The Sexualisation That Wasn’t

The British are known for being prudish about sex, but that’s not really a fair view; Britain’s a very secular country and religion has little sway over the views of the average person. Many Brits are far more relaxed and open about sex than our reputation would suggest. But for some reason, our political leaders and media are years behind the rest of us when it comes to sexual attitudes.

For the past year or so, there’s been a coordinated media campaign to persuade us that British society, and British children in particular, are being “sexualised”. A variety of news outlets, ranging from the obvious (the Daily Mail) to the more surprising (Channel 4) have been increasingly vocal in spreading the sexualisation message. Politicians have taken up the cry. The campaign, though apparently a grass-roots one, has been driven by Christian cash and PR expertise, much of it being driven from the United States.

The Conservative party, now in government, has helped pump up the fear. David Cameron commissioned a report on sexualisation from Reg Bailey (picture above), Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union. Which happens to be a Christian organisation. Bailey has no expertise in the area of sexuality, but is paid to push right-wing Christian views into the mainstream. The secular British people have been pushed into a Christian-led moral panic without realising it.

The Bailey/Christian/conservative argument is completely circular:

  1. The media has been running scare stories based on Christian PR claiming that “our children are being sexualised”, without any facts or research to back up this claim.
  2. Bailey then surveys parental attitudes in a highly biased way and comes to the conclusion that “parents are concerned about sexualisation” (note, not a shred of evidence to show that these “parental concerns” are actually justified).
  3. The Conservatives in government then take Bailey’s worthless, biased conclusion and use it to propose some of the most draconian censorship seen in any democratic country.

The result of this masterful piece of conservative PR is that Britain faces new laws and regulations that will take our already high levels of censorship to new levels. Many British people, including many who consider themselves liberal, have been tricked into agreeing with the conclusions – because after all, what right-minded person wants children to be “sexualised”?

Think please, dear reader: what does “sexualisation” actually mean? Are children watching Rhianna’s music videos and rushing out to have underage sex as a result? Does the (completely-non-sexual) Playboy logo on a writing book send children into a frenzy of sexual experimentation? The answer of course is No. There is NO academic research to suggest that children are becoming “sexualised” – whatever that might really mean.

Sexualisation, if it exists at all, is what happens (and has always happened) to children when they reach puberty. Before this, they have little interest in sex, after this moment they become fascinated by it. Britain has made great strides in the past 15 years to improve sex education for children and teenagers, and the result is more confident, more educated teenagers.

If children have been so “sexualised” by the Internet, by music videos, or by “inappropriate” clothing, why have teen pregnancy rates more than halved since 1997? (See graph on BBC news item).

British small-C conservatives, as with many in Europe, are feeling stronger and more confident than they have for many years. The “sexualisation” story is just one front of a wider attack on freedoms that progressives have won in recent years and decades. Don’t believe the scare stories – your children are safer than they’ve ever been – and that’s because society has become more relaxed about sex, not in spite of that fact.

In the next few months, we will see the start of unprecedented levels of censorship in the UK. It will be sold as “protecting our children” or “protecting us from terror”, but the aim is to censor our home Internet connections (work is already in progress) and our TV channels (we already have the tightest TV rules in Europe). If we don’t resist these changes now, we may look back with nostalgia at a golden era of British free speech: beginning in 1994 with the widespread appearance of the web, and ending in 2011, as our fear of “sexualisation” overcame our belief that freedom of expression is at the core of a free, stable society.

14 thoughts on “The Sexualisation That Wasn’t”

  1. I agree with you that sexualisation of children is a red-herring (although rate of early sexual activity and rate of teen pregnancy don't necessarily have to be causally linked if you get your contraceptive advice right). The commercialisation of our society, the increasing objectification of women and their impact on our children is a different matter.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Itsmotherswork. Agree that commercialisation is rampant, but I doubt the Tories would do anything to reverse that trend – Greed Is Good in Tory Britain.

    Regarding objectification – despite searching, I've never found a good definition of what that means, or how you measure it. We've certainly become more relaxed with the human body, both male and female, in recent decades. That's a bad thing?

  3. Sexy is just one out of many marketing tactics used to sell people more stuff and that includes young people. Its not really about sex, its about hard selling.

    So what exactly are they going to do? Ban marketing to children? That would be quite a funny thing to see from a government who’s religion seems to be cash at all costs.

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