Raising Children of Peace
Edited by Farley and Betsy Jones
Children of Peace
Sexuality and Children
Both male and female children are initially attached to their mothers. Yet, after a few years, boys and girls begin to grow in different directions. They enjoy different pastimes and play with different toys. Although much has been said about the de-genderization of children's books, role models and toys (and there is some value in this) most parents find that there are distinct differences in the natures of boys and girls. Each require different sensitivities on the parts of the parents. To deny the differences is to deny nature, and hence to harm the child. These differences are natural and appropriate, eventually blossoming into the joy of marriage wherein two discrete entities miraculously blend into one.
Children are not meant to manifest sexual love. Their sexuality is latent while they develop their masculine or feminine natures to their full extent. Our society is doing its children a grave disservice by exposing them to sexually explicit music, television and movies, and placing them under intense social pressure to become sexually active as young as possible.
The sexualization of the young takes place through exposure to adult things before they are ready to assimilate them. This takes many forms in our culture. A few random samples and their deleterious effects on children's personalities follow.
The comedy Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwartzeneggar came out a decade ago. While this movie purported to advocate children, in several scenes the children were used to lisp out "funny" lines-sexually suggestive lines coming out of the mouths of babes. A five year old boy announced to the class, "Boys have penises; girls have vaginas," to which Arnold replied gravely, "Thanks for the tip:" Another child, relating how his father made a living, said he was a gynecologist and gave a vivid description of what his father did all day long. The assumption that it is comic for children to lisp out sexually advanced information shows something disturbing about our culture.
At a circus in New York State, a budding female trapeze artist was introduced to the crowd. This eight-year-old then did several bumps and grinds, to roars of laughter. It is unlikely that she understood the significance of the actions she had been told to do. The message her action sent was that a person's value lies in their sexuality. Even if sexuality is undeveloped as yet, this person's bid for acceptance lies there, if precociously and prematurely.
At a county fair in the same area, children in a singing contest were rewarded by the most applause from adults when they accurately imitated the sensual wailings of famous recording artists, singing of a love about which they could not possibly know anything.
A PBS special on the sexualization of school children showed kindergarten girls wearing off-the-shoulder blouses. They said that to be accepted and popular, you had to be sexy, like Jasmine in Aladdin.
Cartoon heroines are increasingly sexy-looking, and romantic love is being depicted more and more vividly in cartoons. Cartoon heroine Snow White in 1937 had no visible breasts at all. Her kiss with Prince Charming was decidedly chaste. Pocahontas of the 1990s is decidedly buxom and wears a very revealing costume. She tumbles with Captain John Smith on the ground in a sexually suggestive way, and there is a great deal of caressing and kissing between them.
This insidious sexualization of children distorts the child's inner being and soul. Children sense that sexuality is essentially foreign to them at their young ages, yet they are reinforced for adopting sexual attitudes. At ever earlier ages, children are being told not to be true to themselves or to their own souls. They are being told to compromise themselves and let others judge their value according to their sex appeal.
Our culture exudes this kind of sexualization. While it is an affront and a disservice to adults as well, it is particularly debilitating for children to be valued for their sexuality alone. They have had little or no chance to develop other valuable aspects of their beings and to take pride in them. The message is that sexual experience means acceptance. Other means to acceptance are expendable.
Educator Allan Bloom lamented the baneful effect of early sexual experience in his students:
There is a long road to adulthood, the condition in which they are able to govern themselves and be true mothers and fathers. This road is the serious part of education where instinct gives way to choice with regard to the true, the good and the beautiful. Puberty doesn't provide man, as it does other animals, with all that he needs to leave behind others of his kind. This means that the animal part of his sexuality is intertwined in the most complex way with the higher reaches of his soul, which must inform the desires with insight.
I believe that the most interesting students are those who have not settled the sexual problem, who are still ... fresh and naive, excited by the mysteries to which they have not yet been fully initiated. There are some who are men and women at the age of sixteen, who have nothing more to learn about the erotic. They may become competent specialists, but they are flat-souled. The world is for them what presents itself to the senses to be; it is unadorned by imagination and devoid of ideals. 1
The erotic energy which should animate learning and fuel the imagination is short-circuited by the early experience of all-consuming sexual relationships. Young people who become sexually active in high school are "flat-souled" because their spiritual growth has been pre-empted. Young people need the freedom to reach their fullest potential within the forms of children's and siblings' love, unencumbered by sexuality.
Editor Elizabeth McAlister comments that her own children experienced the public school culture of the inner city thus: "Classmates in the seventh and eighth grades had abortions and babies. Sex was raw, real, ruinous." 2
The importance of the parent in the child's life demonstrates that parenthood is not for the immature, lest we perpetuate and worsen a cycle of the immature caring for the immature, stunting their emotional growth and insuring that they too, will be stunted parents. This has consequences for the community and the nation.
Sex is a highly explosive event, involving the mind, heart, and soul of a person as well as his or her body. While we may not be consciously aware of how deeply it affects our inner being, the effects are there. The scars of premature, uncommitted sexual intimacy cut deeply into the psyche, affecting future relationships. Contrary to the popular equation of sexual attraction equaling love, sex outside of committed marriage actually destroys one's ability to love. In no way is sex child's play.
In our society sex is imposed upon the immature from without. Children should be free to be children. Childhood is a time to grow and be active and learn naturally. It should be a time of innocence, wonder, discovery, and magic. It should be a time when the complete person is nurtured in manifold ways. Innocence, malleability, eagerness to learn and participate are gifts of childhood which can be used to implant virtue, joy, productivity, and character. It is a grave disservice to children to sear and distort their souls with premature, artificial and random exposure to things sexual.
1. Bloom, Allen, The Closing of the American Afnd, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987. pg. 134.
2. McAlister, Elizabeth, "Is Marriage Obsolete?" Sojourners, March-April, 1996. vol. 25, pg. 19.
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