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Kids, Porn & Sex

Written by Marsha Means, M.A. on .

Did you know “Clothing stores sell thongs for seven-to ten-year-olds, some with slogans like 'wink, wink' or 'eye candy'?” I didn't until today. That factoid, gleaned from a hospital for kids in Canada newsletter reporting on the Sexy Baby documentary, is the tamest factoid I found. As I contemplated how to tell you about an important new documentary, while not offending you, I learned many things I would rather not know. Though a few sources present their facts tamely, others don't spare our sensitivities. They simply plop today's reality in front of us where we're forced to look at the hard facts, just as our kids must every day of their young lives.

But ABC's Nightline did a good job of giving us enough reality to get our attention, without forcing us to look at porn. Their segment, titled, Porn Before Puberty? Film Explores Childhood, Parenting in Sex-Saturated Culture, was as tasteful as the topic matter can possibly be. It tells us about the documentary "Sexy Baby," which was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, and which follows Winnifred's adolescence from age 12 to age 15. As it does, the film delves into the world of porn before puberty. Winnifred's journey in the documentary reflects that of many pre-teens today, and through her eyes parents worldwide get a glimpse into the hyper-sexualized culture their children are facing today.

"We are the first generation to have what we have, and no one to guide us," says Winnifred, a sassy tween. "We are pioneers."

Winnifred's 4-year-old sister Myrtle follows in her older sister's footsteps, lip syncing to Britney Spears and writhing her little body on the floor.

Their mother Jeni is part-amused, part-horrified, raising her old-beyond-their-years daughters. "It scares me," she says in the film.

Sexy Baby directors Jill Bauer & Rona Gradus, both journalists, believe people are hungry for a movie like 'Sexy Baby,' and a way to talk about today's reality. And they're passionate about raising awareness. To quote a news feed, “In the age of the runaway social media and 'sexting,' raunchy rap songs on pop radio, and hardcore porngraphy at the click of a mouse, 'Sexy Baby' takes a startling look at America's increasingly sex-saturated culture.”

From Jill and Ronna, Sexy Baby co-directors

Sexy Baby is the first documentary film to put faces to a seismic cultural shift: the cyber age is creating a new sexual landscape. While doing research for the film, we had intimate and candid conversations with kids in middle school classrooms, suburban shopping malls, nightclubs, college dorms, and even conducted an informal roundtable during a high school house party. While chronicling trends among small town and big city kids, we discovered this: Most youngsters know someone who has emailed or texted a naked photo of themselves. Many kids have accidentally or intentionally had their first introduction to sex be via hardcore online porn. Facebook has created an arena where kids compete to be "liked" and constantly worry about what image to portray – much of what was once private is now made public.

They tell us that whether or not we like it, our kids are going to see things we don't want them to see. And they encourage us to make our kids feel really comfortable coming back to us and saying, “I know I wasn't supposed to see this, but I did.” If they don't have someone to go to when this happens, our kids have no way to process what they're exposed to, and no way to evaluate, as they mature, what their own values are around sexualized content. This film can help us start the discussion

I encourage you to watch the film alone, or with a trusted friend the first time, rather than with the man in your life. Or perhaps even with your therapist, or a women's group, so you can process the emotions it stirs in you.Even though this is the world I work and live in daily, I must confess, it still left me temporarily limp with hopelessness. Like an unpluggable flow of lava, I must again acknowledge that there is nothing we can do to stem the perpetual flow of tragic devastation in the very real lives and stories we hear about every day at A Circle of Joy. But we can continue to educate about the proactive steps any and all of us can take. Things like sharing this informative film, and starting open-ended, ongoing conversation with our families and friends, especially our children.

If you have kids at home, check the www.sexybabymovie.com site for upcoming links to educational sources, partnering organizations, and topic-related media (see Resources link on the www.sexybabymovie.com site). The savvy producers already have a high school version of the film (found under License the Film -> High School Version). When age-appropriate versions are available, seriously consider watching it again with your children, or watching the high school version with your teens now. Begin an open, healthy, ongoing dialog between you and others in your home. Consider asking your PTA to host a showing. If you attend church, begin the discussion there.

As a contingency, we've kept our heads in the sand far too long already. Co-directors Jill and Ronna have done humankind a favor in walking away from their day jobs to raise public awareness with this documentary. For your children's sake, for the future of your grandchildren and beyond, start the open-minded discussion in your circle of influence. The film is available in digital format from the film's website. To view it, click on the See the Film link, then on Watch Now. You have options, among them, You Tube, where you can download the digital version for $3.99.

No, it won't be your favorite flick. But it just might be the most important one you ever see and share.

ABC's Nightline Covering: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/porn-puberty-17568864

The documentary's film site: http://www.sexybabymovie.com/

Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx

APA Task Force Suggestions for Parents: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx?item=2

How is the sexualization of main stream media affecting you and your family? Join us in the discussion at our Facebook page.

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