A sexualized culture is one marked by objectification, mistreatment and abuse rather than love, respect, courage and compassion.
Culture at its root literally means, “cultivation of souls.” Sexualization occurs when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior. A sexualized culture is one in which the entangled web of commercial sex, pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, and other various forms of sexual exploitation weave together and wrap around hearts and minds to choke out virtues like love, purity, and justice.
Left to our own devices, the story God is telling is not the story we are living. No, unbridled and unchecked the influence of sexualized culture is breeding ground for stories like this composite testimony:
“I am seven years old. This is the age where I should be scraping my knees, laughing with missing teeth, and running around with a lopsided ponytail, but my older brother makes fun of me when I smile, so I try to laugh behind my hands. My little sister is three; everyone tells her she is so pretty. I’ve been begging my mom to let me shave my legs, but she says I’m too young. I get so mad when she does my ponytail and makes it all bumpy! I’m afraid to wear my puffy winter coat because a girl made fun of me last year and told me I looked fat, and the whole class laughed. I hear Momma talk about how “fat” she is; I feel fat too. Daddy tells her she’s perfect just the way she is and kisses her on the cheek, but then I see him watching the waitress or the cheerleaders on TV. They’re so pretty. Daddy tells me I’m his princess.
I hope I look like the girls on the magazines someday.
My parents don’t let me play with Barbie dolls, but I play with them at my friend’s house. I like the ones that have the beautiful eyeshadow. I ask Momma if I can wear make up, and sometimes she let’s me play with it, but she won’t let me wear it every day. I giggle every time my aunt tells me about her boyfriend. I hope they get married! I hope I get married! I have a crush on a boy in my class. I’m embarrassed to tell my mom and dad, besides I think he likes another girl. One boy pulled my hair on the playground yesterday! All the adults tell me that if a boy is mean to me it means he likes me! I must grow up and be very pretty otherwise the boys will never like me.”
Heartbreaking. And most likely eerily representative of a family, a daughter, a niece, a sister, or friend you know and love dearly. The good news is that as parents, aunts, uncles, mentors, and coaches who have an “in” with the young ones in our midst, we are disciple-makers and we can choose to make moments with them count. By speaking truth early and often before, during and after our children hear the lies, we can begin to make that story sound more like this:
“I’m a seven year old girl. Sometimes I really want to look like the girls on the magazines at the store, but my Momma and Daddy are always there to remind me that my heart is the prettiest, dress-up is for fun, and scraped knees from soccer just means I played really hard. Yeah, sometimes I want to look like those girls, but mostly I want to grow up and be like my aunt!
She’s really nice and everyone always talks about how she’s ‘confident’ which I think just means she’s really cool.”
Even though our sexualized culture makes for a landscape of thorns and thistles, we have the redemptive hope of Jesus Christ and we can cultivate something different. Check out Quest: Parenting in a Sexualized Culture if you’re looking for a place to start!