Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

What a Trump presidency means for sexual health & sexual rights

Who can do something to protect sexual health and sexual rights? You can.

It is time to get prepared.

Health care in general is going to get less accessible and chaotic. -  If Obamacare is repealed, many of us are going to lose insurance and access the care. At best, things are going to get confusing and chaotic as massive shifts in plans, costs, and what we can expect go on around the nation. The gift of required coverage for pre-existing conditions may go away, leaving many Americans without coverage for long-term conditions. This applies to all manner of health, sexual and otherwise.

What you can do – it is hard to know how to prepare for this, since we don’t know what options will be available to us. If you have an issue you have been putting off getting care for, you may want to act. If you have a doctor you like and trust, you may want to see them now and ask about out of pocket payment options.

Birth Control is going to get less accessible – If people lose coverage for birth control (required under Obamacare), women will face monthly costs for prescriptions (estimated at $50 a month on average) putting added pressure on many individuals and families who may already be struggling. Getting a prescription may get a lot harder. Trump has said he will cut finding to Planned Parenthood, and Pence has personally led the fight to defund, which provides healthcare to 2.5 million people annually, and provides birth control for half of the women using contraceptives in the US. And we need to remember that hormonal birth control is not just for pregnancy prevention, it is used to treat symptoms of many other health issues, such as painful, problematic menstrual cycles. Effective use of hormonal birth control can preserve fertility and healthy reproductive systems for many women so that they can have healthy pregnancies later.

What you can do : For yourself, if you are thinking about longer term birth control options, like an IUD, tubal ligation, or vasectomy, now may be a good time to schedule with a doctor. If you use the pill or other monthly prescriptions, you may want to make room for that in your budget again.

For others – Donate to Planned Parenthood. Learn about low cost birth control options and spread the word. Teach your children to use condoms effectively and advocate for condoms to be available. Advocate for good accurate sex education that includes actual family planning information, not just abstinence.

More unplanned, unwanted pregnancies – Trump has made it clear he intends to reduce availability to abortion, both through his Supreme court appointees and through direct legislation. At a given time in America there are 43 million women who are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant. In 2011, 21 % of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) were ended with abortion. So that is a lot of people affected if abortion is no longer an option. I cannot address the impact on our communities of a massive increase in people being forced into parenting when they do not want that or of increased family sizes (59% of abortions are for women who had already given birth at least once).

What you can do : For yourself: be vigilant about birth control. Learn to use condoms effectively and be committed to your vision for your future.

For others : Donate to Planned Parenthood. Teach about effective birth control use, especially condom use. Talk to your kids about pregnancy prevention; do not rely on abstinence as the plan. Consider how to provide support for families who are faced with having children they do not feel prepared for, volunteer and donate to agencies that provide parenting support. Become aware and possibly support groups who are making abortion available, either by arranging travel to a place where it is available or supporting trained doctors. Become aware of dangerous procedures that people may try of they are desperate and speak out, educate about the risks.

Reduced rights for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans people – Trump has said that he is opposed to gay marriage and would consider appointing judges who will overturn gay marriage rights in the US. Earlier this year, Trump did state support for transgender people being able to use the bathroom they felt was appropriate but later said he would support individual states in deciding. Trump has said he will sign the First Amendment Defense Act, a very damaging ruling that allows for discrimination against GLBT citizens on the basis of religious beliefs. Vice President-elect Pence stated in 2000 that he felt funding for HIV research should be reallocated to provide programs for changing people’s sexual orientation to heterosexual (which has been banned by the APA as ineffective and unethical).  The potential for increased harassment, discrimination, and danger for our communities seems clear.

What you can do : For yourself : Continue to be proud, to celebrate your love and relationships, and to refuse to be made invisible. Find allies and safe places in your community and go to them for support. Research legal steps to maintain your marital rights and protect your family. Stay aware of different states policies and be mindful when you travel or move.

For Others : Find and donate to a Diversity Center in your community. Educate yourself and your community about the issues and needs that the GLBT community faces. Speak up about discrimination or intimidation that you see. Volunteer for a suicide hotline. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, make sure the shelters in your area are safe for GLBT people. March, picket, physically show up to provide support and friendship and strength in numbers. Make sure your schools are providing support and safe spaces for queer kids.

Lack of safety and respect for women – it is hard to quantify the affect that having a President-elect who has openly ridiculed, harassed, and spoken about assaulting women, and is currently facing rape charges, has upon our country. I can say as a therapist, that simply witnessing Trump’s behavior and attitude for the past few months has re-traumatized many sexual assault survivors and been deeply disturbing for people who love and care about women’s dignity. The attitude, if not the legislation, is that women are fair game for objectification, molestation, and intimidation. It is also difficult to speak to the effect that so many white women voting for a man who so clearly disrespects women has had on many of us.

What you can do : For yourself : Find allies, women, men, and other gendered, who love and support you and stand with them. Get therapy support if you are feeling triggered or traumatized. Believe in yourself and your equality. Give yourself permission to say No, to get angry, to be an independent sexual being. Take up space, speak up, be yourself.

For others: Donate and volunteer for rape crisis centers and shelters in your communities. Volunteer for abuse hotlines. Work with kids to teach about consent and respect. Intervene if you see someone who looks like they are being victimized. Stop joking about or normalizing sexual harassment or objectification.

It is not time to give up. It is time to dig deep. It is time to pay attention. It is time to stand up for what you believe in and the future you want to see. Together we have made change happen before, together we can do it again.Be safe out there everybody. Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

Your Shocked Outrage is Pissing Me Off

There are simply too many thoughts and feelings to express in regards to the recently released 2005 video of Trump and Billy Bush sexually harassing and hideously objectifying women. I frankly need to vent for a few more hours in private before I can offer something helpful to the conversation. But here is one aspect of the commentary about it that I want to address right now.

It is time that people stop saying, in regards to a woman being sexually victimized in any way, that she is deserving of protection because she is someone’s daughter, mother, sister, wife. Really? Really???!!! How about because she is a human being?! How about she is deserving of respect and personal rights by virtue of her existence?

This statement comes out so commonly after public instances of sexual abuse that we really need to finally call it out. If this is the best you can do in finding a reason to support women’s rights to personal safety, you are part of the problem. (To see what I am referring to watch the wonderful John Oliver’s monologue on this common response).

We need to acknowledge that the foundation of this statement is the fact that women were for centuries considered property of their fathers, husbands, or in some cases, brothers – MEN who were, by virtue of being male, deserving of respect. So to call out the relatives of a women as the reason we should protect her is drawing on the historic stance that women, on their own, do not have rights. “Don’t be upset for the pain and humiliation this caused the woman herself, but think about the pain it caused her respectable relatives”. We need to surround the woman with non-sexualized family members to consider her with compassion.

And let’s break that down, shall we? The underlying stance in this is that a sexual woman is not, on her own, deserving of protection or respect. We need to see her through the non-sexualizing eyes of her relatives to see her as worthy of human decency. If a woman is seen as sexual, we can’t expect men to control themselves around her -  there she is with her attractive legs, ass, breasts, right there for us to see. Maybe if we can mask her sexuality in our minds by relating her to a non-sexual role (daughter, mother, sister), then we can see her as something other than an object of sexual desire. Because if we perceive her as an object of sexual desire then we automatically erase some of her personal rights to respect and safety. Do you see how messed up this is?!!

This system that has established a woman’s sexuality as an excuse to violate her rights is harmful to all of us. It continues to reverberate throughout our culture in many ways. Here it is in front of our faces, yet again. What will we all choose to do about it? When will we finally understand that women’s sexuality is not bad, immoral, an open invitation, a joke, a tease, a deficit, a manipulation, a sin, a toy, a taunt, a sign of weakness, a red mark, an embarrassment, a target, or a prize – a woman’s sexuality is a natural, healthy part of who she is and is hers to express or not.

Don’t protect me from sexual assault or harassment because you think my father or mother don’t deserve to have their daughter violated. Protect me from sexual assault because you respect me and believe I am deserving of protection. Because I am a human being.

 …Oh, and if you are really truly shocked that men like Trump and Bush are out there acting like this with very few consequences, you haven’t been listening to women. But that is another post.

 

"Twenty Minutes of Action"

No doubt many of you have heard, and been outraged by, the outcome of the recent rape trial of Brock Turner here in Northern California. This case has highlighted rape culture and the ways in which we as a society disregard the damage done to victims and criminality of the perpetrators.

 In a letter to the judge the father of the perpetrator is quoted as saying that his son shouldn’t face harsh punishment for “twenty minutes of action”. This statement hit me harder than all the rest that has gone wrong in the course of this case. “Twenty minutes of action”???!! This is so offensive I can barely breathe.

The decision to sexually assault a person does not happen in 20 minutes. It must take a lifetime of missed lessons about human kindness and decency. It must take years of ugly ideas about women and their rights to safety and respect. It must take years of warped impressions why we have sex and a blindness to the potential and humanity of shared sexual experiences. It must take a learned sense of entitlement and dismissal of others people’s rights or feelings.

To suggest that anyone of us could get drunk enough that it would suddenly seem like a reasonable idea to assault an unconscious person is reprehensible. This is not a miscommunication about sex! This woman did not regain consciousness for 2 hours after being taken to the hospital. This was not even common consensual sexual interactions! The woman had abrasions to her vagina from having sticks and dirt inserted, not something one could reasonably assume would be okay with someone. This was violence. You do not become the person who would do this in twenty minutes.

Documents state that one of the two men who stopped the assault was crying when he talked to the police about what he witnessed. That is a natural human response to seeing someone violated. Most people in our world would not have the impulse to rape, or sexually violate an unconscious person, even in their worst twenty minutes. Young men do not need to be protected from their worst impulses because most of them grow up without a desire to hurt other people. I believe this. It is important to me to believe this.

We grow up together, with years of being shown how to treat one another. Years of playing, communicating, collaborating and seeing each other as worthy of dignity. Years to develop sexuality that kind and interactive and vastly different from perpetration. And yes, years of learning that there are consequences for hurting one another.

We as a society have to stop making excuses for sexual perpetration and to start taking responsibility for raising people for whom perpetration is simply incompatible with desire. It never comes down to twenty minutes. It comes down to what one person believes is okay to do to another person. And they will have spent their whole life learning that. We are teaching them. Which is why this court’s decision is so devastating.


Being Out...

This week we celebrated National Coming Out Day. This holiday was established in 1988 when the Gay Rights movement was very focused on the need for visibility. You may remember the slogan, “The Personal is Political”. It is true that the more people recognize the gay people in their lives, the more they see gay people as part of their community, the less prejudice we should see. I see positive changes here in my lifetime, for sure. But you may note how many years it really took for us to have openly gay celebrities, politicians, and public figures in the media on a regular basis. A lot of time has passed since 1988 and we are still growing our awareness. We are still developing safe space for sexual minorities to “come out”.

The conversation I would really love to see happen around National Coming Out Day is about how much coming out is actually a daily process. Yes, daily. Not at all a one time finish line one crosses. There are significant coming out moments in one’s life, with family or a potential romantic interest. But in truth, coming out has to be a constant choice involving assessment of whether or not one is in a safe place to show this aspect of one’s self. At each new class or job, will I mention my orientation here? Walking down a street, will I show my love for my partner here? Standing in a checkout line, will I get bad service or a bad attitude of we hold hands? Meeting a new landlord, neighbor, teacher, student… in many cases, a decision to share or not. A choice that can feel like protection, but can also feel like a burden.

In the past the metaphor of being in the closet was more relevant as many people had to live nearly entire lives hiding this piece of who they were, with few moments of getting to step out into the light so to speak. Now for many people the metaphor of armor may be more relevant, something that one must put on at certain times, heavy and constricting but also providing protection. The armor will not stop the pain of impact, but it may curtail severe damage. And it can be exhausting to have to carry it with you, heartbreaking and restricting to have to fit yourself into it yet again.

So in honor of National Coming Out Day this year, let’s acknowledge the ongoing nature of the risk taking that coming out involves and  the subtleties of sharing who we are and the relationships that are important to us. Let’s come together to send energy to our friends and neighbors or ourselves for staying strong while having to continually assess if it is safe to be open. Let’s do our part by not assuming heterosexuality and thereby quietly crowding out other relationships and perspectives. Let’s be sure to honor that coming out is a part of a life, not an event that can be encompassed in a day. And let’s hope that by National Coming Out Day next year, things are even better and there are less and less days when the armor is needed.


Desire in a pill?

 

The FDA is holding open meetings in October to obtain patient and doctor input on female sexual dysfunctions, specifically low desire. Now since it is the FDA, they are hoping to gain momentum on developing a medication that can treat lack of sexual desire. Which makes those of us who work with people struggling with sexual concerns sigh with frustration, “As though it is that simple.”

 

Sexual desire is complex. So much so that we can also say it is mysterious. Why we crave what we crave, why we crave it sometimes and not other times, why we are drawn to certain people, all questions without clear answers. And why we can’t just convince ourselves to want sex when it the person, place or time are convenient? That is a question that many people ask themselves. Low sexual desire is only a clinical issue when someone wants to want sex. But wanting to be sexual is not the same thing as desiring sex in that moment. And so many people are seeking their sexual desire spark to reignite.

 

There are physical issues that come into play with low desire, certainly. Hormones, brain chemistry, stress levels, exhaustion, side effects from drugs, general health and more should be considered. But so should emotional stressors, lifestyle, religious or spiritual conflicts, body awareness and acceptance, beliefs about sex and pleasure, traumas and fears, self image, lack of sex education, ability to enjoy sexual stimulation, and on and on. And I haven’t even started listing all the ways the relationship the person is in may affect their level of sexual desire. An issue that starts from one stimulus, say back pain, can lead to a pattern of saying no to sex, which leads to distance and resentment in a partner, which leads to less desire to be with them, which leads to less positive thoughts about sex…You can see how things interplay.

 

Even if the FDA can create a pill that motivates sexual desire would we want to take it? There is a creepy factor in feeling as though your sexual desire is manufactured. What invites us to ask ourselves, what is “real” desire. Desire is not just physical, nor just emotional, or relational. Our sexuality is interlaced with all aspects of our lives; that is one reason it is so potent. Sexual happiness can heal us on many levels and sexual unhappiness can trouble us on many levels.  Desire draws on multiple aspects of Self, and my sense is that many of us want it that way.

 

 

There is a group specifically challenging the medicalization of sex, called the New View Campaign. Let’s keep our approach to sexual health diverse and multi-dimensional.

 

The Rainbow Party Phenomena

Same Old Sexual Panic

Remember the hullabaloo about the supposed trend of teenagers throwing parties where the girls line up to give all the boys blow jobs while leaving their mark with their lipstick color? Remember all that? Oh boy, our teens were just out of control. Hopefully somewhere along the way you also heard that this was an overwrought exaggeration manufactured to create a stir. No rainbow parties didn’t happen.

 

 

 

Of course if we had taken a few minutes to really think about this, most semi-informed people would have seriously questioned the whole premise. I mean, even highly hormonal teenage boys are not going to be able to sustain for a series of blowjobs in a row, at least not to the hysterical degrees this was described –“I heard every girl on the cheerleading squad did this!”. And even if we are imagining brief oral encounters, the lipstick leaving a distinctive mark thing is highly suspect. But okay, we didn’t think that hard about it. So the interesting question becomes, why do we want to believe these tales when they come around?

 

Why is each generation so willing to be convinced that the younger generations are having more extreme sex than they did, that sexual morals have turned some terrible corner, that teens need to be protected from themselves? There is simmering moral panic about the new “hook up culture”. And yet, recent studies have found no significant difference in the amount of sex college students have been having for the past 2 ½ decades. That’s since 1984 for those of you feeling math challenged today.  A recent look into college kids sex lives, found that of current students 59% reported having sex weekly or more in the past year, compared with 65% in the 1980s and '90s. The groups showed similar patterns in the number of sexual partners in the past year: about 32% reported having more than one partner. Sure there seem to be more liberal ideas and values about sex among younger adults now and less pressure to identify a sex partner as a potential life partner. But if we look all the way back at the Kinsey Studies we see that much of the true sexual revolution has been in choosing to no longer hide sexual behavior that has been common for quite some time. So if sexual behavior is really not all that different than it has been, does that disappoint you?

 

And maybe that is the crux of it, we want to believe that sexuality is undergoing incredible changes. Maybe the middle-aged among us want to confirm their feelings of alienation from youth culture by thinking that it is ALL different now. Maybe we like to blame any sexual boredom we have now on the belief that “my generation never really got to be sexually free”. Maybe we are all trying to get vicarious fantasy material and want to read about more extreme sexual environments, even if they are made up to outrage us. Certainly the youth don’t want to think about their parents having sex like they are having. And vice versa. But more concerning to me are the underlying fears about sex that I see represented in our ongoing sexual panics about the youth. The fear that sex is an out of control force that only harsh social morals will protect us from. The fear that sex outside the context of married monogamy will lead to chaos. The fear that the existence and availability of sex will victimize us all. The fear that we cannot trust ourselves. Those are the aspects of sex that I hope we are changing, generation by generation.

 

How Do We Teach Sexual Respect?

 

Research released this year has shown that instances of sexual coercion among teens are disturbingly high. What was ground-breaking about this study is that it focused on self reports of perpetration. It asked questions about sexual coercion- verbally intimidating, pressuring, using guilt, getting someone drunk, or harassing behaviors- as well as forced sexual contact. Teenagers were asked if they “had tried to make someone have sex with me when I knew they didn’t want to”, or “made someone have sex with me when I knew they didn’t want to”. And based on their own responses – nearly 10% of teens have been sexually coercive.  Also disturbing are patterns around personal responsibility. Fully 50% of the perpetrators said that the victim was completely responsible for what happened. And by the way, by the age of 18 perpetrators were equally boys and girls.

 

A 2008 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy looked at teens’ behaviors around sharing sexual content online. They found that 25% of girl and 33% of boys reported that they had been shown naked pictures intended to have been sent privately to someone else.  Add this to what we have seen in the news about patterns of sexual harassment and bullying among teens and children.

 

I have believed for a long time that we should to be providing better and more comprehensive sexual education. Now it is clear to me that not only do we need to talk about sexual health and safety, but we need to be talking about sexual respect. It is time to define polite sexual conduct. And to erase once and for all the insidious idea that if someone is behaving sexually, they no longer deserve respect.

 

If kids are learning just by observing what is going on around them, then I can understand how they would be confused about how to treat others respectfully. In this era of decreased privacy and people’s personal lives as public entertainment, it is critical to teach about personal privacy and choice. Maybe the ever- intensifying ramp up from afternoon talks shows featuring humiliations, have numbed us to other people’s shame and turned us into virtual perpetrators, invited to laugh at someone falling down drunk and flashing their underwear. Humiliation has become entertainment. In this environment, how do we talk to kids about vulnerability? How do we help them to separate how we relate to the “real lives” on TV from how we relate to real people in our lives? How, in a world of selfies and sex tapes, do we talk about the fact that many people want their sex life to be private and that beginning a sexual relationship with someone can be a tender, trusting act? We need to explain why it is ok to laugh at the sexual behavior of “Carlos Danger” but not at the girl in your class who sent a topless pic to the person she has a crush on. And while we are at it, we need to talk about handling frustration and that you will not get to satisfy every desire you have the moment you have it, regardless of what the constant availability of nearly everything else may imply.

 

 Maybe we can tell ourselves that as adults we that we are clear on where to draw the line between harmless amusement at other’s expense and actual harm, or who has abdicated their right to sexual choice or privacy. But it is time to admit that kids aren’t clear about that.

 

Not so Fast - Think Twice About Products for Early Ejaculation

There are two new products on the market to treat early ejaculation in men, and sadly, I think they reflect the limitations in the way we view sex. Both products are spray numbing agents designed to reduce sensitivity in the penis. In truth men have been trying numbing agents of various sorts in hopes of lasting longer for years, so the real invention now is that the spray apparently doesn’t transfer to the partner. I have no doubt that by reducing pleasure they allow a man to last longer, but I have to ask – is that an acceptable trade?

First as a sex therapist, I think it is sad to settle for a solution which requires one person to enjoy sex less so the other can enjoy sex more. And, in most cases, it is not necessary. Many times early ejaculation happens because the man is unaware of his level of arousal, so he is tipped over the edge into orgasm before he wanted to be. Often times he is distracted by thinking about his performance, worrying about when he will come, or wondering if his partner is close.  Actually learning to become MORE aware of his sensation and messages from his body can help him to pace his arousal, change the level of intensity for himself,  and possibly feel more in control as well. Becoming numb will not help to build a relationship to his arousal, it will just help him last longer, as long as he is numb.

The other sad aspect of this is how it encourages us to limit our sexual scripts. One approach to dealing with early ejaculation is to expand your sexual play to include a variety of things that feel good and give pleasure, using hands, mouths, skin, toys, etc, so that penetrative intercourse is only one possible aspect of a sexual experience. That way orgasm for either partner can happen at any time and both know that there are still many ways to be satisfied. Penetration may still be the preference, but we might question the impulse to numb someone’s genitals if we didn’t see intercourse as the only “right way” to have sex.

And speaking of numbing genitals – can we for a moment imagine the outrage if a company was marketing a product to numb women’s vaginas so they could have sex longer? Think that would be considered an acceptable solution? No, women would be angry about being treated like objects and insulted that their sexual pleasure was considered irrelevant to the sex act. Maybe we could give men the same respect and see their ability to have intense, fully sensate sexual pleasure as important. Let's shoot for the stars - everyone's pleasure is important!

 

Things We Shouldn't Talk About

 

YourTango.com asked me to write an article addressed to women who were having affairs with married men. This was considered controversial since usually the “mistress” and her motivations or feelings are left in the dark background in the cultural unpacking of infidelity. We talk a lot about affairs, why they happen, what motivates someone to cheat, whether to repair your marriage or not, etc. But we don’t talk about the “other woman” or man and their experience. The fear is, if I write in a compassionate way about the complicated emotions in affairs, I will be seen as promoting infidelity. I think it is time we all got more nuanced than this.

 

The article has been picked up by Huffington Post and what has been interesting is the commentary and attention it has gotten. I am not surprised by the amount of responses that are full of hatred and condemnation of the mistress, presenting her as someone out on the fringes of society, someone we don’t need to consider or try to understand. The basic thread being: only a terrible person would do that. It reminds me of people’s approach to premarital sex in the 1950’s, “those bad people” doing that are different from us, not worth discussing at any depth. Well, that approach didn’t stop pre-marital sex and shaming hasn’t stopped infidelity. Based on the stats we can safely assume that each of us knows someone (probably several someones) who has played one role, or more, in the infidelity triangle. These are not bad others out there, these are people like the rest of us. I understand that it feels safer to pretend we can isolate “mistresses” or “cheaters” in some moral ghetto. I understand that is feels comforting to profess bravado and threats of violence if this happened to you. I understand that it feels emotionally less complicated to believe that love is something we can own and that can be “stolen”.  But the reality for many, many people is that affairs are complicated, emotionally confusing, and deeply personal. It doesn’t serve us to demonize and shut down the conversation. And everyone, deserves a place to explore their motivations and choices. In fact, this open conversation may be the thing that eventually helps us to reduce the pain that infidelity causes.

 

If you are interested in reading the article you can find it here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/30/mistress-questions_n_3977492.html?utm_hp_ref=divorce&ir=Divorce

 

A Lifetime of Sexy?

You all know I am pro-sex. Pro-sexuality, pro expressing your sexuality, pro feeling sexy. But I am getting more and more disgusted with the pressure that is now being put on young girls to fit into an adult model of sexy – which is hardly adult, but rather to try to look as much like a 20 year old as possible, but that is another post.

What am I talking about, in case you have missed this trend. Most recently Walmart has begun advertising for their make-up line for tweens (8-12 year olds). Now playing with make-up is one thing. I have memories of glittery blue eyeshadow and borrowing grandma’s lipstick and all that. But this line is clearly more for everyday makeup and – it includes anti-aging ingredients!!! What?! That line is not overtly sexualized, just your average invitation to not feel good enough about yourself. But it comes on the heels of several companies controversial panty lines for tweens.  And let’s not forget Abercrombie & Fitch’s 2011 line of push-up, padded bikini tops for girls age 7- 12. Yuck. So now girls can feel bad about their breast size before they are even growing breasts.

Doing just a tiny bit of internet searching I have now discovered the booming business of marketing bikini waxes to teens & pre-teens. I found a few waxing professionals that were quoted as saying that in the past few years 20% of their waxing was for tween or younger. If this is accurate, it boggles my mind. One well known spa catering to teen and younger waxing’s advertising line is “If a teenager has never been waxed before, hair growth can be stopped in just 2 to 6 sessions. Save your teenager a lifetime of waxing... and put the money in the bank for her college education instead!”  Ugh, or maybe teach her that waxing isn’t compulsory and she can choose how to spend her money? The owner of this salon also apparently told the New York Post that children should begin waxing at age 6. Am I missing something? Does this make sense? Again, I am not opposed to waxing. If you want the no hair look, wax away. I am opposed to us all pretending that waxing is a necessity in life – and selling this idea to kids.

There is more madness out there of course, such as Tesco’s Peek-a-Boo Pole Dancing kit, advertised  as “suitable for participants of 11 years old and upwards”. It included fake money and a garter belt to put it in. Not a Saturday Night Live skit, real life, sorry to say. http://www.cracked.com/article_19288_8-weirdly-sexual-products-you-wont-believe-are-kids.html#ixzz2arCsWjFJ) But this is so over the top ridiculous it actually worries me less than the more subtle everyday pressures that are building for kids and the way it shapes their future sexuality and self esteem.

I think it is natural and healthy for kids to play at being adults. They will dress-up, play house, play with make-up, even stuff their tops or bellies to match grown women’s bodies. This kind of self-motivated exploration is one thing. Moving into marketing that manufactures desire and, even worse, fear that you need these things to be “normal” is something entirely different.

When I get past my initial gut disgust response, I see that this is really about creating dedicated consumers early. The sooner we can market to young children to get them to feel that they have to be thinner, less hairy, more tan, etc, the more money they will spend on products in a lifetime. It is not news that the marketing mechanisms will happily ask us to sacrifice our self confidence, sexual comfort, and dignity so that we buy more. Why would their approach to children be different? I don’t believe that the intent behind these products and marketing schemes is really to sexualize children, although that is a side-effect, the intention is to turn them into insecure, desperate consumers.

My rage comes from the fact that we are supporting campaigns that tell children they are not beautiful unless they conform to a Victoria’s Secret Model look. I am sad that we are becoming jaded to the natural beauty that children are born with. I am angry that we continue to infringe upon children’s natural sexual development, either by stifling and shaming or now by defining it so narrowly as a product to buy to keep up with others. After all, if we feel good about who we are, at any point in our lives, what do we need to buy?