WAP, Cuties, our Daughters, and the Sacred

WAP, Cuties, our Daughters, and the Sacred

Fifteen years ago my first child, a daughter, was placed in my arms. Words cannot adequately describe the sheer emotion that accompanies such an introduction. When you see her for the first time, when she first squeezes your finger and smiles, when she first reaches out her arms to be held, there is awareness of something sacred. Soon after, you realize there is something
sacred in the entire experience and in the young life placed in your care. The word sacred is often affiliated with religious meaning. It is a word that associates something or someone with holiness and with a deity. It also means someone or something is, “worthy of reverence, highly valued and important. Irreplaceable.” Yes. The love for a child is the fiercest of loves and evokes the strongest of feelings. Over the years this fierce love plays itself out in many ways: protection, safety, teaching, correcting, purchasing, cooking, thinking, praying, reading, folding laundry, sports, trips, friendships, setting limits, saying yes, saying no, late nights, early mornings, mentoring, listening, crying, hoping, and trying. Because we know their lives are sacred. Because they are irreplaceable. Because who they are, body, mind, and soul matters. Their bodies matter. Their body parts matter. Their sexuality matters. Their relationships matter. None of these things are casual, no sexual activity is trite or inconsequential, no behavior is immune from consequences. Every word they hear, every image they see, every relationship they have will form how they understand themselves and the world. What fills the mind of your child will form their hearts. So, what is it they will hold sacred? What will hold value for them in this life? One of the most important places a young woman or a young man can understand the sacred is in the context of relationships, particularly sexual relationships.

We live in a time when the sacred has been made profane. The profane is something made to be obscene or irreverent, What is to be most highly valued and respected has been so cheapened and so misused it is losing its meaning in the minds and hearts of our young people. One of the primary ways this is happening is the blurred line between healthy sexuality and sexualization. Before the iPhone in 2006, Psychology Today published a study on the sexualization of young women. According to the APA sexualization occurs when:
1. A person’s value comes only from his or her appeal or behavior to the exclusion of other characteristics.
2. A person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy. (not knowing the difference between pretty and sexy)
3. A person is made into a thing for other’s sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making.
4. Sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. (particularly children)

With the invention of the cell phone, teen girls have an endless amount of material sexualizing them 24/7. In their book, “Too Sexy Too Soon”, Diane Levine PH.D. and Jean Kilbourne, ED.D, state: “Boys and girls are routinely exposed to images of sexual behavior devoid of emotions, attachment, or consequences. They learn that sex is the defining activity in relationships, to the exclusion of love and friendship. They learn that sex is often linked to violence. And they learn to associate physical appearance and buying the right products not only with being sexy but also with being successful as a person.” When my daughter was born I had no idea that I would be raising her in a culture that actively and aggressively seeks to sexualize her. From padded bras for 8 year olds to thongs for 10 year olds to hit songs describing sexual activity in the most profane way, we live in a culture that aggressively robs children of innocence and proclaims sexualization as identity formation. This is not healthy sexuality. This is not the way healthy relationships will be formed in her life. This is not the path to finding herself. The study by the APA found ample support that every form of media actively sexualizes women. What is particularly disturbing about the latest music video, WAP and the movie, Cuties is we find ourselves in a time where we encourage sexualizing one’s self, making yourself a thing for another’s sexual use and then calling it empowerment. This is not new of course, sexually aggressive music videos have been around for years. However as seen in Cuties, the age of self exploitation is getting younger and in WAP, the glorification of detached sexual experiences is becoming more and more celebrated. As Levin and Kilbourne remind their readers that sex in our commercial culture, “has far more to do with trivializing and objectifying sex….more to do with consuming than with connecting.” The damage will be irreparable. We are handing girls phones and they are pornifying themselves. The danger of all of this is they think they are arming themselves with empowering behavior. This could not be farther from the truth.

Recently, words have again failed to adequately describe the emotions I felt with the success of WAP and the controversy surrounding Cuties. At first I was angry, furious, and outraged. It has given way to sadness and if I am honest, even hopelessness at times. As I have processed the messages culture offers young women it struck me that many women involved in the production of such entertainment are themselves products of a sexualized culture. Identity (and fame) is formed around aggressive, self promoting sexual proclamation. Yesterday I read yet another article citing female adolescent suicide is at the highest rate it has been in 40 years and is climbing. If self sexual exploitation as empowerment was working, suicide and anxiety would be decreasing. It is at an all time high. Our culture has failed to teach young women they are sacred and they are valued. In a culture that celebrates the profane and exploits eleven year olds, we have no choice but to respond. A woman’s value is not found in her sex appeal or her sexuality. We are not objects and teenage girls will not find happiness in objectifying themselves. The value each and every young woman beholds surpasses anything they can possibly surmise from a greed-driven culture that markets sexualized identity in the form of entertainment for profit.

How do we teach healthy sexuality?

Our Bodies:

1. In age appropriate ways teach girls to enjoy their physical bodies and their beauty as a part of who they are. Their bodies are great, they are fabulous, and capable of so much! Sports, dancing, and physical accomplishments such as running a race or climbing a mountain are ways to teach your girls about the value and ability of her body.
2. Teach her that her body is valuable, sacred, and important. It is hers and hers alone. Her body is to be respected and honored, not degraded.
3. Sexuality is a part of who we are but it is not the whole of who we are. We are so much more and our sexuality is a gift to enjoy this life but it does not define us.
4. Her body and her sexuality are not meant for public consumption.
5. Her beauty and identity is not defined or determined by public affirmation or public proclamation.

Relationships:

1. Our homes and our communities should celebrate in age appropriate ways loving, committed relationships. Openly discuss the sexual relationships that take part in the context of committed relationships.Their bodies are valuable and sacred and we model this in how we treat our bodies and who we allow to have access to them. A healthy sexual relationship recognizes the sacred dignity of the other person’s body.

2. Healthy sex is committed sex. It is not casual and was not meant for public consumption and personal promotion. It is not a commodity, it is a commitment to someone you love. This idea is so far from the message found in entertainment culture and this is a battle we must win for the hearts and minds of young people today.

Teaching healthy sexuality inlcudes discouraging self promoting posts using sex appeal to gain approval and attention by others. This may be offensive to some but I follow a lot of tween girls on their social media pages. It is completely normal for young girls in our culture to post pictures of themselves in small bikinis in provocative poses, often with their tongues sticking out. Just as disturbing is the fact that their friend’s fathers or their father’s friends like the photos. This is one example where sexualizing our young girls has become normalized. We teach them we like seeing them in minimal clothing. We are so inundated with small choices like this everyday that it is hard to step out of the culture and see how these small mundane choices communicate significant messages.

The picture on this blog is of my oldest daughter holding my youngest daughter the day she is born. My youngest daughter is now the same age my oldest daughter was in this picture. This photograph depicts a sacred moment I will never forget. I remember sitting in the hospital bed as my husband placed our new baby in our daughter’s lap. I was overwhelmed by love for these two precious girls. Entertainers and producers do not know the child I bore 15 and 8 years ago. They don’t know their strengths and weaknesses. They do not know their beauty, intellect or capability. They should have no voice in their sexual development. We live in a time when entertainers do more to shape the sexual understanding of young women than anytime in history. They are pornifying young women and it is celebrated as empowerment. We are losing the sacredness and dignity of our bodies and our sexuality and cheapening the most intimate of relationships. While culture simultaneously seeks to sexualize young women it also aggressively seeks to undermine the role of parents. We do have the power and the obligation to turn off the forms of entertainment seeking to define for our girls what is good, what is beautiful, and what is true. Children and teenager’s hearts are formed by what fills their minds. It is never too early to set boundaries and to teach them the beauty and sacredness they behold. Turn off their phones, cancel Netflix, buy them books, and go for a walk. Do whatever you have to do. Our daughters are sacred gifts capable of much and we can refuse to permit culture to deem them profane. We can refuse to let the culture wrongly define good, healthy sexuality. There is a true and beautiful narrative in which they can safely and wonderfully enjoy going from a little girl to a young woman. It is not supposed to be a devastating process. Healthy sexualization happens when our daughters are informed by what is true in the context of a community that loves them. They will flourish as they learn to honor and respect themselves and honor and respect others. Their sexuality is not a commodity. It is as sacred as they are.




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Comments

  1. Thank you for your words, Brandy, and for taking a stand for the vulnerable—young girls who need grown women to guide them. We as women need to believe exactly what you are advocating ourselves, before we can teach it to others, too. Culture should never dictate our worth, and a women who knows her worth is so very attractive! God bless.

  2. Brandy, thank you for the article here and the dream you had that has turned into not only something beautiful, but life giving. Praying for your ministry!

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