, and then make a decision based on information and not fear.
Pornification: refers to a culture wherein the messages, images, and ideas that stem from pornography have filtered down into mainstream pop culture and have become part of our normal, everyday ways of thinking and acting.
Because we are cultural beings, we internalize the messages that surround us, and as porn becomes more central to our society, we take on a porn-view of the world. This is especially problematic for women and girls, because boys and men—the main consumers of porn—increasingly objectify the female body and thus become less able to see women and girls as peers and equal citizens worthy of respect, dignity, and bodily integrity.
Girls and women also take on a pornified view of themselves because the messages they get from the culture tell them that their most important role is to look “hot” and sexual. Ultimately, this interferes with the capacity for males and females to develop relationships and friendships that are based on empathy, respect, connection, kindness, and equality.
Privacy: controlling who sees what, who knows what, how much they see, how much they know.
Children do not understand that when they share comments, pictures, or videos online, they lose control of the item posted or shared. Instead they possibly transfer control to the person with whom they shared the information, or even to the company (which mines the data of users in order to match users with advertisers).
There is nothing to stop a recipient from taking a screen shot, capturing or showing others a particular text, post, tweet, comment, “like,” pic, or video. Most times, images of interest will resurface on classmates’ devices, public websites, or other social media sites, and possibly even on the dark net.
Access the Social Media & Mobile Phone Contract in the Prevention, Intervention & Recovery course for more information about levels of privacy on the internet, including the dark net.
Developmentally, tweens are “trying out” different ideas of what may work for them as they discover their self-identity. The more they are encouraged to look within and to discover their own unique gifts and abilities (instead of comparing themselves to others and the hypersexualized media), the more they will develop a healthy self-esteem.
Self-Objectification: an obsessive focus on appearance, viewing oneself in an objectified manner, as an object for others’ gratification without regard for one’s own needs or desires.
Self-objectification or self-sexualization can be the result of living in a society that prizes a girl’s sexuality above other features of her personality, including her accomplishments and her interests. Research has shown that women and girls with higher levels of internalized self-sexualization wear more sexualized clothing than girls with lower internalized sexualization.
Studies have identified some of the signs of self-objectification, which include excessive preoccupation with appearance, being highly judgmental of one’s appearance, obsessively checking one’s appearance in the mirror, negatively comparing oneself to media images of women, and failing to see oneself as a full human being. Self-objectification has been linked to a number of problems, such as body shame, appearance anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. In short, self-objectification is the act of thinking of oneself as an object rather than as a well-rounded human being.
Sexting: most often refers to sending sexy texts, or the electronic distribution of nude or semi-nude photos. It can also refer to sexually explicit words sent in messages.
Sending sexual images of minors is highly illegal and carries extreme emotional consequences. In the U.S., it is tantamount to the production, distribution, and possession of Child Pornography.
With the hypersexualized wallpaper that surrounds our children, it’s little wonder that sending sexualized nudes has become so normalized. Even if the law does not get involved, the child is always left with the emotional consequences of giving up control of his or her body.